Private schools plan to beat test with bursaries

Nearly half of all independent schools plan to increase the availability of bursaries in order to pass the public benefit test, according to research published today.

A study by Zurich Financial Services reveals that 46 per cent of independent school heads and bursars have "already put plans in motion" to increase the availability of bursaries so they would pass the test, which was introduced by the 2006 Charities Act.

The survey shows that a further 30 per cent of independent schools are "currently considering" increasing the availability of bursaries.

Twenty-seven per cent of independent schools are "contemplating" opening lessons up to local state schoolchildren, and 21 per cent are already doing so.

Twelve per cent of independent schools say they plan to increase fees in order to "fund measures allowing them to prove their charitable status".

Forging links with academies is unpopular as a method of demonstrating charitable status - only 6 per cent of independent schools are taking active steps towards sponsoring an academy school, and only 2 per cent have considered doing so in future.

One hundred heads and bursars from independent schools were surveyed in the Zurich study.

Tom Shewry, head of education at Zurich, said: "Independent schools are sending a clear message to the Government that they will not be forced into making a knee-jerk reaction to the public benefit test - but headteachers also need to make sure this stance does not turn into apathy."

Patrick Derham, headmaster of Rugby School, said it would be wrong to adopt a "one size fits all" approach to ensuring schools pass the public benefit test.

He said: "Providing bursary support is the approach we've adopted at Rugby."

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