How do scholarships and bursaries work? A guide for parents.

Last Updated: 06 May 24
Three young students, in formal school uniform, at a UK Public School.

If you are interested in an Independent School education for your child, but cannot afford the full school fees, it may be worth considering making an application for a Scholarship or a Bursary.



Most Independent Schools offer Scholarships to attract the most talented pupils to their school. These scholarships can be focused on academic, sporting, musical, or artistic achievement or some combination of these. Scholarships awarded by the more established and bigger brand schools (Eton, Winchester, Harrow, ...) with large foundations, can be financially significant. The majority of Scholarships awarded by most Independent Schools are now less about financial value and more purely honorary, resulting in a status within the school or a name on the honours board. Most of these scholarships are worth between 0% and 10% in fee discount.

Be honest ... if your child is doing well, above average in their current good State Primary School, but not an outstanding academic, sports star or musician, then they are probably not destined to become a scholar. If your child was reading at three, knew all their times tables at four and was reading demanding books at six, then you may wish to have them assessed by a teacher, to give a view on their current achievement and future potential as a Scholar.

Scholarships are highly competitive. You will need to be informed and have done your research into the various schools. You will also need to invest in time and expertise to help prepare your child for their Scholarship Exams and Assessments. Do not pressure your child, who, of course, will want to do well and succeed. Approach it with an attitude of "Let us give it a go!"



Most Independent Schools now divert their funds towards Bursaries to encourage talented children from less well-off families to join. Bursaries can be worth up to 100% of school fees, though most are much less than this. The value of the Bursary is determined by means-testing a family's financial circumstances (including income and assets). The threshold for family income to award a Bursary can be high, around £50 to £60k.

Bursary Interviews take place throughout the year before entry. Be honest in answering all the questions and providing the detailed information required. Bursary awards are reviewed annually and can flex up and down a little, though the agreed intention is to keep the student at the school for the long term.

Be reassured that schools do not publish lists or identify those students who hold Bursaries. Confidence is kept throughout the process.

It is also possible for a child to be awarded both a Scholarship and a Bursary, so do not hesitate to ask the school if they would consider this.

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