Over thirteen million pounds has been paid by the Foreign Office to send the children of ambassadors to the most prestigious private schools in the United Kingdom, such as Eton and Winchester College.
The sum that the government must pay out of its own pocket to cover the costs of the fees has nearly tripled in only one year. And the numbers imply that the average cost of providing financial support for a child’s participation in a private educational program has reached its greatest level in recent memory.
During this period of rising costs of living, the expenditure has given rise to additional issues over the usage of money provided by taxpayers.
The Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA) budget was the subject of the parliamentary questions that the Foreign Office responded to with their answers, which is where the revelations were found. As a long-standing benefit for diplomats, top staff members of the Foreign Office are eligible to have the tuition costs of their children’s boarding schools covered by the government.
The program is intended to provide diplomats with the flexibility to fly abroad at a moment’s notice or accept long-term assignments in nations with a high risk of violence. There is a cap that cannot be exceeded, and it includes costs. Despite this, expenditure on the CEA has continued to go up significantly, and many private schools have raised their tuition costs.
David Rutley, minister in Foreign Office, stated that during the fiscal year 2022–2023, the government spent approximately £13.7 million to subsidize the cost of tuition at private schools. The number was £10.5 million the year before, which represents an increase of 31% on an annual basis. The total cost was twelve million pounds in 2020/21.
The most recent rise provides evidence that total spending on the CEA is reverting to levels seen before the outbreak. According to numbers for past years that were given in other parliamentary answers, the expense per child looks to be the greatest it has ever been in recent history. This information was gleaned via parliamentary questions.
In total, 514 students of varying ages had their tuition paid for by the government agency in the previous school year at an average cost of £26,848 per student. This is a 35% increase over the previous school year, 2021/22 when 531 pupils had their tuition subsidized at an average cost of £19,849.
Sevenoaks School in Kent continues to be the most popular choice of school for employees working for the Foreign Office. In 2022/23, the school got £721,965 in fees from the taxpayer, which is an increase from the £629,073 it received in 2021/22. Since 2016/17, the Foreign Office has increased the amount of money it spends on places at the highly selective mixed school by 60%.
The Oundle school in Northamptonshire is the second most popular among diplomatic personnel. As a result, the Foreign Office increased its contributions to the school from £381,851 in 2021/22 to £487,449 in 2022/23.
The change in prime ministerial power from Boris Johnson to Rishi Sunak, which took place the year before, was matched by the Foreign Office’s spending on fees at their respective former schools. The amount paid to Eton College decreased from £371,827 in the 2021/22 school year to £246,720 in the 2022/23 school year, whilst the amount paid to Winchester College increased from £106,326 to £143,232.
There was also an increase in the amount paid to Charterhouse School, which increased from £132,264 in 2021/22 to £171,760 in 2022/23. The chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, attended this school.
The Foreign Office not only provides financial assistance to boarding schools in the United Kingdom, but it also covers the educational costs of diplomats’ children when they accompany them on long-term assignments outside of the country. The expense of attending a school in another country rose to 24.14 million pounds in 2022/23, up from 21.38 million pounds the year before and more than twice as much as the 11.78 million pounds paid out in 2014/15.
The chief executive of TaxPayers’ Alliance, John O’Connell, was quoted as saying that “hard-pressed taxpayers will not take kindly to these figures.”
He went on to say that despite the fact that diplomats frequently have to move at a moment’s notice, it is difficult to explain the amount of these subsidies, particularly in the midst of a crisis in regard to the cost of living. Diplomats should plan on enrolling their children in one of our excellent public schools, just like everyone else does, or paying for their children’s private schooling out of their own pockets.
“Our staff are often asked to move frequently during the course of their career, sometimes at very short notice,” said a spokeswoman for the FCDO. “This is one of the reasons why it has been the policy of successive governments to support eligible families in the hopes that the education of their children will be disrupted as little as possible.”
“There are definite limits placed on the amount of compensation that can be paid to personnel. The inclusion of legacy DfID workers and heritage FCO staff in a single FCDO number starting this year contributed to the increase in our spending, in addition to an increase in the cost of boarding school.