18th September 2017
Daily summary of the latest news and opinions from the world of independent education bought to you by Education Advisers...
Schools visit homes to prevent the rich from taking bursaries
Private schools are using home visits by inspectors to stop affluent families monopolising bursary funds.
The inspectors look at the state of home decor, the location of the property and the car on the driveway. One head said he also asked families about recent holidays to make sure that fee bursaries were not going to those who had little disposable cash because of expensive lifestyles.
Smaller independent schools in particular want their limited subsidies to go to deserving children and are adopting stringent measures to assess which are from the most needy backgrounds.
The amount spent on bursaries by members of the Independent Schools Council (ISC) has increased by £100 million in five years to £380 million. But while some large London day and boarding schools have rich alumni and generous bursary pots, which they can use to subsidise fees for middle-class professionals, others say they have to make sure that funds are more carefully allocated.
Neil Robson, founder of Bursary Administration, said some schools wanted to help children from the poorest families; others wanted to subsidise professionals for whom school fees were just out of reach. He said: “Outsourcing the assessment makes it fairer for everyone. We’re independent and the same process is carried out whether for Eton or the smallest prep school.”
See also: Bursaries
Don’t lock up young offenders – send them to top boarding schools instead
Not long ago, driving through a Warwickshire town looking for a residential school, of a kind, I drove past a group of pupils walking in a crocodile. The uniforms caught my attention – the girls’ skirts looked unusually long, flapping around the ankles, an eccentricity denoting privilege. The boys were dressed in suits, and they were accompanied by a master in long robes. Afua Hirsch writes for The Guardian.
I shouldn’t have been surprised by these pupils from Rugby School – one of Britain’s famous, establishment boarding schools, home of the eponymous sport – I was in the town of Rugby after all. But the place I was looking for was a very different one. I’d come to Rugby in search of Rainsbrook, a “secure training centre” (STC) just a few minutes away, home to around 75 children – not so much boarders but young offenders sent there by the criminal courts.
The only thing the two remotely have in common is their unusually high cost. At over £30,000 a year, Rugby School is unaffordable for most families. I wonder if they realise they are footing the bill for Rainsbrook, which costs a cool five times more, at £163,000 a year. With such a huge difference in price, there is naturally a difference in quality. Pupils leave Rugby School boasting A-level grades three times better than the national average, and go on to the best universities, including the dozen or so who get into Oxbridge.
Graduates from Rainsbrook, on the other hand, can most realistically expect to end up back in the criminal justice system. Two-thirds of them leave the STC and go on to reoffend . Their education and care, according to the most recent inspection, “requires improvement”. The chief inspector of prisons said recently that conditions across all secure training centres and young offender institutions (YOIs) were so bad, there was not a single one in the entire country where it was safe for young people to be detained.
If you were to put the humanitarian questions about incarcerating young people in these conditions aside, as a taxpayer, this does not strike me as a good deal. Put those questions back into the equation, and it’s a scandal. What if we took a long, hard look at who these young people are? 18% of them have a statement of special educational needs, compared with 3% of the general population. Over 60% have difficulties with speech, language and communication. Over a third have been subject to a child protection measure, and have experienced abuse or neglect. Half have been in care. In other words, these children are the most vulnerable of the vulnerable in our society.
Imagine that we abolished the secure youth estate. We got rid of secure children’s homes (average annual cost for a child £204,000), YOIs (£75,000 per child per year) and STCs. Rather than waiting until these young people had offended, we ploughed the millions of pounds we spend on punishing them into nurturing them instead.
I’m not talking about the dystopian Asbo or “pre-criminal space”-type stuff that our current political leaders have dreamed up, solidifying criminal identities before a young person has ever even offended. I’m talking about genuinely child-centred nurturing, state-of-the-art schooling, therapeutic interventions and investment long before that’s even a possibility.
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