Skip to main content


Educational Dilemmas

Susan Hamlyn, director emerita of The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants, answers your educational quandaries and predicaments.

Question: Our son is bright and sporty and we would like him to go to the local comprehensive. But he may not get in as it's over-subscribed and we live near, but maybe not near enough. The other local school is poor. We could try for the local independents but we would need help with the fees, for example, a scholarship. How does this work? How bright does he have to be? How much help might we get?

Answer: The first thing is to do your homework. Not all independent schools have money for scholarships and bursaries, so you need to find out what might be available at each of the schools you are considering. Scholarships at most independent schools are now usually worth only around 10% of fees, though some schools have scholarships worth more than this. Edgbaston School for Girls, for example, offers up to 50% off fees and some sixth form scholarships, especially for specific subjects, eg Berkhamsted School’s Peter Gibbs Science Scholarship, can be worth up to 100%.

Scholarships are awarded for several things but academic, sporting, artistic or musical ability are the commonest. Most schools now put the funds they have for fee assistance into bursaries as this helps them attract talented pupils who would not, otherwise, be able to come to the school. All schools apply their own criteria when it comes to assessing how much to offer but, especially in London or in very well-endowed schools, a family income can be surprisingly high and yet qualify for some assistance. For example, St Paul's Boys’ School now offers assistance to parents with an income of up to £120,000 pa. We have seen upper thresholds of £100,000; £65,000; £55,000 (combined income pa), but it varies from school to school and according to location.

However, it’s important to understand that schools don't just look at income - they look at your financial commitments, dependents if any, lifestyle, whether or not you have a second home etc. The level of bursarial help is reassessed each year.

Susan Hamlyn explains scholarships and bursaries at the Independent Schools Show

An able child from a family with a moderate income could get a scholarship, topped up by a bursary, in some schools. Obviously, some schools have higher academic thresholds than others. In London, you have to be very able indeed to get a scholarship because competition is so great. But elsewhere it can be easier.

Identify the possible schools. Call up the bursars in each case and ask to have a chat. Don't be nervous – children like yours are the ones they hope to attract. You will need to put your financial cards on the table but it could be well worthwhile.

If you need help identifying possible schools or would like to chat over how to approach this, The Good Schools Guide has a unique Scholarships and Bursaries Service. We hold details on fee assistance available at over 700 UK independent schools. You tell us about your child, the type of independent education you want etc and we will research for you. Call us for more information on 0203 286 6824.



No comments received for Educational Dilemmas

Please login to post a comment.

Most popular Good Schools Guide articles

  • Special educational needs introduction

    Need help? Perhaps you suspect your child has some learning difficulty and you would like advice on what you should do. Or perhaps it is becoming clear that your child's current school is not working for him or her, and you need help to find a mainstream school which has better SEN provision, or to find a special school which will best cater for your child's area of need. Our SEN consultancy team advises on both special schools, and the mainstream schools with good SEN support, from reception through to the specialist colleges for 19+. Special Educational Needs Index

  • Uni in the USA... and beyond

    The British guide to great universities from Harvard to Hong Kong. We tell you how to choose, how to apply, how to pay.

  • The Good Schools Guide International

    Corona Virus As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, The Good Schools Guide International offers the following guidance:  Determine the global situation and that of individual countries on government mandated school closures by accessing the UNESCO information on this link:   For updates on the medical situation, go to  the World Health Organisation website at  If you wish to contact one of our GSGI listed schools to discover their current status or any plans for alternate learning strategies, please go to our database to find email and phone numbers for each school If your company makes you brexit, The GSGI should be your first…

  • Schools for children with performing arts talents

    At specialist music, dance or performing arts schools, the arts aren't optional extras. They’re intrinsic to the school curriculum. Students are expected to fit in high level training and hours of practice alongside a full academic provision. It's a lot to ask any child to take on, but for those with exceptional performing ability this kind of education can be transformative.

  • Finding a state grammar school

      There are currently around 163 state funded grammar schools located in 36 English local authorities, with around 167,000 pupils between them. There are a further 69 grammar schools in Northern Ireland, but none in Wales or Scotland. Almost half of these are in what are considered 'selective authorities' (eg Kent and Buckinghamshire), where around one in five local children are selected for grammar school entry based on ability. The others are areas such as Barnet or Kingston, with only a few grammar schools. How to find a state grammar school Word of warning: not all selective grammar schools have…

Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews:

30,000 Independent, state and special schools in our parent-friendly interactive directory
 Instant access to in-depth UK school reviews
 Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of over 1,000 schools
 Independent tutor company reviews

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

The Good Schools Guide subscription

GSG Blog >

The Good Schools Guide newsletter

The Good Schools Guide Newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.

The Good Schools Guide manifesto for parents