Departments: Private Education

Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs written question – answered on 24th July 2007.

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Photo of Greg Pope Greg Pope Labour, Hyndburn

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much was spent on providing education in independent schools for the children of employees of his Department (a) who are based in the UK and (b) in total in the last year for which figures are available.

Photo of Meg Munn Meg Munn Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

It is a condition of 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 also have a legal obligation as parents to ensure that their children receive full-time education from the age of five years. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office's (FCO) provisions for children's education are intended to help staff meet these potentially conflicting obligations.

We expect children who accompany their parents on postings overseas to use free state schooling if it is available locally and suitable. If suitable English-language schooling is not available free of charge locally, but is available at fee-charging schools, we refund fees to enable children to receive the education they would be entitled to in the UK.

With staff and their families having to move at regular intervals, sometimes at short notice and at times which may disrupt schooling for their children, and education facilities at posts overseas varying (or not being available at all), continuity of education can be problematic particularly during the important exam years. The FCO's continuity of education allowance addresses this problem by enabling children to board at schools in the UK as long as their parents remain subject to the world-wide mobility obligation and take up postings overseas.

The amount we spent in the financial year 2006-07 on providing education in independent schools for children whose parents are temporarily based in the UK is £7.6 million. The total amount we have spent on continuity of education allowance for staff in the UK and overseas during the financial year 2006-07 is £13 million.

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