Education Support Fund (ESF)

Education Support Fund (ESF)


The Education Support Fund (ESF), launched in 2011 and subsequently extended by the Secretary of State for Defence (2018-2020), provided funding to assist publicly funded schools, Academies and Free Schools throughout the UK to mitigate the effects of exceptional mobility and/or deployment of their Service communities; Regular Armed Forces, including Reserves on Full Time commitment (FTRS FC).


Funding from the 2020 ESF will benefit approx. 25,000 Service children across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.


In light of ongoing rebasing activity, with further unit and personnel moves and associated disruption expected, the Directorate Children and Young People has secured £3 million from the Army TLB to fund an extension of the ESF for the 2020/2021 financial year. Minister for Defence Veterans, Reserves and Personnel clearance and support of the extension was received on 31 March 2020.


Successful applications to date have been for a wide range of initiatives. All been able to provide strong evidence of how their proposal would help Service children and schools to overcome the effects of exceptional mobility or deployment. The bids also demonstrated a good relationship with their Service community.


Schools supporting children of Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel typically have relatively smaller numbers of Service children on role, and often these children are affected more by deployment than by mobility (although mobility will be a strong feature in the lives of some). Such schools are still able to bid successfully to the ESF, but will need to ensure that they provide strong evidence of how their proposals will mitigate the challenges faced by their Service children. Full details of how to bid can be found via the link at the bottom of this section. Bids that are incomplete or do not follow the instructions may be weeded out in the first round, so it is important to follow the process. Particular attention in the bid-writing process should be paid to:


  • Explaining how the school already utilises Service Pupil Premium (SPP) and demonstrating the effectiveness of this.
  • Identifying a suitable Armed Forces sponsor who can assist with a statement that focuses on the impact of the proposed project. Generic statements are less effective in strengthening a bid.
  • Providing actual numbers of Service children being supported and ensuring that the size of the bid is proportionate.
  • Demonstrating a sound understanding of the needs of Service children and how these might be addressed.
  • Avoiding bidding for projects which are clearly intended to bolster funding for whole-school activity without a clear rationale for specific impact for Service children.



To be eligible for a grant a school must be in the UK and must have at least 1 Service Child, subject to exceptional mobility or deployment (see criteria at the link below).


Applications can be accepted from:
  1. Maintained schools;
  2. Academies;
  3. Free schools;
  4. Sixth Form colleges;
  5. Groups of any schools described above (referred to as ‘cluster bids’ and are strongly encouraged);
  6. Local authorities on behalf of the publicly funded schools in their area.


If applying as a cluster an individual school can also submit their own separate bid, provided it is for a different initiative (no double bidding allowed).


The following are not eligible:
  1. Childcare providers;
  2. Colleges of higher education or further education;
  3. Commercial organisations or those that would seek to charge for their solution to be provided to a school, for example – an organisation could not be awarded a grant to develop a training course which it then charged schools to attend.


2021 Bidding Round

The 2021 ESF bidding round is now open and will close midday on Wednesday 7 October 2020. Please click here to download the grant application pack.


As in previous years, DCYP will manage and administer the ESF and all applications will be reviewed/scored by regional panels. Where there is evidence of an immediate need, in-year bids from schools/LAs are welcomed.



With personnel moves suspended and rebasing activities put on hold due to COVID-19, there will be limited movement of Service pupils in schools. DCYP, who administer the ESF on behalf of the MOD, recognise that this year it will be more difficult for schools and LAs to provide the same level of evidence as previously.

During these unprecedented times, DCYP want to ensure that schools do not lose out on vital funding.  DCYP have made some changes to the application form and now ask for bank details at the time of application to ensure that the £3 million available from the 2021 ESF can be allocated before the end of the current financial year to avoid money being lost to Defence savings measures.

Please contact one of the following to discuss any concerns prior to applying:


Furthermore, DCYP want applicants to be reassured that any grant they secured will be safe, even if they can’t complete a project as planned. This also applies to funding allocated from previously ESF bidding rounds. Applicants should contact DCYP in the first instance to discuss options.


Posted on: 6th August, 2018
Updated on: 1st June, 2020