I am delighted to learn today that Independent Schools and their trustees have been once again allowed to make their own way when it comes to offering means tested bursaries.
However, I am disappointed to read how the press are reporting on the issue. It is frustrating to read reports that suggest that the only reason that schools such as mine offered means-tested bursaries was as a box ticking exercise.
Many great schools have been offering bursaries for all of the right reasons long before Dame Suzi Leather was ever on the scene at the helm of the Charity Commission, and it is, for many of us, the embodiment of our school’s fundamental ethos that we offer help to bright pupils whose parents would never be able to finance a private education without support. At my own school, we offer bursaries to those girls who would most benefit from the kind of education we offer. Many of these young women have gone on to great things, and in return, are only too willing to support others as a result of the education they have been afforded.
To say that we should be offering our facilities to local schools and clubs is also insulting. Again, many of us do this, not because we are told to, but because is the right thing to do. For example, at Heathfield, we are in the privileged position of having a wonderful swimming pool. This pool is not used by the school all of the time, so we are delighted to welcome several other primary schools and a school for the disabled from the local area to use our facilities. We do this because it is the right thing to do.
We are also thrilled to have strong links with a local maintained school in Windsor. Here we have shared teachers, which has certainly enriched the educational experience of our own girls and staff. We regularly hold seminars on a range of different subject from History of Art, and memory skills to Science. It is our pleasure to invite all of our local schools to send pupils from their own establishments to join with us and hear what our amazing lecturers have to say.
I believe that everyone in education should be shouting about education. I believe that if my school has the ability to share in our joy of learning with others, this is what we should be doing. At Heathfield, we will continue to make every effort to continue to reach out to others, despite the very recent changes in guidelines. In fact, we are planning to do even more to help children from less privileged backgrounds.