Forces' Parents may lose school fees perk

Should the perk continue?

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The Times August 30, 2006

Parents in Forces may lose school fees perk
By Michael Evans, Defence Editor

A REVIEW of the Armed Forces’ biggest perk, the boarding school allowance, has been started by the Ministry of Defence, because the cost has risen to more than £100 million a year, The Times has learnt.

The benefit, which helps members of the Forces, mainly officers, to pay school fees for their children while they are sent with their spouses from one overseas posting to another, may be under threat because of the rising costs.

According to figures released to The Times under the Freedom of Information Act, the cost of the allowance has risen from £67.5 million in 2000-01 to an estimated £100.2 million for the current financial year, reflecting the increase in fees charged by boarding schools.

In replying to the request from The Times for details of the costs, an MoD official disclosed that the ministry was now carrying out “a fundamental review to ensure the allowance remains appropriateâ€.

This year 5,436 service personnel are claiming the allowance for 7,705 children.

The overriding principle behind the allowance, introduced in 1955, was that a serviceman was entitled to benefit from the scheme if he was accompanied by his wife when posted abroad, which then caused schooling problems for their children. It does not cover servicemen who are sent off, unaccompanied by their spouses, on operational tours to Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans.

However, any move to cut or abolish the allowance would be opposed bitterly by service families, and could have a disastrous impact on retention of middle-ranking officers, Crispin Blunt, a Tory MP and a former army officer, told The Times.

Many independent schools, especially the minor ones, have come to rely on the steady flow of pupils from military families. Kirkham Grammar School is one of many minor public schools that would be affected badly. A spokeswoman for the co-ed school in Preston, Lancashire, which was founded in 1549, said: “The boarding school allowance covers the fees, because we are not a Roedean or an Eton, so any reduction would have an effect.â€

Senior defence sources said that neither Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, nor the service chiefs, had yet been involved in examining whether the boarding school allowance could still be justified.

The sources said that under the recent restructuring of the Army, which absorbs by far the biggest proportion of the boarding school allowance, the old system of regiments changing their location every two or three years, switching from Germany to Cyprus to Britain or other overseas postings, was being scrapped.

Mr Blunt, who is MP for Reigate, said: “The important thing is that the boarding school allowance should not be seen as just an allowance but as a reward policy and to guarantee stability for service families. If they get rid of it, the savings cannot just be spent on Euro-fighter, but must be spent on keeping people in the Army.â€

As a Civvy I'm neutral about this, though I'm not really in favour of state subsidised priviledge for anybody. IMHO a benefit should be available for all public servants (and a tax concession for private employees) or for none.
If it was the case that this allowance had not been taken up by any other than those on long-term accompanied postings outside the UK, I would support its retention, but the truth is that it is available to all, which makes it unaffordable.


War Hero
How about instead of school, Pusser starts up the Powder Monkey branch again....that'll save money.....i bet MOD are already considering it!
Or the MOD could demand only anyone from the practicing Judeo-Christian-Muslim tradition to join - as all practicing Jews, Christian and Muslims are forbidden to have sex until 3 years after they have killed anybody, if I remember Leviticus correctly, otherwise it's an abomination! That would eliminate any need for service schools too, saving even more money. Married Quarters would also be unnecessary, as marriage would be out of the question during Service - a period of complete celibacy would be de rigeur. Just think of the advantages. Mind you whether there would actually be any serving members who would actually fully practice their faith is another matter.


Book Reviewer
asst_dep_to_dep_asst said:
If it was the case that this allowance had not been taken up by any other than those on long-term accompanied postings outside the UK, I would support its retention, but the truth is that it is available to all, which makes it unaffordable.

I thought that it was based on whether you declared yourself "mobile" or "stable" and that Boarding School Allowance was only avaialble to people in the "mobile" category.

As a Navy Brat my schooling was affected by my Dad's drafts. I attended 5 primary schools in as many years; if the same pattern had been repeated for my secondary schooling I hate to think what the consequences would have been - however, thanks to BSA I was able to gain stability for my secondary education.

Education is important - don't just write off something as a 'perk' because it costs "too much".


War Hero
All of my children attended boarding school and it most certainly helped them with their schooling considering the amount of moving about I was forced to do in 10 years.

It gives the child the much needed stability they require for studying.

It would be a great shame if they take it away. Maybe if they sold a few of the homes and cars of that fat idiot Prescott, they would save a few bob and raise enough money to send Toady Blair and the wicked witch to the Caribbean forever. :)


War Hero
I decided to leave before i got married and had three kids, the key thing for my kids, is stability...and even though i couldn't take advantage of the "perk" I believe , if the Govt wants to draft you here and there, it should be able to pay for the stable education of the kids involved.....having said that i have a whole bunch of seperate issues with regard to boarding schools anyway.....but i won't go there !


Book Reviewer
Always_a_Civvy said:
What is the annual cost of providing this opportunity, to the taxpayer, out of interest?

Don't know but if you look here, it gives an upper value of GBP 4872 for boarders (per term?); also here, has some additional information which also includes the fact that the parents must pay the first 10% of the fees.

Flags, (ex Royal Hospital School)


War Hero
Would never send my kids to Boarding School, but that doesn't stop me seeing that BSA is one of the few real good things left in the allowances package. If it goes then service children will suffer as a result.



War Hero
Lets face it the reality is this incompetent government has spent billions on wars we should not be involved with ie Iraq and Afghanistan and Gordon Brown wont give the MoD any more dosh. Hence more cuts. i would stand by for my cost cutting.More ships mothballed (if we have any that is), equipment scaled back and more PFI like privatising the SAR helicopters. One of the maddest ideas yet. So what are the perks about joining up nowadays??