More than £84 million of public money was spent last year to pay for the children of Armed Forces personnel to attend Eton, Wellington and other elite boarding schools, government figures have revealed.
According to the statistics, nearly three-quarters of those who are enjoying the Ministry of Defence subsidy are officers, as opposed to lower-ranking soldiers.
Service personnel are granted an allowance worth between £9,087 and £30,252 a year per child, depending on their age and whether they have special educational needs.
The subsidy can be claimed for a child aged eight to 18, with parents expected to pay at least 10 per cent of fees.
The figures, revealed by The Independent, show that eight out of 10 personnel who receive the allowance are based in the UK, raising questions as to why their children require a boarding school education.
In total, 5,800 Armed Forces children were sent to private school paid for by the taxpayer, but just 1,370 were from families below the officer class.
The numbers show that 100 children attended one of Eton, Fettes, Radley, Wellington or Gordonstoun, where the Prince of Wales was educated.
Queen Ethelburga’s in York, a boarding school that commands fees of about £33,000 a year, received the most from the subsidy, taking in £3.4m in fees from the MoD.
Labour MP Madeleine Moon, who is a member of the Commons Defence Select Committee, said it was not clear that the continuity of education allowance (CEA) was the most “cost-efficient” way of supporting parents.
“I am also concerned that CEA seems to disproportionately favour senior officers, many of whom receive comfortable salaries and are based permanently in the UK,” she added.
The MoD said: “The annual spend on the CEA has reduced every year since 2009-10 and continues to fall. CEA is open to all ranks and we are determined that it should go only to those who really need it.”