Education Experts respond to call for social mobility in UK’s independent school sector.
Leading names in UK Independent school admissions and marketing weigh in on David Goodhew’s plea for more focus on social mobility, bursaries and scholarships in Independent School Admissions Plus Magazine.
“Few things can compare with the opportunity to transform a young person’s life-chances”
In the first issue of the new online and print magazine published by William Clarence School Services, Head of Latymer Upper School, David Goodhew, urged Independent schools to step up efforts to level the admissions playing field for lower-income families by improving access to scholarships and bursaries and promoting social mobility.
Since the Summer 2019 issue landed on desks of Independent school admissions and marketing professionals worldwide in May, leading names in the sector have emerged in support of Goodhew’s plea, while others raised questions surrounding the funding and implementation of such an approach.
Here are just a couple of the responses…
“Let’s spare a thought for all those full fee payers who contribute significantly to a school’s financial health”
Phillippa Scudds, School Marketing and Communications Consultant at Cathcart Communications, recognises the positives of a more diverse talent-pool in independent schools, but urged admissions departments not to downplay the role of fee-paying families in helping the sector thrive:
“When our children were at Prep School, I remember a fellow parent bemoaning the fact that they seemed to be the only family in the year group paying out the full published fees due to a significant number of fee reductions offered in that particular cohort, both bursaries and scholarships.
I don’t think anyone would question the value and importance of offering means tested bursary support in order to broaden opportunities for children who would benefit from an independent education but who would otherwise be unable to access it. Equally, I suspect few would see offering a scholarship award to pupils in recognition of a particular high-level talent as a negative. But amidst all the current publicity surrounding bursary support, let’s spare a thought for all those full fee payers who contribute significantly to a school’s financial health, not to mention the contribution their children make to the diversity of the pupil body.
A piece by Anthony Millard written recently in this same vein made me almost shout out at the computer screen ‘At last! Someone’s been brave enough to stick their head above the parapet!’ As anyone working in independent schools knows only too well, it’s a myth that all full fee payers are rich oligarchs. The majority are hard working families whose parents both have full time jobs and make significant sacrifices in order to send their child to an independent school, sometimes with additional support from other family members. If their child is not top of the talent pool, or the parents’ income is just over a bursary means testing threshold, they are still very much wanted by any school. It’s vital to ensure they feel just as included and important as all those who, for very good reasons, are fortunate enough to receive a fee reduction - throughout the Admissions process and beyond.”
“How do you sort the wheat of scholarships from the chaff of bursaries, and what would your fees be if there were no bursaries?”
Hilary Moriarty, former National Director of The Boarding Schools Association, raised that the increase in bursaries would affect school budgeting in the future:
“Social mobility is a big issue for even the best-endowed school.
Bursaries make an independent school affordable for families who could not pay the fees without support. In many cases, schools are redistributing hard cash which brought them into being with completely charitable intent – as at Red Maids’ School, originally founded for ‘forty poor women of this parish, their parents being deceased or decayed.’
But governors and staff walk a tightrope in deciding how cash is distributed. No administration wants to announce defeat – ‘We are now bankrupt. . .sorry. . .’ So the original foundation is precious, not to be squandered. How do you ensure that financial help in the form of bursaries which reduce fees is actually reaching the right people? And are you supporting poorer children not with foundation riches, but with the day to day hard cash of wealthier parents? ‘Here is a bursary – tell me again who is paying for it?’ Good question, worth exploring. Worth a well-considered policy – how do you sort the wheat of scholarships from the chaff of bursaries, and what would your fees be if there were no bursaries?”
Add your voice to the conversation surrounding the future of social mobility and bursaries in the independent school sector by joining Independent School Admission Plus’ dedicated discussion group on LinkedIn.
Read David Goodhew’s article, ‘It’s a Win-Win Situation’, in full in the first issue of Independent School Admissions Plus Magazine.