Top private schools not helping the poor

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A study commissioned by Staffordshire University's Institute for Education Policy Research has found that the wealthy private schools are spending a smaller proportion of their income on financial aid than lesser-ranked schools

Schools which are richer also spend a lower share of their income on bursaries for poorer youngsters, it is claimed.

Schools ranked 1-70 in league tables compiled by The Times newspaper, spent just 4.3 per cent of their income on financial aid for pupils, compared with 7.2 per cent for schools ranked 211-280.

Those who donated 6 to 8 per cent of their income to bursaries had average incomes of £8.2 million a year, while those giving just 1 to 2 per cent had an average income of £10.4 million.

The report, commissioned by the Sutton Trust, found that the rate of bursary provision declined as school size and income increased.

Faith schools set aside particularly low amounts for bursaries, offering on average 10 per cent less to low income families than other schools.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust education charity, said: "It is concerning that the most prestigious private schools - which offer their pupils exceptional life chances - appear, on average, to be doing less to widen access than their lower-attaining counterparts."

Professor Peter Davies, who led the research, added: "Independent schools would improve their case for creating public benefit if they were more open about the criteria they use for awarding bursaries – following the example of the few who currently publish these criteria on their websites."

The report follows a decision by the Charity Commission to force two independent schools to dramatically increase their bursary funding.

Responding to the report, the Independent Schools Council has claimed that the study was flawed. Its own analysis, using a larger sample and up-to-date data, 'found no correlation between bursaries and a school's ranking or revenue', it reports.

The study analysed the websites and financial accounts of 348 private schools for 2008.