Bursaries - School Fee Assistance
Around one third 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 reducing the fees liability. Ask us separately about that Guide.
Here we only discuss bursaries.
How to get a bursary?
Means-tested bursaries for lower income families
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 approximately 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 afforded by virtue of their 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 for divorced or bereaved single parents whose income is less than £30,000. Now there are schools claiming to consider bursaries for children where the annual household income is up to £60,000, but we suspect they are mostly scholarships for exceptionally talented children which have been topped up after consideration of the 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.
Examine your target school websites. Many publish their policy on bursaries and an example of the application form.
There are a lot of Educational Trusts (see section 2) It is often better to approach them first, because many have arrangements with specific schools who will top up their bursary.
Now talk to your target schools – preferably the Bursar. Make sure you meet their basic qualifications e.g. they may want a gross income of less than say £30,000. You can then take their application form. NOTE Most schools will charge you an application fee between £100 to £200 to consider your bursary request and this is non-refundable.
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 declined. 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
- Christ's Hospital, Sussex
- King Edwards, Witley, Surrey
- Lord Wandsworth College, Hampshire
- Ampleforth ( a Roman Catholic school)
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 school fee assistance from 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 email@example.com
APPENDIX A - List of some Education Trusts
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 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
Actors’ Childrens Trust Website www.tactactors.org
BMTA Trust Ltd Tel 01883 371280
Buttle UK Website www.buttleuk.org/
Choir Schools Trust Fund Bursary Association
Ewelme Foundation Website www.ewelme-education-awards.info
Fashion and Textiles Trust www.ftct.org.uk
Girls Day School Trust Website www.gdst.net
Lloyd Foundation 01332 873772
Mitchell City of London 0845 600 1558
NFL Trust http://www.nfltrust.org.uk/
Ousley Trust www.ouseleytrust.org.uk
RN & RM Children’s Fund
Reedham Trust 020-8660 1461
Royal Caledonian Education Trust Website: www.rcet.org.uk/
Royal Medical Foundation Website www.royalmedicalfoundation.org
Royal Merchant Navy Website www.merchantnavy.org.uk
Royal Pinner School 0207 373 6168 http://www.royalpinner.co.uk/
Royal National Children’ Foundation Website www.rncf.org.uk
Thornton Smith & Plevin Website www.wisperstrust.btck.co.uk
Wispers Trust Website www.wisperstrust.btck.co.uk
Example of a questionnaire used by a school to obtain financial information 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
- Banks / building society / N Sand I Savings accounts
- PEPs, ISAs, TESSAs, TOISAs
- Life policies and bonds
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
- Scholarships, bursaries
- Annual sum from capital repayment schemes
- Armed Forces / Diplomatic / Company Education allowances
- Assistance from any other sources eg grandparents, trusts
9. h Annual income of child
10. Verification of income
P60 and P11D + copy of HMRC tax calculation
End of tax year pay advice]
Report and accounts of own company
11. Verification of Assets
Investment portfolio valuation
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
The child’s fees account with the School will be credited termly with the amount of the Bursary for so long as the award remains in effect;
Any award of Bursary is subject to annual review and we/ I must complete an annual declaration of our / my financial circumstances on the form provided by the School and supply all supporting evidence by the return date indicated
We / I will report immediately any material change in the financial position declared
The Bursary may be withdrawn or reduced if:
We / I act or our/my child acts in breach of the School’s Terms and Conditions attached to the Acceptance Form for our/my child at the school;
We / I have failed to return the annual declaration of our/ my financial circumstances by the return date indicated;
We / I have failed to produce any additional information required by the School to evidence our / my financial circumstances;
In the opinion of the Head, our / my child’s attendance, progress or behaviour no longer merits the continuation of the award
We / I are more than 28 days in arrears in respect of any amount due and owing to the School
There is a material change in our/my financial circumstances;
The School’s resources are insufficient to maintain the level of the award
The Bursary will be withdrawn and the value of any amount of the Bursary previously credited against our / my child’s fees account will be become repayable to the School forthwith if we/I have fraudulently, knowingly or recklessly provided false information in relation to the award of the Bursary.
Tel: +44(0) 1622 813870 or +44(0) 1622 812852