Dr Cameron Pyke, Deputy Master External at Dulwich College, explains that the school takes the issue of affordability seriously: “The Master and governors of Dulwich College have made it clear that it is not in the College’s ethos to be a school for just the rich and poor. Our strength is in our diversity and it is our ambition to ensure that parents of all means – including the ‘squeezed middle’ – feel able to send their academically bright and curious sons to Dulwich College.”
The second route for parents is to apply for a scholarship, a competitive award for ability in academic subjects, music, drama, sport or art. Scholarships used to offer discounts of up to 75% on school fees but today, it’s more likely to be no more than 15%. According to the Independent Schools’ Bursars’ Association (ISBA), some schools’ scholarship funds have been reduced; and parents may have to be content with the kudos of getting into the school.
The scholarship fund has shrunk at Dulwich over the years “to ensure that more funds could go towards means-tested bursaries,” says Dr Pyke. The College’s Bursary Appeal Fund, established in 1990, currently stands at 19.2 million. Those who can’t stretch to the 118,915 annual fees for Dulwich might find that their musical, sporty or academically gifted sons could shave 15,500 off the annual fee with a scholarship. Arty students fare less well, with scholarships only worth up to 10%.
Having exhausted the school’s help, the only other options are to ask family – increasingly, grandparents are digging deep and can reduce their inheritance-tax liability at the same time – or to spread fees over 12 monthly payments through a school-fee finance company.
In a worst-case scenario – redundancy – bursaries can be sought part way through school and there are school-fees insurance plans which are designed for these circumstances. The plans insure a percentage of the cost of school fees but be aware that there are caveats so read the small print carefully.
Going private is a big decision – the total cost of a child’s educational journey from the age of five to 18 can be around í280,000 for a day school or nearer to í435,000 for boarding. There are ways to lessen the financial pain but many families will think long and hard before taking the plunge.
SCHOLARSHIPS, BURSARIES AND BOARDING AT WHITGIFT
Boys can receive fee remission through scholarships or bursaries. Scholarships range between 5% remission of fees up to 50% remission of fees, although 50% is rare.
Bursary funds are limited, and are offered to a selected number of pupils following the entrance examination and retained throughout their time in the school subject to annual reassessment.
Boys in school years 9-13, aged 13-18, are eligible to board at Whitgift. Boarding equips the young men with all the skills they need for life, not just academically. It enhances mutual respect, self reliance, community spirit, co-operation, independence.
There is a coherent timetable of events every weekend for boarders. These will include such things as sporting events, musical occasions, Lord Mayor’s Show, museum and gallery visits, historical site excursions and national landmark visits. Day pupils are also able to participate in these events if there are spaces available. There are also a huge variety of activities arranged in the evenings.