ONE of the North East's leading schools has raised £5m to teach disadvantaged children at discounted rates, The Journal can reveal.
Newcastle’s Royal Grammar School amassed the fund in just a decade, allowing it to take on 202 pupils whose parents could not afford its £9,996-a-year fees.
Announcing the milestone in an interview with The Journal, headmaster Bernard Trafford said the figure was extraordinary.
But he stressed that the fund was now struggling in tough economic times and faced the prospect of having to sell shares to balance the books.
The school launched its campaign – called RGS Bursaries – in 2002 after the then Labour government scrapped the Assisted Places scheme, which paid private school fees for disadvantaged pupils.
Since then, trusts and hundreds of private donors have donated to the fund, with one wealthy individual recently giving $100,000.
Some 82 of the school’s pupils currently receive bursaries, which is about 7% of the total number.
A third of the pupils on bursaries pay nothing at all, while a further third have more than 90% of their fees paid for them. But the number has fallen in recent years as the school has struggled to raise the six-figure annual cost of offering the discounts.
Dr Trafford said: “It is extraordinary. But of course we don’t have the £5m because we’re paying out £700,000 a year in bursaries. There is £2.9m in the bank and that won’t bring in enough interest to pay the bursaries that we need.
“So we’ll have to sell some shares and, therefore, there will be less interest next year. It’s a slow, not quick, death but it’s going the wrong way.”
Andrew Major, the campaign’s chairman, added: “Passing the £5m milestone is a fantastic achievement for the RGS Bursary fund, allowing us to reach out to the ne xt generation of students. Thanks to the commitment and very generous donations of RGS alumni, parents and friends of the RGS in what is a cash-strapped and difficult fundraising landscape, we are able to subsidise the fees of 80 to 100 pupils who have the right ability to come to the RGS but whose parental income would otherwise deny them access.”
Mr Major, who attended the school in the 1980s, echoed the head’s concerns.
He said: “Up until two years ago, we were able to offer support to all pupils who gained a place at the school and qualified for a means-tested bursary.
“Now, however, we have more applicants than we have available bursaries and we are having to turn away very able applicants.”