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Non-existent bursaries

(84 Posts)
Nobursarymum Fri 06-Apr-18 23:44:31

Our family is badly off. My DD is very bright and talented in an all round kind of way. The comprehensive she goes to is not great, and is not challenging her.
So we looked into the possibility of her moving to one of our local good reputation private schools, by way of a bursary.
When I wrote to these schools, to explain our interest in the school, but that DD would need a bursary to enable her to attend, the responses were beyond frosty. Although the schools advertise bursaries of up to 100%, 2 of the schools didn't even respond. When I pressed one of them, I was told that they didn't offer bursaries. That was despite the fact that their website clearly stated that to enable talented children to attend the school, they offered bursaries of up to 100%. They also claimed that they had not seen 3 emails from me because 1) 2 of them had got lost in the vast number of emails the admissions officer of this small undersubscribed private school received, 2) 1 email had not been received because their email account was full.

It seems to me that schools are advertising bursaries - including 100% bursaries - in order to satisfy the Charity Commission. But without any intention of actually offering a bursary to anyone.

Was I stupid to take them at their word, and enquire about the possibility of a bursary? Is it common knowledge that these statements on websites are no more than window-dressing?

OP’s posts: |
AjasLipstick Sat 07-Apr-18 00:20:31

My only experience of this is that my own DD attended a private prep from reception and when she was 7 going on 8, we had a change of circumstances and couldn't afford it....they offered us a full bursary immediately due to her potential.

Is it possible the bursaries are going on cases like this? Probably.

Clonakiltylil Sat 07-Apr-18 00:44:16

The bursaries tend to be allocated to students about to enter specific year groups and unless circumstances change, the student will be in receipt of the bursary throughout his/her time at the school. There may not be able to allocate to students entering at other points because there may not be any money left.

RedAndGreenPlaid Sat 07-Apr-18 00:51:50

Schools in my area offer (genuine!!) 100% bursaries, but only at Y7 or Y12 entrance. As your DD is already at secondary school, presumably she has missed the offer window.
Can you move areas instead, to access better secondaries?

Nobursarymum Sat 07-Apr-18 00:59:25

I just wish they had been honest and up-front with us. I did get the strong impression that they don't award any significant bursaries, though may supply a reduction to a current pupil who encounters financial difficulties. But that wouldn't be enough to satisfy the charity rules I don't think.
We can't afford to move house. I am going to spend what money we have on improving DD's education by use of online tutors etc.

OP’s posts: |
RedAndGreenPlaid Sat 07-Apr-18 01:05:12

Did the school seem okay before you applied?

Nobursarymum Sat 07-Apr-18 02:11:46

1 of them we didn't even visit, as they ignored 2 emails presumably because I mentioned the need for a bursary.
The other we visited first, seemed nice enough, but they completely switched off when I mentioned the B word, and started saying unreal stuff about not seeing emails etc. I don't feel we could send DD there now even if we won the lottery tomorrow.

OP’s posts: |
RedAndGreenPlaid Sat 07-Apr-18 06:18:21

I meant the school she is in!

smerlin Sat 07-Apr-18 06:28:39

I work in an oversubscribed independent secondary. We do offer bursaries although only one or two a year at 100% as we have small intake. Many many bursaries and/or scholarships of 25-50% though.

AFAIK all our nearby competitors do the same.

Many more people meet financial circs to qualify for bursaries than we can offer though so only goes to highest achieving on entrance exam.

Am very surprised to hear about your experiences. We speak v openly with all our parents about bursaries and scholarships.

smerlin Sat 07-Apr-18 06:30:51

Sorry didn't see your daughter is already at secondary. Our bursary money is allocated from Y7 to last until Y11/13 so we wouldn't usually have any funds to allocate to other year groups unless someone left.

jkl0311 Sat 07-Apr-18 06:48:40

I think you misunderstood what bursaries are for and how lucky you are to get one!!! I know of someone's Dd on a bursary, there current state school suggested to go independent for exceptional talent, they got her to take the entrance exam then parents said as lovely as the school was they couldn't afford it. The school wanted a talented child.... not Mum emailed them saying will you take my child for free?

Gruach Sat 07-Apr-18 06:50:30

What year is your daughter currently in?

The various schools’ lack of response does seem unusual, but as pp have said, it may be that your enquiry was out of sync with their application processes.

I would be surprised if merely advertising bursaries on a website but not actually offering any is a viable business model. But if the places you’re talking about are small, ‘local’ day schools I imagine they only offer one or two bursaries per year anyway.

What you need is a grand, ancient institution with an enormous amount of money and a well established and generous bursary policy that covers at least ten percent of pupils. But you might have had to begin the application process in yr 6.

If your daughter is already in yr 9 or beyond you may have to wait till she’s preparing for yr 12. And then there may be rather different criteria for entry.

motherstongue Sat 07-Apr-18 10:47:24

As previous posters have said you may have applied outside the normal entry years so the bursary pot may well be allocated, however, it doesn't excuse rudeness from the schools.

Bursaries are real, they are there but you have to accept that the schools are businesses and they want a return for their (bursary) investment. Once I got my head around that and took the emotion out of it I think it was easier to be objective. Generally the schools want the best candidates and they will give the amount of bursary (if they have it available) to secure those candidates first and foremost. They are the students who are most likely to bring something to the school either through academics, sport or the arts. That is the reality in my experience. The amount of applicants normally far outstrips the money available so the schools can afford to be choosy.

A charm offensive on the registrar and highlighting the advantages of your daughter to the school, then discussing how a bursary would enable them to secure such a talented child is, in my experience, the best way to go about it, however, it does help if you child does have the necessary talents in the first place. Make a list of her achievements, her aspirations and goals, her extracurricular etc and then sell those talents. Good luck.

Jon66 Sat 07-Apr-18 10:57:51

Surprised at the response you received. My son received a bursary of a significant reduction in the fees as I was a lone parent and couldn't afford the very high fees this particular school had. They wanted him because of his talent for rugby. I suggest when you next visit a school you really big up your daughter and her academic achievements. However whereas she might be top at the local comprehensive she may well be mediocre at some of the more academic acheiving schools.

ThankstothebursarymyDSs Sat 07-Apr-18 11:24:46

We were given substantial bursaries for my DS's (both now at university) from yr 2 and then one got a very substantial one at secondary. They have a bursary pot of millions and 25% of the school receives one but in reality offer few 100% bursaries most are 70% bursaries. I don't have any difficulty in believing that schools have been unhelpful or ignored you.
My advise is be honest that you'll need one from the moment you start talking to a school but you need to sell your DC first, as others have said most want something in return, be it academic results sporting prowess art etc. I also agree its much harder to get one at non entry points but again I know some who have.
Ultimately for most schools the bursary fund is limited and schools can afford to be choosy. I also think you are probably better looking at "big name" schools with matching big fees and assets/ wealthy past pupils etc which are over subscribed, they are likely to have a bigger bursary pot and also be genuinely more committed to widening access.

Gruach Sat 07-Apr-18 11:37:10

Agree with most of above, although - in my experience it really shouldn’t be necessary for a parent to do much in the way of ‘bigging up’ their child in this context. Enquire/apply at the right time; be certain of a stellar report from the head of their current school; let your child speak for themselves through conversation when visiting and performance in entrance exams and interviews.

If they are sufficiently impressed with the candidate there will then be detailed discussions/ form filling with the parent - but this will be about income and assets - not how clever you think your child is.

SoupDragon Sat 07-Apr-18 11:49:51

The bursaries aren’t non existent, they have simply already been awarded and the schools cannot offer any outside of the normal entry points to the school. I think DSs school has a “pot” equal to, say, 10 full fee places - this can be allocated as 10 full fee places, 100 places with a 10% discount or any combination in between. Once the pot is gone, it’s gone (barring an exceptional child with the talents they want).

EducationOpinionsRUs Sat 07-Apr-18 11:50:20

Also bear in mind:
- that in fact there is no particular level of bursary provision required to satisfy the Charity Commission (there was a brief attempt to impose one, but it was legally challenged and rejected)
- that with very few exceptions, the schools do not have pots of money they don't know how to spend. Bursaries are usually, in effect, provided by other parents paying more than the actual cost of educating their children (in addition of course to also paying tax). You're sounding as though you think because you can't afford it you have a right for those other parents to subsidise you. Do you expect parents who can afford better food, holidays, cars, homes than you can to subsidise those too? Maybe the tone I'm hearing in your posts isn't what you intend to put there - but if the schools are getting the same impression I am, that might explain why you're not getting the responses you'd like.

CookieDoughKid Sat 07-Apr-18 12:21:18

I think don't give up but to request a face to face appointment with the Bursar to understand their application and entry points. You can should have a far more informed and receptive response face to face instead of some admin person who's job it is to reply to emails. Hope this helps. Don't be put off and try other schools but ring them up!

peteneras Sat 07-Apr-18 12:26:20

To be honest, you'd be better off avoiding those schools that gave you the run-around and excuses after excuses re the emails etc. Clearly they have misrepresented themselves about bursaries that they don't have. In normal commercial settings you'd have plenty of avenues to lodge your complaint but this is an educational institution(s). The DfE may be interested to hear your story and like you(?) said earlier, the Charity Commission would most certainly be interested. I'd give both a ring as such misrepresentations cannot be allowed to continue.

ThankstothebursarymyDSs Sat 07-Apr-18 13:16:03

"the Charity Commission would most certainly be interested. I'd give both a ring as such misrepresentations cannot be allowed to continue"
The Charities Commission will not be interested a friend applied for a bursary from a very well known but in retrospect not overly wealthy coed boarding school, their website (at the time) had a whole page devoted to widening access, making their unique education open to all, in line with their founders vision blah blah blah (or something similar). But after she filled in a the bursary application form she heard nothing for 3 moths, after four emails to the bursar she finally received a one line reply, sorry but their bursary fund was not large enough to enable them to offer a bursary to her DD. She felt that their website has seriously misrepresented their ability to offer bursaries so complained to the Charities Commission and received a: sorry you weren't able to get a bursary out of X, we do not state how many bursary or what size a bursary a school has to offer for it to achieve charitable status..
There as said above a number of years ago there was a brief attempt to impose a particular level of bursary proven on independent schools for them to maintain their charitable status but that was overturned. As long as they are doing something charitable: even if its renting out their swimming pool to disabled children then they can be registered charities.
I dont see why the DfE would be interested. These are independent schools surely the clue to their way of working is in the name.

CallYourDadYoureInACult Sat 07-Apr-18 13:22:44

Have you thought about state boarding schools? Far more affordable, some are excellent, and it may be easier to access funding.
For example Wymondham College in Norfolk or St George’s in Harpenden.

There is a State Boarding School Association which might be worth a look.

CraftyGin Sat 07-Apr-18 13:27:32

Well managed independent schools will have a limited bursary fund, and they will have a policy for how they disburse this - typically giving out bursaries, eg 70 - 90%, as poorer families are still not able to afford fees when given a 5 - 20% bursary.

I am assuming that, if your DD is already in senior school, that she wouldn’t be eligible for a bursary in many schools, as their bursary pool will already be allocated.

If you are serious about a school, you at least have to have the courtesy of visiting it.

MarmiteTermite Sat 07-Apr-18 13:35:02

You could always look at the schools accounts as they should detail number of and £ amount of bursaries awarded.

peteneras Sat 07-Apr-18 15:02:04

"These are independent schools surely the clue to their way of working is in the name."

Don't think I need any lessons in how independent schools work nor any clues in a thread to see where or what the problem is. Independent schools are only independent in the way they run their schools including the admissions process; the syllabus and/or the curriculum they choose and offer; the freedom to choose their staff and a host of other miscellaneous things.

However, they do not have the freedom to break the laws of the land in aspects such as e.g. health and safety regulations, DBS checks on staff, statutory requirements to hand over to the DfE and other governmental depts. various annual statistics and data including public examinations performance data, annual accounting reports, etc. So, it's not as simple as you think that an independent school can just do what they like. I reiterated that the DfE may be interested in hearing about the misrepresentations at the schools' websites as this may contravene The Misrepresentation Act (1967?)

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