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Entitlement to CEA - the Bursar\'s view

Bob Moorhouse, Wymondham College
The recent review into the entitlement to the Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA) carried out by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been a worrying time for many families who cliam CEA. I am sure that I am not the only Bursar of a boarding school to have had calls from distraught parents saying that they have just heard that the MoD has removed – or is about to remove – their entitlement to claim CEA and what can the school do to help them put forward an appeal to retain it.
I have been involved in several cases where I have provided supporting information to parents to help in the case they submit to the MoD to retain CEA eligibility and to keep their children at their chosen school. In all but one of these cases the children have been at a crucial stage of their education (i.e. already on GCSE or A level courses) and the news that they can no longer retain the allowance has been extremely distressing for the parents and children alike. 
Retaining CEA eligibility
So what can be done in such circumstances? In my experience, there are three important areas to consider.
1. Parents must engage with their unit admin office. Any case they put forward will be input from their unit specialists if it is to stand a chance of success. They will be also able to access the Service support networks and organisations such as CEAS (Children’s Education Advisory Service, DCYP-CEAS-Enquiries@mod.uk). The unit will be able to provide the military perspective to any case they put forward i.e. future postings, detachments, welfare issues.
2. The school must provide evidence on the education aspects of the case. This must include information such as the stage of the pupil’s education, whether or not they have started their GCSEs/A levels, what modular exams they have already taken, and so on. As I noted above, the majority of cases that I have been involved with have been when a child is in the final formal stages of their education. The impact on the child’s education at this stage cannot be understated especially when they are already several terms into their courses and a change to another school would be clearly detrimental to them.   
There are any number of practical challenges to be overcome if a school change is to take place midway through an examination course. Not the least of these is exam board compatibility – parents will have to find a school that not only delivers the same subjects that the child has previously studied but also with same exam board. Added to this, many schools now take examinations at different times and so even if the subject and exam board is right, a transferring pupil may find themselves taking a different part of the course.  
Moreover, if the child has to move to a state day school, parents may well find that the school has no room to admit their child or they will have to go through the admissions appeal process. From the date of submission of an admission appeal, a school has 30 school days in which to hear that appeal. If notice has been given to a parent that they will lose eligibility for CEA towards the end of the Summer term, for example, the parent may face a summer of uncertainty not knowing where their child will be educated from the beginning of the Autumn term, as the admission appeal may not be heard until September. And if the appeal is unsuccessful, the family may face more uncertainty while the Local Authority tries to find a place for the child at another school. And whether the school that is ultimately identified is suitable for the child is yet another thing.
3. Parents do need to be realistic about the situation. Parents will clearly want to keep their child in boarding at the present school if they can, but at the same time as submitting an appeal to the MoD to retain CEA, they should also make provision in case they lose that appeal. The one case that I have helped with that was not successful was, I thought, one of the stronger cases that I had seen. However, for a variety of reasons, the appeal to retain CEA was unsuccessful. In the meantime, the parents had made provision for their child’s education should they lose the appeal and although moving to another school was not at all what they wanted, when they received the news they had not won their appeal, their child was able to move to the new school relatively seamlessly. They had made the best of the bad situation the family had found itself in.
The present climate of uncertainty about CEA is unsettling for Service families (especially their children) and for schools. But making the right representations in the right way to the right people can make a difference.  
Bob Moorhouse is the Bursar and Clerk to the Governors at Wymondham College, a large state-boarding school in Norfolk. Before joining the College in 2007, he served as an officer in the Royal Air Force between 1990 and 2007 at a variety of postings both in the UK and overseas. An administrative officer by specialisation, his background in the Royal Air Force included tours in estate management, personnel policy, budget and financial management, management planning and corporate communications. 
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