How to Get a Bursary for a Private School

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There are many reasons as to why people choose to go to independent (or private) schools – maybe they prefer the generally smaller classes, higher result averages or the generally more well-funded facilities. Despite this, many families struggle to pay for their children to go to private school and look for ways to help lessen the strain on their pockets.  

The short answer is that bursaries are awarded to students who show academic promise during the entrance exam to a private school or in their GCSE results for a private sixth form. Bursaries are awarded based on academic ability, and you will more than likely have to pass an entrance exam with a very good score to be awarded one. If you want to be considered for a bursary, you should contact the school or sixth form and explain your situation – bear in mind that the school will most likely check on your financial situation to make sure you are eligible for a bursary. 

What Can Private Schools Offer?  

There are definitely many good reasons as to why parents who have the money send their children to private schools. 

Private schools have much more money than state schools in the UK, that is just a fact. As a result of this, they have more freedom with spending and improving their facilities. For example, you are much more likely to find a swimming pool for P.E. in a private school than a state school, and the theatre departments are usually more developed than what you would find in state schools.  

Because a smaller portion of the UK’s children go to private school than go to state school, the class sizes are generally much smaller. This can be seen as an advantage to these schools because a smaller class means that students get more concentrated, personal teaching from teachers and subsequently, the final result grades are higher at GCSE and A-Level. If you are learning in a large class, the teaching tends to be more standardised, and students are not usually given one-on-one time with the teacher. 

For more examples of advantages of private school in the UK, check out this useful article, which poses the question ‘Are UK Private Schools Worth It?’. 

Famous Private Schools and What They Have to Offer 

There are a large number of independent schools throughout the UK, and they all have individual attributes which might make you wish to consider applying to them. Among them are some very well-known schools which, for families on modest incomes may seem completely out of reach, however, it may surprise you to know that even these prestigious schools offer a number of bursaries each year to prospective students. If you would like to find out what the top 10 private schools are in the UK, you may want to also read this useful article. For now, here are just a few of the more famous and well thought of schools: 

Eton College, Berkshire 

Eton, one of the UK’s oldest private schools and one of the world’s best-known schools, was established by Henry V11 (1491-1541). Eton is one of five remaining single-sex schools Britain and educates 1311 boys from 13 to 16 years. The school has extremely high academic standards and many of its students go on to study at Oxford and Cambridge 

Many famous people have studied there including Princes William and Harry, Damian Lewis, Tom Hiddleston, Eddie Redmayne and twenty prime ministers, including two of our most recent ones, David Cameron and Boris Johnson. Eton has outstanding facilities including two hundred acres of playing fields, three theatres and eight organs. 

The ratio of teachers to students is eight to one and current fees are up to, in the region of £48,501 per year- out of reach to all but the wealthiest families. However, about 20% of pupils at Eton receive financial support, through a range of bursaries and scholarships (amounting to 7.2 million pounds in 2019-2020). In the school year 2018-2019, 255 students received a means-tested bursary (averaging a 67% reduction in fees) with 90 students paying no fees at all. For more information about Eton, see its website. 

Gordonstoun Moray, Scotland 

Gordonstoun is one of the UK’s leading independent schools. It is a co-educational school (for boys and girls) located on 150-acre estate near Elgin in Scotland and it is one of the few full boarding schools in the UK. Famous people who attended Gordonstoun include Prince Charles, the Duke of Edinburgh and Zara Tindall 

David Bowie and Sean Connery also sent their children there. The school’s ethos is based around outdoor activities such as sailing. The school has its own 80-foot training ship and even its own fire engine! Fees are in the region of £41,250 for a child in Year 12 or 13, but bursaries are available, including for those who live in Perthshire, or come from sea fishing families. For more information about Gordonstoun Moray, see its website. 

Bolton School, Greater Manchester 

This is one of the largest independent day schools in the country, with 2,400 pupils ranging from ages 3 to 18. Like Gordonstoun Moray, it is a co-educational school and has its own outdoor learning centre in the Lake District, as well as offering over 100 clubs and activities for its students.  

Famous former pupils include Max George (from The Wanted), Sir Ian McKellen and Mark Radcliffe (DJ/Broadcaster). Fees are approximately £4,154 per term, but again, this school offers bursaries. If families have an income of less than £20,000 a year, they may qualify for a free place at the school – if their income is higher than this, they can still qualify for reduced fees. For more information about Bolton School, check out their website 

Westminster School, Central London 

Westminster School, founded by monks before the 1066 Norman Conquest, is located within the grounds of the famous Westminster Abbey in Central London. It is an all-boys school up to the age of 16, when girls can join for sixth form and famous ex-pupils include Helena Bonham Carter, Louis Theroux and Andrew Lloyd Webber.  

Boarding fees are £13,869 per term, and day fees are £9,603 per term, but both scholarships and bursaries are available to help cover fees (bursaries are only available for day pupils living in London and there is no income limit). For more information about Westminster School, see their website 

Christ’s Hospital, Horsham, Sussex 

Christ’s Hospital (CH) is a co-educational private school for pupils from 11 to 18. It was founded by King Henry VIII and is full of history. It has one of the largest school music departments in the country and its own chapel. The school also has 4 full scale organs and its own Arts Centre. Former pupils include Samuel Taylor Coleridge (poet) and James D’Arcy (actor).  

Boarding fees are £11,950 per term and day fees are £6,170, rising to £7,770 per term for years 9 to 13. Bursaries are available and are assessed on an individual basis. For more information about Christ’s Hospital, see their website. 

Latymer Upper School, West London 

This is a leading co-educational day school on the banks of the river Thames. The school has 1,200 pupils from a wide variety of backgrounds. The schools age range is from 7 to 18 years, and it has over 140 clubs and societies for its students, including rowing – it owns its own boathouse. It also has its own performing arts centre, providing pupils with drama studios, rehearsal rooms and a 150-seat concert hall.  

Famous alumni include Hugh Grant, Lily Cole, Alan Rickman and Mel Smith. Fees are in the region of £6,945 per term, but bursaries are available and are decided on an individual basis with no strict income limits. For more information about Latymer Upper School, check out their website. 

How Much Do Private Schools Cost? 

The advantages of a private education do not come cheap. On average, fees for day pupils are in the region of £4,800 a year which adds up to over £14,000 a year! In London, boarding fees are on average £13,000 per term, which adds up to a whopping amount of nearly £40,000 a year! Despite the fact that the cost of a private education has risen higher than the rate of inflation over the past few years, the number of students in private education is higher than ever. The reason for this? The availability of scholarships and bursaries. 

At What Age Can You Go to a Private School? 

Although there are private primary schools, the most popular private education for parents to send their kids to is secondary school. This gives their child a generally higher chance of achieving high GCSE grades at the end of Year 11. Admissions and entrance tests are taken at the end of Year 6, and, like every other secondary school, kids are taught from age 11 to 16. 

Another age group for private education is 16+. You can apply to private sixth forms either once you get your predicted GCSE grades, or after results day. 

What Is a Bursary? 

A bursary for private school is a financial aid for children who have the ability to study at a private school but lack the finances to pay for all of their school fees. Bursaries can cover any amount of the fees from a small percentage, to all of them and can also cover expenses like travel, uniform, lunches and school trips.  

They are usually awarded after a student has passed the entrance exam for the school and showacademic promise in their results. Bursaries can also be called ‘awards’ and, unlike scholarships, they are usually not competitive. It is possible to get a bursary for both private secondary school and sixth form. Bursaries are, however, based on financial need and are therefore always means tested (this means that you will be checked on financially by the school to see if you still qualify for a bursary). If you want to find out more about bursaries and scholarships, check out the UCAS website. 

If you have the ability but not the funds, the private school can help you to study there with a bursary. 

What Is the Difference Between a Scholarship and a Bursary? 

Scholarships tend to be competitive and can be awarded for excellence and achievement in areas such as sport, music, art and drama as well as academic achievement. They are not means tested which means that family finances do not have to be scrutinised). Bursaries are awarded for students who show academic promise but lack the funds to pay for either all of the fees, or just a portion of them.  

Are Bursaries Widely Available? 

Nowadays, bursaries are more widely available than you may think (mainly thanks to the rules on charitable status). More schools than ever are using their money to fund bursaries rather than traditional scholarships. Financial help of more than a billion pounds a year is available to parents which means that one in three students at independent (private) schools have their fees either reduced or paid for completely. This can only be good news for those students who otherwise might not be able to afford to go to independent (private) schools.  

How to Arrange A Bursary for Private School 

The best way to arrange a bursary for yourself or your child is to directly contact the school you are interested in. Unfortunately, there is no one definitive list of all private schools offering bursaries and the criteria they use to award them. If you are interested in applying for a bursary, you will therefore need to do a bit of research for yourself. You may want to look on their website to check that they do offer bursaries.  

Many schools advertise actively for candidates to apply for their bursaries as, believe it or not, many of them find it difficult to find suitable candidates for their bursaries i.e., gifted children from low-income families. However, if information is not obviously available then it may be worth contacting the school directly to ask whether bursaries are available and, if so, what you need to do to qualify for them.  

They should be able to provide you with a copy of their bursary policy and an application form. Something to bear in mind is that most schools which offer bursaries will check either on a termly or yearly basis that you still qualify for financial support. 

Something to think about is whether or not you will pass the entrance test for the school you are aiming to attend. Private schools will not provide a bursary to a student who does not meet the requirements to study at their school. Usually, if parents feel unsure that their children will do well in the entrance exam, they speak to their child’s current teacher about their current attainment levels and how they can improve in time for the test.  

If you are looking to attend a private sixth form, you will need to find out the minimum GCSE grade requirements for you to apply – usually, private sixth forms have higher grade requirements than other colleges.  

Once you have ensured that you or your child has the grades to get them into the school, you should contact the school and ask for the bursary policy. The school may even have a bursar’s office which you can contact directly. From then on, you may be asked for a means check by the school to check your financial situation. 

Top Tips For Applying For A Bursary 

There are a few things you can do to boost your chances of getting a bursary for a private school 

  1. It is important to be honest. The worst thing you can do is lie about your financial situation only for you to be caught later. Worst case scenario, you can face legal prosecution for lying on a legal document so it’s a very bad idea. 
  2. One of the best things to do is to apply early for your bursary – the earlier you ask about a bursary, the more likely you will be awarded one. Applying last minute doesn’t look good. 
  3. If you do not get awarded a bursary the first time, try again! There is always a chance of being given one the second time around, so don’t be put off if it doesn’t work the first time. 
  4. Don’t be put off by your potential peers at school. There are more children at private schools on bursaries than you think; you should not shy away from applying because you think you’ll be the only one.  

Bursaries can be a huge help if you are wanting to attend a private school but don’t have the means to – you should always remember that many more people use bursaries than you think. For more information about the best ways to get a bursary for private school, check out 10 Tips For Private School Bursaries.  

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