The government has announced new scholarship schemes to help fund higher education for children of servicemen and women who have been killed whilst on active duty. The scheme will provide £3,200 for tuition fees and £5,000 towards maintenance per year for prospective students whose parents have been killed in active duty since 1990. The first students to be eligible will be those beginning further studies in 2011.
University Minister David Willetts, who spoke about plans for the scheme in October, has assured that the payments will go ahead despite the funding cuts. He said: “It is surely right that we go out of our way to support the families of these brave servicemen and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice to keep the nation safe. The scholarships scheme will ensure that children who have lost a parent on active duty are not disadvantaged if they decide to study at university.”
Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans Andrew Robathan said: “Britain has a moral responsibility to its armed forces. Each and every day these men and women make sacrifices in order to ensure our nation’s security.” He added: “The government is committed to giving service personnel, veterans and their families the highest levels of support in recognition of these great sacrifices.”
The government has estimated that the scheme will cost £800,000 a year and could benefit as many as 100 students at any one time. The payments will also be further reviewed after the tuition fees increase to an estimated £9,000 a year on some courses.
Lancaster University student Kate MacDonald, whose father retired from the Armed Forces in 1999, praised the scheme as a “great idea”. She said: “The country should protect its soldiers and their families, and while there is no substitute for a lost parent, I think it would be a great comfort for the surviving family to know that at least their children would be taken care of.”
The government also confirmed it will continue to help fund an existing programme which supports service leavers to undertake a first or further education qualification, and will provide funding to help enhance the scheme.
In the future eligible servicemen and women will be able to apply for support after they have served a minimum of four years. Those medically discharged will not be subject to a minimum service requirement, and entitlement may be transferred to a partner or spouse in certain circumstances.
Furthermore, it was reported on the Department for Education website that the Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove has announced that the children of those in the armed forces, who are still at school, will receive a pupil premium. It was said these children “face unique challenges and stresses. The premium will provide extra funding to schools with service children to support the schools in meeting these needs.”
The level of the premium will be £200 per pupil in 2011-12.
A total of 339 British forces personnel or civilian MOD workers have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001, according to departmental figures at the end of last year. A further 179 British troops were killed on duty in Iraq.