Prep school bursaries are no myth and can have a powerful impact, says
Phillip Evitt, headmaster of Highfield and Brookham Schools
For many people, prep school bursaries are something of a taboo subject – they are out of reach, they are for other people. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
At Highfield and Brookham Schools, Hampshire, we have been exploding that myth since setting up our very own Centenary Bursaries Fund
in 2007, which marked 100 years of exceptional schooling at Highfield.
The aim of the fund is to raise enough money to support children who would not otherwise come to a school such as ours.
In the current climate, access to private education is becoming more and more of a privilege, and we recognise our responsibility to ensure we bridge this advantage gap. We know there are a large number of children who would benefit greatly from attending an independent school and there is a need to bring this opportunity to as many as possible.
In fact, many parents may not even entertain the idea of applying for a bursary at a prep school because they don’t believe they can.
Well, we have awarded 15 bursaries over the past 12 years – and they have proved to be an enormous success. All but one of these bursaries have been for 100 per cent, the other one was for 90 per cent. Our Centenary Bursaries Fund also provides additional support for music lessons, sports equipment, school trips and uniform. In some circumstances, it has also funded travel to and from the school for the children – and even the parents.
The purpose of the bursary is to make a difference in a child’s life, not just academically but also physically, emotionally and socially. Ours are awarded to children we believe will gain the most from attending, ensuring they reach their full potential.
These are the children we believe will engage with all of the opportunities Highfield and Brookham has to offer – ensuring they build life-long skills and develop long-lasting positive experiences and relationships.
We place great importance on all our pupils understanding their position in the community. We encourage them to look beyond the school grounds, to engage with the wider world and to find the part that they can play in society and as global citizens.
As a school we can set an example. In our position of privilege, it is our duty to ensure we are doing all we can to bridge the advantage gap. The UK is one of the worst countries for fostering social mobility. Therefore, it is important that we do our bit to ensure everyone receives the same opportunities regardless of their background.
So it was heartening when a Year 8 leaver expressed to me recently that, ‘I love the fact that my school gives so many opportunities for all types of children. I am a child on a bursary and I have had so many doors opened for me that I would never have thought could possibly be available to me.’ What better endorsement could there be?
Five of the past bursary children have gone on to secure 100 per cent bursaries and scholarships at secondary schools such as Charterhouse School, Marlborough College and Seaford College. Eight children are currently still with us and because of our excellent relationships with senior schools and the outstanding support we offer, the hope is our current cohort will follow in those footsteps.
It’s rare for prep schools to offer 100 per cent bursaries, especially at the rate that we do, but we want to lead the way, in faith that other prep schools will follow and to allow this amazing opportunity to be brought to even more children.
Phillip Evitt is headmaster of Highfield and Brookham Prep Schools.
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