133.In their observations on the Covenant Annual Report 2017, the single Service Families Federations welcomed reassurances that the Service Pupil Premium (SPP), an England-only fund, would not be affected by the wider reform of school funding. However, the Federations noted that for some time now it had stood at £300 per pupil per year and that an increase would be welcome. The Federations would also welcome an extension of SPP to include under-5s, to support transitional childcare arrangements, and for all children in compulsory education, including those aged 16–18 years. Anna Wright, from the Naval Families Federation, told us that while they would like to see the SPP increased, their priority would be for it to be extended to early years and up to 18 years, because there were gaps at either end in terms of pastoral support.
134.The single Service Family Federations also warned that more work needed to be undertaken to inform schools on the appropriate use of the SPP to support Service children and to ensure that it was not combined with the main Pupil Premium funding.
135.We call on the Government to review the Service Pupil Premium for England, with particular reference to whether it should be increased and whether its range should be extended to under-5s and to all Service children, including those aged 16–18 years across the UK. We also call upon the Government to provide target guidance to help schools use the Service Pupil Premium appropriately.
136.The single Service Families Federations were also concerned that the MoD Education Support Fund (ESF) was scheduled to close. They saw the ESF as a vital resource for schools, especially for those wishing to provide targeted support for Service children which could not be funded through the Service Pupil Premium. Anna Wright suggested that the ESF could be continued by the use of LIBOR funding. In oral evidence, the MoD confirmed that the ESF was currently being assessed as part of the financial planning round this year. The ESF was mainly designed for rebasing and was used to fund the return of UK Armed Forces from Germany and other big relocations. After the evidence session, the MoD confirmed that the ESF was always scheduled to close at the end of 2017–18, once the majority of the drawdown from Germany had concluded. However, a further relocation, mainly in Wiltshire, of 3,600 personnel from Germany is expected in 2019 for which the MoD had made a substantial payment to Wiltshire Council to fund a new school and to provide additional school and pre-school places in readiness for the increase in pupils. In addition to the challenges of the relocation from Germany, there was also the Defence Estate Rationalisation strategy, covering a total of 91 sites currently part of the Defence Estate which would be disposed of by 2040. In December 2016, it had been estimated that the number of military and civilian staff currently based at sites identified for disposal totalled 26,860 personnel (21,967 military, 4,893 civilian). A key part of planning for these changes would be keeping families informed and liaison with local authorities and other public bodies to ensure that the appropriate infrastructure was in place.
137.We are concerned that the MoD’s Education Support Fund (ESF) has closed. The Minister confirmed that the ESF was mainly used to fund large relocations such as the return of Service personnel from Germany. Given both the further return of Service personnel from Germany, currently planned for 2019, and the continuing defence rationalisation plan, the closure of the ESF would appear to be short-sighted. In response to our report, the MoD should set out how the services currently funded by ESF will be provided in future.
186 Ministry of Defence ()
187 Ministry of Defence ()
189 [on Military Bases: Staff], 7 December 2016
Published: 30 June 2018