Every year many army families consider boarding school as an option to ensure their children’s education is not disrupted by the frequent moves that come with army life. When you’re thinking about all the options, it’s important to consider the financial impact, and what support is available.


Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA) can help to support regular serving personnel with boarding school fees from the academic year of a child’s eighth birthday. This allows the family to move together but for the child to have a continuous education.

AFF Money & Allowances Specialist Claire Hallam says: “There are many rules and regulations you need to be aware of. To be eligible to claim CEA, the serving person must be likely to be assigned more than 50 miles away from their current duty station within four years and remain accompanied by their family.

“However, this is just a snapshot of the rules, and I would recommend looking at JSP 752, Chapter 14 and speaking to your unit HR admin if you are unsure of how the rules apply to you.”


If you are eligible for CEA, you would need to make at least a minimum 10 per cent parental contribution towards fees at an independent school, or eight per cent if you choose a state boarding school, after any forces discount or bursary is applied.

The MOD reviews CEA rates annually, usually in the summer, with new rates effective from 1 August. Rates can go up, down or remain the same.

The rates for CEA are the maximum rates per term that can be claimed so it’s wise to discuss the fees with the schools you are considering. If a school is more expensive than the CEA maximum rate and your personal contribution, you would need to pay the rest.

There are different CEA rates for junior and senior years, so it’s worth factoring in what your contribution would be for both stages of fees to make sure it remains affordable. Also bear in mind that school fees tend to increase in the senior years.

When the CEA rate changes from junior to senior will depend on an individual school – some change from Year 7 but others, such as prep schools, may not get the senior rate of CEA until Year 9.

The Education Advisory Team (EAT) (UK) has a list of accredited schools on their database where CEA can be claimed, so that you can check what rate applies when at each school. You can email the team at RC-DCS-HQ-EAT@mod.gov.uk


There may be other extra costs to consider outside of the standard uniform costs such as deposits or admin fees, and travel costs for pick-up and collection. If you are more than 100 miles from a chosen school, you may be able to claim some support for a certain number of trips to collect your child (school children’s visits).

It is also important to look at what is included in a school’s fees. Some schools will include all weekend trips while a child is boarding, while others may charge extra for weekend trips or other things such as taking your child to the doctor, stationery etc.

Alun, who had two children taking exams in the same academic year, was faced with nearly £900 of exam fees as well as significant amounts for extra-curricular activities.

He said: “It’s all these little extras which add up and if you don’t ask the right questions at the start of your CEA journey, you may be putting yourself into a vulnerable financial position later.”

You can find more information about the CEA process and rates at aff.org.uk. See JSP 752 on gov.uk for details of the policy on CEA.

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