How a bursary or scholarship can provide financial support towards school fees

Girl Walking to School - Getty Images/iStockphoto

Girl Walking to School - Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Giving your child the best education possible doesn’t always have to come at a price writes Merry Arnold of the Independent Schools Council

Independent schools in the UK offer some of the best teachers, facilities and co-curricular activities, as well as being the most academically successful schools. But you might be surprised to hear that over a third of the pupils at independent schools receive bursaries or scholarships to help with fees, with over 4,900 pupils paying no fees at all. That’s over £620 million of assistance given to broaden the access in to schools, by offering parents financial support towards school fees.

“Our schools are sympathetic to the financial challenges facing many parents and the amount of fee assistance available has grown to reflect this,” says Barnaby Lenon, Chairman of the Independent Schools Council (ISC).

While most scholarships are dependent on academic abilities or sporting or musical talents, there are bursaries on offer for families who might not be able to pay the full costs of an independent education.

“Scholarships to attract talented people have been reduced in value and the money released into bursaries. The 75% scholarship from the past is very rare now. Most are for 10%. It is absolutely sensible and far better to give a means tested bursary to a bright child who needs it, than to one whose parents could pay anyway,” says Mike Lower, General Secretary of the Independent Schools’ Bursars Association.

Many schools are committed to widening access and actively canvas for pupils to apply for bursaries. For example at Merchant Taylors’ Girls’ School and Boys’ School, Liverpool, about 12% of pupils receive fee assistance for their school ‘life’ of seven years. In addition, the schools have a bursary fund to support children who are in the middle or end of a course (either GCSE or A level) and whose parents have fallen on hard times. In total the schools offer 20-25% fee assistance at any one time.

Louise Robinson, Head of Merchant Taylors’ Girls’ School in Liverpool, has seen how fee assistance changes lives.

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“One parent told me that the chance to be educated at a school like Merchants is like winning the lottery. Through the opportunities offered via our assisted place scheme I have seen little girls flourish; turn into highly-accomplished, well-rounded individuals achieving far beyond their wildest dreams.

“Within the community, this means that a wider range of families can aspire to send their children to the best school in the area and the whole School benefits because of the diversity of experiences that children from different backgrounds bring.”

Remember, an independent education is by no means exclusive, schools are offering the best teaching to every child, regardless of background, so why not find out more. You might be pleasantly surprised.

How to apply for a bursary or scholarship

1) Use the Independent Schools Council ‘Personalised School Search’ feature on their website: Here you are able to narrow down the schools in your area that provide fee assistance with academic or talent scholarships; HM Forces discounts; sibling discounts or bursaries for new entrants, to name but a few.

2) When you have found a school that may suitable, visit their website to find out more. They should have information available on their fee assistance schemes.

3) If you think this is something your child and family may be able to take advantage of, call the school and speak with the Admissions team.

4) If you like what you hear, book a visit with the school and take some time to speak with the Bursar while you’re there.

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