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What's the point in applying for a bursary if you can't afford the added extras anyway?

(27 Posts)
LightsOnNobodyHome Fri 26-Oct-12 14:42:02

There's a great independent school near to us that offers generous bursaries for bright kids from low-income families. I've had a look on the website and it seems - from the info on there - I'd probably be eligible for a pretty large amount off the fees (assuming ds passes well, of course).

My question is - is there any point? Because even I did only have to pay minimal fees, I wouldn't be able to afford all the extras - school trips to far-flung places etc, kits for all the gazillions of different sports they play, etc. Even the cost of the school meals looks like it might add up to a fair whack!

The school is a v good one, no question. If I won the Lottery tonight I'd send ds there without a second thought. But I don't want him to be the 'poor one'. I'm scraping by as it is - significant extra expenses just aren't feasible. Anyone got any experience or words of wisdom?

exexpat Fri 26-Oct-12 14:56:03

You don't have to do school trips to far-flung places - DS is at a private school, and has been on two overseas trips so far.

One was for a very small group of boys to join an international competition, and we were given the option when he joined the relevant activity to say whether we would be happy for him to do the overseas trip if selected or not - plenty of people ticked the 'no' box.

The other was a trip to the WWI battlefields. I think the majority of his year - but by no means all of them - went on that one. It is a trip also run by a huge number of state schools, I would guess at a very similar price (there are companies specialising in this kind of school trip).

He has also done two UK-based PGL trips, one while at his old state primary, one as a kind of bonding trip when he started yr 7 at the private school. Very similar prices both times, and I know that many comprehensives also do a year 7 PGL trip.

Many of the trips private schools offer are pretty much identical to the ones that state schools do. I would guess that the biggest difference is the overseas tours for some sports teams and choirs/orchestras, which could be an issue if your DC is sporty or musical.

Uniform and sports kit can be expensive, but it is usually possible to buy nearly everything second-hand through the school. Friends with DCs at state secondaries also complain about all the trainers, shin-pads etc they need to buy, but like me they tend to get all that stuff as cheaply as possible at Sports Direct.

School meal costs vary a lot, and the biggest issue is that at some private schools they are compulsory. My DC's school meals cost £2.50-£3 a day - is that much more than state schools? You might need to negotiate with the school if it's a problem.

3nationsfamily Fri 26-Oct-12 15:00:56

It is worth checking out whether Bursaries are available also for the extras- I know of one local boarding school here which applies the same % discount to trips/ music lessons/ uniform as they do to the fees but I think this is rare. It is worth a call to the bursar.
There is often a second hand school uniform/ kit shop in most independant schools and usually no stigma about buying from there.
There will inevitably be trips, but I'm sure not everyone goes on every trip, although if it is "the rugby team" trip and he is on the team then you face a dilemma.

Other than that, maybe it is best not to dream if it is never going to happen, and focus on what other alternatives are available to you in the financial circumstances you are able to manage.

scarevola Fri 26-Oct-12 15:04:01

You don't sound remotely comfortable with the idea of a bursary, nor confident that even with a generous one you would be able to support your DC in the style you have decided is necessary. So no, it's probably not going to be the right place for you.

LightsOnNobodyHome Fri 26-Oct-12 17:19:50

I'm not sure I really understand, scarevola. Those of us who require the largest amount of financial assistance will, by definition, be the least likely to be able to afford the extras. Given that bursaries are meant to help those on the lowest income, surely it's sensible to consider whether those children would still be genuinely disadvantaged even with a bursary? I haven't decided that any 'style' is 'necessary' - just wondering how realistic it is to apply on a low income. I don't want to put my ds through the process when it's entirely pointless in reality.

Other posters who have suggested that trips etc might be subsidised/non-essential - it's all food for thought so thank you!

MrsSalvoMontalbano Fri 26-Oct-12 17:27:18

Agree about the fact that trips are usually optional, and at our school they stress that only a few can go on them and so if your child doesn't go, they are in the majority! You have to be pretty quick off the mark to get your form in, and if you don't, however ridh you are there is no space. DS1 is going on a French exchange that is three times oversubscribed, so for those who can't afford it there is no 'stigma' - no-one would even know why you didn't go.

middleclassonbursary Fri 26-Oct-12 18:07:39

I think some schools do subsidise trips and the normal extras termly aren't through the roof. My DS is going on a school trip abroad and for a week its going to be no more than £400 that includes everything e.g. flights we've also been given 14 months notice so plenty of time to save up.
You really need to speak to the individual school.

scarevola Fri 26-Oct-12 18:16:07

Some people approach bursaries with a can-do attitude, determined to make the best of the opportunity, hope things will turn up to get through any tight spots, ready to negotiate for support for extras etc; and are confident that their DCs will fit in to the school.

Others are just worried and concerned that their DCs won't fit in. This is so easily a self-fulfilling prophecy, and those are the families who are less likely to thrive; and who I really think will find it is the wrong place for them. It isn't for everyone; the amount of bursary is unlikely to be confirmed until vary late in the process and if you do not want to put your DC through a process which could well prove to be pointless, then this is additional reason that this is wrong for you. Not because you need financial support, but because you just sound so ill at ease with it all.

glastocat Fri 26-Oct-12 18:20:40

My husband went to an expensive boarding school with a bursary. Most of the other kids were loaded, he was not. He was bullied something rotten because he had home made jumpers etc, and hated every minute of it. However that was in Ireland twenty years ago, presumably things would be better now, but I still wouldn't do it.

crazycarol Sat 27-Oct-12 23:02:35

I have dd at private school, and yes she has been on a number of trips. However I would like to point out that the state sector also offer a number of very expensive trips, in some cases more expensive. For example my dd went to Germany on a language trip for 6 days. It cost £340 and they were flying (from Scotland), her grandparents voluntarily funded this trip. A Colleague at work had a dd also going to Germany for 7 days from a state school, however they were in a coach for at least 24 hours at each end of the trip which cost over £500.

In my experience the main extra we have found is uniform but it is usually possible to get second hand.

At dd's school they have stated that over 10% get bursaries of various amounts, dd is not aware of any others.

To me what is most important is getting the right school. state v private is irrelevant. Only you know if you can afford the total package, but if it is the wrong school for your child, it will be wasted.

1805 Sun 28-Oct-12 17:21:12

I don't think schools expect bursary children to be going on the extra far-flung trips. Meals are compulsory so that will be factored in to the financial assessment. As would uniform (including games and pe kit). Other extras are what you compromise to win a bursary.
At ds school (we have a bursary) one of the creative arts teachers has given him a funded place on all her depts workshops and activities because he shows promise and she doesn't want him missing out. When the teacher asked ds if he would be attending xxxxxx club, ds told her "Mum says I'm only allowed to do one paid club" !!! After that the teacher e mailed us and arranged it all!

If you really want ds to go there, talk to the bursar and state you situation and concerns. I am sure they would rather you were honest from the outset and let them know what level of ongoing assistance you would need.

Talk to them. And good luck. My dc are really happy at their private schools and wouldn't change it for anything.

Mutteroo Mon 29-Oct-12 01:01:59

Check on the bursary options at this indie school as they may cover some optional extras. We went cap in hand when DS was offered a place at his senior school and we were asked how much we could afford and were given the bursary we asked for. It didn't cover extras, however we had allocated for these costs. Don't believe you are the only 'poor' family because this is highly unlikely. We presumed we were the poorest when actually we were far from it! Plenty more out there who struggle to pay fees. Also the school may help out with the costs of trips which I must add, not all pupils go on. DS school had an outward bound week in year 9 as a getting to know you trip and we couldn't afford it. We told DS housemaster about it and he told us that there was no way our son would miss out on the trip. He said our son was an outstanding pupil and deserved the trip and the money was paid from the house fund. We were so grateful and I have no doubt that other families were helped out in a similar way.

Go and check out the independent school, ask lots of questions and if you feel your child will be happy, request a bursary and push for as much as you need. Failing that, if you have an excellent state school on your doorstep, I'd pick that and save yourself the financial worry!

lemontruffles Mon 29-Oct-12 02:03:33

Ask the school about any extras the bursary may offer, for instance, a uniform grant, travel costs, trip costs etc.

Ds2 is on full bursary at selective independent. It's cheaper to send him there than the local grammar because he gets uniform grant, free bus pass, all compulsory school trips are paid for, its a very generous scheme. He has a cooked breakfast and takes packed lunch to avoid school lunch fees. He also has a vast range of clubs and societies to go to so I don't need to pay for lots of expensive extracurricular activities.

He is definitely much poorer than some, but so far he's very happy indeed (3 yrs in). I was very worried about him going but its beenfine.

VintageRainBoots Mon 29-Oct-12 03:29:49

Lights, in my experience, schools that offer bursaries to low-income students also have funds to support students who need help with the extras. Ask the school if additional funds are available for field trips, etc.

MamaChocoholic Mon 29-Oct-12 05:23:48

I was a scholarship kid at an indie. I did feel very different to the majority, but there were a few of us in each year and we sought each other out. There was a second hand uniform shop, and I only went on one overseas trip, German exchange. I an grateful for the education I got, though I am undecided whether I would put my dcs forward for an entrance exam in case they failed at such an early age.

diabolo Mon 29-Oct-12 08:17:09

Nearly everyone uses the second-hand shop at DS's school - the queue is often out of the door. At least half of the children don't go on the trips at all, some go on a few and some do all - just like any school.

lljkk Mon 29-Oct-12 08:20:11

It isn't just trips. Some extras I hadn't anticipated:

Compulsory hot dinners (extra £2.90/day).
Daily transport costs (maybe not applicable to OP, but substantial for us)
Exam fees (state secondaries pay for first sitting)
Some stationary
Extra childcare if you need to work more hours

midddleclassonbursary Mon 29-Oct-12 08:52:16

Our bursary which is substantial but we are boarding and our income is way above average my DH earns enough to put him in the higher rate tax band I think takes into consideration extras like uniform costs, stationary; we have to pay for every piece of paper, book, pens etc other extras and even the cost of of some school trips abroad because although we live do not lead an extravagant life by any stretch of the imagination we can still save up over a long enough period for school trips.

wordfactory Mon 29-Oct-12 08:59:09

ask the school about extras.

DC's prep school had almost none. Lunches, trips etc were all included in the fees. Just uniform to buy - and there was a second hand uniform shop plus a very brisk hand me down trade. I didn't buy a blazer after the very first ones in reception. The rest were given by friends. Games kits were very well laundered wink.

Secondary is a bit different. DD's school has masses of extras. Trips are on top and often within term time so little option of turning them down (but a bursary may well include them - just ask). Uniform is expensive. But again I have been given a lot of stuff by other Mums. There is also a culture of music/singing/LAMDA lessons which are all on top at huge cost. Not obligatory but a DD might feel a bit left out if she didn't take part IYSWIM.

middleclassonbursary Mon 29-Oct-12 09:37:04

Interesting word our extras are less at senior school. At prep we paid an exorbitant amount for extra learning support for my DS's mild dyslexia it's free now, the French teaching was awful at the prep and the school in the end got a private tutor and charged accordingly, any reqired help is now not charged if theres a problem the school feel its there obligation to sort it out, we paid for most extra curricular activities at the prep now nearly all are "free". At prep our extras amounted to nearly £1000 a term at senior school on the last bill they were under £300 and much of that was essentials stationary text books, field trips etc. Obviously for those not on a bursary this is reflected in the standard fees just off £33 000 where as the prep was just off £20 000.

notangelinajolie Mon 29-Oct-12 10:27:43

We are the poorest people we know blush and my youngest started at an Indy in September on a very generous bursary. We do pay some fees and even though the figure is small it is a struggle sometimes but IMHO well worth it. We were a little worried about all the extras but so far they have been unfounded. School Dinners are compulsary and payment for these is included in monthly fees which is much simpler than having to find the cash every week (which I did for her 2 elder sisters at State Secondary) TBH the cost isn't much more than state school dinners and my DD informs me they are very nice smile. A nice touch but I'm not sure that all Indy's do this ... free biscuits and drinks at break and homework club so I do think we do get good value for money.

I must admit that I was a tiny bit concerned when we received a 'school trip' letter in the first week. It was for a 'getting to know everyone and bonding activity holiday' in Wales and all children were expected to attend. After much begging and borrowing we scraped enough together and and DD was able to go. On her return we quizzed her about her weekend and discovered that approximately 25% of her year didn't go! It was a lesson learned for me and I now realise that not all children will go on all trips. Next time I will not stress so much.

I have compared the cost of school trips between our Indy and the Secondary Schools my other DD's went to and I am pleasantly surprised to see that although there are more of them at the Indy shock the cost of their trips are much cheaper. Eg School Ski Trip - High School £1300, Indy £850.

School uniform is about the same as all schools. The only added extra is a house polo shirt which in the grand scale of things isn't going to break the bank.

Another cost to bear in mind are the extra cirricular music lessons and sports activites which are encouraged. My daughter does neither, however there are 'free' options available at school which she does participate in ie. lunchtime drama and choir.

Yes, there are some very wealthy parents at my DD's school and her being dropped off after school in a Bentley caused much excitment to the boys playing outside our house - but your daugher won't be the only one whose parents don't have millions stashed away in the bank and she most certainly won't be the only one receiving a bursary. I can honestly say we haven't felt that our daughter has missed out on anything (apart from a Bentley - Ford Ka's don't quite have the same impact wink)

I wish I'd done the same for my other 2 daughters. The have done well at state school but I just feel there is an added 'extra' at the Indy and I haven't regretted sending her there for a single minute. I felt like we had won the lottery the day our offer letter came and that feeling is still there. Seriously - please take the place she has been offered, she must have worked so hard to get it. It's a huge, huge oportunity ... grab it!!

MrsSalvoMontalbano Mon 29-Oct-12 11:15:21

On of other reasons that eg the ski trip can be cheaper at the indie than the state is because the indie hols are longer - the trips can take place outside the 'normal ' holiday times and thus not so expensive to arrange.
(And one of the benefits of indies is that you can have family holidays cheaper outside the normal times - we saved a vast amount by going on a trip at the beginning of of July instead of the end, for example.

ZombieArmsDragOnTheFloor Mon 29-Oct-12 11:37:01

DSs go to a good independent school that offers large bursaries for low income families.

Their uniform turned out to be no more expensive than the local comprehensive and they have second hand uniform sales which are very popular.
Lots of children don't go on the expensive trips.
DSs often take a packed lunch.

anitasmall Sun 11-Nov-12 16:04:49


Discuss with your child that you will apply for bursary to get into a very good school, but if you won't get it than you won't be able to afford to go to that school. Look for another good state secondary just in case you won't get the bursary.

trinity0097 Sun 11-Nov-12 17:50:12

Most parents in independent schools are far less snobby about 2nd hand uniform, it's the norm in ours! We try hard to source the kit/uniform so that it is as cheap as possible whilst being of a decent quality, and it is all sold via school rather than an external uniform company taking a cut of the money!

We are offering up to 110% bursaries for our new senior school to cover extras like uniform etc

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