Independent schools need to acknowledge the costs of extra-curricular activities when devising schemes to help poor students, according to a new report released by the Sutton Trust today. Those that do so should have their efforts recognised by the Charity Commission under the new public benefit test.

The research, by the Institute of Education at the University of London, interviewed a number of students who benefited from the Assisted Places Scheme in the 1980s.  Virtually all spoke of the fact that they could not participate in out of school activities, such as field-trips, cultural visits or foreign exchange trips, because their parents could not afford to finance them.   For some this was a key reason for them becoming estranged or alienated from the independent school in which they were placed.

The study is a follow up to a report released in 2006 which showed that assisted place holders achieved higher exam results and went on to earn more in adulthood than similar students in state schools.

Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: “Although the Assisted Places Scheme ended a decade ago, it has important lessons for contemporary efforts to open up independent schools and for the current debate over these schools’ charitable status.  This research shows that private schools need to look beyond the simple question of fees when opening their doors. Poorer students need other financial and pastoral support if they are to make the most of the opportunities the private sector can offer.

The research also indicates that pupils may find it easier to fit into schools with diverse intakes. This shows the value of the Open Access pioneered by the Sutton Trust and the Girls’ Day School Trust at the Belvedere School in Liverpool where all places were allocated on merit alone.  With 70% receiving funding problems of alienation are minimised.”

Geoff Whitty, Director of the Institute of Education, said, “There is no doubt that many recipients of assistance enjoyed great benefits, both at school and in later life.  However, the most disadvantaged pupils found it difficult to fit in and were at higher risk of dropping out of education early.  A proper assessment of the costs and benefits of the scheme also needs to consider its impact on local state schools, some of which lost their brightest pupils to the scheme.”

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