Army warns David Cameron on cuts to servicemen\’s school fees
David Cameron has been warned that the Army will be hit by a damaging wave of resignations if ministers make fresh cuts in allowances for the school fees of servicemen’s children.
Now, it\’s certainly possible to claim that this is just horrible. Service kiddies getting sent to public schools on the taxpayers\’ money! Bastards!
However. That\’s not actually what it is.
The Ministry of Defence spends almost £180 million a year on the education allowance, which is intended to help military families keep their children in the same school while their parents move around the world to different postings. The allowance is sometimes derided as an officers’ perk, but all members of the Armed Forces are eligible for the scheme.
About half of the 5,500 claimants come from “other ranks”. Changes announced last year will cut the cost of the allowance by almost 20 per cent over four years.
It\’s an allowance that sends children to boarding schools. This is what gives the families the flexibility to move around the world.
At larger bases (at least they used to) the forces (usually the RAF I think?) run primary schools using the English syllabi. I went to one in Naples for example. But when we\’re all starting to think about GCSEs and A levels, continuity of schooling is important. You will note, for example, that not every school follows the same syllabus…..
So, boarding schools. And there are a couple of State ones out there. But no where near enough to cater to the number of children desiring such education.
Now, whether the MoD pays for kids to go to a private boarding school, or sets up publicly funded boarding schools, or finances secondary schools at bases (not a bad idea actually, I\’d bet the results would be damn good) where families are sent to doesn\’t matter all that much in the scheme of things. But one of those three must be done and which is the cheapest? In the latter cases, pay entirely for the necessary infrastructure? Or in the former, be able to hang off the infrastructure already there?
Well quite. So why all this fuss?
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “We are determined that the Continuity of Education Allowance should go only to those who really need it. These changes are aimed at saving £28 million a year.
“We must make sure that all allowances are fair and appropriate.”
Well, you see, among civil servants, the Diplomatic Corps get an even sweeter deal: they get all boarding school fees paid, not just a percentage like the military. So do the British Council.
But the beancounters and civilians at the MoD don\’t get it. And they\’ve hated that fact for decades.