‘Independent schools must go back to their roots’

Last month, my school, Wellington College, launched a campaign that will dramatically increase our bursary provision, allowing students with real promise, but limited financial means, the opportunity to come to Wellington College. The aim is an ambitious one: to extend bursaries to 50 per cent of students. The time commitment required is considerable: 20 years and beyond. The impact will be immense: transformational for both the college and for the individuals involved.  Julian Thomas, master of Wellington College and chief executive of the Wellington Group of Academies and Schools writes in Tes.

Detractors of independent schools claim that we have lost our way; that we have turned our back on our traditional pupil base; that we have become the preserve of the wealthy. They are not far wrong. Soaring fees have priced many out of the market – that, we can’t deny. We are all culpable, to an extent – that much we must accept. However, the notion that it is too late, that the situation is irreparable, is something I cannot accept. 

At Wellington, our aim is to raise funds to provide significant fee remission for 25 per cent of students by 2028, and then to double this to 50 per cent by 2038. This is not just about justifying our charitable status. It is about reminding ourselves why we were granted charitable status in the first place. Widening opportunity and access is part of our DNA.

Our energies, over the past few years, have been focused on our Independent State School Partnership (involving 11 local secondary schools), and our sponsorship of two (soon to be three) state academies, as well as the provision of means-tested bursaries to around 10 per cent of the student body. The launch of our new campaign is simply a reaffirmation of our commitment to inclusive education. By extending our bursary provision, we aspire to match the level of support provided at our foundation. We are going back to our roots.

My father was a printer; my mother was a home-maker. We were far from wealthy. My brother and I benefited from fee assistance, which allowed us to attend an independent school – but this was at a time when fees were within reach, when reasonable sacrifices could be made, when choice existed. We need to get back to this.

This experience taught me that anything is possible. It instilled in me the belief that an independent education should be accessible to all because it has the power to transform not just individuals, but those around them, too – their families and their peers.

Read the full article  ‘Independent schools must go back to their roots’

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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