Goodbye to Boarding School Allowance

#1
If this cutback is implemented, I predict a mass exodus of those 5,000+ personnel at or beyond the immediate pension point currently in receipt of this allowance. These tend to be middle-ranking Offrs/WOs/SNCOs with irreplaceable experience - nearly 3% of strength.

What is the alternative? Dragging children from one uncertain state school to another on postings or leaving and settling down in an area with an affordable private school or a reasonable state school?

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2334358,00.html

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 appropriate”.

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.”

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.”
 
#2
What may happen is that BSA will be cut back so that it returns to it's original idea - to provide continuity of education for children who's parents are subject to frequent moves around the county or internationally, and where both parents are required to relocate - not just where the Serviceperson gets a draft/posting order, the partner stays in their current location, and the child is packed off to boarding school. What has happened over the years is that many people have abused the system to put their children into boarding school for the minimum time, then removed them to a local day school at public expense, which was never the intention. In addition, the allowance may be restricted to certain schools (again, the original idea) that are approved by the Forces Education people. The fees would be standardised (rather than ramped up to what the schools know they can get away with claiming), and the potential for fraud would be removed - BSA is one of the highest-grossing areas of fraud in the Forces, ranging from false bills, inflated bills, and in at least one case that I know, collusion and production of a bill for a child for two years after that child had left the school and returned to the public sector!

If people weren't abusing the system, then it would not be an open target for changes and reductions. Look at how many of the people who have their children in BSA-attracting schools have them there purely for the snob-factor of sending their children into private education rather than those who are genuinely away on postings. The RN is specatcularly bad for this, with a sea-going draft attracting the ability to apply for BSA, even though once the 2/3 year sea draft is over, and the wife stays at home, the BSA entitlement is continuing. Same for the RAF......
 
#3
I fully support Pompey Sailor on this. The key is to tighten up the regulations and actively seek out those that are abusing the system. Anyone living in their own house should not have any justification for claiming BSA/CEA. Another area that does need review is the entitlement to BSA for prep school. Most primary schools provide a relatively good standard of education and often the experience of younger children moving around is as valuable as a stable education in a protected environment (prep school) at the early stage of education and institutionalising the child too early.

Back to the main point - much closer audit of the regulations is needed and cut out/expose those that the abusing the system, some albeit by not being in the 'spirit of the regulations'. That way those familiies that genuinely follow the flag do not loose out on what is an essential element of service life ie to ensure stability of education of one's children. Where the rules are too open to interpretation then review them and make it clearer for all.
 
#4
I'll stick with yours PompeySailor!

No disrespect intended to others who have started threads on the same theme.

PompeySailor is quite right, the system is abused and has been for years, and it is quite right that this should be stopped.

I am not in agreement with the comment about "dragging children from one uncertain state school to another" - any parent who has the ability to work the system and get the BSA also has the ability to select a good state school. For a start, when moving into an area ask around to find where local teachers live and ask them. Teachers are very good at knowning which state schools are to be avoided, and which you should fight tooth and nail to get your child into - basically the schools they send their own children to.

Does an expensive public school educate your child any better? In many cases it most certainly does not. A good state school is better than many public schools.

As an example... A couple of years ago at STANTA, for CCF Summer Camp. A coach appears, full of cadets from a school I won't name. No adult supervision on the coach. When the cadets were asked where their officers were the answer was that he was coming later. A few hours later, one male officer arrived, to supervise a coach of kids, many females included. He was new, totally inexperienced and didn't have a clue. Unfortunately for us, that school was partnered with us for the week, and so we had to do pretty much all the supervision, especially the female cover, for them.

Many of the children were rude and badly behaved as well, and that part applies to many from other public schools as well. I came away from that camp with the feeling that many of the parents were not getting good value for their, or the government's, money.
 
#5
As a Territorial I have no financial interest in these matters but I can remember my then girlfriend teaching six year old pad brats who were already in their third school.

BSA is there to ensure that the children of forces personnel are not disadvantaged by the vagaries of the service. As such it is a fair and sensible allowance.

Should anyone be making fraudulent claims there is a system in place for finding and punishing these people.
 
#6
Pompey probably talks from a dark blue corner, where many naval families spend entire careers in Pompey or Devonport. In the Army it is different, we move more often to more extreme areas, just the change from England to Scotland can ruin a child's examination prospects. You don't get a chance to put your child into the best state school when posted, it is already full to overflowing, what you get is the places that no one else wants, ie Chavhill Comp. The only way to guarantee a reasonable and secure education for one's children is to send them to a boarding school.

SCE are already prescriptive only allowing schools on their approved list and the current rate of the allowance only pays for those schools at the cheaper end of the list. Personnel have to prove their entitlement with a Mobility Certificate which is strictly enforced.

Yes under FAS if it really works some families may be able to settle down and may not need CEA but the majority of middlegrade officers and SNCOs will still have to move frequently and if we are to keep them in CEA will need to remain an option.
 
#7
Paymaster said:
Pompey probably talks from a dark blue corner, where many naval families spend entire careers in Pompey or Devonport. In the Army it is different, we move more often to more extreme areas, just the change from England to Scotland can ruin a child's examination prospects. You don't get a chance to put your child into the best state school when posted, it is already full to overflowing, what you get is the places that no one else wants, ie Chavhill Comp. The only way to guarantee a reasonable and secure education for one's children is to send them to a boarding school.

SCE are already prescriptive only allowing schools on their approved list and the current rate of the allowance only pays for those schools at the cheaper end of the list. Personnel have to prove their entitlement with a Mobility Certificate which is strictly enforced.

Yes under FAS if it really works some families may be able to settle down and may not need CEA but the majority of middlegrade officers and SNCOs will still have to move frequently and if we are to keep them in CEA will need to remain an option.
Dark Blue certainly. We tend to leave families in one place and move ourselves - not ideal when the family is in Portsmouth, and you are in Scotland, but not insurmountable these days (cheap flights, etc) - I bought privately over 15 years ago, and never moved the family to follow me, which is obviously something that the RN takes for granted. When I work "purple", then the Army practice of moving families is far more noticeable. When we are on ships (and I come from the days of 9 month deployments), the family are better left where they are. It is the "trick" of using a draft/posting order to make allowances available to you that has been abused (LSAP, DA/REs, Ed All, etc). I understand that the Army adopt more of a "whole family" approach, and the super-garrisons will reinforce this, and as such Ed All for the Army is more practical. However, when LSAP finally gets increased to a worthwhile amount (only knocked back by the Treasury last time, but will be proposed again), then people will be more keen to move into private accommodation, especially with MQ and SLA prices being increased to reflect investment.
 
#8
abeaumont said:
any parent who has the ability to work the system and get the BSA also has the ability to select a good state school. For a start, when moving into an area ask around to find where local teachers live and ask them. Teachers are very good at knowning which state schools are to be avoided, and which you should fight tooth and nail to get your child into - basically the schools they send their own children to.
.
This statement speaks volumes about your knowledge, or should I say lack off, the state school system and the procedure for getting your child into a reasonable school after a posting mid-term. My son is autistic, making this who rigmorol so much more fun
 
#9
I think the Times would find that (if it did some proper research) the majority of BSA claims are from SNCOs - not Officers. I was surprised by this too - but its true.
 
#10
PompeySailor said:
Paymaster said:
Pompey probably talks from a dark blue corner, where many naval families spend entire careers in Pompey or Devonport. In the Army it is different, we move more often to more extreme areas, just the change from England to Scotland can ruin a child's examination prospects. You don't get a chance to put your child into the best state school when posted, it is already full to overflowing, what you get is the places that no one else wants, ie Chavhill Comp. The only way to guarantee a reasonable and secure education for one's children is to send them to a boarding school.

SCE are already prescriptive only allowing schools on their approved list and the current rate of the allowance only pays for those schools at the cheaper end of the list. Personnel have to prove their entitlement with a Mobility Certificate which is strictly enforced.

Yes under FAS if it really works some families may be able to settle down and may not need CEA but the majority of middlegrade officers and SNCOs will still have to move frequently and if we are to keep them in CEA will need to remain an option.
Dark Blue certainly. We tend to leave families in one place and move ourselves - not ideal when the family is in Portsmouth, and you are in Scotland, but not insurmountable these days (cheap flights, etc) - I bought privately over 15 years ago, and never moved the family to follow me, which is obviously something that the RN takes for granted. When I work "purple", then the Army practice of moving families is far more noticeable. When we are on ships (and I come from the days of 9 month deployments), the family are better left where they are. It is the "trick" of using a draft/posting order to make allowances available to you that has been abused (LSAP, DA/REs, Ed All, etc). I understand that the Army adopt more of a "whole family" approach, and the super-garrisons will reinforce this, and as such Ed All for the Army is more practical. However, when LSAP finally gets increased to a worthwhile amount (only knocked back by the Treasury last time, but will be proposed again), then people will be more keen to move into private accommodation, especially with MQ and SLA prices being increased to reflect investment.

What investment........? The biggest complaint for Pad families is that far too much housing is still sub standard and that the new repair system doesn't work with families being forced to do without heating or cookers for months......
 
#11
Kitmarlowe said:
especially with MQ and SLA prices being increased to reflect investment.

What investment........? The biggest complaint for Pad families is that far too much housing is still sub standard and that the new repair system doesn't work with families being forced to do without heating or cookers for months......[/quote]

New build MQs, Project SLAM replacing on-camp accommodation. Not reached all locations yet, but costing a flying fortune and coming to an area near you! It is getting better, but the trouble is that it won't be visible to all - and those in the older, less well-maintained and supported housing will probably be the last to see the changes. The accommodation at HMS NELSON has gone from 13 storey suicide blocks to self-contained accommodation, guests overnight, etc, etc. A huge change, and one that is being rolled out across all areas eventually.
 
#12
Two issues here. First , continuity of education. As a middle ranking officer, my son was in three primary schools in the first 3 years of schooling and, had he not gone to prep school, three more in the next 4 years. The fact is that between 5 and 12, six schools is frankly ridiculous. If the MOD wishes to post me abroad and at home so often, then there must be some mechanism by which I can offer my children stability and still enjoy a family life.

Secondly, CEA plus 10% currently covers some very good independent schools, though not the best - you get what you pay for. If parents wish to send their children to the top schools, they have to make a considerable financial sacrifice and pay for it - it is called parental choice.

This is not a perk. It is an allowance that for the majority of those using it, is essential. Rest assured, if they erode this essential allowance, I will vote with my feet - it is all I can do to ensure stability for my children.
 
#13
mushroom said:
...I can remember my then girlfriend teaching six year old pad brats who were already in their third school.
I went to seven different primary schools; my seventh was a boarding school, where I stayed until I finished school.

A sequence of parental postings that went Scotland / N.England / S.England / E.Europe / Germany / NI / Germany might explain why any claims about how "state schools are sufficient" are just ill-informed.

As for the "Arms plot is finished", it's a red herring, as trickle posting will continue - probably offered up by some unthinking teeth arms type who doesn't understand that while an infantryman's career can progress while based in the same location with the same unit, a career in a Corps might not.

PS There are two battalions of infantry in Edinburgh, and the MQs do not fall into the catchment area of a "good" High School. Or a "good" primary either, judging by the published tables.
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
#14
Well I hope they do the exact same thing to Civil Servants who get (as far as I can tell) the exact same BSA. My brother is in the Foreign Office and put my nephew and niece through boarding school even though his wife stopped going on tour with him after she left the Diplomatic Service.

But King Tony loves his Civil Servants, doesn't he, so I don't see that happening. One rule for us ...
 
#16
The Civil Service get some good perks, better than ours in a few cases, but by the same token they get far worse pay - also they don't all qualify for the "perks". 6 of one, half a dozen of the other. Making comparisons between us and civilians is dangerous as you cannot equate our jobs particularly well to the strawbs. The class an E1/E2 (the bottom of the civil service pile) to a CPL/SGT, but they get paid less than £10K per year!
 
#17
drain_sniffer said:
abeaumont said:
any parent who has the ability to work the system and get the BSA also has the ability to select a good state school. For a start, when moving into an area ask around to find where local teachers live and ask them. Teachers are very good at knowning which state schools are to be avoided, and which you should fight tooth and nail to get your child into - basically the schools they send their own children to.
.
This statement speaks volumes about your knowledge, or should I say lack off, the state school system and the procedure for getting your child into a reasonable school after a posting mid-term. My son is autistic, making this who rigmorol so much more fun
Thank you for your kind words. I stand by my statement, based on 35 years experience of working in the state system and much contact with those working in the private sector - which includes a lot of time spent spent helping parents get their kiddies into school at any time of the year. Indeed, I am currently doing my best for a couple of hundred Gurkha families who are soon to move into the Dover/Folkestone/Canterbury/Ashford area.

Schools in garrison towns/areas are used to such a situation and it should not be a problem. Remember, if your unit has moved into a town, another has almost certainly moved out, creating a lot of empty desks in schools. In Dover 1PARA left, Gurkhas arriving. The only problem is which kiddie gets into which school. Find, and talk to, local teachers.

It is true that you might well have rather more problems regarding a son who is autistic as there will be some headteachers who will not want to accept a child who has special needs that are going to be very costly to provide - unless of course the child has been "statemented" as then the necessary funding would be provided by county. Sadly, I know one or two headteachers with that kind of mentality. On the other hand, many schools will be very helpful - the head of mine is a former PARA officer and will always support service families, and we are very good with autistic children. Again, find and talk to local teachers.
 
#18
abeaumont said:
drain_sniffer said:
abeaumont said:
any parent who has the ability to work the system and get the BSA also has the ability to select a good state school. For a start, when moving into an area ask around to find where local teachers live and ask them. Teachers are very good at knowning which state schools are to be avoided, and which you should fight tooth and nail to get your child into - basically the schools they send their own children to.
.
This statement speaks volumes about your knowledge, or should I say lack off, the state school system and the procedure for getting your child into a reasonable school after a posting mid-term. My son is autistic, making this who rigmorol so much more fun
Thank you for your kind words. I stand by my statement, based on 35 years experience of working in the state system and much contact with those working in the private sector - which includes a lot of time spent spent helping parents get their kiddies into school at any time of the year. Indeed, I am currently doing my best for a couple of hundred Gurkha families who are soon to move into the Dover/Folkestone/Canterbury/Ashford area.

Schools in garrison towns/areas are used to such a situation and it should not be a problem. Remember, if your unit has moved into a town, another has almost certainly moved out, creating a lot of empty desks in schools. In Dover 1PARA left, Gurkhas arriving. The only problem is which kiddie gets into which school. Find, and talk to, local teachers.

It is true that you might well have rather more problems regarding a son who is autistic as there will be some headteachers who will not want to accept a child who has special needs that are going to be very costly to provide - unless of course the child has been "statemented" as then the necessary funding would be provided by county. Sadly, I know one or two headteachers with that kind of mentality. On the other hand, many schools will be very helpful - the head of mine is a former PARA officer and will always support service families, and we are very good with autistic children. Again, find and talk to local teachers.
And I stand by mine. It is never easy to find a decent state school. Great idea, find and talk to teachers, only to find that the schools they recommend are heavily over subscribed and the only way to get your child in is to appeal until you are blue in the face. As for statements, my son is statemented, yet this statement does not have to be accepted by any other authority, therefore starting from scratch every time I move. Also, it is down to each authority to decide which parts of the statement they wish to accept or not. For someone who has so much experience in the system, there is very little of what you say that I or many of my friends can relate to in terms of our experiences
 
#19
And when youve got them into school, try and get them into an NHS dentist!

Until the Govt comes up with a clever way of ensuring that Military families are treated fairly with regard to local facilities of all kinds, allowances will be required to enable us to ensure the current and future welfare of our children.

Thank goodness I am divorced so my kids get to stay in one place where there just happens to be a good local school.
 
#20
BSA is vital to allow parents the choice of offering their children an education without interuption or disruption by postings. The ability of parents to try to get children into a local school of their choice is unlikely, this is reinforced by the fact that in some locations there will be only one school available. The situation becomes worse when posted overseas. The quality of SCE schools can be dire at times with OFSTED reports to confirm this; if one of these schools is the only option open to a parent why should they not have the option to send their child(ren) to a school of their choice and be subsidised with BSA?

In addition the allowance acts as a retention tool as SNCOs/Officers with children in a boarding school will often remain in the army in order to continue their childs education (the boarding school trap!). If you removed this option then people would leave for the benefit of their children.
 

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