The Ministry of Defence and other Departments have made important changes in service children’s education. We have introduced the service pupil premium, and we have extended it to children of military personnel who have died in service and to eligible service children whose parents have left the armed forces. In addition, the MOD introduced the support fund for state schools with service children. The new schools admissions code now enables infant schools in England to treat the children of UK service personnel as a permitted exception to class size regulations. That means that infant schools may admit service children and increase the class size to more than 30 if they feel they have the resources to do so.
I most certainly will. As the Secretary of State has already said, more than 150 local authorities have signed the community covenant, and we are now on track to get to 200. They are coming in fast, which gives us the nice problem of tracking them as they come in. If I can give my hon. Friend another example of how the scheme works in practice, Oxfordshire county council has amended its admissions procedures so that service personnel who apply to move their children into an Oxfordshire school before they move to Oxfordshire can use a British Forces Post Office number on the application form. That might sound like a small thing, but prior to the change service personnel could not apply for a school place until they had moved into an area. Allowing service personnel to apply in advance of their children moving to an area materially affects their family’s quality of life. I commend Oxfordshire county council for its initiative and I hope others will copy it.
I welcome the recent announcements made by the Minister, which clearly demonstrate that this Government are doing their bit to honour the military covenant. Can my right hon. Friend say what steps are being taken to help those children who have been bereaved to go on to higher education?
Yes, I can. The coalition programme for government included an undertaking to provide
“university and further education scholarships for…children of Service”
“who have been killed on active duty since 1990”.
The aim is to provide a head start in life, enabling bereaved service children to obtain higher education qualifications. The education scholarship scheme was launched on 8 April 2011 and, where the criteria are met, provides further education and university scholarships for the children of servicemen and women who died while serving in Her Majesty’s armed forces.