Scholarships at UK Independent Schools

Everything you need to know about scholarships to UK schools, and a closer look at just how schools are rewarding students’ academic, sporting, musical and artistic achievements.
Scholarships at UK Independent Schools
By Carli Allan
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Academic scholarships

At many schools, candidates are automatically entered for academic and all-rounder scholarships; students who perform outstandingly well in their academic entry tests will then be invited back for a scholarship interview with the head.

You will need to apply for a subject-specific scholarship, though. As schools look to inspire boys and girls to take up STEM subjects, these have been added to the scholarship leader board. Choices include STEM at St Mary’s School, Cambridge; specialist mathematics at Wells Cathedral School and Hurtwood House School; a computing scholarship at Rugby School, which includes regular trips to exhibitions, one-to-one tutorials, regular society meetings and a busy speakers’ programme. Millfield School offers a design and innovation scholarship which crosses product design, technology and computer programming.

Sport scholarships

A sports scholarship is an award for excellence in a particular sport, and it will enter your child into an elite athlete programme with benefits such as access to one-to-one specialist coaching, strength and conditioning sessions, world-class facilities on campus, and entry into national competitions.

If offered a boarding place they’ll have the advantage of being to train for longer hours (with a much-needed bed just a few steps away in their boarding house), and they’ll be trained by experienced coaches, many with international and national titles to their name.

Expect packed training and academic schedules coupled with plenty of support from the school to help your child work towards ambitious academic and sporting goals. With most sporting scholarships, aspiring athletes spend as much time on the pitch or in the pool as they do in the classroom, so they need plenty of stamina to juggle the training demands of a club academy with intensive GCSE, A Level or IB tuition.

The hard work can pay off though, and sports scholarships have enabled some of the UK’s top athletes to ‘Go for Gold’. Olympic rowing champion Helen Glover was at Millfield School, brothers and Sam and Tom Curran went on to play cricket for England after receiving a scholarship at Wellington College, and the credits roll on at other UK sporting powerhouses including Whitgift, Sedbergh, Shrewsbury and Rugby schools.

Scholarships are being awarded for top talent in swimming, cricket, athletics, polo and many more team and individual sports. Do your research and you’re likely to find a school that specialises in your sport. Malvern College offers the annual Rachael Heyhoe Flint Cricket Award, the first dedicated girls’ cricket scholarship offered by any UK school. Malvern St James’ Girls School has a riding scholarship, Wellington College and Bedford School award golf scholarships, and Bradfield College, which has one of the most highly regarded intensive football programmes in UK schools, offers football scholarships to both girls and boys.

There are chess scholarships at schools including Millfield School, Brighton College and Oakham School. There’s now even a scholarship for skateboarding. New for 2021, Brighton Girls School (which also offers awards for athletics, gymnastics, hockey and netball) is offering a £1,000 reduction in fees to one skateboarding student.

Inspired by news that skateboarding will make its debut in the Tokyo Olympics this summer, headteacher Rosie McColl has decided to build a skatepark at the school and offer skateboarding as a co-curricular activity to students from Year 3, with coaching from skateboard England-trained coach Sarah Brownlow; the skateboarding scholar will be expected to help get this venture off the ground.

Creative arts scholarships

There are plenty of opportunities for talent in the arts to be rewarded too, whether that is acting, singing, performing, sculpting or painting.

Scholarships that specialise in creative subjects will help to prepare students for entry to leading arts colleges and universities with expert tuition, ensemble and solo opportunities, educational trips, regular masterclasses, side-by-side opportunities with professional ensembles, leading roles in school productions, entry to Scholars Exhibitions, to name but a few.

Once again, different schools offer different awards. Truro School’s drama scholarship, for example, offers one-to-one coaching for the National Youth Theatre and Drama School auditions; the opportunity for 16+ pupils to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival; theatre visits; and the opportunity to work with a range of professional theatre practitioners and directors.

Music scholarships may offer free tuition in two instruments (including singing), a financial award and tuition in one instrument, and they can be general or instrument specific. Choral scholarships earn you a spot in a choir, such as the Choir of St. Mary’s Collegiate Church for Warwick School students. There are awards for performing arts at Hurtwood House, where students are auditioned in all three disciplines – acting, singing and dance. And at Bedales, art scholars are expected to take part fully in the school’s Art Society, visiting exhibitions and attending lectures, and to share their expertise and skills with their peers and visiting feeder schools.

Arts scholarships are not restricted to one talented artists and thespians. Schools are recognising talent as varied as creative writing (St Mary’s School, Cambridge) and choral singing (Brighton College, Winchester College). There are design, technology and engineering scholarships at schools including Tonbridge, Oakham and Malvern College. And, if you can perform a March, Strathspey and Reel, Hornpipe and Jig, then you may want to apply for a piping scholarship at Loretto School.

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