Overseas education considerations for Service families

Before applying for overseas service it is important for parents/carers to understand what education is available in the area and consider the variances. Outside of the UK, school entry ages, educational curricula and qualifications differ and consideration will need to be given before committing to a posting. In this section we cover off:

Where to start researching overseas education options for Service children?

Education overseas for service children webpage

The education for overseas Service children webpage should be your first port of call when researching overseas education options. It lists Defence Children Services (DCS) Schools and, if your location is not covered by an MOD school, it lists the areas where an Educational Suitability Review has been carried out – please note, this is not a list of approved schools.

Educational Suitability Review (ESR)

ESRs are designed to help identify suitable schools and will include details about education in a particular country or region, and in-depth information on a selection of schools in a specific area.

If your posting location has an ESR it can be requested from the Overseas Education and Supportability Team (OEST): [email protected]. If your location is not listed on the website then you should contact the OEST to discuss further options.

Note: The OEST do not make recommendations for you to choose one school over another.

Sources of in-country education information

  • An RAF or Army HIVE Information Centre will be able to provide information on local schooling, if there is one.
  • Dedicated websites and social media groups for UK military personnel overseas, such as BFGnet for Germany, EJSU for Europe, and BDSUS for the USA. Ask your predecessor for advice on the most reliable sources of information.
  • Local guide books, for isolated locations, (e.g. ‘blue book’); your Career Manager will be able to tell you how to obtain a copy.

Will education overseas meet my child’s needs?

To help weigh up the options, the MOD has provided a useful guide called ‘Moving Schools – A Parent’s Guide’, which includes a list of questions that you can refer to when looking at school websites or contacting them directly.

Here we list some key factors to bear in mind:

  • Tour length and child’s age – It is important to consider your child’s age when you will leave and return. Factoring the school starting age and year group placement and, if it is different from your current location, the impact on your child’s education. For example, will your child be mid-way through their GCSE syllabus or part-way through completing alternative qualifications overseas when you are due to return? You should not assume an extension will be given to enable children and young people to complete examinations in an overseas setting

  • CurriculumIt is important to research the curriculum offered in the overseas location. Will your child follow the same curriculum as they did at their last school? If not, what are the similarities and differences? If there are significant differences in the curriculums, how could this impact your child’s educational journey? 

  • Admissions – Is your chosen school likely to have places in your required year groups? Do you have a suitable second choice if they cannot accommodate your child?

  • School day – The timings of the school day can vary in overseas locations. In some areas, children may only be offered part-time schooling when they first start school, where they may have been entitled to a full-time place if they remained in the UK. You could ask the overseas schools when does the school start and finish? If you need before and/or after school childcare, is this something the school offers?

  • Travelling times – If accommodation will be allocated to you and you know a likely location, then you will also want to consider the time taken to get to and from school. Where the school is not located close to the accommodation you may wish to ask if any transport is provided.

  • SEND – If you have a child with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) this should not deter you from applying. SEND may be supported in some locations. If you do decide to apply for overseas service, it is worth taking extra time to research a schools’ ability to support specific needs and allow extra time in the process. Please note: if your child has an Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP) this is likely to cease when they leave the UK and need reassessment upon their return.

  • Higher and further education – Families should consider educational qualifications that are likely to be gained in the assignment location. Does the overseas location offer the courses your child is interested in studying? Will qualifications gained overseas be recognised in the UK for entry to colleges and higher education, or by employers?

What is involved in educational suitability assessments?

All parents need to obtain ’Confirmation of Educational supportability‘ for their children, aged 0 to 18 years of age, before proceeding with a move overseas.

Prior to a Service parent’s posting overseas, the needs of all Service children will be assessed to ensure their educational requirements can be met at your chosen locations, this process is part of the MOD’s Assessment of Supportability (MASO).

Your assignment location will determine who carries out the educational clearance process:

  • Area supported by a DCS School: the DCS School carries out the clearance.
  • Area without DCS School: the clearance process is carried out by the OEST.

Overseas supportability policy

When Service person is considering an accompanied assignment overseas the needs of that family have to be assessed. This is to ensure there are suitable services and support accessible in the overseas location.

JSP 770 Chapter 2A which explained the framework for the assessment of support needs has been removed and included in a new policy document which is accessible to families: the Assessment of support needs for accompanied assignments overseas (gov.uk).

Assessment of support needs for accompanied assignments overseas cover

RAF overseas schooling options

Most parents consider their children’s education to be an important factor in deciding whether to volunteer for an overseas assignment. As a parent, it is your responsibility to research the available options and decide on school preferences.

As with healthcare, education provision varies considerably between overseas locations. So, it is recommended you take time to research what is on offer before volunteering for an overseas assignment.

DCS Schools tend to be located in areas with higher numbers of UK military personnel; for example, Cyprus and the Falkland Islands. DCS schools aim to provide education standards equivalent to those in the UK, following the English curriculum and undergoing Ofsted inspections. 

DCS schools offer English assessments and examinations, with the intention of supporting smooth transition to and from UK-based schools. All overseas DCS schools are listed on the Education overseas for service children (gov.uk) webpage.

DCS Schools map >

DCS Schools Map

Note: A-level, or equivalent, options may be limited and the range of courses on offer reduced.

Local state provided education will generally be available to families travelling to a country where the first language is English. However, it is important to recognise a British National Curriculum will not be followed. Hence your child may be taught using different methods and sequence, or the content of topics may vary significantly. 

Children may also be expected to start education at a different age to that in the UK, potentially meaning a later or earlier school entry point for your child compared to the UK, or a change in year group. The impact of this will vary between children, and it is up to parents/carers to consider how well their child might adjust and, subsequently, reintegrate into the UK education system. 

Where English is not spoken as the first language, or where state provided education is found not to be suitable, local private education may be appropriate – for example, through international schools. Broadly speaking, international schools will cover the curriculum from a specified country; for schools not following a British curriculum parents will need to consider the impact of any differences, as identified for state provided education above. 

The general education costs may be eligible for refund through your local unit HR. However, there may be additional costs associated with sending your child to a private school which you will need to factor in. Further advice on this can be obtained from the OEST (gov.uk). 

If, after researching your options, you feel there aren’t any overseas education options suited to your child you could consider using Continuity of Education (CEA) allowance, if eligible, to access boarding schools in the UK.

If you are interested in finding out more about CEA and boarding options then you should contact the Education Advisory Team (gov.uk) for more information.

Some families also consider Elective Home Education, or home-schooling, for their children during an overseas assignment. As detailed in the regulations (JSP 342, Sect 5), authority to Home Educate in the assignment location will need to be obtained from the receiving overseas Command.

Parents who choose to home educate are to accept full responsibility for providing the education and are responsible for the full costs of that provision. If you have not previously home-schooled your children then you are strongly advised to research the topic thoroughly and consider ages at tour end and how this would work in practice in a different country.

If parents/carers are currently home educating or wish to do so in the overseas assignment location, they are required to make contact with the OEST [email protected] to discuss this option. 

Support whilst overseas and when returning to the UK

Out of sight does not mean out of mind. If you are having issues with schooling overseas, or during your return to the UK contact:

OEST (going Overseas)

The OEST provides information, advice and guidance to Service personnel and eligible MOD civilians. The OEST coordinates the educational supportability assessment process for overseas postings, in respect of children with Special Educational Needs and those for whom parents have selected Elective Home Education.

You can contact the OEST by emailing [email protected].

Defence Children’s Services (DCS)

DCS look after DCS Schools and Settings (nursery schools) overseas. The team includes essential specialist support staff, including educational psychologists.

MOD Virtual School

MOD Virtual School (MODVS), part of Defence Children Services (DCS), looks after the safety, welfare and education of military children who live overseas. Unlike a traditional school, it does not provide education nor does it have a building, it is a virtual service which holds responsibility for overseeing the education of children who live overseas in an area that does not have a DCS School (excluding USA, Australia and New Zealand at present) or who are electively home educated. Contact the MOD Virtual School Headteacher at: [email protected].  

Education Advisory Team (returning to the UK)

The Education Advisory Team (EAT) (UK) is part of DCS. It provides professional information, advice and guidance regarding the education of Service children in the UK. The EAT is contactable at [email protected].

They can also provide advice and guidance regarding education and education-related issues, such as school admissions and appeals, the Continuity of Education Allowance and Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. 

Each of these teams consist of qualified professional Education Advisers, Team Advisers and administrators.