Education Support Fund (ESF)

ESF 2022 poster

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).


Since 2011, the ESF has distributed over £40 million. The funding awarded from the 2021 ESF supported around 16,500 Service children from all three Services.


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 needs to be in the UK and have children of Service personnel on roll whose parents are subject to mobility and/or separation (see Criteria). Applicants should include clear evidence of the exceptional impact of mobility and/or separation which regional panels can then use to accurately score applications.


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. Full details need to be provided on the application form. A cluster bid may be stronger than an individual school bid as resources are being shared; helping to achieve better value for money outcomes. Where possible, applicants are to make their local authority aware of their application.


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 charges schools to attend.


2022 Bidding Round

In light of ongoing rebasing activity, with further unit and personnel moves and associated disruption expected, Armed Forces Families & Safeguarding (AFFS – formerly DCYP) has secured £3 million from the Head Office Top Level Budget to fund an extension of the ESF.


Following evidence provided by the NFF, this year the eligibility criteria for the fund have changed slightly to make it clear that schools experiencing exceptional impact from weekending, as well as deployment, may apply.


The bidding round for the 2022 ESF is now open until 30 September 2021.


Please click here for further information/ download the grant application pack.


Posted on: 6th August, 2018
Updated on: 20th April, 2021