Scholarships and Bursaries to Private Schools

Education at a sought-after private school is expensive, and not everyone has the resources to pay for it.  There is support available to help fund your child’s private education. Families with talented children should consider the scholarships or bursaries route. In this article, we summarise the support available. 

How to win a scholarship or bursary

Independent schools look for talented children who will raise their academic results and sporting reputation. They are keen to attract bright and biddable pupils who will both increase their ratings in the league tables and their number of Oxbridge entrants. These schools are ready to offer financial help in order to attract the brightest children, even when their parents are not able to afford the full fees. To be in the running for a bursary or scholarship award, many parents chose to prepare their children for 11+ or 13+ school entrance exams and for potential interview questions.  

Preparatory school versus secondary school scholarships

Preparatory school scholarships are rarer. Some preparatory schools do offer scholarships, for example to existing pupils who have been able to prove their skills and their capacity to develop those skills further during their school career. This means that it is possible to benefit from a scholarship or a bursary as an internal candidate (more often, this happens for pupils entering the senior school at Year 7 or Sixth Form). Most scholarships are available to secondary school pupils.  


Scholarships vary from school to school.  But for the most part, scholarships are not based on your family income. Most independent school scholarships are between 10 and 20% of the school’s tuition fee, although some schools offer a higher percentage. This can mean a substantial annual saving. Amongst others, schools award music scholarships, sports scholarships, academic scholarships and art scholarships. So your bright and gifted child may have several to apply for.  Academic scholarships are the most common. It is also possible to be awarded more than one scholarship, which will mean a bigger saving for the family.  


Bursaries can be an excellent way to cover independent school fees. Depending on your family income, a bursary can cover from £100 up to 100% of the annual fees. The Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) has 25 independent schools in the UK, including Oxford High School, Kensington Prep School and South Hampstead School for Girls. Over 20% of GDST girls are awarded bursaries, of between 5% and 100% of fees.  As the GDST do, the majority of private schools will review your child’s bursary annually, and request that you submit detailed evidence of your finances on an annual basis. For hard-up families, some bursaries can even cover school trips and uniforms. Each school has its own criteria, which can include assessment of your outgoings, such as family holidays.

Is my household income too high to benefit from a bursary?

You may think that your household income is too high for your child to be awarded a bursary to a private school, but this is not necessarily the case. As the cost of living has escalated, the bursary threshold has increased, especially for London families. As the income threshold can be relatively high, especially in London, it is worth enquiring about bursarial assistance to the school/s of your choice. You may be pleasantly surprised.  

Charitable trusts and grant organisations

Charitable trusts and grant organisations are other options that could enable your child to attend a top boarding or day school in the UK. The criteria for benefitting from these charitable funds are strict, and most require that social need is a contributing factor to the application. These bursaries, for the most part, benefit disadvantaged children who attend boarding schools.

With many families under financial pressure, especially during the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic, it is worth seriously considering the bursary or scholarship route for your son or daughter.  With many years of experience in British private schools, we have a in-depth knowledge of the scholarship and bursary awards systems. Please contact us for expert support in applying for a scholarship or bursary to independent/private schools both in London and throughout the UK.