What’s the best way to bag the best stu­dents?

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Front Page -

have par­ents who say they’re not in­ter­ested in schol­ar­ships be­cause it just adds more stress, and some chil­dren don’t want to be sin­gled out and have ex­tra work to do,” Wal­lis adds. At Head­ing­ton School in Ox­ford, schol­ars are of­fered the op­por­tu­nity to go on ad­di­tional trips and at­tend talks, as well as take part in spe­cial so­cial events, says the head­mistress, Caro­line Jor­dan. Aca­demic schol­ars are ex­pected to con­tinue per­form­ing at a suit­able level, while drama, mu­sic and sports schol­ars take part in the wider life of the school.

“We ex­pect them to en­gage with what­ever schol­ar­ship they have got,” she says. “If they’re a sports scholar, we ex­pect them to be in­volved in sports teams.”

Schol­ar­ships at Head­ing­ton, worth £300 a year, are awarded at 11, 13 and the sixth form. The process is dif­fer­ent at each stage, but all in­clude an exam and in­ter­view. “We’re look­ing for some­thing on top of be­ing able to pass the en­trance exam,” Jor­dan says.

Awards gen­er­ally cover the re­main­der of the child’s time at school, but can be taken away. “Schol­ars have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to lead,” says Fleck. “In the past I have re­moved schol­ar­ships for poor be­hav­iour or where they have failed to set a proper ex­am­ple.”

Stu­dents may also re­lin­quish their schol­ar­ship vol­un­tar­ily. A pupil who joins the school as a mu­sic scholar at 11 may re­lin­quish their schol­ar­ship if his or her in­ter­ests change.

But Jor­dan says most do not find it too oner­ous. “They cope very well. All our girls want to achieve their very best,” she adds. “I wouldn’t say there was un­due pres­sure for them to do well. They do have to keep work­ing at a high level, but they do that be­cause of the sup­port they get and they en­joy work­ing hard.”

As well as sat­is­fy­ing the Char­ity Com­mis­sion, schol­ar­ships help to at­tract able stu­dents. “Schools are com­pet­ing for tal­ent and it is a means by which to en­cour­age en­try into the school,” says Fleck. “It is no dif­fer­ent to an em­ployer of­fer­ing dif­fer­en­tial ben­e­fits.”

Bur­saries play a dif­fer­ent role — they are in­tended to sup­port able stu­dents whose fam­i­lies would not oth­er­wise be able to af­ford the fees, while schol­ar­ships re­ward abil­ity re­gard­less of means. At Froe­be­lian School, a prep school near Leeds, all fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance is in the form of bur­saries, and head­mas­ter John Tran­mer, a for­mer chair­man of the In­de­pen­dent As­so­ci­a­tion of Prep Schools, says that of­fer­ing places to less af­flu­ent fam­i­lies is an im­por­tant part of their ethos. “It is about so­cial diver­sity,” he says. “When you charge fees there is ex­clu­siv­ity built in, but we want to be able to of­fer our ed­u­ca­tion to peo­ple who would not nor­mally be able to af­ford it.”

Bur­sary ap­pli­ca­tions nor­mally in­volve de­tail­ing a fam­ily’s fi­nan­cial cir­cum­stances, tak­ing into ac­count as­sets as well as in­come. And at some schools, bur­saries are based on abil­ity as well as need. “The pot is very lim­ited and we feel it should be for peo­ple who re­ally need it and have got the most aca­demic po­ten­tial,” says Jo MacKen­zie, head­mistress of Bed­ford Girls’ School.

Both the Char­ity Com­mis­sion and the In­de­pen­dent Schools Coun­cil are known to favour bur­saries over schol­ar­ships and this seems likely to rep­re­sent the fu­ture for such sup­port. But for now, the two gate­ways to ex­cel­lence con­tinue to co-ex­ist.

For ad­vice on bur­saries visit isc.co.uk, iaps.org.uk or good­schools­guide.co.uk; for a list of schol­ar­ships at Head Mas­ters' Con­fer­ence schools visit hmc.org.uk

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