Do bursaries change lives? Beyond belief – and in lots of surprising ways, as these former and current pupils confirm.

Emilija Sharples, The Royal Hospital School (RHS), Suffolk

Pupils at Royal Hospital School

‘Living abroad, I appreciate the boarding community’ 


I joined RHS in Year 7, with support from a Greenwich Hospital Bursary, as my father has served over 30 years in the Royal Navy. I joined as an academic and art scholar and am currently a full boarder from Luxembourg. I have lived abroad most of my life with my family and particularly appreciate the full-boarding community at RHS. After completing my GCSEs, which I got seven grade 9s and three grade 8s in, I will be going on to study English, history and psychology A-levels, in addition to an online course in film studies. I want to study English, history or film at university. I’ve also achieved grade five in piano while at RHS and hope to take grade five guitar next year. I particularly like being a member of the school’s Combined Cadet Force. One thing I appreciate about RHS is the range of opportunities available. It has allowed me to find new passions to pursue and helped me to manage my time as efficiently as possible, two things which I will surely value in the future. I enjoy the creative arts immensely; I have participated in both dramatic productions and musical performances at RHS, the highlight of which would have to be gig night!

Ayisha Alli, Christ’s Hospital, West Sussex

Christ’s Hospital School

‘It’s given me so many opportunities’ 


Christ’s Hospital (CH) has made me dream big and, as a result, my hopes for the future follow suit. The impact on my education and life experience has been extraordinary. The most important things I have learnt are the power of resilience, perseverance, teamwork and enjoying yourself in the moment. Being at CH provided me with many opportunities like being able to do a range of sports; gaining work experience with British Airways; challenging myself by going mountain hiking; experiencing the thrill of flying an RAF glider plane, and more. It’s up to you to take these chances and experience as much as you can. Many of my friends at home are not at college or university, CH gave me the chance to progress to a top university – I now attend Loughborough – which is exciting. Hearing from former pupils about their journeys after CH inspires me further. The education I received at CH made me realise that whatever goal I want is attainable if I work hard for it. If I hadn’t been able to attend CH, I believe I would still work as hard but there would have been less support in overcoming obstacles. I wouldn’t have the teacher support that CH gives, the online resources and the external competition. I think, without CH, I would believe less in my goals and just hope for the best, rather than going out to get the best.

Lauren Green, Wells Cathedral School, Somerset

Wells Cathedral School

‘I’ve had solid support the whole way through’ 


Lauren says: ‘Wells was my home from Year 10–13; I joined on a bursary looking for a school that combined high academic standards with really strong creative arts. I wanted to get top grades and a place at Edinburgh or King’s College, London but I also play guitar, piano and sing. It was important for me to combine both. At Wells, your peers are brilliant musicians and so productions are almost professional level. As well as joining in with music events like pop concerts, my main interest is in musical theatre so I got involved with the drama department quickly. But it’s not just about performance; I even had the chance to help organise a music festival, and designed the official wristband. What struck me first when I joined was how strong teacher-student relationships were; I always felt they were my friends and helpers, not authority figures. And the boarding house staff were kind and caring too. You really appreciate having someone to talk to when you need them. That friendly approach runs throughout the school; I found it easy to make friends and find my feet when I started. Now I’ve left, I am conscious that there has been that solid support all the way through, checking we’re OK and happy. I’ll certainly miss it.’

Dan Hatton, Royal Grammar School Guildford

Boys at RGS Guildford

 ‘I threw myself into school life!’ 


I joined RGS Guildford on a bursary in 2004. At the time, I didn’t know what to expect. I remember feeling excited at starting a new school, but also nervous because I didn’t really know anyone there. That changed soon after I joined – I threw myself into life at the school, playing sport, having discussions in class, trying new things, and getting involved. I met some incredible people doing this. I now live in London and work as a freelance product manager, a musician, and I run a business in the mental health space. But when I look back and consider what I took away from my time at the RGS, that sense of community is the thing that stands out to me. Some of my best friends to this day are the friends I made at RGS, and I doubt I would have had some of the experiences I have had – both from an education standpoint and personally – had I not gone to the school. I loved my time as a bursary student, but it was not without challenges. My advice for anyone taking a bursary to a fee-paying school is this: seek the support you need to thrive at school. I found it difficult to be surrounded by people from a different socio-economic background to myself. Though times have changed since I was at school, and diversity and inclusion is now rightly at the forefront of most company agendas, that does not mean that those on a bursary won’t feel these differences. I urge schools to focus on ways to positively integrate and support their bursary students.

James Ellis, St Peter’s York

St Peter’s York

 ‘I received so much support in getting to medical school’ 


Life at school was a big personal change. Joining at the age of 16, this was my first time away from home. Despite this, the fellow boys in the house and the house mistress were all welcoming to new arrivals. The routines certainly took time to get used to; particularly the early starts which I’m sure Mrs Williams, Linton House mistress at the time, would agree with! There were many memorable times throughout my two years of school and living in the boarding house. After my A-levels, I moved on to King’s College, London to read medicine. With the academic aspect of the degree aside, thanks to a placement at St. Thomas’ Hospital, I was part of the national Covid vaccination effort. School shaped me in the immediate respect that the careers department was particularly supportive in mine and my peers’ journeys to medical school. On a more personal note, I believe the school developed me to become a more independent and rounded person following my experiences from boarding, which gave me a significant advantage when settling into university in my first year. In the current day, a significant proportion of students attending independent schools like ours receive a margin of financial support through the form of bursaries. It must be noted that my experiences would not have been made possible without some financial support from the school, which I am very thankful to have received. 

See the online listings for the schools mentioned here: The Royal Hospital School, Christ’s Hospital, Wells Cathedral School, RGS Guildford, St Peter’s York.