BBC spends £400,000 on school fees for just 20 children of foreign-based journalists in latest row over use of licence fee funds

The BBC  has spent nearly £400,000 on school fees in the past year for the children of foreign-based journalists, averaging about £20,000 per child. According to new figures, the amount spent from the start of the last financial year until mid-March 2024, was about £50,000 more than was spent on such fees in the full 12 months of the previous financial year. Over two years the corporation has spent nearly £750,000 on these fees.

According to figures released under Freedom of Information rules, from April 2023 until the middle of March, there were 20 children of 10 employees based overseas who received these school fees. A total of £398,307 was spent on these children’s education. The year before, from April 2022 to March 2023, £348,808 was spent on school fees for 17 children of nine staff who were based outside the UK.

A campaign group said that licence fee payers would be fuming that they were ‘forking out for school fees’.

In making the disclosure, the BBC said it paid some school fees for the children of ‘staff based overseas in its BBC News Bureaux’. But the corporation refuses to reveal the job titles of people that are receiving these payments, saying this was personal information. The BBC said in its response to the Freedom of Information request: ‘The BBC’s Policy is to only contribute towards school fees when staff are seconded outside of their home country for a temporary period of time (usually for a minimum period of two years) and there is not adequate local state education available.

Where this is the case the BBC will contribute towards the costs of school fees for children between the ages of four and eighteen.

‘No Fees are paid for UK based staff. We do not make any payments to staff for domestic/ UK private school fees. This does not form part of the UK relocation package.’

The BBC’s outlay falls well short of the £13.8 million the Foreign Office spent on fees for private schools in the UK for 514 children of diplomats in 2022/23.

The government department also spent £24.1 million for 1,188 children to go to overseas schools.

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: ‘Licence fee payers will be fuming that they’re forking out for school fees.

‘But bosses at the Beeb should remember that this is only an issue because their funding model relies on coercion, where taxpayers have no choice about whether to cough up the cash. ‘It is long past time that the government axed the hated TV tax and put the BBC on a subscription model.’

A BBC spokesman said ‘In line with other international organisations and standard practice, we support staff with children when they are deployed overseas and there is no equivalent local state education. ‘The BBC has strict contractual guidelines and this only occurs in a small number of exceptional cases, although the numbers will fluctuate based on the number of children of those deployed and the global news agenda.’ A BBC source said that no school fees are paid for UK based staff and that the corporation’s work as an international news broadcaster relied on staff being deployed around the world.

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