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.

LadyMaryQuiteContrary Mon 18-Feb-13 22:27:10

Do you mean she didn't get a scholarship? Bursaries are means tested so are different to scholarships. You apply for a bursary once a place has been offered.

Dustylaw Mon 18-Feb-13 22:29:20

Sorry, that's tough on you all. Before you reject the place, phone up and talk to them. You've got nothing to lose and at least you'll probably get more information.

feckwit Mon 18-Feb-13 22:43:00

No, she didn't get a bursary - at this school scholarships are open to all and bursaries to lower income families. We applied for a bursary prior to application but her score was not high enough to be offered (they do it on ability there, so the cleverest poor kids get bursaries not the ones most in need necessarily). Scholarships are up to 20%, bursaries can be up to 100%. We needed the latter. I have emailed school and they said that she just did not achieve a high enough score for a bursary.

LadyMaryQuiteContrary Mon 18-Feb-13 22:46:02

That's a crazy system. Have you looked at other schools? They don't all work in the same way.

feckwit Mon 18-Feb-13 22:49:15

There are no others close by unfortunately. We are gutted!

Dromedary Mon 18-Feb-13 22:51:49

You've already clarified the situation with the school. I'm afraid that ability based bursaries are their way of saying that if someone who isn't one of the brightest can't afford to go they're not so bothered to have them that they're prepared to help out financially.
If it's any comfort my DC was offered one of these ability based bursaries, and was also in line for a scholarship. Despite filling out a statement of means the bursary offered was nowhere remotely near enough to allow DC to attend the school, even if we had moved onto a porridge only lifestyle. So DC is not going! I would take the 100% thing with a very big pinch of salt, unless your DC is a genius who will bring untold honour and riches to the school...

YippeeTeenager Mon 18-Feb-13 22:53:22

It's worth writing to the head of school admissions, copying it to the headteacher and the head of the board of governors. You can say exactly what you said above - that your child was desperate to attend, that you really can't afford to do it without a bursary and that you would be eternally grateful if they could reconsider and help in any way. You may very well get a no, but it's always worth another try otherwise you'll always have a nagging doubt that perhaps you could have done more! You never know, there might be someone that got awarded a bursary but isn't going to take it up for whatever reason. Also, there are quite a few people that apply for bursaries when they can really afford the fees so the school would always offer the place anyway. Good luck.

LadyMaryQuiteContrary Mon 18-Feb-13 22:53:30

There are charities that can help, it does depend on your circumstances though. The Buttle trust can help if you fit their criteria (sickness in the family/single parent etc). sad A lot of them do have very strict criteria though and won't help unless there's some reason why a private school is necessary.

feckwit Mon 18-Feb-13 22:53:42

thank you, that is very interesting.

Coconutty Mon 18-Feb-13 22:54:54

Totally agree about the 100% bursary thing, unless your child is going to be able to guarantee the school lots of kudos.

feckwit Mon 18-Feb-13 22:56:04

@ladymary - yes we have looked at charities but we don't fit the criteria as we are a couple and no illness, just low income. Never mind, I guess maybe we wouldn't want our child in a school that is only interested in the very wealthy or very clever anyway!

@yippeeteenager, thank you x

Bunbaker Mon 18-Feb-13 22:59:20

We were in the same position two years ago, except that we received back word on the bursary before the exam. I told DD that she needn't take the exam but she wanted to and was offered a place almost immediately. We wrote to the school explaining why DD wouldn't be accepting a place in the hope that they might offer something, but they weren't interested. So DD just goes to the local comprehensive instead.

TotallyBS Mon 18-Feb-13 23:06:41

LadyMary - why is it a 'crazy system'? There are shed loads of people who would like to go private but can't afford it. It's impossible for all these people to be offered bursaries.

LadyMaryQuiteContrary Mon 18-Feb-13 23:07:58

I'd always assumed they were based on need rather than scores. My fault, twas a bad assumption.

Dromedary Mon 18-Feb-13 23:10:20

It was the same with us - I wrote explaining that the bursary just wasn't high enough for DC to attend. TBH I wasn't too hopeful as we needed a massively higher bursary than had been offered. Predictably, the school did not change its mind. I have however heard of an instance when they did substantially up their offer, but apparently they were very very keen for that particular child to attend, due to his talent in many areas.
My guess is that they work out the bursaries on the basis of income support figures, not taking into account anything like the fact that you have to commute to work, the child has to commute to school, you have to maintain the house (if you own it) and car (if you own one). If you lived next door to the school, could walk to work, didn't own a car or a house, you might be able to accept the bursary offer, though you would have to cut out everything like even basic holidays, trips out etc. So it was a waste of time for us, and only served for DC to see how the other half lived and then have it snatched away. Dc took it well though, and the revision for the entrance tests was useful in terms of future schooling.

Schmedz Mon 18-Feb-13 23:12:06

More apply for bursary support than the school can provide for so, according to the selection process, those who gain adequate scores are offered a place and those that achieve the best scores are given a bursary or scholarship or both.

TotallyBS Mon 18-Feb-13 23:12:53

feckwit - Maybe you are just venting in which case ignore my comment.

If you aren't venting and you stand by your comment, it's a bit silly to choose a school presumably because of its academic record AND then be pissed off because they only make bursary offers to very clever kids.

Dromedary Mon 18-Feb-13 23:14:09

Something else we found out is that they set the scholarship against the bursary - so if your DC receives a scholarship the fact that you will need to pay less in fees reduces your need for a bursary. So if you qualify for a bursary there is no financial advantage to getting a scholarship too.

LadyMaryQuiteContrary Mon 18-Feb-13 23:14:55

Makes sense now I think about it, Schemdz. It's been a long day and my brain has frazzled

TotallyBS Mon 18-Feb-13 23:18:06

Drome - I have no personal experience of this but parents in the past have posted how with them the bursaries and scholarships were separate. So it obviously differs from school to school.

Knowsabitabouteducation Tue 19-Feb-13 06:49:51

Scholarships are less common than they were, say, 10 years ago. Even then, they were in the region of 10/20%, so didn't really help someone who wasn't already able to attend.

With work towards verifying compliance with Charity Commission fuzziness, most schools have transferred their scholarship fund to the bursary fund.

A well run school will not have a vague, ready to expand, bursary fund. They will have strict rules about how many bursaries and who qualifies. If you don't qualify, then you don't get. If a school does roll over when you beg, then that is something to worry about, in terms of the overall finances of the school.

The vast majority of bursary funds are carved out of existing fee income. Very few schools have the endowments of Eton, for example. Most parents struggle to pay full fees, so it's unreasonable to keep asking them to dip into their pockets again and again. They are the same parents who are the squeezed middle, expected to pay higher taxes, lose child benefit etc.

The bursary fund cannot be spread across all those who are offered places. It would not mean a low-income family would be any closer to being able to attend. The remission has to be very significant, eg 80 - 100%. If they have decided that two or three other candidates are more worthy of benefiting from the bursary fund, you have to just accept that.

eminemmerdale Tue 19-Feb-13 07:33:00

We are in a similar position - dd passed the difficult entrance test, we were offered a% bursary but simply couldn't match it. I have to say this particular school have bent over backwards to try to help but sadly, just don;t have the money to top it up further, very disappointing yes, but sadly we have to suck it up and know she is clever enought to do well anywhere

outtolunchagain Tue 19-Feb-13 08:32:30

Bursaries at out school are assessed on performance in exam plus report .The bursaries are 5 or 6 times oversubscribed what other method would be fair . There are a considerable number of people on 100% bursaries but also there is a sliding scale down to 10%.

OP that is a shame ,but with respect you took a calculated risk . I would reject he place and give your reason. you never know there may be another chance at 13 or 16

LIZS Tue 19-Feb-13 08:40:24

Sent a covering note that having carefully considered the implications of their offer you are unable to take up the full fee place for your dd at present time. Are there any future entry points , perhaps she could reapply at 6th form ? They will offer to those they want but unfortunately this year she didn't make the cut for financial assistance- school aren't to know that you couldn't call on alternative resources at the 11th hour or circumstances may have altered.

janinlondon Tue 19-Feb-13 08:50:53

I really don't think any school would take into account the costs of maintaining the home you own in assessing for a bursary. Most would be surprised to receive a bursary application from a family who owned their home. Certainly our bursaries go primarily to single parents on minimum wages in rented accommodation.

middleclassonbursary Tue 19-Feb-13 08:51:46

This is a common problem and frustrating and upsetting for both of you. Many schools make grandiose claims on their websites which doesn't help. Assuming you've filled in the usual in depth forms the school know perfectly well you cant afford it so I doubt there's any point in writing a begging letter to anyone.

middleclassonbursary Tue 19-Feb-13 08:59:09

"Certainly our bursaries go primarily to single parents on minimum wages in rented accommodation."
We do live in rented accommodation (which is very nice) but we are neither single parents or on the minimum wage. Every school is different as already pointed out well known schools like Eton have large bursary pots and are therefore able to assist the squeezed middle classes. I understand this also applies to schools that are members of the Girls Day School Trust and if jain you look on the St Pauls school website who "believe that all boys, from every background — in our founder’s words, of “all nacions and countres indifferently”, should have the opportunity to excel" they actually give examples of those who they help again some are the squeezed middle classes.

feckwit Tue 19-Feb-13 09:04:49

Thanks everyone, I shall just reject the place with no covering letter then.

LIZS Tue 19-Feb-13 09:19:19

I'd still send a covering note - if they have other rejections the bursary criteria may change or they may just bank it for future applicants, but you have nothing to lose. I imagine very few get approaching 100% in reality.

I would send a covering letter, two of my friends have both got 100% bursaries for their sons at Tonbridge school and sevenoaks, including transport and uniform. I would definitely describe them as squeezed middle class, very modest homes ( mortgaged ) and I would guess an income of below £40k.
Both boys are very good at sport but certainly not genius in the academic side of things.

GreatUncleEddie Tue 19-Feb-13 09:34:28

You do not need a covering letter, you've already told them you need a bursary.

janinlondon Tue 19-Feb-13 09:36:28

GDST are fairly generous yes. From their website: "Most higher-value bursaries are awarded to pupils from families with a total income of less than £19,500 per year who have no capital assets other than their home."

middleclassonbursary Tue 19-Feb-13 09:44:16

jain I'm not going into details of our financial situation but we have a good income we've easily lost our CB and we get a bursary. Again I refer you to St Pauls school website where examples are given. Eton and Winchester are also committed to broadening their intake but neither offer many 100% bursaries so must have quite a few on good incomes to be able to pay say 50% (£17 000) of the fees. I not disputing that many take your schools position but not all.

ThisLittleMonster Tue 19-Feb-13 09:45:27

I certainly would not send a begging letter. Maybe something simple stating that without the bursary you applied for you are unable to afford to take up the place.

I don't really understand bursarys etc, it seems misleading of these schools to imply that their school is affordable to many. In fact, they encourage those with 'clever' children to apply then will snap up any true genius or prodigy who will make the school look very good indeed and that they can hold up as an example of how they are saving the local poor from a substandard education elsewhere. 'Normal' people like the OP are not who they interested in.

I'm a bit uneasy about the whole private school system (DH was private, I was state), but recognise that everyone will do the best they can for their children's eduaction. But, what it boils down to is if you can't afford it, they can't go.

Sympathique Tue 19-Feb-13 09:50:57

Knowsabit "The vast majority of bursary funds are carved out of existing fee income. Very few schools have the endowments of Eton, for example. Most parents struggle to pay full fees, so it's unreasonable to keep asking them to dip into their pockets again and again. They are the same parents who are the squeezed middle, expected to pay higher taxes, lose child benefit etc."

Agree 100%. Mounting fees usually mean hard decisions if DCs are to stay at their schools, but don't regret ours and never expected anyone else to pay. Yes, a part of those mounting fees paid for bursaries - we were even invited to contribute to the fund with donations and doubtless some wealthy parents did. Most of us aren't wealthy - and largely because we're forking out fees! It is wearying to read that kids at private schools are posh and stuck up. Get real.

Bursary seekers do have to be aware that it isn't a bottomless pit and the schools have to select somehow. As far as school fees are concerned "there ain't no Sanity Clause".

Genuine question - why would you even apply, if there's no chance of you affording it? Is it not a bit, "Here's what you would have won?" I have friends who have applied (and got) burseries, but they had a Plan B (grandparents) to make up the shortfall between the fees and what they could afford.

middleclassonbursary Tue 19-Feb-13 10:00:46

"it's unreasonable to keep asking them to dip into their pockets again and again"
Is it unreasonable? Lets take a school like Eton fees just shy of £33 000 before extras. If everyone was asked to pay another £1000 PA towards the bursary fund the that would generate over a £1000 000 a year. Those who can pay these kind of fees are unlikely to be over bothered by another £333 on their termly bill. Having said this Eton and others similar offering generous bursaries have I believed raised most of their bursary money from other sources endowments fund raising events etc.

Knowsabitabouteducation Tue 19-Feb-13 10:05:35

We aren't talking about humoungously oversubscribed school like Eton, though - a school with a very strong old boy network and centuries old endowments.

Who are you, who is a net taker from the system, to dictate that those of us who pay our way honestly should pay a little bit more, then a bit more again, then again?

What an upside down world we live in.

LIZS Tue 19-Feb-13 10:08:26

But isn't that the case in any business model - full fees payers subsidise the scholarship places (bursary funds are usually a separate pot) so the average cost per place is covered. Many of the top schools award scholarships but make a request that those who do not need the funding forgo it in favour of awards to less well off pupils.

middleclassonbursary Tue 19-Feb-13 10:10:23

Agent we were able to apply for a bursary and be given a provisional offer before applying for the place which is obviously much easier. But most schools dot do this, parents read extravagant claims on school websites, don't talk to bursars and assume they will easily get a bursary. A friend was recently disappointed when she didn't get one. I cant afford the fees moaned my four house owning friend the website clearly stated that those on incomes of less than £70 000 would be considered!! The OP's school were basically offering a scholarship by a different name. Sadly her daughter didn't score highly enough and she cant afford it. Probably when financial help was only attached to scholarship the same thing happened parents applied their child didn't get the scholarship and they went to another school. .

Sympathique Tue 19-Feb-13 10:11:10

MiddleClass Knowsabit specifically excluded schools like Eton. But even so, what evidence do you have to support your assertion that even its parents "are unlikely to be bothered by another £333...". Some will have (relatively!) modest means and be making sacrifices to pay for Eton, etc - though I grant you some will not have to budget (I wouldn't say they wouldn't be bothered - you don't accrue millions by splashing out left and right).

If, as seems likely, your name suggests you have a reasonable income and your DC(s) receive a bursary, make no mistake, it is likely coming out of the pockets of parents who are budgeting hard to pay full fees. I have only admiration that you make the system work for you, but please don't sleep easier at night by imagining that whoever is paying doesn't feel the pain of paying for your child(ren).

middleclassonbursary Tue 19-Feb-13 10:14:05

Knowsabit Im not saying those paying £2000 per term can necessarily afford to subsidise those on bursaries I'm making the point that those who are able to pay £33 000PA are unlikely to bothered by another £333 per term.

Inertia Tue 19-Feb-13 10:15:26

Knowsabit- many independent schools benefit from charitable status, giving them taxpayer-funded tax breaks. Effectively, this is extra funding for them- which is why the Charity Commission gets involved. So it's a bit disingenuous to complain about the hard-done-to fee-paying parents having to subsidise a few bursaries or scholarships for low-income families, when all taxpayers are already partially funding many fee-paying schools.

middleclassonbursary Tue 19-Feb-13 10:16:34

Sympathique actually its not according to the schools published accounts all money raised for bursaries comes from endowments voluntary donations etc. I accept not all do this but at my DC's school they do.

Knowsabitabouteducation Tue 19-Feb-13 10:19:17

Most schools will build in 10% on top of fees to fund charitable places. TPA is expecting even more than that, it seems.

There are more worthy beneficiaries of this fund, such as to keep existing students in school whose families have fallen on hard times. They may need to provide a certain number of scholarships, such as music and sports, in order to maintain the full-life of the school. They may need to provide additional bursaries in the sixth form to give critical mass to a wide range of subjects. They may have fee remission for armed forces and clergy families.

The tiny number of schools, although high profile, can give a large number of bursaries because of donations and bequests from former pupils, as well as lucrative endowments. They do not expect a significan amount of bursary money to come from existing, already cash-strapped families.

Sympathique Tue 19-Feb-13 10:24:05

Fine Inertia but those fee-paying parents also pay tax and also give the state a tax break by not using state education. I daresay if the tax breaks were taken away and fees rose more, fee-paying parents would somehow find the extra - they wouldn't expect anyone else to pay, and that is the point: they don't feel entitled to someone picking up the bill.

Knowsabitabouteducation Tue 19-Feb-13 10:24:07


I am aware of how the Charities Commission works. The general consensus is that 10% of fee income should go into a bursary fund. Ten percent, not open-ended, as some people here seem to think.

Most charitable schools would love to give up charitable status, but they are not allowed to.

Sympathique Tue 19-Feb-13 10:27:16

middleclass: quoi? Can't make sense of your post, but I suspect you are talking about your school and saying my model isn't the case there. Great if you've found a school where your DC's friend's parents aren't funding for you. That's terrific and wish it were more widespread. Sleep well!

Knowsabitabouteducation Tue 19-Feb-13 10:27:20

The "tax break" is supposedly VAT on fee income (even though education is VAT exempt), offset against having to pay VAT on purchases, maintenance etc.

middleclassonbursary Tue 19-Feb-13 10:33:49

Sympathique re; "Can't make sense of your post," you clearly stated that my DC's bursary "is likely coming out of the pockets of parents who are budgeting hard to pay full fees." I then clearly stated that according to the schools published accounts that its not.
I dont understand why you cant make sense of my post or need to be abrasive.

TotallyBS Tue 19-Feb-13 10:34:21

middle - I have no problems with paying a bit extra towards bursaries for bright kids whose family can't afford the fees.

However, I don't see why I should contribute towards paying for some not so bright kid to go private.

Well off parents are often flamed for sounding entitled so it's kind of funny to read a post from a parent who thinks her not so bright DC is entitled to a private education

TheRevengeOfMrGrumpy Tue 19-Feb-13 10:35:27

A considerable tax break is not having to pay full (or any) business rates on their premises.

middleclassonbursary Tue 19-Feb-13 10:39:29

Totally I understand where your coming from and that is the view that many schools take and why I said in most cases bursaries are another name for a scholarship. Wealthy super selectives like St Pauls obviously don't need to take this view because if you've been offered a place you are really bright.

Sympathique Tue 19-Feb-13 10:40:08

middleclass: apologies if I came across as abrasive in that particular post. Yours was written without punctuation (and apostrophes) which I struggled with.

feckwit Tue 19-Feb-13 10:42:10

Hm. I don't think my child is "entitled". I applied on the advice of her current headteacher who thought she stood a chance. I read about the school and knew it well as I attended it. We couldn't afford the fees so had previously not considered it but were offered some money towards fees by a local trust fund so thought it was worth trying. When we looked around, we felt it was definitely a school she was well suited to. @totallybs "However, I don't see why I should contribute towards paying for some not so bright kid to go private." - I would actually argue that the children who most benefit from a bursary would be the less able as the very able generally will do very well regardless of school, it is the middle of the road students who often struggle.
But I appear to have opened up a can of worms and appreciate all your thoughts. I will reject the place with a small covering letter explaining it is for financial reasons.

Theas18 Tue 19-Feb-13 10:42:34

Forgetting all the ranging of rights and wrongs...

Just sending OP and her DD a hug and all the best for the future.

I was that girl nearly 30yrs ago- got the grammar school place very respectably in the exam (it was for 13+ entry) having been at pretty p**s poor comp and miserable there. Sadly out of county application so no scholarship for me (would have got it if the other side of the boundary).

Stayed at p**s poor comp. Was moderately miserable but determined. Bucked the trend with my best mate who went to Cambridge. She was the 1st ever Oxbridge success and I was the 1st ever to do my course.

Would I be doing anything different now if I have gone to grammar- nope I'm doing what I always wanted to. I would have probably enjoyed school more though.

I like to think that a half decent modern comp with streamed teaching etc would have made me happier. We had all ability till O level /CSE divide.

We turned down a bursary place for DD2 - that was hard-,mainly because the grammars here are more academic than that school (probably..) . Also the " tie in was till age 18 which is a lot for an 11yr old to be sure about.

ThisLittleMonster Tue 19-Feb-13 10:44:03

However, I don't see why I should contribute towards paying for some not so bright kid to go private.

Well off parents are often flamed for sounding entitled so it's kind of funny to read a post from a parent who thinks her not so bright DC is entitled to a private education

You're right, her 'not-so-bright' child, as you tactfully put it, is not entitled to a private education. Your children are much more worthy of a perceived 'better' education because they had the forsight to be born to wealthy enough parents, of course. Actually, I'm not having a pop at you totally, I largely agree with you post, it's just written in a way which will make many like me bristle a bit.

The OP can't afford the education she would like for her child. That's life I'm afraid, fair or not.

ThisLittleMonster Tue 19-Feb-13 10:45:53

x posts OP. All the best, I'm sure your DD will be fine smile

happygardening Tue 19-Feb-13 10:47:50

"sympatheique* thanks

eminemmerdale Tue 19-Feb-13 10:51:25

I don't feel 'entitled' either - like the OP we were advised to put our dd in for the exam, we made it clear we would need assistance, we were still told to go ahead, she passed (brilliantly) they offered us a % we couldn't match, we asked if there was any way this could be increased (as per their website information of 'up to 100%), they couldn't, we're disappointed. Actually, I'm really disappointed but that's the way it goes grin

happygardening Tue 19-Feb-13 10:53:32

God don't know why I posted on here was only idylly reading it meant to put comment for someone else on another thread!!!

wordfactory Tue 19-Feb-13 10:57:52

OP, you had a punt and I think right to try.

The sad fact is that competition for burseries is fierce. They are also discretionary so some yearst he school might offer three kids a thrid knocked off, another year one kid 100% of fees.

How much is in the bursary pot will also be dependent on how many existing pupils have applied. In the current climate this might be at an all time high.

middleclassonbursary Tue 19-Feb-13 10:58:08

Thanks HG you sort of said what I was going to say!! No need to apologise Sympathique I'm crap with grammar and its not always clear what I mean I just hate generalisations about bursaries! The problem is every schhol is different. We managed to get one for both our DC's but it was very difficult and we too were rejected by one.
Good luck OP and your DD.

Sympathique Tue 19-Feb-13 11:00:19

Happygardening: and there was me thinking you didn't think I'd been abrasive to middleclass! (I thought I'd been rather conciliatory in my last post, hey ho time to go)

tiggytape Tue 19-Feb-13 11:07:32

Whatever the origin of the funds, or methods used to allocate them, it seems a very harsh system where 100% is routinely mentioned but not routinely offered and where a family only finds out they cannot afford the place offered after a fairly lengthy selection process has been successfully completed. By then the child and family will have invested a lot of effort and hope into attending that school.

I know schools want to encourage applications from all able students (and OP's daughter has passed the selection tests so has still scored very well even if it wasn't among the absolute top scores this year) but a greater degree of openness at the start of the process would surely be kinder? Schools cannot always calculate bursaries in advance of selection exams if they receive more bursary applications than they can ever fulfil but they could be more explicit about previous years' results. When they say 'upto 100%' is available - was that offered to 1 pupil amongst hundreds or do they more usually make several offers at 20% instead? If parents knew in advance that the headline 100% figure was exceedingly rare and that even 50% was unusual, they might not invest so much hope and effort into the process.

Many parents (wrongly) assume that having provided financial information, the school will know they cannot afford 50% or 80% of fees and are upset to find that this is what’s offered. Most parents (wrongly) assume they’d either get no offer at all or that the full amount they’ve demonstrated they need will be provided.

outtolunchagain Tue 19-Feb-13 11:24:43

At our school the awarding of the bursary is on performance . Once you have been awarded the bursary the amount you get is means tested so the two things are separate .

The forms are very comprehensive and yes they do allow for living costs such as mortgage etc however you would be amazed at people's brass neck and ability to bend the truth on these forms .Many schools now employ firms whose job it is to assess bursary applications and some schools also do home visits.

The schools are much more cautious now about making sure the money goes to the people who most need it and not those who are best at completing the forms , they are also not there to support people's lifestyle choices .

TotallyBS Tue 19-Feb-13 12:07:13

LittleMonster - your one-insult-fits-all would be more effective IF my DCs were born to wealthy parents grin

meditrina Tue 19-Feb-13 12:16:24

One regular poster about bursaries points out frequently that one of the things you should consider doing is working out in advance what %age of fees you will need, and then ask the school early on if they have ever given an award that high, and if so how often. Also, how much they expect to have in the bursary pot in the year you apply (low return on investments has hammered down the amount available, and this will continue for as long as interest rates remain at record lows) - they won't tell you a figure, but should be able to say something like '3 x 90% awards or smaller awards to the same total'. And bear in mind that children already in the school whose families suffer a major financial reversal (death, messy divorce, redundancy) will have higher call on funding than new joiners.

middleclassonbursary Tue 19-Feb-13 12:39:04

"working out in advance what %age of fees you will need, and then ask the school early on if they have ever given an award that high, and if so how often"
This a comment I frequently make and talk to the bursar before going to far down the admissions process although in the OP situation I don't think she did anything wrong just didn't score highly enough on the academic front.

Thank you for explaining the system, middleclass. I naively imagined that you'd get some indication of the possible bursery amount before you went through the whole application process.

eminemmerdale Tue 19-Feb-13 13:06:37

In our case, they were as helpful as possible before but did find it very hard to predict exactly, as, obviously had no idea of the number of bursaries that would be applied for and circumstances of other families. We did hoping for the best and were offered what a lot of people would consider a generous offer, sadly just not do-able for us.

Knowsabitabouteducation Tue 19-Feb-13 13:09:56

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

eminemmerdale Tue 19-Feb-13 13:15:53

It's quite a big deal actually - it's going to look at the school, meeting the headteacher, filling the reg form, paying a reg fee, going to a 'taster day', sitting a 'couple of tests' hmm.. in our case anyway - it was a pretty big thing to go through - I'm not sorry we did at all. At least we know we have a clever daughter - it was actually a pretty tricky 'test', that she throroughly enjoyed doing, and had we not even tried then we would always have wondered what would have happened. It's over, it's done and that's that .

TotallyBS Tue 19-Feb-13 13:28:25

feckwith - I disagree about how it is the middle of the road that struggle

IMO the state system often fail those at the top and those at the bottom while the middle of the road do quite nicely.

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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