Many Army families are still highly mobile; which can be very disruptive to a child’s education.
One of the ways that the MOD helps to overcome this disruption is by funding an allowance that is a contribution towards the cost of boarding school. This allows the family to move together but for the child to have a continuous education.
AFF believes in accompanied Service and whilst there are mobile families, we will continue to tell the MOD that this support is vital for the children and for their families.
CEAS and DBS PACCC
State boarding schools
Independent boarding schools
What about children with SEN?
How much is this all going to cost?
Questions to ask boarding schools
Read the small print
What happens if it all goes wrong?
The 50 mile rule
Do you have at least one school aged child? Have you moved house a number of times recently and is changing school becoming a bit of an issue for your child? Are you considering boarding school to provide a stable education for them? Read more
From the academic year of your child’s 8th birthday, there is an option for soldiers to consider applying for an allowance to help with boarding school fees. This allowance is called the Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA).
Regulations state that if your soldier wants to claim this allowance, your family must:
- remain living together
- be likely to move in the next four years
- agree that, having chosen a school, your child will stay there until the end of their education stage
Your initial considerations should include:
- Do I think that my child will like boarding school?
- Are we mobile? – You’ll have to show past mobility and the future likelihood of posting away from where you currently are
- Are we thinking about buying a home to live in, or moving back to one we already have? –In order to show mobility and accompanied service, you would not be able to stay there
- Where in the country is a good place for us where there is wider family support and good road, train and airport links?- consider matches, concerts and parents evenings, as well as making the journey easier if you live overseas
- Do I have any friends who send their children to boarding school that I could ask about this?
- What about our other children who are not boarding; how will moving affect them? – you will have to move if your solider is posted no matter that you may have another child that you don’t wish to move and maybe isn’t old enough to board yet
- Can we afford it? – State boarding schools are considerably cheaper as, unlike at independent schools, you don’t pay for the teaching
- Do I have a job or am I starting a course that will take me away from the family home for more than 90 days a year? - If so, you may be ineligible to claim CEA which requires accompanied service. Two nights a week for a year is 104 days (not including any annual leave) so it is important to consider this.
The MOD Children’s Education Advisory Service (CEAS) gives advice, information and support on all aspects of your child’s education, including boarding school. Read more
Defence Business Service Pay and Allowances, Complaints & Casework Cell (DBS PACCC)
DBS PACCC based in Glasgow confrirm that the eligibility certificate form has been completed correctly and that the Service person is eligible and authorised to claim CEA. They monitor and investigate CEA eligibility and calculate the rates of CEAS.
The soldier should contact them via their unit to submit casework if necessary.
If you’re considering boarding, then there are some things you should know before you start the process. Read more
You will need to contact CEAS – helpline +44 (0)1980 618244, or email DCYP-CEAS-Enquiries@mod.uk.
CEAS holds the Accredited Schools Database (ASD), a list of schools for which CEA is admissible. To claim this allowance, the school you choose must be on this list.
CEAS will provide you with an application pack including the forms to apply for an Eligibility Certificate. These forms need to be signed by various people before being sent to the DBS PACCC to make the decision on eligibility and issue the certificate.
There are three stages of education defined as follows:
- Primary, junior or preparatory school (8-11/13)
- Secondary or senior school (11/13-16)
- A-level or academic equivalent (16-18)
Note that it’s only possible to change schools at either 11 or 13 – this will depend on the type of school you are looking at.
If you know that your soldier will be leaving the Army before a stage of education is completed, you need to consider whether you can continue to pay the fees yourself. Entitlement to CEA stops either the term after a Service parent’s end of Service date, or the term before if this falls in school holidays.
Once you receive an eligibility certificate, the soldier applies for CEA three times a year in a specified window via JPA and the allowance is given via bank transfer. It is your responsibility to then pay this to the school.
Eligibility certificates need renewing at any change e.g. house address, job, education stage, school or at the certificate renewal date.
Whether or not you have a school in mind yet, the following may help you make an informed choice about your child’s school. Read more
- Majority of SBS are in England. The State Boarding School Association (SBSA) www.sbsa.org.uk has an interactive map and further information. A tiny percentage offer boarding for primary.
- Some are academic (Grammar schools) and some are themed academies or tech colleges. Lots are graded outstanding by Ofsted, but investment in boarding facilities varies.
- Your child will need to hold a full British or EU passport.
- Application deadlines for boarding places vary from school to school. Some use the normal October admissions round the year before entry, with places offered on National Offer Day in March. Others are more flexible. An independent school may offer a place immediately and therefore this may suit you better for planning purposes as a mobile family.
- Always have a plan B.
- If you’re looking for a Year 9 place because it’s the end of prep school, then contact the school to find out if there are places available. The number of places available is often published on schools websites; however, be warned this can be as little as four.
- There will be an exam to pass for Grammar SBS. Contact the school if you think you are moving to the area and would like to apply.
- Thinking ahead? It’s very important to check that you can swap from a boarding place to a day place in the future if needed as most specify that this is not possible due to boarding place and day place quotas.
- SBS often have no formal school at weekends, although activities are offered by most and include sports.
- Holidays are shorter than independent schools so if posted abroad, you may see your children less, but if living fairly near, you may see them more as weekly boarders.
- You will only pay for the boarding part as the teaching is free. You will need to pay a minimum 10% contribution. As Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA) has an upper limit, this could mean you need to pay more than 10% but this is unlikely on present fees. Note that if you claim the full amount of CEA, it’s not possible to claim for any further costs.
- Free schools and academies are run by a Board of Governors which is accountable to the charitable trust overseeing the school. The school will also be accountable to the Department for Education through its funding agreement. Others are maintained by the local authority.
Got a question? Email AFF at email@example.com
The best place to start when choosing an independent school is to ring the CEAS and ask for a list of all registered CEA schools in your chosen area. Read more
Click on the links on this page and find the boarding section. There you will find various search engines. One in particular has an advanced search which enables you to find schools with Armed Forces bursaries.
The HIVE is also a good place to go for boarding school brochures and other info.
There is a good-schools guide, as well as various independent companies who will offer specific schools tailored to your wishes. These companies may not charge you for their services, but they may charge the schools for inclusion – remember, there may be other schools that fit your criteria who choose not to participate.
Independent schools are inspected both independently and also by Ofsted; you can find the latest reports online.
Please click here to learn more about how the MOD supports children with Special Educational Needs who would like to go to boarding school.
Costs vary widely. Some schools state their fees and very little is added to the extras bill, and some charge for every piece of stationary. Read more
Here is a list of things to consider when budgeting:
Costs to consider:
- Standard fees are currently around £4,000-£11,000 per term
- Extras bill for trips, stationary, matrons account, school shop, weekend activities
- Sports kit including rackets, bats, helmets, pads, skins and footwear
- Other kit – suitcases, tuckboxes, plastic boxes, lamp, padlocks, school book bag/briefcase
- Music tuition
- Phone plus contract or top-ups
- Public exam fees (for Independent schools only)
- Termly, and usually compulsory, subscription for old boys/girls association
- Private health insurance
- Kit insurance
- Travel and fuel costs
- Initial Deposit paid before your child starts that is not usually refunded until your child finishes
- Armed Forces Bursary, sibling discount, scholarship
- Armed Forces Sodexo Childcare Vouchers – you will need to check in advance that your school accepts these.
You will need to pay a minimum contribution of 10% of the fees (unless you are claiming SENA). This can end up being considerably more depending on the level of the fees as CEA is capped at an upper limit.
CEA doesn’t necessarily always reflect the increase in your particular schools fees and families are responsible for this increase, not the MOD.
If you’re considering boarding as an option for your family, ring up and ask schools for a prospectus.
Once you’ve received this, you will be able to make a decision about whether you want to find out more and visit. Visiting schools is vital and it’s important that you ask lots of questions.
Here is a list of questions to print off and take with you. Read more
Questions to ask boarding school students who show you round:
- What’s the food like?
- What’s the best thing that’s happened whilst you’ve been here?
- Why do you like your house?
- How much prep do you get and what happens if you need help with it?
- Do you know anyone in a different year group or house to you?
- What’s the sport/music/art like?
- What do you think of the teachers?
Questions to ask the admissions team:
- Do you have other Army children here?
- How much is the deposit?
- How much have the fees gone up in the last three years?
- What’s the plan for options with subject choices for Year 9 starts?
- How soon will we know if we have the house of our choice?
- How many full boarders are there and how many flexi-boarders?
- How many exeats are there – are they every term?
- Can I see the uniform list with prices – is there a school shop on site?
- Is there a health centre and what’s their accident policy?
- When did the house parents start in their job? Are they planning to move/retire/leave?
- What’s the school policy on electronic equipment?
- Is the Wi-Fi restricted at all?
- What appears on the extras bill?
- What weekend activities are there?
- How much notice do we have to give if this doesn’t work out?
- What does the induction programme involve?
Questions to ask the Head:
- Where do students go on to from here?
- Can I come and see my child if I’ve just come back from time away?
- Are there any major building works planned for the next five years?
- What size is the sixth form in comparison to the rest of the school?
Questions to ask Matron:
- How often is there a register/call-over?
- Who is there when you aren’t?
- What happens on birthdays?
- How quick is the laundry?
- What happens if a child is ill in the night?
- How many children are full time boarders in my child’s year?
There are a wide variety of schools offering different things to suit your child and your circumstances. There are also various discounts on offer. However, please be aware of the small print. Read more
Some schools may ask you to sign up for a number of terms in advance. Nine terms, for example, doesn’t sound much, but three years is a long time in your child’s educational life.
If your child becomes unhappy, or your circumstances change significantly, and you sign up for a certain number of terms in advance, you may be liable for the outstanding fees, even if you have permission from the MOD to withdraw your child.
Despite being prepared and having planned well, your child may not settle, may change their behaviour significantly or just might not be suitable for boarding school.
If you’re worried about your child and think that the best thing for them would be to come home, Read more
Firstly, if you’re at all worried about a safeguarding issue, act immediately and remove your child from the situation.
If, however, you have had time to think about this for a while, have had strategies put in place that haven’t worked or maybe there has been an ongoing health issue, or similar that just hasn’t gone away, or the school is changing in some way, then you may want to withdraw your child from boarding school.
Before you make any formal decision with the school, contact CEAS – you can find details at the top of the page - and ask for their advice.
If you wish to continue with a local school and not return to boarding, then you can withdraw without financial penalty from the CEA system; however, you will also need to check your contract with the school as you may have to give notice.
If you wish to choose another boarding school, then you will need to put in casework to explain why this school is no longer suitable and why you see a need to change schools; you will also need to check you contract with the school.
If your child has reached the end of an education stage, or has finished at a particular school, then you can change or leave without too much of an issue.
Got a question? Email our Education and Childcare Specialist, Lucy Scott, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07527 492 869.
AFF is currently investigating an issue regarding moving over 50 miles away from your current location. Read more
Regulations state that in order to prove mobility, a Service person must be likely to move over 50 miles away in the next four years.
AFF believes this may leave an unacceptable choice for the family between a 50 mile commute for the soldier or a 50 mile school run for the child one way to maintain a continuous education outside the CEA system.
Often, it is not possible to retain a quarter, leaving the family no real choice. We believe that this choice is unrealistic for the family and unsuitable for the child. This should not be a reason for eligibility of CEA to prove mobility. Directed postings, tied quarters, lengthy op tours and unforeseen circumstances often means that this is an issue for otherwise mobile families.
We are currently working on this. Please contact the Education and Childcare Specialist at email@example.com to share your views or experiences.
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