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Children (Education Allowances)

Volume 641: debated on Sunday 7 May 1961

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asked the Secretary of State for Air if he will consider the introduction of a flat rate of education allowances for assisting officers, airmen and airwomen in the education of their children when serving abroad or liable to frequent changes of station in the United Kingdom, instead of the present system of maximum allowances of £150, £175, and £200 a year for the first, second and third and subsequent children at boarding schools, and only £50 a year for children attending day schools.

No, Sir. Education allowances are intended to help Service parents to meet the extra cost of ensuring continuity of education for their children. A flat rate would not take account of the difference in the cost of boarding and day schools.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is a private decision of parents whether they send their children to a private school, either a boarding or a day school? How can the right hon. Gentleman defend this kind of discrimination against parents who choose to send their children to day schools and in favour of parents who choose to send them to boarding schools? Surely this is a private decision which they ought to finance themselves?

It is not altogether a private decision. Discrimination is sometimes not of human origin. There are quite a number of families who have no relatives or guardians with whom they can leave their children, and for them a boarding school is the only choice.

How can the right hon. Gentleman defend a flat rate of £50 for the parents who have their children at day school with no distinction between the first, second, third and subsequent children, while there is this discrimination for parents who send their children to boarding school?

The problem which arises with a day school is that to an existing household is added an individual, or it may be more than one individual. The allowance given in respect of that child is intended as a contribution to the upkeep of the child at home. In boarding schools it is very difficult to discriminate or differentiate between the educational and maintenance costs. The maintenance cost plus the education cost collectively becomes rather high, and the added burden to the individual family is considerably greater.

Does not this amount to a direct subsidy from the Air Ministry to private fee-accepting schools?