The Cotswold Centre is managed by the Headquarters Army Welfare Service and funded by the Headquarters Support Command: primary aged children at the Cotswold Centre are educated at Lyppiatt School, which is situated on the MOD base.
The MOD Education Support Fund funding, which has underwritten the school in recent years, has now been discontinued, and Wiltshire Council are consulting on the closure of the school. The amount being withdrawn by the Ministry of Defence in the current academic year is £59,392, which will impact on the educational provisions needed for children from service families, who have particular and specialist needs.
I have personally written to the Children’s Commissioner for England, asking that she should investigate the impact of this withdrawal of funds. The Children’s Commissioner’s recent report ‘Kin and Country: Growing Up as an Armed Forces Child’ has brought to public attention the particular difficulties faced by children from forces’ families. Before the ink on that report is even dry, the penny pinching of the MoD in withdrawing funds from Lypiatt School is a further damning failure of the government’s responsibility towards service families. It is hard to believe that the MoD would jeopardize the future of this brilliant school to save a measly £60000 per year.
There is a social contract with the women and men in our armed forces, the military covenant, that they and their families will be supported, in exchange for the sacrifices they make. I am for the MoD to honour that obligation towards the children of service families.
Closure of the school will result in these vulnerable children, often dealing with complex and difficult emotional challenges, being dissipated into mainstream schools who are not equipped to support them. In many cases the children have been exposed to parents themselves suffering from PTSD, related to military deployment.
The placement of these particular children to Wiltshire is decided by the MoD, but responsibility for their education then rests with Wiltshire Council. The fluctuating admissions numbers are dictated by the MoD and the armed services, but the funding formula for local authority schools makes no allowance for such fluctuations, and therefore the school funding has been underwritten in recent years by the MoD Education Support Fund and the Armed Forces Education Trust.
The fluctuating numbers of children attending the Cotswold Family Centre means that if the children are placed in other local schools, the council will still struggle to provide the appropriate level of funding for staff to support them. And this will be detrimental not only to the children housed in the Cotswold Centre, but also disruptive of other local schools.