Independent schools are commonly portrayed as elitist, expensive and out of reach for most families. At a recent meeting of prep school heads in the south-west region, the chief executive of the Independent Association of prep Schools (IAPS), Christopher King, spoke about independent schools’ lack of friends in government and the narrative being against ‘us’. You can find negative independent school press coverage without looking too hard.
The opening remarks for an article in The Conversation in February 2019 states: “Private schools tend to be richly resourced and expensive, so those children lucky enough to attend them normally receive a good education, with academic advantages enhanced by a range of extra-curricular activities. But while this might be great to private pupils these schools pose a serious problem for Britain’s education system and society”. The article, written by Francis Green, professor of labour economics and skills development at UCL, goes on to describe private education as “very socially exclusive” and “unfair and unequal”.
In April 2019, the Social Mobility Commission released their State of the Nation report, which says: “They (independent schools) are better resourced than schools in the state sector and they are increasingly financially inaccessible for significant proportions of the population. Those who attend are disproportionately drawn from society’s richest families and benefit from better outcomes in life”.
I would counter the reality is very different. Of course affordability is a key element, but not all independent schools are out of reach financially and many are making themselves more financially accessible as a key element of their admissions process. There are two main ways:
Most, if not all, independent schools offer scholarships and bursary schemes. Scholarships are typically financial awards given to pupils on the basis of outstanding academic or other (sport/music/art etc.) performance. Bursaries are financially means-tested and are awarded solely on the basis of the financial circumstances – usually household income.
Barnaby Lenon, Chairman of the Independent Schools Council (ISC) said in his introduction to John Claughton’s recent book ‘Transforming young lives: fundraising for bursaries’: “All independent school leaders want to take pupils from a wide range of backgrounds. In the experience of most, this leads to a happier and more interesting school”. According to the ISC’s annual census 2019, a total of 176, 633 pupils received help with their fees, representing 34% of all pupils.
At Knighton House, we have just re-launched our 100% Booker Scholarship Award now in its second year to attract local Dorset girls to Knighton House. In addition to awarding a 100% scholarship (which covers the entirety of their day fees while they are at Knighton House), we also offer reduced (financial) scholarships as well as means-tested bursaries. As a result, last year’s intake was the best in recent years and succeeded in attracting several local families who otherwise would not have considered Knighton House as an option for their daughter.
Attracting local talented girls and their families to the community has been transformative for us as a school. Seeing the girls flourish and develop at Knighton House whilst they won’t make the political headlines, has been, and continues to be, a fulfilment of our broader out-reach aims of making the school as accessible (financially) as possible.
“……who otherwise would not have considered Knighton House”, broadens our intake and makes us a better and more interesting school.
— Written by Mr Robin Gainher, Headmaster —