The latest census from the Independent Schools Council (ISC) shows that the number of Forces children attending independent boarding schools has dropped from 1,790 in 2011 to 851 this year.
The decline coincides with changes three years ago to the Ministry of Defence’s Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA), which pays for continuous schooling for the children of military personnel who are stationed overseas.
The review led to fewer young people being eligible for financial support, and a growing expectation that parents would choose state boarding schools for their children. The MoD planned to save £20 million a year on the CEA.
Hilary Moriarty, national director of the Boarding Schools Association (BSA), said the declining numbers of Forces children in independent boarding schools was “particularly worrying”. She added: “This is surely due to the major changes in the granting of the Ministry of Defence’s CEA. In 2011, there were 1790 new Forces children at independent boarding schools, in 2012 there were 992, and this year, there are 851. This a dramatic drop over three years.”
The ISC census also shows that almost 84 per cent of boarders at independent schools are full boards, while 8.2 per cent board on a flexible basis. In the 6th form, almost a third of all pupils board and more than 90 per cent of them are full boarders.
Long-term investment by schools in their boarding accommodation – £88 million, a third up on last year’s £66 million
Ms Moriarty said that, overall, the strength of full boarding was “unexpected”. “It shows that full boarding has become increasingly accommodating to the needs of its students and their families, especially in its offer of such a wide range of activities.
“While there has been a slight drop in overall boarding numbers at independent schools (1.4 per cent – down from 68,476 to 66,776) it is interesting to note that in the past year we have received an unprecedented number of expressions of interest in starting a state boarding school. These have come from a wide range, including free schools, academies and charities.”