One of Scotland’s top private schools has come under fire after revealing it is to ask families applying for a bursary where they go on holiday and which cars they buy in bid to ensure only the neediest youngsters succeed.
Loretto School in Musselburgh has drawn up the detailed questionnaire to help determine who should be awarded new bursaries worth up to 105 per cent of annual fees.
The bursary was introduced after the £26,000-a-year school was told by regulators it risked losing its charitable status over inadequate levels of community access, with the awards aimed at increasing funded places and boosting applications from lower-income families.
But the school – which counts ex-chancellor Alistair Darling, BBC journalist Andrew Marr and Formula One champ Jim Clark among its former pupils – has drawn criticism over the nature of a “posh quiz” for seemingly discriminating on the lifestyle choices of applicants.
In an advice note, school chiefs said they wanted to know about “all” a family’s financial circumstances and “not just take-home pay”.
Questions facing parents include: what kind of house do you live in; what car do you drive; what savings do you have; what size is your mortgage; where do you go on holiday; do both parents work; could you borrow against your house; and, are there relatives who could help?
Loretto chiefs said strict criteria were necessary to ensuring the school fulfils its “moral obligation”.
External affairs director Jonathan Hewat said: “There is no doubt that independent schooling may be pricey, but contrary to popular belief it is not the exclusive preserve of the wealthy.
“Loretto School, along with the vast majority of other independent schools, takes its social responsibilities very seriously indeed. There are choices to be made, sacrifices to be made. We have to make sure that the means-tested money we have is going to the most deserving families.”
However, the approach has sparked concern over the nature of the questions being asked.
Councillor John Caldwell, independent member for Musselburgh East and Carberry, praised the increase in financial assistance for poorer families but said the questions were “over the top”.
He added: “To ask about holidays and cars, and what people have in the bank – it’s too probing, too personal.
“I think lots of people will be adverse to providing that level of detail on their financial status. I wouldn’t give that level of detail.”
Lothians Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale was also critical of the questions, and said: “Justifying the charitable status of private schools means more than deciding between kids who go to Butlins rather than Barbados.
“This step was a reaction to a slap on the wrist from the regulator, but it’s clear from these efforts there is still a long way to go in terms of widening access at fee-paying schools whose tax breaks local communities pay for.”
How posh are you?
1: Where do you do your weekly food shop?
a) Waitrose; b) Tesco; c) Aldi
2: What’s your alcoholic drink of choice?
a) Screaming Eagle Cabernet 1992; b) Pimm’s; c) A pint of lager
3: Where are most of your clothes from?
a) Ralph Lauren; b) Next; c) A street market
4: What’s your favourite sport?
a) Polo; b) Rugby; c) Darts
5: Where was your best holiday?
a) Skiing in Chamonix; b) Center Parcs; c) A caravan park
6: At what age did you stop calling your parents mummy and daddy?
a) I still do; b) older than ten; c) Before ten
7: Do you know how to ride a horse?
a) I love equestrianism; b) Can’t beat a gentle gallop; c) I like a Blackpool donkey
8: If you went out in public, would you wear . . .
a) Well-polished brogues; b) Dr Martens boots; c) Trainers?
How did you score?
Mostly A – You’re a toff. Mostly B – Not posh enough. Mostly C – Get your application in now.