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Departmental Expenditure

Volume 450: debated on Tuesday 24 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the cost was of paying fees at independent schools for the children of staff employed by her Department in the last year for which figures are available. (95987)

The amount the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has spent on education at independent schools for children whose parents have a world-wide mobility obligation for the financial year 2005-06 is £11,779,021. This figure includes tax and national insurance contributions.

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 the legal obligation as parents to ensure that their children receive a full-time education from the age of five years. The FCO's provisions for children's education are intended to help staff meet these potentially conflicting obligations.

Children who accompany their parents on postings overseas are expected to use free state schooling if it is available locally and suitable. If suitable schooling is not available free of charge locally but is available at fee-charging schools, fees are refunded 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, continuity of education can be problematic particularly during the important exam years. The FCO's provisions address this problem by enabling children to board in the UK while their parents remain subject to the world-wide mobility obligation.