Scholarships Bursaries Grants And Awards

Want an independent school education but can’t afford the fees?


Paying school-feesMost good independent schools now offer scholarships - often worth very little - and bursaries - potentially worth  a lot - in order to attract talented pupils. These are highly competitive but more plentiful than they were.

 It takes determination and hard work on your part, and exceptional abilities on the part of your child, to have a good chance of securing a high-value bursary.

The Good Schools Guide Advice Service now has a Scholarships and Bursaries Service - -  which will guide you to the right financial support for your child.

Means testing means most scholarships are of little monetary value - a few per cent off the fees for the sake of an accolade and possibly  a programme of activities designed to stretch bright young things, but that doesn't mean the deserving but needy will miss out...

Following rulings from The Charities Commission, an increasing number of schools are proposing to allocate more funds to those who would otherwise be unable to pay the fees.

The key is finding out what funds are available and whether your child might qualify but how?


Charity begins at home?

As a result of the  Charities Act, independent schools have been concentrating their resources on bursaries for those who could not afford independent school fees otherwise. An expensive business, most independent schools can afford to offer only a few such places.


Which schools offer the best deals?

Seeking an independent school educationThe Belvedere in Liverpool ran 100% needs-blind admission for several years, but has now subsided into the arms of the state.

St Paul's in London would like to do so, but must raise hundreds of millions of pounds first. Christ's Hospital, who raised its millions years ago, remains alone as the only school where the majority of pupils receive serious support.

Most bursaries are awarded to the academically excellent. The days have gone when the young James Bond could hope for Etonian generosity merely because his parents were dead - these days he'd have to pass a scholarship exam too, or demonstrate high ability in music, perhaps. If your child is exceptional, and has a talent that the school will come to be proud of - say chess, or pole vaulting - then there's a fair chance that you can persuade any school to make an exception for them and award a scholarship.

You'll have a better chance for a scholarship or bursary if you look for schools that emphasise the characteristic at which your child excels.

Some schools go as far as to offer bursaries to 'all-rounders', meaning anyone the school takes a serious fancy to (e.g. a nice child with a poor-but-wonderful parent).


The Good Schools Guide offers a consummate and in-depth analysis of 900 of the best independent schools in the UK, look out for A good schools guide school

For schools that we review we highlight (when applicable) the numbers and types of bursaries and scholarships on offer, as well as giving you a real insight into the spirit of the school, and what kinds of excellence they will value. We also cover the school's practice in helping out pupils whose parents fall on hard times (or off an alp, in the case of the Bonds). Schools follow their own rules and preferences, and there's no substitute for a careful investigation of these for each school that interests you. Hard work and determination, as we said.


A Head’s perspective


Paying the school fees winning a scholarshipSarah Evans, former Head of King Edward VI High School for Girls in Birmingham, states:

'The independent sector has worked really hard to try to compensate for the disappointing lack of state funds. If finance is an issue, do look round and see what might be available for your family.'

King Edward VI High School for Girls in Birmingham, like many others throughout the country, belongs to an ancient Foundation where within the organisation itself there is money-generating capacity from investment. They have produced young people over the centuries who have played a huge part in the development of Britain’s second city as well as beyond, and my governors are determined that the Foundation shall continue to offer to bright children the very best education for them so that they can go on to make a huge contribution to society.

The governors have recently added over a million pounds a year to the already substantial bursary scheme to ensure just this and have also re calibrated it so that it can reach exactly those children it is meant to help.

Endless research evidence shows us that the independent sector is a force for social change in our society. I know that once a girl comes to me at 11, she is 100% certain to get a place at one of our best universities. That is one powerful channel for social mobility.

Then there is the transforming value of the holistic view of education to which all independent schools would subscribe. Having a run of grade As is just part of an education that looks for the best in each child and seeks to let that grow so the child can go on to serve in a wider society. The success and popularity of independent schools is one reason why the bursary schemes have been able to grow.

There are so many high achieving people out there who have been through independent schools on state funded places in the past who are now showing their support of the schools by contributing to the new means tested schemes. Their lives were transformed and they want the same for the next generation of disadvantaged youngsters.'


Sources of financial help and support

General awards

Almost all private schools will offer financial assistance of some kind to some pupils and some are very generous indeed. What is on offer varies greatly and is very hard to pin down without approaching an individual school on the subject. Some of the schools guides (including all our favourites) are good sources of basic information on schools' grant-giving policies and they are generally the best place to start.


Music scholarships

If you are after a music scholarship then Music Awards Directory from the Music Masters' and Mistresses' Association, by David Bunkell, may be just what you need. You can find a version of it on the MMA Website.


Grant making trusts

Apart from the schools' individual offerings, charitable grant-making trusts can help in cases of genuine need. ISCis (the Independent Schools Council information service) warns parents considering this route:


"Do not apply for an education grant for your child unless the circumstances are exceptional. The grant-giving trust will reject applications unless their requirements are satisfied."

The genuine needs recognised by the grant-making trusts are:

  • boarding need, where the home environment is unsuitable because of the disability or illness of the parents or of siblings
  • unforeseen family disaster, such as the sudden death of the breadwinner when a child is already at school
  • need for continuity when a pupil is in the middle of a GCSE or A level course and a change in parental circumstances threatens withdrawal from school
  • need for special education where there is a genuine recognised learning handicap which cannot be catered for at a state school

The Good Schools Guide Advice Service's Scholarships and Bursaries Service Scholarships and Bursaries Service - - is the only such resource in the UK. We have collected data from around 500 schools and can guide you to find the right scholarship or bursary for you and your child. 

Subscribe to the Good Schools Guide. Only £9.99 for one month.

Subscribers will find detailed exam results and performance information on individual school pages. Visit these 'free to view' schools. Explore results - read our independent reviews*

Invicta Grammar School, Maidstone is a state school for girls aged from 11 to 18, co-ed sixth form

Rokeby School, Kingston upon Thames is an independent school for boys aged from 4 to 13

The Queen's Church of England Primary School, Richmond is a state school for boys and girls aged from 4 to 11.

Swiss Cottage School Development & Research Centre, London is a state special school for boys and girls aged from 2 to 19

Subscribers* to The Good Schools guide can examine:

  • School performance data* for KS2, GCSE and A-level
  • Value-added data* .Does the school make a difference to all pupils or just some?
  • University information*. Details of which universities pupils go on to and what they study.
  • And, for English state schools, make sure you make the right move by examining catchment area data and seeing which schools pupils come from and which schools they move on to. 

*We indicate on a school's page where data is available. We do not have data for schools outside of England.


Essential reading

If you want to explore grants and trusts, the key books are:

The Educational Grants Directory 2009/10 - specifically directed at sources of funding for schoolchildren and students in need.

The Guide to the Major Trusts:  or on CD-ROM from DSC, who offer a great range of such books.

The Directory of Grant-Making Trusts: 2012-13 - but it is not cheap!

Charities Digest 2013

These are expensive tomes but you should be able to find one or more of these in your local library.



Further reading

What School League Tables Do Not Tell You

School Fees - Extras - Costs that cause angst

Finance For School Fees
 -  How to plan and save.

State Boarding Schools - Free Tuition Just Pay For Your Stay!

Grammar Schools - The free alternative to independent schools? 

Mix and Match State And Private Education - A great way to save money.

What Price Boarding? - It's not just the fees

Good Schools Guide Advice Service - Don't choose the wrong school; their expert advice could save you a small fortune. Interested in finding out about bursaries available to you? The Good Schools Guide Advice Service consultancy, offers advice on Scholarships and Bursaries - Click to find out more. 

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