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Private school bursaries: helping talent shine through

date:Apr 12,2013 source:互联网 editorial staff:linan clicks:

Bursaries and scholarships can give deserving children from all walks of life access to the best education, says Paul Bray.

 Bursaries and scholarships can give deserving children from all walks of life access to the best education, says Paul Bray.
Bursary applicants must submit to a fairly rigorous means-testing exercise, since schools are charities and want to spend their funds wisely.

Independent schooling may be pricey, but contrary to popular belief it is not the exclusive preserve of the wealthy. Many independent schools were originally founded for the education of “poor scholars” and still take their social responsibilities seriously.
“It’s in our DNA,” as David Goodhew, head of Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith, west London, puts it.
Almost all independent schools offer some measure of financial support. According to the 2012 Census of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), more than a quarter of pupils – 140,000 children – receive financial help from their school in the form of excellence awards, means-tested bursaries, and sibling discounts to name a few.
Not all of these families live on the breadline, either, so once you have selected the right school for your child it pays to check out the financial assistance on offer, even if you consider yourself comfortably off. School websites usually give details, or you can ring the bursar.
If your child is a budding genius or a talented musician, artist or sporting star, they may be eligible for a scholarship. In most schools these are awarded purely on merit, not parental income, and occasionally they go begging because not enough suitable candidates apply.
“Scholarship values have declined in recent years as schools have directed more of their cash towards means-tested bursaries,” says Mike Lower, general secretary of the Independent Schools’ Bursars Association (Isba). But the average value is still more than £3,000 a year, according to the ISC, and scholarship holders may also apply for bursaries if eligible.
Bursary applicants must submit to a fairly rigorous means-testing exercise, since schools are charities and want to spend their funds wisely. Be prepared to divulge information about earned and unearned income, and the value of assets and liabilities, such as property and mortgages. This detailed process is not dissimilar to completing a tax return.
Some schools will even pay you a visit at home to check there are no family photos taken on expensive holidays, while Google Maps is handy for verifying whether a declared two-up two-down is really a mansion with a swimming pool.
“How much you get depends on the finances of the individual school and the bursaries it needs to cover in that particular year, so there are no hard rules,” says Lower. According to the ISC, 40 per cent of bursary-holders get more than half their fees remitted, and 13 per cent receive a free place. The average bursary value is £7,200 per annum.
At Latymer Upper School, where eight per cent of pupils receive means-tested support, a family on the national average salary of around £26,500 would almost certainly qualify for a free place. A family on £53,000 might qualify for a bursary of up to 75 per cent, depending on circumstances.
At Whitgift School in Croydon, Surrey, where about 40 per cent of boys receive means-tested support, the cut-off point is as high as £76,000, says head Christopher Barnett. Parents with an income of £40,000 would pay only £2,500 towards the £15,000 annual fees, says head Christopher Barnett.
While scholarship winners must excel, bursary holders only need to meet a school’s general admission requirements (although these are often high). “Poorer parents should not feel at a disadvantage because they are unable to afford expensive extra tuition,” says Goodhew. “At the same time, you won’t do children any favours by hot-housing them into a school which may not be suitable for them. In this instance, coaching won’t be of much help.”
Nevertheless, many schools find that bursary recipients do perform slightly better, both academically and socially. “It’s often the case that the child who gets financial support will 'sing for its supper’ and give 110 per cent effort,” says Anastasia Hatvany, registrar at Downside School, a Catholic mixed boarding school near Bath.
Nor should bursary students – or their parents – fear being treated as poor relations by their fee-paying peers. Scholarships may be celebrated, but other students are not told who receives a bursary, and schools often have a liaison officer to help recipients’ families “fit in” at functions and parents’ days.
Indeed, schools appear as keen on bursaries and awards as the parents are. “Having a diverse pupil body is better for everyone as it prevents social exclusivity,” says Barnett. “It also means we can bring in the most talented and gifted pupils regardless of their ability to pay, which raises the bar educationally and benefits the school community.”
Rupert Millar, 24 – Attended school on a partial bursary
Rupert Millar boarded at Downside School near Bath on a scholarship and partial bursary. “He was a bright, very creative boy and we wanted the best for him, but we just couldn’t have afforded it without financial support,” says his mother, Alison.
“Rupert really flourished at Downside. He was able to find his niche and it opened up a great deal more to his inquiring mind. He did drama, played rugby and hockey and was secretary of vintners – no idle hobby, as he has now become a wine journalist.
“You have to 'bare your soul’ a bit financially when you apply for a bursary, but it’s only fair as the school has to be sure it’s a genuine case. Rupert was never made to feel different because he had a bursary and he slotted right into the school. As a family, we feel very privileged that he was able to go there.”
Sir Peter Hendy – Commissioner, Transport for London
Sir Peter was only able to attend an independent school due to the generosity of others — he was awarded a local authority scholarship to Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith, London.
When his alma mater asked him for financial support, he was pleased to offer another pupil the same chance. “I wasn’t keen to give money for upgrading facilities or maintaining buildings, because I thought the parents could take care of that,” explains Sir Peter. “But since I did well and got to university thanks to gaining access to a very good secondary education, I wanted to help make that available to someone else.
“I also think it does the other pupils good and widens their perspective to rub shoulders with kids who are bright but whose parents don’t have a lot of money.”
Paying £6,300 over two years — Gift Aided so that the school can reclaim £1,600 in tax — Sir Peter covers half the fees of a sixth-form student. “I’m pragmatic about it,” he adds. “It’s not an argument for independent education per se. But I went there and it helped me a great deal, and I would like it to benefit others.”

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