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Financial Aid Advice

You are keen to explore independent schooling for your child, but what if the fees are just too overwhelming? It doesn’t necessarily mean a place at an independent school is unobtainable. Many schools are actively growing their financial aid funds to enable a wider range of families to access independent education - with everything from scholarships giving 5 percent off school fees to life-changing 110% bursaries on offer.

Financial aid is an important priority for most independent schools - and there has been a real drive to provide financial assistance for the children and families who need it most. Forget those preconceptions about independent schools being the preserve of the privileged: while some parents at the most prestigious schools might be financiers, others work several jobs just to afford the uniform. More families are likely to be eligible for student financial support than you might think.

  • Who qualifies for financial aid?
  • How can you find out whether you are entitled to financial aid?
  • How much of the school fees would this financial support cover?
  • Will it last for the entire duration of your child’s school, or just one year?
  • What about boarding fees, specialist sports coaching and school trips?
  • Does your child have to win a scholarship or be particularly gifted and talented to qualify for a bursary?
  • How intrusive will the experience of means-testing be?
  • How confidential is the process?
It is not always easy to find out the answers, and the application process for financial aid can be daunting – which is where Talk Education comes in. We have quizzed bursars, cut through the financial jargon and dug deep into each school’s thresholds and requirements to arm us with all the knowledge our experienced team needs to help you. Our information is up-to-the-minute, relevant and slices through the marketing speak – so we can tell you exactly what you need to know.

If you are considering applying for a bursary to your chosen school, or would like to know whether you might be eligible for one, go to the Fees and Bursaries box on each school’s page, or visit our dedicated Bursaries Guide. And to find out even more about how we can help you navigate the often complex system of applying for financial aid, talk to our parent advisory team.

Bursaries - the nuts and bolts 

What can we tell you?

Many schools have healthy bursary pots for the right candidate. We can give you an idea of what the income threshold is for each school for a pupil to qualify for financial assistance. We can advise on what the level of support tends to be at each individual school, and whether any bursarial support is dependent on being awarded a scholarship. We can guide you on how to apply for a school bursary, and when. We know which schools might have generous aid available, and which have to be more careful. We also know of those offering specialist scholarships (with accompanied fee assistance) beyond the usual sports, DT, arts, music and academic arenas, such as skiing or horse riding - chess scholarship, anyone? We know how many scholarships schools offer each year, and how fierce the competition might be. Some schools have historical financial provision for children of parents in the armed forces or the church. Important to note: a bursary is most likely to be awarded to a child who not only meets the academic standard of the school but who will gain most from the education on offer and contribute the most to the life of the school.

Bear in mind that applying for a bursary is a long, detailed and necessarily intrusive process - and that you need to be aware of schools’ application deadlines. (It’s also worth saying that most school bursars are nice, patient people who are delighted to hear from potential candidates, so don’t be afraid to pick up the phone to ask their advice).

What can’t we tell you about financial aid?

We won’t be able to specify how much you might receive in terms of financial assistance. This is affected by income, expenditure, your assets, the number of children you have, loans, debts and your financial commitments amongst other things. Applications for financial aid, especially in this climate, are growing, and even if you might be a candidate for a bursary, it is not a given that you will receive one. Each school’s bursary pot, if it has one, is shared between candidates and this might vary year on year. Some schools might not have any assistance available.

What is the difference between a bursary and a scholarship?

Scholarships are offered to pupils who show exceptional talent in academics, sports, art, music, DT, drama and so on. They are not related to family income. Many senior school scholarships do not come hand in hand with a large fee reduction (5-10% is common, although some schools do offer up to 50% off fees for selected scholarships). Some scholarships are wholly honorary - glory over cash! - and more schools are moving towards this model. Heads up - scholarships are often hard-won: sports scholarships often require children to play at least to county level in one or more sports; music scholarships can demand significantly more expertise and ability than top grades in music exams.

Bursary aid can be offered to parents who require financial assistance with school fees. They are strictly means-tested and although they require children to pass the usual entrance requirements, they are not usually dependent on a child winning a scholarship (although occasionally they are). Some students are awarded ‘life-changing’ bursaries which cover 100% of the school fees, plus uniform, music lessons and other extras (sometimes referred to as 110% bursaries). Others may access only 10% of the school fees, topping up what the family can afford. Schools tend to use the terms ‘partial bursary’ (eg 30-50%) and ‘transformational bursary’ (eg 80-110%).

Many children hold both scholarships and bursaries.

It’s also worth noting that many schools are struggling to find transformational bursary recipients, especially in affluent areas, and that many have raised their threshold for eligibility in order to attract more partial bursary applicants. To find out more, talk to our team.

How much financial assistance can you expect to receive?

Sadly, we can't answer this. Bursarial support depends not only on your family circumstances but also on the situation of the individual school or school group. Some schools, much as they would love to offer generous bursaries, do not have the ability to allow this. Others have large endowments and are eager to find the right candidates to spend it on. Traditionally, senior schools had a greater ability to help families than prep schools, although this is changing. Girls’ schools were traditionally less well-endowed than the larger boys’ schools, but now the Girls’ Day School Trust has a strong bursary provision. This is the same for some London day schools.

Is a bursary for life?

Not necessarily, if your financial circumstances change. Bursaries are generally awarded for the whole of a child’s time at a school but reviewed annually with the school retaining the right to increase or decrease the award depending on the financial circumstances of the family.

Read the small print

If you receive and accept a bursary from a school, make sure you’ve understood all the terms on which this has been awarded. Do you need to give a longer notice period than the usual term’s notice if you need to withdraw your child from the school? Do you have to pay back any bursarial help if you leave the school early?

Will Talk Education share your information with schools?

Absolutely not. You can tell us as much or as little about your circumstances as you wish, and any information shared with us will be treated with the utmost confidentiality. We will not pass it onto any school or third party.