By Simon Worthy, Prestfelde School's Bursar

Private schooling is more accessible than you might think. Hundreds of thousands of pupils across the UK are enjoying the benefits of independent schooling without having to pay full fees. Here are a few tips about applications for scholarships and bursaries. 

Access to small class sizes, excellent facilities, and investment in sports, arts, drama and music - the benefits of private schools  might not be out of reach even for families on low incomes, if you make the right approach to schools.

Every indication in the independent sector suggests there is increasing support for parents who could not otherwise afford
or even consider independent schooling. After the Assisted Places Scheme was abolished in 1997, schools have filled the gap with bursaries.

Some senior schools nowadays can even award 110 per cent bursaries - to include extra money for things such as uniform and trips. You will find schools with £35,000-plus boarding fees helping those from deprived areas by paying full fees.

If you consider that your child would benefit significantly from an education at an independent school, then fee assistance is certainly worth exploring.

There are generally two recognised means of accessing fee reductions, scholarships and bursaries:


Although the scales are tipping in favour of bursaries in many schools, scholarships are still awarded in recognition of particular academic process, or talents in subjects such as sports, music, drama, art and design. Children will go through some sort of assessment. Awards are generally in the region of five to 20 per cent fee reductions. Scholarship examinations can be tough, but many schools have advice and past papers on their websites. Parents are best placed to judge whether their child will suit this method of applying. Visit for an excellent advanced UK-wide search facility - you can narrow  your search down by region, areas of subject interest and scholarship types. If you are unsuccessful when your child is seven, try again at 11 or 12 and again when they are 14 or 15 - the secret is to apply a year before the proposed entry date. If your child does not fit into these age brackets, it is still worth speaking to the school.


Bursaries are means tested and are available to those of reduced circumstances. It is worth nothing that one third of privately educated students in Britain do receive some financial assistance. At Prestfelde, we would look at the family circumstances as a whole. More is taken into account than just income. If your income is higher than average, but you have significant outgoings we would still consider your application. Assets and liabilities are taken into account. We fully understand you are entitled to a roof over your head. It isn't a straightforward process, but it is worth pursuing if it gets children to where they will be happiest and most successful in the long run.


There are other strategies to help parents afford fees, such as investing early, saving from birth, or involving other family members (setting up trusts, for example) as well as making sure you have taken full advantage of any scholarships or bursaries on offer. There are also educational charities which may help - Often their focus will be on vulnerable and at risk children, for whom, due to extreme circumstances, boarding school life would be a stable and sensible option: 

There may also be discounts for children of parents serving in the military or in a
particular trade, such as the UK licensed trade (publicans), acting, textiles, motor or the teaching profession. You may find you are eligible for help with school fees from one of the organisations under the umbrella of the educational Trusts' Forum


To find out what is available, the first port of call will be the schools’ websites. Do some initial research and then ring the admissions teams and ask what is available in terms of concessions. Note that schools do not always publicise the full extent of what might be available on their websites. It is always worth asking specific questions. The schools’ registrar would then put you in touch with the bursar. 

Also, note that different schools might prioritise different subject areas, such as Music or Dance.


Some schools offer direct debit schemes but be wary of charges. A headline 2.75 per cent charge might be significantly more in APR. Prestfelde offer a 10-monthly direct debit scheme that is free to parents.


What if circumstances change and you can no longer afford to pay? Once a child is within a school, we would make every effort to support that child continuing their education with us if a family hits unavoidable financial difficulty, such as the death or serious illness of a parent. If it is the case that a business takes a downturn, then the school will try to support the family, at least in the short-term.


With average class sizes that are generally much smaller than in many maintained schools, starting your children early in the independent sector, where they will benefit from more individualised attention, creates a secure foundation and instils an invaluable love of learning.

The opportunity is out there. The information is out there. You have nothing

to lose by exploring the option.

Prestfelde considers applications for bursaries throughout the year for
children of all ages. In addition, they award scholarships at ages seven and 11 for current and new pupils across a range of subjects. Assessments for these take place in the spring term whilst pupils are in Years 2 and 6. Scholarship awards of up to 20 per cent off the day fees are made to successful applicants.