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About school bursaries

What are school bursaries?

Bursaries are school fee reductions not attached to specific talents but enabling a pupil to attend the school when he or she would not have otherwise done so. Means-tested bursaries are the norm. These require parents to fill in a form declaring income and assets so that means (ability to pay full fees) can be calculated and the percentage school fees reduction determined. Schools will make a discount offer to the parents based on this test of means.

Independent schools are committed to widening access and are keen to encourage children, whatever their background, to apply.

"Thanks to RHS, I found my voice and confidence – I learnt how to carry myself, to be assertive and to look people in the eye. Staff and fellow pupils kept saying 'do and try everything!' and so I seized all the opportunities I could." - pupil on a bursary at Royal Hospital School.

Although many Independent Schools Council (ISC) schools are run at cost and do not make a profit, many are now able to offer bursaries and fee assistance, so that at ISC schools, over one in four pupils receive help with their fees from the school.

Schools give more than twice as much in means-tested bursaries and scholarships than scholarships that are not means-tested. Means tested bursaries are awarded to almost 40,000 pupils in ISC schools and are worth on average nearly £12,000 per pupil per year.

Fulfilling the potential of children in care through funded bursaries

The toolkit Providing Opportunities for Excellence, produced by the London Borough of Sutton, Homefield Preparatory School, Cognus and Sutton Virtual School, aims to provide guidance to independent and boarding schools on how to provide funded bursaries to children in care, to enable them to overcome disadvantage by providing them the opportunity to excel in their education.

How to find independent schools offering bursaries

The ISC school search allows parents to search for ISC independent schools based on the types scholarships and bursaries they offer.

Find out more about school fee assistance here.

'Transforming young lives: Fundraising for bursaries' book

This book, written by John Claughton, is a useful resource for schools offering information about effective fundraising for bursaries. The publication is aimed at headteachers, bursars, governors and any staff that may be engaged in fundraising. The experiences described in the book are mainly those of larger schools, but it is hoped some of their experiences may be relevant to smaller schools too.

Read a digital version here.