Means tested bursaries - a good time to review

28 March 2017

As we await the results of the consultation it is a good time for schools to review their current bursaries policy and procedures to ensure they are ready for any changes that may be announced.

It is important to remember that bursaries are essentially grants of the school’s charitable funds and the process for awarding bursaries should be robust.

Bursary awards also need to form part of overall consideration of fee levels and capacity and cannot be looked at in isolation. Every school needs to decide how many funded places can be awarded and the levels of funding that it can afford based on its own circumstances.

As well as clearly documenting the level of bursaries available, the policy should address the school will deal with the practicalities of awarding bursaries to individual pupils.

Practical considerations

  • How do you assess whether a pupil is eligible?
  •  What information should you request and how can you analyse it?
  • What level of ongoing monitoring will you put in place and who will do this?

When awarding bursaries you need to consider the ability of the parents to fund the balance of fees and any extras required. Ensuring parents don’t overstretch themselves is both commercial (in terms of future bad debts) and moral common sense. There should be a contractual requirement and mechanism for parents to notify the school of changes in circumstances (favourable or not) that may impact the bursary. Consideration is also needed at the initial stage of the availability of other funds; grandparents etc. Many school policies require such sources to be fully exhausted before a bursary can be considered.


So once you have set the criteria how do you assess if someone meets it? Download the independent schools report.