A large proportion of pupils in UK private receive some form of financial assistance with their school fees. Most parents are aware of the terms "bursary" (for lower income families) or "scholarship" (for talented pupils). In our separate “School Fees Reduction Guide” for clients (who retain us by fees) we explain 10 different ways of discounting the fees liability. Ask us separately about that Guide.
Here we only discuss bursaries.
A bursary is simply a reduction in school fees usually granted by the school to parents who have limited incomes and assets. It could be anywhere from 10% to 100 % of fees and mostly applies to day tuition fees rather than boarding. Typically a bursary is a grant to help with the education of children who would not otherwise be able to attend a private school. This grant may be awarded by the school itself, an educational trust, the Local Education Authority or a charitable foundation.
Later we tell you how to apply for one, but before that we feel obliged to dispel some of the misinformation written on this subject.
There are estimated to be around 41,000 children being financially assisted by private schools, from which some commentators suggest it must be easy to get a bursary if you just “ask around”. This number is based on research by the Independent Schools Council who have 1267 member schools, with ca 500,000 pupils. The total pupils in private schools is ca 650,000 in more than 2000 schools.
Let us put some of these numbers into perspective. Bursaries are mostly confined to British parents. Only a very small proportion are offered to international parents.
More than 80% of UK schools are set up as charitable trusts and their policy on bursaries is heavily influenced by not just their charitable status, but also the politics of the day. During the last Labour government, independent schools were threatened with the withdrawal of tax breaks charitable status unless they did more for public benefit and specifically widened access for underprivileged children. This definitely resulted in a trend away from scholarships to bursaries, although we sense this has been reversed since the Conservatives have returned to power with more funds for scholarships.
One senior school has told us that 80% of its parents apply for financial help whether they deserve it or not. All bursaries are strictly means tested and commentators such as journalists never refer to the accounting acrobatics which have to be performed to stand a chance of getting a bursarial award, to which we will revert later. The highest chance of success is likely to be with divorced or bereaved single parents whose income is less than £30,000. Now there are schools claiming to consider bursaries up to £60,000 income per annum, but we suspect they are mostly scholarships for exceptionally talented children which have been topped up after consideration of low family income.
So, how do you apply for a bursary?
Definitely start early. Most schools will carry a deadline in January preceding September entry. But beware that you need to plan and apply up to 2 years early. Bursarial funds are strictly limited and invariably run out before the end of each school year.
Now comes the hardest part of all. You will have to fill in a very detailed questionnaire supported by a lot of financial documentation about your income and assets. The school will want to see all of your bank & savings accounts plus mortgage statement. If you don’t like filling in Income Tax returns, this is very similar! We show a typical bursary application form in Section 2 and remember you will probably have to renew this every year.
The relationships between school bursars and parents has become a little “adversarial” because there are far more requests than available funds. Thus many of the larger senior schools have subcontracted out the bursary process to independent accountants to take the sting out of possible arguments with parents if their request gets denied. It can be reasonably assumed that accountants will pay more attention to the numbers rather than the emotion behind a bursary request.
There are a few boarding schools which give exceptional numbers of bursaries. They include
We wish you success, if you are applying for a bursary. Please note that Education Advisers Ltd does not give bespoke advice on bursaries. However, by writing this guide we hope to give you some practical advice on how you go about applying for one. In the final two appendices we give a list of Educational Trusts and a typical bursary application form. For those parents considering scholarships or financial planning methods, we publish a guide to discounting fees which is available to fee paying clients – contact us on +44 (0) 1622 813870 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Note : There are many charities described as Education Trusts but only a limited number would consider bursaries for children from lower income families at UK private schools . Others may be focussed on say Higher Education or supplying school uniform or books at state schools. So examine the objectives of the trust before writing.
You may find the following contacts useful
Example of questionnaire used by a school to obtain financial background for a bursary application:
1.a. Full name
1.b. Date of birth
1.c Date of entry
2. Parent details (complete for both father and mother separately)
2.d Post code
2.e Day phone
2.f. Evening phone
3. Parent’s Occupations
3.a Employer’s name , address & phone number
3.b Self employed (business?) Are you shareholder or director or
proprietor of 3a or 3b?
If yes, proportion of business by you and spouse/ partner
3.d Fully or semi retired?
Enter current earnings and all expected income for last full tax year
4.a Gross salary and other emoluments
4.b Taxable profits for last two accounting periods
4.c. Gross pension, widows pension, state pension p.a.
4.d Gross investment income from
* fixed interest
* dividends & other funds
4.e Gross rental income
4.f Social security benefits
4.g Separation or maintenance allowance
4.h Is there a Court Order or Separation Agreement? Please state
annual amount for school fees.
4.i Benefits in kind not already quoted previously.
4.j Any other income or gains not stated
4.k Please provide copy of your self assessment tax calculation last year.
5. a Tax payable on incomes declared above.
5. b National Insurance Contributions.
5. c Pension contributions
5. d mortgage repayments including capital and interest.
5. e Endowment mortgage premiums
5. f Any other interest e.g credit cards, loans
5. g Annual landlord rent payable on principal residence
6. Capital assets
6. a Approximate market value of all investments
6. b Approx market value of principal residence
6. c Approx market value of other possessions incl house contents, car, paintings, collections, jewellery etc.
6. d Cash at banks or elsewhere
6. e Approximate market value of any other assets
6. f Net Worth / value of any businesses owned or shared
6. g Approx market value of interest in any other property, land or buildings
6. h Redundancy or any other termination payments
6. i Monies owed to you
6. j Other asset s not listed
7. Capital Liabilities
7. a Mortgage details – amount outstanding – final payment date
7. b Other liabilities (specify)
8. Net Assets
8. a Total Assets
8. b Liabilities
8 .c Net Assets
Please explain any reasons why net assets cannot be used to pay school fees
9. Dependent Children (specify child to which this application refers and list all children separately)
9. a Forename
9. b Date of birth
9. c School
9. d Boarding or day
9. e Annual school fees
9. f Compulsory additional school charges
9. g Amount of fees in £ covered by
9. h Annual income of child
10. Verification of income
11. Verification of Assets
The school may wish to visit you at home to discuss your application. Please indicate your agreement.
We / I have made a complete and accurate declaration of our / my income and assets
We / I understand that if we / I are / am offered a school Bursary for our / my child, the following terms and conditions apply as between ourselves / myself and the School