Academics have accused independent schools of “virtue signalling” over bursaries as a new report suggests that most go to middle class families, The Telegraph reports.
The study – entitled How English private schools keep fees high, scholarships low and luxury pervasive – will no doubt rile many heads, development directors and bursars, says bursaries do “remarkably little” to make fee-paying institutions more socially inclusive.
The research, presented to the annual conference of the British Sociological Association (BSA), suggests that private schools are taking part in an “educational arms race” building luxury facilities, while offering financial help to only a small number of students from low income households.
The research, led by Dr Malcolm James at Cardiff Metropolitan University, is based on analysis of data from the Charity Commission and the annual financial accounts of 142 private schools in England.
It found that private schools awarded fee remission totalling just over £1 billion to 176,234 out of their 537,315 students in 2018-19.
The findings suggest that only 44 per cent of this – around £440 million – went to help less well-off families with fees.
Julie Robinson, chief executive of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), said that private schools are “committed” to increasing their intake of pupils from underprivileged families.
She added that schools’ accounts are independently audited every year to ensure they are fully compliant, which includes meeting all charity law requirements.