What are scholarships and bursaries?

"I joined the school at age 11. Every day was an adventure, I never looked back. I enjoyed the sport, house social activities and the open fresh air. I even enjoyed learning. My house parents believed in me and encouraged me to achieve. Kingham gave me a family, a home and my faith. It also gave me the interpersonal skills, confidence and independence required to move on with my life." Boarding pupil on a bursary at Kingham Hill School.

Many independent schools (private schools) offer financial assistance in the form of bursaries to pupils who can demonstrate the need for financial support, and scholarships to very talented pupils.


What is a bursary?

A bursary is a grant, awarded to a pupil to enable them to study at an independent (private) school, when they might not be able to otherwise. Independent schools offer means-tested fee assistance, to widen access for families from all walks of life.

Transforming children’s lives through bursaries

The total value of means-tested bursaries and scholarships provided by schools currently stands at £483m per year. Demonstrating schools’ commitment to helping children of all backgrounds thrive during their time in education.

Bursary fundraising programmes

Many ISC schools have fundraising programmes so that they can offer financial help to families who may not otherwise be able to afford the school fees. The funds are used to award means-tested bursaries.

A third of pupils receive fee assistance

One third of pupils at ISC schools receive fee assistance.

Help with school fees

Bursaries are means-assessed on a financial basis and will require a parent or guardian to complete a declaration to establish whether the student meets the necessary criteria. This is usually re-assessed each year that the bursary is required.

The school looks at what it is reasonable for you to afford and sets a fee accordingly. Some schools are able to offer greater bursary provision than others.

At Christ’s Hospital School, a boarding school in Sussex, most of the pupils are on greatly reduced fees or pay nothing at all.

Reigate Grammar School funds over 170 means tested bursaries each year and is committed to widening access through bursaries. The school sees this as part of its core moral purpose. Its award-winning Changing Lives philanthropic fundraising campaign was launched in 2014 and in addition to Reigate's continuing and growing general bursary support, the school launched the Nightingale Fund this year to provide bursaries for NHS and other care professionals, in recognition of their heroic efforts helping others during the pandemic.

The details of fee assistance will always be found on the schools’ websites. If anything is not clear, contact the school’s admissions office. Some schools may require you to apply a long time in advance.

Schools have different age points of entry such as age 5, 7, 11, 13, and 16. The numbers of bursaries and scholarships on offer vary according to age of entry but tend to be more numerous for older pupils.

Help with school uniform costs

For families with low incomes, some schools have a fund which contributes to the costs of extras such as uniform, books and school trips.


What are scholarships?

Scholarships are a form of financial aid available to pupils who are particularly strong either academically, or in music, sport or art. Both scholarships and bursaries can be awarded to children at the same time. Scholarships are not usually means-tested but instead based on the child's abilities.

Parents or guardians should contact the admissions department of the individual schools you are interested in, as schools will have their own fee assistance programmes.

Search for schools offering school fee assistance

To find schools with financial assistance options, use the ISC School Search. When looking on a school's website, information about bursaries and scholarships is likely to be in the 'admissions’ section.

Scholarships are available  for talented pupils

Scholarships are available for pupils who are particularly talented.