Continuity of Education Allowance
128. The MoD provides a Continuity of Education Allowance
(CEA) to all eligible Service personnel who choose to educate
their children at Boarding School. To be eligible, Service personnel
must be on an accompanied (by partner) posting. Children must
be aged between 8 and 18. 3,074 commissioned officers and 1,813
non-commissioned Service personnel claim CEA, in respect of 7,914
children. In the
Services as a whole, 1,492 Service personnel of Sergeant rank
(or equivalent) and above claim CEA for the children's education.
A higher proportion of RAF Senior Non-Commissioned Officers claim
CEA compared with equivalent ranks in the Royal Navy, and Army.
The MoD was keen to point out that it "does not endorse a
twin-track approach to education and does not differentiate in
any way or at any stage between the children of other ranks and
the children of officers".
129. Postings to our forum suggest that the CEA is
valued highly by those Service families who choose to take advantage
of it although we received some comments that the CEA was not
raised in line with the rate of inflation.
|Postings to our web forum: Continuity of Education Allowance (from Service parents)
|"Our children have now completed their education but this and my husband's military career would not have been compatible without the boarding school and the allowance the MoD provide for this."
"The CEA is failing to keep pace with increases in school fees."
"The gap between the allowance and fees seems to widen every year."
"The rules stipulate that parents have to pay a minimum of 10% of total fees but we end up paying 25%."
130. The CEA is set at a rate of £4,557 for senior pupils
and £3,496 for junior pupils.
All Service personnel are required to provide at least 10% of
school fees themselves, although in practice considerably more
than 10% is payable depending on the individual school fees. The
CEA can be used to pay fees at an MoD-approved list of schools.
Brigadier Brister told us that the CEA was not a perk of Service
but rather a means by which a significant down side of Service
life may be mitigated, "there are firm rules which are there
to make it clear to us that this is not just an allowance to let
us send our child to an independent or state boarding school,
but it is there for continuity of education".
131. While the CEA is available to all ranks we have
been concerned to establish whether it is accessed by lower ranks
or whether it is issued predominantly to officers. The breakdown
by rank and Service shows that commissioned officers are the major
users of the CEA, but that senior NCOs also make use of it. Some
lower ranks make use of it but not in great numbers. Proportionately
fewer of these lower ranks are of an age to have school age children
themselves. The Minister for Schools suggested to us that there
might be a "cultural" unwillingness to consider the
boarding school option. But the requirement to pay at least 10%
of fees may discourage take up among lower-paid ranks.
132. We recommend
that the MoD commission research on the reasons for lower take-up
of CEA among lower-paid ranks. In particular, this research should
focus on any financial or cultural reasons for the lower take-up
of the CEA by lower-paid ranks.
133. During our visit to Germany, we heard concerns
from Service parents that the process for awarding the CEA was
insufficiently flexible, making it difficult to transfer the CEA
between schools if, say, a child was unhappy at a particular school.
We were keen to seek assurance from the Minister that, if a sound
case was made by parents, the CEA could be transferred between
schools. Brigadier Brister told us:
if you are dissatisfied with the school or if, for
various reasons, your child is unhappy at the school, then you
can put up a case to be allowed to change school and rotate the
134. MoD subsequently provided us with figures which
suggested that applications by parents to transfer their CEA entitlement
between schools were rare and, when they did arise, were treated
sympathetically by the MoD.
In the period 12 Dec 2005-16 May 2006, [MoD] processed
27 requests for a change of Boarding School (0.34% of the number
of Service children for whom Continuity of Education Allowance
is paid). All of these cases were approved and the Service parents
retained their entitlement to Continuity of Education Allowance.
Queen Victoria School and Duke
of York's Royal Military School
135. The MoD directly manages two boarding schools
for Service children: the Queen Victoria School in Dunblane, Stirlingshire
(260 pupils), and the Duke of York's Royal Military School in
Dover, Kent (500 pupils).
Both Schools are co-educational and provide boarding for 11 to
18 year old children of Service children.
136. The Queen Victoria School follows the Scottish
curriculum, is non-selective and "has a particular duty of
care for compassionate and needy cases".
Ms Liz Cassidy told us that the Queen Victoria School was "a
very supportive school with a good teacher/pupil ratio and it
provides a very supportive environment for children who probably
would not cope with standard alternative boarding schools".
The school's most recent inspection judged teaching to be good
and the overall quality of attainment for examination groups as
very good. The
MoD also noted that the school is over-subscribed with 50% of
applications rejected due to restrictions on capacity.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State
for Defence told us that the MoD had no plans to 'disengage' from
137. The Duke of York's Royal Military School is
a selective co-educational boarding school, with strong academic
performance including 98% of pupils attaining A-C GCSEs and 96%
success at university applications.
Ms Liz Cassidy noted that the school had improved its educational
standards a great deal over recent years and that school league
tables showed that it competed successfully with "some pretty
decent independent schools".
138. The two
schools have different roles but both are popular: admissions
to the Queen Victoria School and the Duke of York's Royal Military
School are over-subscribed. While the Queen Victoria School and
the Duke of York's Royal Military School are clearly anachronisms,
we see no reason to recommend any change to their status.
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