“We decide whether a child will get a place, then whether they can afford the fees and then whether they are eligible for a bursary. Most schools work like that.”
Should you own a £1 million house with no mortgage, for instance, even if your income is comparatively low, you may not be awarded a bursary. Even so, Horgan says, families that have an income of £65,000 or less “would be sensible to apply for a bursary”.
Nettie Glandfield, 17, from Seaford, East Sussex, won a scholarship and bursary to attend the girls-only school Roedean in Brighton. She scored in the top 10 per cent of pupils in the entrance exam and was awarded means-tested support based on the income of her mother, who works for the Royal Mail, and her father, a fireman. Combined the awards cover up to 70 per cent of the fees, Glandfield says. She hopes to study medicine at university.
Roedean says it can fund up to 30 per cent of the fees through scholarships if it thinks a child will “really flourish here”. The basic award is £2,500, but a head’s scholarship can be added “where flexibility is required”.
Other sources of support include the Royal National Children’s SpringBoard Foundation and Buttle UK, while itrust — the charitable arm of the Independent Association of Prep Schools — helps with fees for younger pupils. For a full list of options, visit the Educational Trusts’ Forum at educational-grants.org.
At some schools financial assistance is available to families with particular backgrounds. For example, the Royal Hospital School in Ipswich offers discounts to children whose parents serve or have served in the Royal Navy, Royal Marines or Royal Fleet Auxiliary. While the government’s Music and Dance Scheme can cover up to 100 per cent of fees at specialist schools such as the Purcell School for Young Musicians in Bushey, Hertfordshire.
Eton College offers large scholarships to talented pupils who might be unable to attend private school
Increasingly schools are fundraising not for new facilities but to support talented pupils who might otherwise be unable to afford to attend private school. It can be a life-altering opportunity, as the 16-year-old East End comprehensive schoolboy Hasan Patel found in 2019. The son of a bus conductor had the “biggest culture shock ever” when he won a £76,000 scholarship to Eton College.
He left behind the bedroom that he shared with his brothers on a London council estate for Eton’s tailcoat and stiff collar. Instead of “constant violence” in the schoolyard and free school meals, he could look forward to muffins and elevenses. He has no regrets.