Bursaries improve society for all

Last weekend we celebrated 20 years of fundraising for the bursary campaign at Bolton School, which currently allows 1 in 5 pupils to be educated irrespective of their means. Bolton School is a national leader in bursary provision in independent schools. In making sure the school is as accessible as it can be we feel we are keeping true to the vision of Lord Leverhulme (a former Mayor of Bolton who refounded the school a century ago), whose passion for social mobility and equality was tangible and still drives what we do today. In much of the public debate around education it is becoming increasingly clear that there is significant confusion about whether education is good for the individual or for society. This issue clouds the public perception of bursary provision and access arrangements, leading to confusion over the real purpose of such schemes.

In economic terms a private good is one which benefits only the individual. A great deal of general discussion and debate assumes this is what education is, arguing that education benefits the individual, they get on in the world, probably at someone else’s expense who does less well. But education is not that. Education in economic terms is a public good. The strong education an individual has benefits that individual and society – there is advantage to everyone as the skills acquired by an individual are then put to use to the benefit of others. Using a further economic argument there is also a multiplier effect. The education of one person can make a difference to so many more.

In managing a bursary scheme this places an absolute premium on selecting not only those who will be able to access an academic education but also on those who have the potential to develop the character and absorb an ethos of giving back, so that their skills and talents and success are shared with society at large. The school aim seeks for us to produce pupils who go out into the world to make a difference for good. For the last twenty years the bursary fund has allowed us to do just that and include 1 in 5 young people who could not otherwise have had that opportunity. We look forward to the next twenty years.


About Philip Britton

Philip Britton is the Head of Foundation of Bolton School. He was brought up on Tyneside, took a first in physics at Oxford and did teacher training at Cambridge. He worked as physics teacher, Head of Physics and Deputy Head at Leeds Grammar School before moving to Bolton in 2008. In 2010 he was awarded an MBE for services to physics and is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics where he has been much involved in physics education, encouraging teachers to encourage the next generation of physicists. Follow at X: @Philip_Britton | View X/Twitter archive | Listen at: Exploring Bolton School | Social Mobility, Leadership & Future School Thinking | Strategic School Leadership with Philip Britton | Strategic School Leadership with Philip Britton