Private schools take 1% of pupils from very disadvantaged backgrounds

Private schools take 1% of pupils from very disadvantaged backgrounds

Just one per cent of private school pupils come from the most disadvantaged households, the chair of the Independent Schools Council revealed today.

Barnaby Lenon admitted to the parliamentary education committee this morning that just 6,000 of more than half a million pupils at ISC member-schools receive a 100-per-cent bursary for their school fees – a measure which suggests their families are in the lowest income bracket.

A third of the 522,000 pupils at ISC schools receive “some sort of fee reduction” from the schools.

A third of our pupils are on some sort of fee reduction, but where the line would be drawn for free school meals is something we would have to look at

Lenon appeared in front of MPs as part of an inquiry into the integrity of public exams, but was also asked about the help that private schools give to poorer pupils.

He said the ISC’s 1,300 member-schools spend £385 million a year on bursaries for low-income homes, but just those 6,000 pay no fees at all.

Pushed on how many of “the most disadvantaged” receive help, Lenon said that all 6,000 “would be in that category”, but was unable to say how many pupils who would be eligible for free school meals attended his schools.

“A third of our pupils are on some sort of fee reduction, but where the line would be drawn for free school meals is something we would have to look at,” he said.

Simon Henderson, the headteacher of the prestigious Eton College in Berkshire, told the committee that 261 Eton pupils had had “some form of financial support” in the last academic year. This represents around a fifth of the school’s total roll.

Of the 261 getting help last year, 82 received a 100-per-cent bursary (six per cent).

“The majority of those would I believe qualify for free school meals,” Henderson said.

Eton spends £6.5 million a year on means-tested bursaries, and the average reduction in fees is 64 per cent.