Nearly all independent schools will offer financial assistance in the form of Scholarships and Bursaries.

Scholarships require pupils to demonstrate excellence in some or several areas such as music, sport, academia or ‘all-rounder’. Scholarships can also allow for financial assistance with extra-curricular music or drama lessons, sometimes called exhibitions.

Scholarships are awarded on the basis of performance in tests, which can be either written or practical, depending on the area in which they are being awarded. An interview at the school would also be usual practice. There are usually set dates for scholarship testing at senior schools and these can normally be found on the school website.

Most scholarships are awarded on merit in sport, art, academia, music or all-round ability and, in most cases, are not linked to financial need.There is a school of thought that believes all scholarships should be means tested: but, at present, this happens at very few schools.

In general the size of an award, particularly a scholarship, will depend on the pupil’s age. Awards at Year 7 will be less than at Year 9, but can be increased if the pupil is successful as an internal candidate.

Independent prep schools work very closely with the senior schools into which they feed, so close communication with your child’s Head teacher will ensure that you are given sound advice as to your child’s aptitude in relation to gaining a scholarship and ensuring the application and assessment process are completed.

Scholarships are typically reviewed annually and are conditional upon the pupil working hard and performing actively in the award area. Likewise it is possible to apply for scholarships, where relevant and appropriate, at any time as they are sometimes awarded to internal candidates who have already embarked upon their time at the school. For example, it is always worth considering if making an application for a sixth form scholarship if your child has contributed throughout their time at the school up to this point. Some schools may consider awarding a scholarship to encourage retention of an able student, who may be considering moving school for sixth form.

Bursaries are usually top-ups added to scholarships in cases of proven financial hardship and can go up to 100% of fees. Some public schools will also support a child financially through two years of independent prep school from age 11 to 13, to supplement the gap between the end of state primary school education at 11 and the start of public school education at 13.

Most schools base financial testing on the forms used to assess ‘Assisted Places’ before the scheme was stopped. Details of current income and expenditure are asked for, but capital assets such as property, art, vehicles etc also need to be declared. The assessment process often involves a visit to the child at home.

Ceilings are set individually by schools, but most will provide help on a sliding scale so that parents with a small net income and negligible capital assets will be topped up to 100%. The definition of ‘small’ varies, but about £20000p.a. maximum is a rough guide. It is unlikely that a family with income over £50000p.a. would be considered for a bursary, but different criteria apply to day and boarding pupils.

To give you an idea of the type of information that is required by independent schools in assessing bursary awards, you will find an example of an application form on the next few pages below. (Please note that all schools use their own forms and assessment criteria, so this form is to give a general idea only. For more details, speak to the bursar’s department at your chosen school.

The review of your bursary application is often accompanied by a visit to you at home