Frequently Asked Questions
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A lack of financial resources need not be a barrier to your child attending an independent school.
Approximately a third of pupils at independent schools are in receipt of some fee assistance - that is over 170,000 pupils.
Nearly a billion pounds are given every year in the form of scholarships, bursaries and other awards.
Each year, over five thousand pupils receive means-tested financial assistance of 100% of the fees.
What does the term “Fee Assistance” mean?
Fee Assistance is a reduction in the fees. This includes scholarships, exhibitions, bursaries, awards for children of the clergy, awards for children whose parents are serving in the forces, reductions for siblings, etc.
What is the difference between a Scholarship and a Bursary? What is an exhibition?
A scholarship is awarded on merit. It is often independent of your financial situation, although some schools offer means-tested scholarships. A bursary is means-tested and therefore takes into account your financial circumstances. An exhibition tends to be awarded to those who have reached a level just below that of a scholarship. See our factsheets for more information.
I know nothing about scholarships and bursaries. Where do I start?
We suggest you explore the whole of our website which is designed to give you all the information you need. In particular we suggest you look at our factsheets, starting with those in the Introduction to Fee Assistance section.
How do I find out about the scholarships and bursaries offered by schools?
You can either search for schools on our Search for Schools page and then explore school profiles to find the awards offered by each school, or you can search for awards on our Search for Awards page which shows all the awards offered by all the schools. Once you have an idea of the awards and schools that are of interest to you, we suggest you explore in more detail by looking at the school websites and by contacting the schools. At the top of each school profile there is a link to enable you to email the school directly. Some schools also provide a direct link to their website.
How low does my income have to be to qualify my family for a bursary?
Whether your family qualify for a bursary will depend on a multitude of factors including your level of income. Some schools specify a family income cut off level, below which they will consider bursary applications. The level varies considerably between schools. It can be higher than you might think. Some schools have low limits, such as £20,000 a year or below, others have much higher limits, extending to over £100,000 per year.
Is it really possible to be offered an award of 100% of the fees?
Yes it is possible to be awarded full remission of the fees. Such high awards are much sought after and difficult to get but they do exist and they are possible to attain. Schools often have specific awards which are aimed at those in need of full remission of the fees.
What sort of talents does a child have to possess to be suitable for a scholarship?
Awards are most frequently given for ability and potential in academic work, music, sport, art, design technology, drama and dance but awards are also offered less frequently in a wider range of pursuits. See the Scholarship section of our Factsheets and Worksheet page for more information.
Are there awards aimed specifically at pupils from state schools?
Yes, some awards are aimed specifically at pupils from state schools and have entrance assessments appropriate to the work they have covered.
What are the ages at which the majority of scholarships and bursaries are offered?
The most usual ages at which awards are offered tend to be the natural points of transition within independent education, that is 7+, 11+, 13+ and 16+, however awards can be offered at any age. Search for awards for entry at any age on our Search for Awards page.
My child has special educational needs; will that mean that being awarded a scholarship or bursary is impossible?
Schools have differing facilities and support for children with special educational needs, so firstly you will need to check whether the school would be able to meet your child’s needs. With regard to assessments for an award, some schools are able to make special provision for special needs, for example allowing extra time for dyslexic children.
What financial information do we need to provide to schools when applying for a bursary?
It is advisable to have your financial affairs in good order well in advance so that whatever information schools ask you for, you are able to lay your hands on it reasonably easily. Schools will vary in the information they request but broadly speaking they will want to see details of all your assets and liabilities with supporting documentation. See our factsheet FM-F8: Financial Information Required for Bursary Applications on the Factsheets and Worksheets page.
What sort of assessments might my child have to go through to win an award?
In general there will be an evaluation of ability and potential in the chosen fields, an academic assessment, and interviews. This varies between schools so it is best to discuss it with your chosen schools.
Will we fit in socially if my child takes up a place at school which we could not afford without fee assistance? I worry that the other parents and children will not accept us.
It is important to remember that a significant proportion of parents at independent schools are in receipt of some sort of financial help, so you are not alone. Scholarships are a great honour and those who achieve them are often accorded an enhanced status. It is usually a condition of bursaries that they are kept secret, so it is unlikely that anyone will know that you receive one. How comfortable you and your child feel at a school is best determined by visiting the school and being guided by your instincts.
I am a single parent and my child’s other parent refuses to help towards school fees. Will my child’s other parent’s income be taken into account when I apply for a bursary?
This is a difficult situation. It is best to lay your cards on the table and be honest about your circumstances. Schools will have different ways of handling these sorts of situations and some may be able to help you whilst others may not be able to do so.
My daughter has been offered a scholarship at a boarding school. She is quite keen on boarding but I am afraid she does not have a realistic idea of what boarding is and may be unhappy. Also I worry that my friends will feel I am abandoning my parental duties by sending my daughter off to boarding school and that my relationship with my daughter will suffer due to our separation.
Boarding school offers many exciting and worthwhile opportunities and benefits to children. In comparing boarding and day schooling, there will be many factors for you to weigh up. To find out more about boarding see our factsheets, particularly the Boarding section (link). Also see our Experiences page to read real-life experiences of boarders and their parents.