Overseas education & childcare

Taking children on an overseas assignment is a huge consideration and here we highlight some of the facts around schooling and childcare that may help you as you embark on your time abroad. If there are any aspects not covered and you have further questions, please contact the Education & Childcare team – educationsupport@aff.org.uk.


01   Educational clearance overseas for 0 to 18-year-olds

Please be aware that when moving to an overseas location all children aged between 0 and 18 need to have been granted educational clearance by either their new MOD/DCS school abroad or the Overseas Education Supportability Team (OEST) within Defence Children Services (DCS) if they are moving to a location with no MOD/DCS school provision.

For full details of what is needed, see GOV.UK: Education overseas for Service children

As soon as you are aware of an overseas assignment, you are advised to start the process of investigating schooling and childcare provision so there is enough time to make informed decisions and the necessary applications for educational clearance.

Please note that this process can take up to 9 weeks in some cases.

If you have a child in or approaching a critical stage of their education (GCSE/A-level or equivalent) then additional considerations will need to be made to ensure that an overseas move does not have a detrimental impact on their examination outcomes.

If you need further information, please contact educationsupport@aff.org.uk

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02   Children with SEND and overseas assignments

Before you move overseas your child will be required to undertake the educational pre-screening MOD Assessment of Supportability Overseas (MASO) process to ensure they can be supported in the overseas location. More information about this can be found in MOD Policy Assessment of Support Needs For Accompanied Assignments Overseas. It is important to be aware that Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans (or equivalent) cannot be reviewed or updated in overseas locations.

If your child is identified as having SEND whilst overseas then the school will provide a Service Children’s Assessment of Need (SCAN) when you move back to the UK. The MOD Local Authority Partnership (MODLAP) group is working with key local authorities in England to recognise the SCAN as part of the EHC assessment process.

Schools overseas may either be Defence Children Services (DCS) schools and settings or non-MOD schools locations. See GOV.UK: Education overseas for Service children for more information.

The OEST advises families and commands on overseas education issues, educational clearance and co-ordinates the educational element of the MASO process. The OEST can be contacted on RC-DCS-HQ-OES@mod.gov.uk

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03   Childcare funding

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If you are moving to a location with an MOD/DCS Early Years setting, then depending on your circumstances you could get between 15 and 30 hours of funded childcare. Parents should bear in mind that the hours would need to be used at the MOD/DCS setting in order to benefit.

Full details can be found in the following DIN: 30 hours free childcare 2021DIN01-085

If you are moving to a location where there are no MOD/DCS settings available, then parents of 3 and 4 year olds can apply for a reimbursement of nursery fees by means of the Overseas Nursery Authority (ONA).

The process for applying and making claims are as follows:

  • Families research childcare providers in the area and find a suitable setting that is in accordance with the DIN criteria.
  • Completed applications should then be forwarded to their overseas Command/Commander/employing unit for their sign-off. Once approved, Service personnel will be able to use JPA to arrange a reimbursement (via i-Expense)

For more information refer to the ONA DIN reference 2022DIN01-008 or contact educationsupport@aff.org.uk

The WAC scheme isn’t currently available for use by families overseas.

Applicants wishing to use WAC are required to have a Tax-Free Childcare (TFC) account and the WAC provider must also be able to take payments from the TFC account. Currently it isn’t possible to extend this to overseas locations due to the eligibility testing carried out by His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to ensure the relevant criteria are met.

Some Service families can use their TFC account to pay for their childcare in overseas locations when used with an MOD-approved childcare provider*. This isn’t available in all locations and serving personnel are advised to read the TFC DIN available on the Defence Intranet.

Contact educationsupport@aff.org.uk for further details.

*Please note that despite being able to use TFC accounts to pay for childcare in some locations, WAC is not currently available to families on overseas postings.

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04   School-aged children overseas (4-16)

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If you have school-aged children and are thinking of going on an overseas posting, you should contact the Overseas Education and Supportability Team (OEST) on RC-DCS-HQ-OES@mod.gov.uk for advice and guidance prior to accepting it. Early engagement is important as there will be some locations with limited or no schooling suitable for some ages of children. More information about the service provided by the OEST can be found at GOV.UK: Education overseas for Service children.

Please note that all parents need to do their own research into availability of schooling in the area they are considering moving to. Only some locations have MOD/DCS schools and settings.

MOD/DCS schools

MOD/DCS schools and settings are available for children to access in some parts of the world and a list of these are available at GOV.UK: DCS schools and early years settings by location.

Please note that DCS schools and settings follow an organisational structure used by schools in England and are subject to Ofsted inspections.

Non-DCS school/setting locations

In locations where there are no DCS schools or Early Years settings then children would usually be schooled in the local area. You should be aware that these schools will follow the local curriculum and it is likely to be very different to that which is followed in the UK. There are times when it is not possible to access local schooling such as when learning cannot be accessed due to language barriers. All children who are receiving schooling outside of DCS/MOD settings are overseen by the DCS Virtual School (see below).

DCS has introduced an ‘MOD Virtual School’ (MODVS). In overseas locations where there is no DCS/MOD school the MODVS will have overall responsibility for the welfare, education and safeguarding of children in these areas. They are also responsible for children who are electively home educated (EHE).

The MODVS is not a physical setting and it will not provide any teaching or resources for the children it is responsible for. The MODVS will work with the local schools and families to oversee their education as they arrive in an overseas location until they transition back to the UK.

The MODVS headteacher can provide support to families on any overseas aspects of SEND, academic support, attendance and a child’s education transition as they move to and from the overseas location.

For more information, contact us at educationsupport@aff.org.uk

There is a specific process that must be followed to ensure that you’re able to home educate when located outside of the UK.

You must refer to the Elective Home Education overseas DIN as this clearly lays out the MOD’s policy on what is involved. It details the process for applying, the responsibilities of both the parent and the chain of command when overseas.

To continue or start EHE overseas, this is an overview of the steps you need to take:

  • Contact Defence Children Services (DCS) before you commit to an overseas posting as some host nations do not support EHE. DCS can discuss this with you and offer specific information depending on where you will be located.
  • Let your chain of command know that you plan to home educate when overseas.
  • Complete the MOD Assessment of Supportability Overseas (MASO). See JSP 770 for further guidance.

For further information about EHE please contact educationsupport@aff.org.uk

The MOD’s UIFSM entitlement is available to serving Armed Forces parents or entitled MOD civilians with children in schools overseas who are in the equivalent of England’s Reception, Year 1 or Year 2.

The process is as follows:

  • Applications for obtaining UIFSM reimbursement must be submitted to your Commanding Officer, Commander or Head of Location for sign-off.
  • Once approved Service personnel can then submit their refund claim via JPA’s i-Expense (Overseas Child Expenses).

For more information refer to the UIFSM DIN – 2022DIN01-009 or contact educationsupport@aff.org.uk

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05   Returning to the UK

When retuning to the UK families can contact the Education Advisory Team (EAT) (UK) who can advise and guide you on how to apply for school places in all parts of the UK. Their contact details are RC-DCS-HQ-EAT@mod.gov.uk.

Further information can be found on our Admissions and Appeals page or contact educationsupport@aff.org.uk

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