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Diplomatic Service (School Fees)

Volume 449: debated on Wednesday 19 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the policy of her Department is on the payment of school fees for the children of staff employed in the diplomatic service abroad when those children attend (a) international schools abroad or (b) fee-paying schools in the UK. (86064)

It is a condition of their 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 (FCO) therefore helps staff meet these potentially conflicting obligations in two circumstances:

Children who accompany their parents on postings overseas are expected to use free state schooling if it is available locally and is of a suitable standard. At posts where no suitable schooling is available free-of-charge locally, the FCO refunds the cost of local school fees to enable children to receive the level of education to which they would be entitled in the UK.

Staff are liable to move at regular intervals, every 12-48 months, often to locations where schools offering English language education are unavailable or inadequate. Providing continuity of education can therefore pose real problems, particularly during the important examination years. The FCO therefore provides an accountable allowance to enable children to board at school in the UK, while their parents remain subject to the worldwide mobility obligation.