ONE of Scotland’s most prestigious private schools has announced plans to attract more pupils from poorer backgrounds after facing a threat to its charitable status.
Loretto School in Musselburgh, East Lothian, said a number of means-tested bursaries worth 105 per cent of school fees would be made available for new students in September.
The decision comes after the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) said Loretto had “insufficient measures” in place to widen access, after assessing the school last year.
Loretto charges more than £19,000 a year for senior day pupils and up to £28,590 for boarders. OSCR’s investigation found that in 2012-13, a total of 91 pupils – 14.7 per cent of the school roll – received means-tested support. The value of the support was £756,210, equivalent to 6 per cent of the school’s income. However, the majority of the remissions were “low value”, the regulator said.
According to its report, there was only one child at the school in 2012-13 – a lower sixth-form pupil from eastern Europe – who received the full cost of fees, which came in the form of a Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference Scholarship.
Loretto said its new bursaries were intended to cover the cost of fees, but also additional expenses such as uniform and extra-curricular activities. The school said the number of bursaries would only be known once it had assessed applications later in the year.
Acting head Elaine Logan said: “The announcement of this bursary underlines our commitment to children being able to realise and fulfil their potential at Loretto, whatever their family’s financial circumstances. Loretto is the only private school in Scotland to offer a 105 per cent bursary, and it demonstrates that we are acutely aware of the financial pressures families can be under during a child’s education.
“Beyond the excellent facilities, small class sizes and specialist teaching staff, I believe that a Loretto School education provides the best possible all-round, holistic education for our pupils, whether in the classroom, the music room or on the sports pitches.
“We are extremely fortunate to be able to offer these exceptional bursaries to children who would benefit from such an
education, but whose family may not otherwise be able to afford it.”
In October, the charity regulator said Loretto had 18 months to comply with its tests or risk losing its charitable status, which allows for tax breaks and rates relief.
This followed announcements earlier in the year that Fettes College – where former prime minister Tony Blair studied – and St George’s School for Girls, both in Edinburgh, as well as St Columba’s School in Inverclyde, had failed the “charity test”. Wellington School in Ayr, whose former pupils include violinist Nicola Benedetti, also failed.
Both Fettes and St George’s subsequently met the test, while St Columba’s and Wellington have until 31 October to comply.
In 2011, four private schools – Hutchesons’ Grammar in Glasgow, Merchiston Castle in Edinburgh, Lomond School in Helensburgh and St Leonards in St Andrews – were allowed to keep their charitable status.
About one in 20 children in Scotland is educated at private schools, although the Edinburgh figure is closer to one in four.
OSCR’s head of registration, Martin Tyson, said: “Our direction to Loretto School gives a date of 31 March 2015 for the charity to comply.
“We would make our decision at that time unless the charity’s trustees asked us to reassess them in advance of that date.
“We consider the whole picture of a charity’s activities. If the charity asked us for a reassessment, we would take these measures into account along with any other information available at the time.”
Alma mater for chancellors, racing drivers and journalists
LORETTO claims to be Scotland’s oldest boarding school and counts former chancellors Alistair Darling and Norman Lamont, late Formula One driver Jim Clark and broadcaster Andrew Marr among its former pupils.
Girls first joined the school’s sixth form in 1981 and it became fully co-educational in 1997.
In 2012-13, the senior school had 438 pupils, 170 of whom were day pupils and the rest boarders. There is also a junior school and a nursery. The school has its own golf academy.
Fees range from £4,680 to £6,480 a term for day pupils in the senior school, while boarders pay between £5,260 and £9,530.
Loretto recently appointed Dr Graham Hawley as its new headmaster, a position he will take up from September.
The previous headmaster, Peter Hogan, stepped down last year after five years in the role.
He caused controversy when he accused Edinburgh University of discriminating against children from fee-paying schools as part of an experiment in “social engineering”.
He claimed that some of his pupils had been rejected on “academic grounds”, despite having been accepted at higher ranking universities, including Cambridge.
Last year’s report found 14.7 per cent of pupils received a means-tested bursary.