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Bursary private school ?

(41 Posts)
AMxx Sun 03-Feb-19 13:08:18

I'm looking for some guidance on secondary school bursaries.

Situation as follows:
-Live with my DS in my parents home as I can't afford my own + childcare for work.
-Catchment secondary is a failing school, known for drug and other issues. Worst results in the county.

I can't move so I'm looking into whether a bursary could be an option for an independent school. Where I can't find any information is whether my parents home / pension would be considered ''house hold income''. Neither are in great health but have the space for us to live here, which given we don't have any other option bar social housing seems better. I don't want to jeopardize them, or even involve them but want to try and avoid DS ending up at the catchment school.

Any experience of this gratefully received!

OP’s posts: |
happygardening Sun 03-Feb-19 13:25:40

Have you searched this topic on MN loads of stuff. Basically every school is different although I very much doubt any school would take your parents assets/pension into consideration.
You need to contact the bursar of the school(s) you're interested in rather than just reading their websites and have an honest talk about your financial situation and gauge their response.
In the vast majority of cases bursaries are means tested and attached to scholarships and often academic scholarships, competition for scholarships is fierce and those form prep schools are well prepared.
Secondly look at the very big name Eton Winchester (other are full boarding only) SPS etc they have assets and are all trying to move needs blind admissions policy (no scholarship needed) and Christs Hospital is the other one to consider (again no scholarship needed) but you may not have any appetite for boarding.
From previous posts on here very large bursaries (>75%) are few and far between so realistically must consider other options to improve your state options.

mimbleandlittlemy Mon 04-Feb-19 17:18:49

The brutal truth with bursaries is that your child has to be worth it to the school to fork out all the money they constantly ask the rich parents to cough up to keep the bursary pot full for the kids they want who can't afford it. They will have to be at the top of the pack academically and ideally have something else - sport, art, music, drama, chess - that the school would like.

We were in an almost similar position in that we live with an elderly relative but all the forms I had to fill in were about my income and outgoings, not the relative's. My ds didn't get offered a bursary to any of the 3 schools we tried for - the year we tried I was told by each school (all ones regularly mentioned on this forum) that the bursaries that year went to kids who had scored in excess of 90% in the entrance exams and my ds got in the 80s. We were offered a place at one school if we could pay the fees so we had to turn it down. He went to the Requires Improvement comp up the road and has just got a raft of 8s and 9s at GCSE and is now in the Sixth Form there.

If you go down the bursary route you must have a realistic plan B. MN is a great place for people telling you how their children are on full bursaries to the point where you'd think they were handed out like Smarties, but I wonder how many people don't admit to the disappointment when their child didn't get one and they have to face the fact that it's the local state school, not the unaffordable local private. I always said to my DS that we couldn't afford it without a bursary, that it didn't matter if he didn't get in to the private schools, that the school up the road was fine and on the whole that's what it has turned out to be. We've had some ups and downs but I have a lot of friends with kids in private schools who have had quite impressive ups and downs too. My main advice is do not bad mouth the state school or say things like "I don't know what we'll do if you don't get in to this school and you have to go to the failing school...". That pressure is too much for them at 10 years old.

MrsPatmore Mon 04-Feb-19 17:59:23

AMxx, I think they will consider your income only but as previous posters have said, have a phone conversation with the bursars about your circumstances- I'm sure they will have come up against this situation before. As others have said bursaries are normally awarded to those with some sort of edge, be that academically, sporting, musical etc and can be combined with scholarships to 'top up' the pot. Note that bursaries may or may not include help with uniform which can be costly (although second hand sales are popular). You may get a percentage off the compulsory educational trips but not the non compulsory ones. You will probably have to pay for lunches etc. Even with a full bursary it is not cost free.

happygardening Mon 04-Feb-19 20:39:10

Eton I believe will cover the whole lot uniform trips etc if your finances a deemed to be inadequate to cover the cost but boatding may not be on your radar.
Winchester will give you an idea of the likely size of bursary even before your DS has been interviewed in yr 6 in fact I believe even before you register your DS to enable you to decide if the reduction is sufficient to for you to persue the admissions process. Both work on the basis that if you’ve been offered a provisional place at yr 6 then you are what the school is looking for so you do not have to be at the very top of the intake.

Toomuchpressure169 Mon 04-Feb-19 22:18:48

Hello AMxx

I am fortunate to have two children on healthy bursaries at two different good London day schools. Every school assesses your means according to their own criteria. It will not include your parent’s home or any of their assets - just your own so no need to worry about that.

Most schools need to retain their charitable status by having a bursary fund for children like yours. I wouldn’t say both of mine were at the top of the top set however they both hovered in the top 25% of their year group. Neither were particularly musical, though both sing in the choir and neither were outstanding at sport. They were just above average in intelligence but were good all rounders who could hold their own and think independently. They also had a good sense of humour. It is such an anomaly - why not have a go? The worst a school can say is no. Good luck!

AMxx Tue 05-Feb-19 02:50:33

Thanks so much all for your comments, I’ve come to the right place!

So I’m targeting one of the big boarding names but not in London. Fees are almost 40k well, over my net annual earnings.. DS is a hearty all rounder: academic, sporty, choir, coding etc but not scholarship material. My situation has other oddities to the extent I live with my parents in an area where house prices are beyond obscene (like 10-15 X my salary...). We became homeless 6 years ago connected with divorce so I landed here without much choice. If I attempt to move I’ll be in court before you can blink. Aside from school I also need to secure housing for us longer term, for which I’m saving but hope to buy a small place soon. I don’t relish discussing all this but will need to suck it up. I’m wondering if any one has an idea of income thresholds? I’m a single parent who works full time. DS father makes a small contribution but this will stop in a couple of years. He will not under any circumstances contribute, to school but wondering if his earnings would need to be declared? If yes this could be a non starter as he would never agree to divulge. Thanks so much in advance!

OP’s posts: |
Uptheshard Tue 05-Feb-19 02:59:43


peteneras Tue 05-Feb-19 07:47:50

"So I’m targeting one of the big boarding names but not in London."

How old is your DS, AMxx? Don't mean to discourage you but fees at the big boarding names are >£40K p.a. and that's only the fees alone - not including any extras e.g. uniform, music, trips, subscriptions, etc. And big boarding names with big bursaries don't come any bigger than [[ this!

What you are initially looking for here is very unlikely to happen for you. Even if you do succeed in getting a "substantial " bursary from any of the ordinary independents, it's going to be tough going in the long run given your circumstances. And no, they don't take your aged parents' assets and income into consideration when deciding.

But what can miraculously happen (and I do believe in miracles) is for your son to win one of the scholarships mentioned above (see above link). If he succeeds, then you can say bye-bye to your financial worries - forever! Please study the link carefully and give it a go. You have absolutely nothing to lose and it won't cost you anything. Even if you find travelling to Eton financially difficult, the School may reimburse you if you talk to them first.

peteneras Tue 05-Feb-19 07:55:10

Link failed.

Try here!

AMxx Tue 05-Feb-19 09:09:51

Thank you Peteneras, I realise I have quite a mountain to climb - but I'm willing to live extremely frugally as we do today. I save virtually everything I earn and having done so religiously will allow me to fund housing with the help of a mortgage in the near term. The boarding fees are just a snippet shy of 40K per annum. With a decent bursary and continued frugality I believe I can make end meet on ancillary costs. My DS will be 10 in a few weeks and indeed without bursary this is nothing but a pipe dream. I too believe in miracles, but I also believe that if you don't try you have no chance to succeed. The worst that can happen is they refuse the bursary, in which case nothing ventured nothing gained.

OP’s posts: |
happygardening Tue 05-Feb-19 16:07:36

OP you'd be wise to try for a few schools (having spoken to their bursars) competition for places at one of the very 'big boarding names" especially the boys schools can be fierce bursary or no bursary.

User2827 Wed 06-Feb-19 09:54:50

As a single parent I applied for independent day school bursaries for my child a few years ago and he was offered bursary places at all. My ex was required to complete the financial forms as well, as the child is considered to be the financial responsibility of both parents. The forms can be completed separately, so your ex would not have to disclose any financial information to you but he could send it directly to the bursar. The information required is quite intrusive though, it includes providing bank statements, credit card statements, mortgage/rental information, payslips/P60 etc. You and your ex may also be required to have a home visit carried out either by a specialist company or the bursars themselves. Also note that financial information for bursaries needs to be provided every year, in case you have a change of circumstances.

There may be schools which will only require the financial details of the parent with whom the child lives, but you would need to check with the bursars of the schools which you are interested in.

Also do check what will and will not be covered by the bursary and whether or not the bursary will increase to cover the annual fee increases.

AMxx Wed 06-Feb-19 11:15:34

Hi User2827

Thank you, this is very helpful. My ex wouldn't mind disclosing his income to me, its more he'll refuse as he will absolutely not make any financial contribution. If my ex income is considered then this closes the matter as he earns far too much and has assets such that it would be impossible to see any need to award a bursary. I appreciate you sharing & I will check with the bursar! I am concerned regard a home visit as my parents home. I would not want their assets considered simply because we reside here..

OP’s posts: |
Loungewearfan Wed 06-Feb-19 11:20:58

Bursaries will cover absolutely everything in some schools, including trips if they are deemed to be educationally worthwhile.
The ones that have direct experience of are Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Wally Hall.

It’s worth a go, I know personally of five children on full or part bursaries. The only thing that I would say is that three of them got them following a bursary from moving to a prep (on a bursary) at age 11-13.

User2827 Wed 06-Feb-19 11:28:24

Don't worry too much about the home visit. If it is needed, it's usually to go through the financial form with you and deal with any queries that they might have. Your parents' assets etc should not be relevant to the bursary application.

dietcokemegafan Wed 06-Feb-19 11:30:13

I'd be amazed if you'll get a bursary on the basis that the father, who is wealthy, won't contribute. It would be an easy loophole for many families to exploit.

User2827 Wed 06-Feb-19 11:49:17

It's really sad when fathers who can easily afford to pay for an independent education, and have the ability to give their child a better life in accordance with their income, choose not to do so. More often than not out of spite for the mother for daring to leave them. It's the child that suffers without the financial support not the mother. But that's another separate issue.

OP could you try and get your ex involved in the process of choosing the secondary school, go to open days for both the independent and state schools- let him see what is and isn't available? "Encourage" him to see what would be best for his child?

happygardening Wed 06-Feb-19 12:05:34

I cant strongly suggest enough that before you go to any open days/tours etc and you and your DS like the school(s) that you have an open and honest conversation with the bursars at the schools you are interested in. Your situation is not “standard” no school will have the same bursary policy or more importantly the same amount of money in its bursary pot, people on here can only speculate as to possible outcomes you need to speak to those who can give you definitive answers.

happygardening Wed 06-Feb-19 12:07:15

As a poster on here once said bursars are used to talking to people about their money or lack of it you don’t need to be embarrassed or shy!!

MissWimpyDimple Wed 06-Feb-19 19:05:13

At our school the income threshold is roughly 35k for potential "full" bursary with a sliding scale up to around 80k.

Bursaries will usually go to those who do best on the entrance exam. Few offer 100% but some do.

DD is good academically but not outstanding, and gets 95%.

They did not consider ex's situation when assessing.

Bare in mind, lunches, uniform, trips etc as these are rarely covered.

MissWimpyDimple Wed 06-Feb-19 19:06:26

Sorry that sounded awful. DD is amazing obviously but probably top 20% rather than top 5% if you see what I mean!

happygardening Wed 06-Feb-19 22:48:51

If the OP is looking at full boarding with fees coming in at £40k+ pa then the income threshold for a full bursary is going to be a lot higher than £35k pa.

Sarahandduck18 Thu 07-Feb-19 07:12:33

Why does it have to be boarding?

From my knowledge of my local schools you wouldn’t be eligible.

Dad would be expected to contribute.

And if you have enough savings for a house deposit they would expect you to use that for fees too.

QuaterMiss Thu 07-Feb-19 07:39:06

Why does it have to be boarding?

One reason Sarah is that the very well known boarding schools are also very wealthy, and keen to offer bursaries to children they want who would not otherwise have any way of attending the school.

Secondly, in situations such as the OP's, a boarding school may well consider the familial benefit of having a child board - thus freeing the single parent to pursue (perhaps) wider employment possibilities. (This is sometimes included in the guidance to filling out bursary application forms.)

OP it's worth a shot. The bursaries only go to people who apply!

The one other thing you will need to consider (assuming your son's father has PR) is that a school may want his signature on the acceptance forms - and some fathers have been known to use 'boarding' as a stick to beat a mother with ... But it depends entirely on individual circumstances and the school's procedure.

They are very unlikely to take any interest in your parents' income or assets as long as these are considered to be within the limits of 'normal'.

The other important thing is that your son has to want this himself! Applications and entrance exams can take a lot of energy over a longish period - he'll need a fair degree of optimism and resilience.

If you're successful it will be worth the effort. Even if not, that effort will stand him in good stead at any school.

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