10 tips for private school bursaries

10 tips for private school busaries

Private school fees can be subsidised if you know how to get a bursary – we share ten tips to show you how.

The question of how to get a great education for your child on as little money as possible has never been more vexed. But happily, many private schools are now canvassing for bursaries (see below), and – play your cards right – a place at a top private school could be yours, with money left to spare…

1. Get in early
You need to ask about bursaries two years before your child might arrive at the school in question. It’s not just senior schools that offer bursaries; plenty of prep schools offer money off the fees.
At the 600 schools which belong to the Independent Association of Preparatory Schools (and bear the IAPS Kitemark of approval), there are 10,569 children receiving some form of bursary, to a value of £60 million per year.
Of course, many parents decide to wait until their children are 11 to go private, giving themselves time to save up. Not surprisingly, IAPS chief executive David Hanson thinks this is a mistake. “It is hard for children to catch up later,” he says. “Invest in their education at the start, and they will continue to succeed in whatever environment they find themselves.”

2. Don’t be bashful…
Roughly one in three children at an independent school is on some form of fee “remission”, so your child wouldn’t be the only “poor” one in the school. At Shrewsbury School, for example, 239 of the 723 pupils get some kind of discount; of these, 121 receive means-tested bursaries, with 12 getting 100 per cent discount, four getting 75-99 per cent, 42 getting 50-74 per cent, 29 getting 26-44 per cent and 34 getting 25 per cent or under.

3…in fact, expect a welcome
Private schools are actively canvassing for bursary applicants. A group of 22 London schools has formed an alliance, advertising for cash-strapped parents of bright children to come forward, via the website www.feeassistancelondon schools.org.uk.
Teachers from King’s College School, Wimbledon, run classes at seven local primary schools to help children taking entrance exams to independent schools. “We quite accept they may be applying for schools other than ours, but that doesn’t matter,” says King’s head Andrew Halls. “The aim is to battle against the idea that independent schools might not be for them.”

4. Don’t bank on a scholarship
More often, a scholarship carries kudos but not much cash. That said, if your child is talented at sport, art or music, you can find schools that offer scholarships in those areas by visiting the website for the Independent Schools of the British Isles: www.isbi.com; click on “school search” and then “scholarships”.
You might only get 10-20 per cent off the fees, but you might be able to get a bursary on top. At Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, for example, a St Francis Xavier scholarship secures a 20 per cent discount, plus the chance of another 50 per cent via a bursary – thereby reducing the fees from £27,000 a year to £9,000.

5. Be ready to be means-tested
Schools want to know about all your financial circumstances, not just your take-home pay. What kind of house do you live in, what car do you drive, what savings do you have, what size is your mortgage, where do you go on holiday, do both parents work, could you borrow against your house, are there relatives who could help?
“Schools today are much more aware of people’s sources of income,” says Mike Lower, general secretary of the Independent Schools Bursars Association. “And if parents claim they live in a humble two-up, two down, Google Earth is a wonderful beast in showing whether that is true or not.”

6. Explore all avenues
You may qualify for help with school fees by virtue of your job, birthplace or even your religion. There are trusts that give out grants if, among other things, you’re Scottish (Royal Caledonian Schools Trust), a thespian (Actors Charitable Trust), have worked in the motor trade (BMTA Trust), in the clothing industry (Fashion and Textile Children’s Trust), or were born or have worked in the City of London (Mitchell City of London Trust).
Some schools are looking for Catholic children to whom they might give bursaries. For a full list, visit the Educational Trusts Forum, www.educational-grants.org, or call 01932 865619.

7. Think boarding
Yes, it is more expensive: according to the Independent Schools Council, average boarding fees are £25,152 per year, against £11,208 for day school. But it could prove a less stressful and, in some instances, money-saving option.
“If two parents are having to work all the hours God made and are rushing back home late every night, might it not be better for their child to be in a place where they are with their friends, where they do their homework under supervision and where they have access to 200 acres of playing fields?” asks Hilary Moriarty, director of the Boarding Schools Association. “With schools prepared to offer alternatives to full boarding, for instance flexi-boarding and weekly boarding, it might work out better for all concerned.” State boarding schools (there are 38) offer an even cheaper alternative; fees are £8,000-£12,000 per year (you pay for the residential element, not the educational).

8. Ask the family
Grandparents are a good and proven source of bursaries. From their point of view, too, helping with their grandchildren’s education is probably a more valuable gift than leaving them a couple of grand when they’re 30. If they are in a position to help, and you don’t ask them, that may well count against you in the eyes of the school to whom you’re applying for a bursary.

9. Be terrier-like
If you don’t get a bursary or scholarship when your child is 11 or 12, don’t give up. Try again at 14 or 15; often the competition isn’t as fierce in the sixth form.

10. A bursary is not for life
Win the pools or come into a fortune, and your bursary will be removed. Equally, if you suddenly lose your job or disaster strikes, you can apply for a bursary. Most schools will want to keep a child, at least until they’ve completed the phase of education they’re currently in. The bursar both giveth and taketh away.


This Article first appeared on The Telegraph by Christopher Middleton