Foreign Office spends £27m of taxpayer cash on private school fees

Foreign Office spends £27m of taxpayer cash on private school fees

More and more taxpayers’ money is being spent on private education for hundreds of Foreign Office ­workers’ children.

Figures show more than £27million was blown on 1,600 school places in the UK and abroad in 2016-17.

And that’s £1million more than the amount spent sending them to posh schools the previous year.

The Foreign Office forked out fees for private schooling for the families of 172 UK-based staff at an average of £23,480 a year per child.

Spending on children of 174 overseas workers averaged at £13,351 each.

Almost £1million was spent sending youngsters to a host of top boarding schools, such as Roedean and Wellington College, where fees are around £13,000 a term.

The figures emerge as spending on ordinary schools has fallen by 8% in real terms since 2010 – with sixth form colleges funding cut by 21%.

About £6,200 was spent on each state school student in secondary education last year.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance has blasted the Foreign Office for the rising spending on private schools as “completely unacceptable”.

Political director James Roberts said: “This is happening at a time when taxpayers are struggling to get a good school place for their own children.

“Government needs to get a grip on these costs, or simply send diplomats’ kids to normal schools like everyone else.”

Foreign Office staff get subsidised private schooling because the Government says it allows continuity of education – so children can stay behind at their boarding schools even if their parents are posted abroad.

Figures from the department show £973,000 alone was spent sending kids to Cheltenham Ladies College, Roedean School, Wycombe Abbey, Benenden School, Malvern St James, Wellington College and Sevenoaks School.

Commenting on the figures, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry MP said: “Pupil funding for UK state secondary schools is stuck at just over £6,000 per year, and headteachers are having to beg parents to help them buy basic supplies.

“It seems ridiculous that the Foreign Office is spending tens of thousands more than that subsidising the private education of its staff’s children.

“This level of subsidy is very hard to justify at a time when the ordinary school budgets are under such pressure.”

The NUT, England’s largest teaching union, said its analysis showed 4,819 schools – a quarter of all primaries and one in six of all secondary schools – received less funding this year than the year before.

Headteachers at some schools say staff have been covering for canteen workers and cleaners while essential funds are raised by parent donations and “charity” non-uniform days.

In January, the Government was accused of breaking a promise over school funding after a new analysis suggested that more than 4,800 schools had seen their budgets fall.

Ministers had repeatedly claimed every school would receive a cash increase.

A Foreign Office spokesman defended the rising spending on school fees. He said: “Members of the diplomatic service must be prepared to serve anywhere, sometimes at very short notice.

“It is long-standing practice that the Foreign Office helps staff meet their ­obligations as parents and that their children avoid having their education disrupted.

“In some parts of the world we do not permit staff to take children with them for safety reasons, in others schools of an acceptable standard are not available.”

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