Rejecting an independent school place.

(93 Posts)
feckwit Mon 18-Feb-13 22:25:12

I am finding this so hard to do. My child was offered a place at a local independent school that she desperately wanted to attend but we needed a bursary and she did not get one. Should I send a covering letter explaining our reasons so the school are aware we would have liked her attend and it is purely financial? Or will that look a bit too "woe is me"? School knew we needed a bursary so I am not sure why a full fee paying place was offered really.

Dromedary Tue 19-Feb-13 14:46:27

In our case the school''s bursaries are funded out of an endowment. The website states that up to 100% can be awarded. From this information I hoped (did not assume) that if my DC did well in the entrance exams (which I tutored DC for for several months), and obtained a non academic scholarship too, we might be offered a bursary which would actually enable attendance at the school. Surely that is the point of having a bursary scheme? It was not stated that if we owned our own home we would be expected to sell it, go into rental (which is not affordable out of current salary) and pay school fees out of the equity value. Also the school bus for anyone who doesn't live within walking distance of the school is £10 a day, which is not taken into account in determining the bursary. In fact most expenses are not taken into account.

I agree that schools should be more open about the reality of the situation. And I do wonder why the bursary scheme works as it does - if bursaries are in reality not high enough to enable children to attend, is the purpose of the scheme more just to demonstrate to the Charities Commission that the school is charitable?

For those schools where bursaries are paid out of school fees - this seems a small price to pay for the tax benefits of charitable status - without that status, surely parents would have to pay a lot more?

If parents have a plan B, which is wealthy grandparents paying the fees, arguably they should not be applying for a bursary in the first place?

tiggytape Tue 19-Feb-13 14:50:01

What's the "whole application process"? Fill out a registration form and do a couple of tests. It's not that big a deal.

The application process involves so much more that that - it is very hard not to get quite attached to the school along the way if you feel it is a good one and worth applying to.
The children we know who went private had taster days (with fabulous lunches apparently - I guess the way to an 11 year old boy's heart is through his stomach!), interviews and testing days and meetings with staff all on top of the initial open days and any scholarship tests involving one or two days of playing sports at the school. It seemed like a whole induction even before you got an offer let alone a bursary so it would be a big disappointment to get so close but still not get in.

Dromedary, I agree re Plan B. And said so to my friend. It involved them selling their house and downsizing a couple of years earlier than they otherwise would have, but still...

eminemmerdale Tue 19-Feb-13 15:11:06

tiggy exactly. We got very attached to the school - having been to 4 or 5 different 'days' we became known to the head and various other teachers and it felt lovely. That's the sadness.

feckwit Tue 19-Feb-13 16:03:36

I did call the school regarding bursaries prior to application and went through the figures. I was asked what levels my child was at school and told I should apply, so I didn't enter for it totally naively. I was told we were eligible for 100% depending on number of applicants and whether they passed the exam. I was told not to tutor as school is anti tutoring although on the exam day I discovered we were about the only ones who hadn't. Mind you we could not afford to anyway.

I agree if you have a plan B like parents who can pay you should not get a bursary, but who knows whether people have wealthy relatives?

Disagree re homeowners too. We were told it was fine we own our own home as it is on a mortgage and renting would arguably be more costly each month for us.

givemeaclue Tue 19-Feb-13 16:09:42

Can you apply again next year or are there other schools you can apply to?

Dromedary Tue 19-Feb-13 16:27:54

I wonder whether part of the problem is that some people apply for a bursary when in fact they have hidden means to pay if they are not offered one, or are only offered a smaller one than on paper they need. If the school has experience of people who apply for a bursary and when not offered one send their child to the school anyway, they may have become cynical and routinely offer less than the family on paper need.
I think it's really silly to say you shouldn't apply for a bursary if you can't then send your child to the school if they don't get one - it is only people who can't manage without the bursary who should be applying in the first place.
It's great that the OP could actually have got a 100% bursary. I was told of someone who had applied to our prospective school and, despite really having no money at all, were offered a bursary which would have meant they had to find half the very high annual fee themselves, plus all extras. In that case they managed to negotiate it up, though still not to 100%.

meditrina Tue 19-Feb-13 16:39:09

"For those schools where bursaries are paid out of school fees - this seems a small price to pay for the tax benefits of charitable status - without that status, surely parents would have to pay a lot more?"

No. School fees (like university tuition fees) are VAT exempt. The "saving" to the school from charitable status is very small, and I think many would happily relinquish it, were there a legal way to do so and stay open (they are kind by the law on winding up charities at present).

The most recent tribunal on charitable status of schools decided that provision of bursaries was neither automatically necessary nor sufficient in deciding if a body were genuinely charitable. Education is in itself an aim which can be considered charitable. Charities are allowed to charge fees.

Copthallresident Tue 19-Feb-13 17:28:03

At the schools I have experience of Bursaries do not come out of fees but fund raising and endowments, through that they are able to ensure an on going source of ring fenced funding to support their strategic aim of admitting able students as far as they are able irrespective of personal circumstances. This has enabled DDs school to have 28 on full bursary and 41 getting financial assistance, probably quite a way short of their aim.

The process of selection is entirely opaque to paying parents and that is how it should be. The problem is that just in the four years between my two DDs' year groups I am aware that a much higher proportion of pupils needing bursaries to finish their education, and some very able pupils having to leave because they had run out of funds. We are in a recession and people are losing their jobs. It may well be that bursaries on entry are becoming harder to obtain.

There seems to be a sense that schools should be doing more but from what I have seen they are doing their best at a difficult time.

feckwit Tue 19-Feb-13 18:19:02

Thank you everyone, it is actually very interesting reading about the differences between schools and some very valid points have been raised.

middleclassonbursary Tue 19-Feb-13 18:41:50

"I naively imagined that you'd get some indication of the possible bursery amount before you went through the whole application process."
Agent some schools do give some indication of what they will offer before going through the whole application process and this is the fairest way because obviously its pretty mean to show a child around a school, have a taster day, enjoy the food, undergo testing and God knows what else, pass the entrance tests and then find they wont offer you a sufficient bursary. The schools that do this are often those taking at 13+ and pre testing at 11+.
IME owning a home is not a reason not to get a bursary owning a 5+ bedroomed home when you only need 3 bedrooms or as friends discovered owning another home which had no mortgage on it and was rented out probably wont get you a bursary and a large amount of equity in your home also wont get you a bursary. Most expect mothers of school age children to work although obviously if your caring for a disabled child or increasingly relevant in this day and age an elderly relative this will obviously be taken into consideration. At the end of the day it all comes down to how big the bursary pot is and then how much they want your child.
OP Im assuming you looking for entry at 11+ but there are senior schools who take at 13+ which offer generous bursaries. If you would consider boarding Christs Hospital is definitely worth looking at or perhaps trying for a scholarship into another school and then getting an attached bursary. Don't give up it is increasingly difficult to get large bursaries but it is possible.

feckwit Tue 19-Feb-13 20:21:22

Thank you, will maybe look again at 13 but doubt my child would want to move school then and am not a fan of boarding x

ThisLittleMonster Tue 19-Feb-13 22:33:57

totally, I did not mean to be insulting or personal, I am nice, promise smile Apologies if my bad mood today (unrelated to this) seeped through.

I actually said wealthy enough, i.e. able to afford fees at least in part, which your previous posts implied that you pay, although perhaps I am mistaken?

I'm sure the OP's daugher is a clever girl, perhaps more so than some on full fees, which is why she was encouraged to apply. The glaring unfairness from the child's point of view makes me sad at this system, although I appreciate that life is not that simple or perfect and as adults and parents we all do the best we can for our children. That involves getting them the best education you can, state or private, and I am no different.

Anyway, I'll shut up now. Apologies again for being snippy totally, and apologies for waffling on OP- all the best, and good luck to your daughter whichever school/s she attends. x

TotallyBS Tue 19-Feb-13 22:48:55

LittleMonster - I agree that I could have been a bit more tactful. You was right to pull me up on that one.

Although i stand by my comments, I accept that.the point could have been made in a more diplomatic manner.

grovel Tue 19-Feb-13 22:55:58

seeker, please note.

grovel Tue 19-Feb-13 23:01:31

....that as gratuitously rude as totally is, she/he is capable of limited remorse. In cyberspace.

Tasmania Wed 20-Feb-13 00:07:55

SCHOLARSHIPS are meant to reward the most talented kids regardless of their background... so emphasis on "scholar".

BURSARIES are for bright kids from lower income families.

Both serve different purposes.

Scholarships are more of a "prestige" thing. If you are a scholar, you are recognized as one of the best (at your school) in whatever you got your scholarship in. You are the "benchmark" for all the other kids. It looks good on CVs, university applications, etc. Now, you can be the best, despite - maybe - being rich. Why should someone who happens to be wealthy not be rewarded for also being good on his/her own account?

Bursaries are for those who may not have gotten a scholarship (though sometimes, they do get both), but in a good year with loads of talented applicants, they were probably close to getting one. One thing you have to remember is: BURSARIES ARE NOT ENTIRELY ALTRUISTIC. By selecting the best people out of those who may not otherwise be able to afford it, you lift the average which is good for the league tables, of course.

The ones who actually benefit from the above set-up without any of them getting anything "out of the pot" are the wealthier kids who may have been anywhere between "average" to "just as intelligent as the bursary kids". They are now surrounded by motivated and intelligent children who are at the school for a purpose, and know how lucky they are. Obviously, this changes the dynamic a little.

An exclusive school for only wealthy kids does not usually yield very good results: (1) Just because you're rich, doesn't mean you're intelligent; and (2) such kids can often take their posh school for granted, in the absence of those kids who work hard to be there.

At the same time, handing out bursaries to anyone who is not necessarily much better than average, just because they are low income, would not yield great results either. It definitely would not make the wealthy but average kids work harder or aim any higher, because they'd be surrounded by people who are actually just the same as them.

The whole scholarship/bursary thing is a give and take. I guess in years that aren't so great (i.e. less talent), there will be more people of "average" ability who will get them. But in recent years, where there is less money in general, but a large pool to choose from, it will be difficult getting a lot of aid unless your child is super-bright.

MakeMineALargeRose Thu 21-Feb-13 23:41:31

Hi I'm new on here :-) I was in a similar position last year, I declined the place and explained why - my dd was offered a 60% bursary but I still couldn't afford to pay the 40%! The school were very helpful, I had a long chat with the bursar and was offered a further 10% but ended up still declining as tbh I couldn't afford the 30%. All ended well and she got offered a place at state grammar instead a few days later on 1st March. I would certainly give it a try, you have nothing to lose by asking and the impression I got was that quite a few parents were trying to negotiate a higher bursary.

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