The Foreign Office has spent more than £13m sending the children of diplomats to top private schools in Britain such as Eton and Winchester College
The government spend for the fees equates to an increase of nearly a third in a single year. And the figures suggest the average cost of subsidising private education for each child has reached its highest point in recent history.
The expenditure has added to concerns about the use of taxpayers’ money during the cost of living crisis.
The revelations came in parliamentary answers provided by the Foreign Office about the budget for the Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA). Under a longstanding perk for diplomats, senior Foreign Office staff can have their children’s boarding school fees paid for by the taxpayer.
About £13.7m was spent subsidising the cost of private school fees in the 2022/23 financial year, according to the Foreign Office minister David Rutley. The previous year, the figure was £10.5m, equating to an annual rise of 31%. In 2020/21, the cost was £12m.
The recent increase suggests total spending on the CEA is returning to pre-pandemic levels. However, the cost for each child appears to be the highest in recent history, according to figures for previous years revealed in other parliamentary answers.
A total of 514 pupils of various ages had their school fees covered by the department last year, at an average cost of £26,848. That is a rise of 35% from 2021/22, when 531 children had their fees subsidised at an average cost of £19,849.
The most popular choice of school for Foreign Office staff remains Sevenoaks school, in Kent, which received £721,965 in fees from the taxpayer in 2022/23, up from £629,073 in 2021/22. Foreign Office spending on places at the highly selective mixed school has risen by 60% since 2016/17.
Second most popular among the diplomatic corps is Oundle school, in Northamptonshire, where Foreign Office payments rose from £381,851 in 2021/22 to £487,449 in 2022/23.
Last year’s prime ministerial power shift, from Boris Johnson to Rishi Sunak, was mirrored by the Foreign Office’s spending on fees at their former schools. Payments to Eton College fell from £371,827 in 2021/22 to £246,720 in 2022/23, while payments to Winchester College rose from £106,326 to £143,232.