Douglas Chapman – 2016 Parliamentary Question to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

The below Parliamentary question was asked by Douglas Chapman on 2016-01-07.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, how much his Department spent on Continuity of Education Allowance in independent schools in financial year (a) 2012-13, (b) 2013-14 and (c) 2014-15; how many children were in receipt of that allowance in each of those years; and which five schools had the highest spend on that allowance in each of those years.

Mr Tobias Ellwood

It is a condition of their employment that members of the diplomatic service must be prepared to serve anywhere in the world at any time during their career, sometimes at very short notice. Those with children have a legal obligation as parents to ensure that their children receive a full-time education from the age of five years. Most parents prefer to take their children with them abroad, but in some of the 168 countries and territories where the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has UK based staff, we do not permit staff to take their children either for health or security reasons. In others, local schools of an acceptable standard are not available. It is longstanding practice that the FCO helps staff meet their potentially conflicting obligations by providing financial support for their children’s education in the UK where staff choose this, or are obliged to do so given local conditions in the country to which they are posted.

Continuity of education is also an important factor, particularly at secondary level.

The FCO refunds standard term fees up to a ceiling which is reviewed annually. Where staff opt to send their children to more expensive schools, staff meet the difference in cost. The maximum amount the FCO will pay is determined by an independent survey conducted by ECA International, which is used by public and private sector employers whose staff work across the world. Various factors, including availability of places (sometimes at short notice) and proximity of other family members, influence which schools staff choose for their children.

FY UK School costs (CEA) Number of Children
2012/13 £14,926,061 700
2013/14 £13,704,118 (£13,162,823)*625 (604)*
2014/15 £12,943,134 (£12,391,079)*593 (570)*
*Cost to the FCO after reclaiming costs from other Government departments for their staff deployed overseas

We are unable to provide the 5 schools that had the highest spend in each of those years as to do so would entail checking individual files, which would incur a disproportionate cost.