Am in what used to be described as the “second city of the Empire” for the annual Boarding Schools’ (BSA) Conference and a strong thread running through the first 24 hours has been the benefits of having a strong bursary programme; and by this I mean the benefits to the schools as well as to the children who hold the bursaries. Running alongside this is a “grit” thread – i.e. the idea that the resilience and self-reliance built up by boarding are as critical to the life chances of 100% bursary holders as their improved chances academically.
Two charities that specialise in placing children in boarding schools, who might otherwise need to go into full time care, are represented here; both are charities that we have been working closely with and both either currently support a student with us or will shortly – The Buttle Trust and Springboard Foundation. We have been closely involved with Buttle, who have extensive experience in identifying and helping vulnerable children. Springboard has developed from the visionary Arnold Foundation, set up by Patrick Derham of Rugby; it aims to take the principles established by the Rugby scheme and create a nationwide system whereby children whose lives will be transformed by gaining a place at a UK boarding school can find suitable places. Their fundraising case has been greatly helped by the results of a pro-bono McKinsey study which evaluated, pound for pound, the effect of the Arnold Foundation bursary holders on their life chances and the associated impact on their families. A similar exercise is underway with Buttle which has teamed up with the Royal National Children’s Foundation to run a 3 year research programme to evaluate the impact of boarding as an intervention for vulnerable children.
Turning to the benefits to the schools, the beneficial impact of increasing the social diversity of the school populations of boarding schools in particular is clear, even with relatively small numbers. Although it is early days for our involvement with the two trusts mentioned, our own, homegrown, John Badley Foundation, has made five awards and aims, like Buttle and Springboard, to bring students into the school who would not otherwise have considered an independent school education. Our membership of the HMC Projects Eastern European scholarship scheme means that we generally have at least one scholar from a very different cultural setting. Teachers here still talk about the impact of one of these scholars, a Bosnian boy, who recounted his experience of growing up being besieged in Sarajevo at a 6.2 time meeting. Our community is slightly less likely to be complacent, inward-looking and self-absorbed if there are people within it whose perspective on life is very different from the highly-advantaged social group from whom most of our youngsters come. Teachers are naturally well inclined towards such schemes and having an enlightened financial support policy, providing as it does a good badge of a school’s social and moral conscience, can be a good draw for the right kinds of teachers.
Finally, although the numbers involved are a drop in the ocean at the moment, we are doing something to address the malaise of declining social mobility which is such a sad indictment of British social policy over the past 30 years.
By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools
Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.