Many independent schools now pride themselves on making significant efforts towards widening access to those children who they feel would benefit from the excellent education that they provide. An inability of parents to meet the financial commitment of their termly fees should not be a deal breaker when the parents of the right child come knocking on the door of the admissions office.
So how do parents know if their child would be eligible for a bursary and once they have established this, how do they go about securing one?
Here are a few tips which may answer some of your questions.
‘The early bird catches the worm. You need to be planning and asking the schools on your shortlist about bursaries at least two years in advance of your child’s proposed start date. Schools budget carefully for their bursary funds well in advance, so they are far less likely to have funds left to allocate to your child if you approach them at the last minute.
Use contacts within the independent sector to offer to support your applications. In addition to those offered by senior schools, many prep schools offer bursaries for children who they feel will benefit in terms of educational opportunity and who will contribute fully to the life of the school. Not just on the academic front, but also in music, sport, drama or The Arts. Securing a bursary for your child to attend a prep school may well mean you will have the support of your prep school head in finding and securing a bursary for a place at your chosen independent senior school.
Scholarships vs. bursary Remember that scholarships are more about the commendation of talent than cash. They usually equate to a 10 or 20% discount on the fees. It is sometimes possible however to secure a bursary in addition to a scholarship to fill any shortfall.
State boarding schools These offer an excellent alternative to the high cost of boarding school fees. They can do this, as parents only need to contribute towards the boarding costs since the tuition and education are state-funded. The State Boarding Schools Association website has details of these schools and how to apply. Visit their website.
Can the family help? I once had a parent say to me that they did not see any point in leaving a cash inheritance to their son as they felt with a good education; he should be encouraged to make his way in life. With this in mind, they had decided to invest his financial inheritance in his education, to give him what they believed to be the best possible foundation on which to build his financial future. With this in mind, do you have sources of financial inheritance for example grandparents who would be able to assist with the fees? It is always worth asking, as schools will be unlikely to award you a bursary if their means testing process highlights that there is a potential source of financial support from relatives.
If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try and try again! Be persistent and keep asking as your child progresses through their school career. Financial circumstances do change, especially in the current volatile job market, so if you suddenly fall upon hard times and are struggling to meet the fee commitment that you have already made, discuss this with the school to see if they can assist in any way.
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