Public schools 'not doing enough for poorer children'
By David Williams
26 July 2010
Top fee-paying schools have been criticised for not doing enough to help children from low-income families, especially compared with their less prestigious counterparts.
A study published today by the Sutton Trust found that the average private school spends 7.8% of its income on bursaries and scholarships. But the rate falls to 4.3% for those ranked in the top 70 by The Times.
Sutton Trust chair Peter Lampl, said the findings were ‘concerning’. He added: ‘While partnership and community work are important components of public benefit, bursary provision is perhaps the most effective way independent schools can boost social mobility.’
The research also casts doubt on faith schools, where typical expenditure on bursaries is 10% below the national average. The study’s authors say this ‘sits uneasily’ with religious schools’ claimed commitment to public welfare.
In addition, around half of the sector’s spending on free places goes on scholarships – which are not means tested – rather than bursaries, which are reserved for those unable to pay.
The publication follows action from the Charity Commission to force two schools – St Anselm's in Bakewell, Derbyshire, and Highfield Priory in Preston, Lancashire – to offer more bursaries for low-income pupils.
Under legislation introduced by the previous Labour government, fee-paying schools must prove they are providing ‘public benefit’ to maintain their charitable status.
Report author Peter Davies suggested that more government intervention might be required to persuade more schools to do more for social mobility.