How Cumnor House Sussex can Give a Full, Free Independent Education

By School House

5 years ago

Christian Heinrich, Headmaster at Cumnor House Sussex, explains how he set up an ambitious bursary programme in collaboration with senior schools.

I have always held that the happy and unpressurised nature of my country prep school education made me a slightly kinder and more confident individual than I might otherwise have been – and certainly more mindful of values likely to lead to mine own and others’ equanimity later in life. It is humbling to consider the advantage over others that I was apparently gifted by my parents’ ability to pay. In the latter stages of my career, I began to reflect more on this and how we might help more children to have as positive a childhood as possible.

An unpressurised school atmosphere breeds happy pupils

In 2015, Niall FitzGerald, the newly appointed chair of our governing body, embraced my concept of offering children from the Sussex community access to free education in the independent sector through the launch of a Foundation Bursary programme. 

We set up a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) called The Cumnor Foundation, which is distinct from the main school charity but with an overlap of governors and trustees. We then started raising money through personal appeal to former parents of Cumnor children and by asking existing parents to donate their initial school deposit to The Cumnor Foundation.

The Foundation’s bursaries at Cumnor House Sussex are means-tested and are awarded to children who attend state primary school and show outstanding potential in academia, art, drama, music or sport. 

In order to help us promote awareness of the opportunity to as many people as possible, we reach out to our local primary schools, churches, libraries, supermarkets, sports centres and to Cubs, Scouts, Brownies and Guides groups, and sports, art and drama clubs, asking them all to spread the word to the Sussex community.

Christian Heinrich

The selection process itself involves the child’s parent or guardian completing a means-tested bursary form and a registration form. The child’s current school is asked to submit a full report and then they are invited to attend an experience day at Cumnor to work and play alongside their contemporaries and, if appropriate, to show their particular talent in art, DT, drama, music or sport.  Once they join us, each Foundation Scholar is allocated a tutor who is a member of Cumnor’s teaching community, while their family is given access to a mentor who meets with them frequently and will continue to offer support and advice during the whole of their ten-year bursary journey from eight to 18.

What sets this particular bursary programme apart from others is its tenure. Successful Foundation Scholars are offered access to a free independent education for ten years, from the age of eight through to the end of their A-levels, or equivalent, at the age of 18. I have forged a relationship with 13 senior independent schools, enabling us to guarantee that each Foundation Scholar will move seamlessly from their prep school education at Cumnor House Sussex to one of our independent senior school partners as part of that school’s own bursary scheme, including Ardingly College, Benenden School, Eastbourne College, Hurstpierpoint College, The King’s School, Lancing College, Mayfield, Radley College, Roedean School, St Mary’s School Ascot, Sevenoaks School, Tonbridge School and Worth School. I am continuing to negotiate with additional senior schools to extend this list.

I have forged a relationship with 13 senior independent schools, enabling us to guarantee that each Foundation Scholar will move seamlessly from their prep school education at Cumnor House Sussex to one of our independent senior school partners.

Christian Heinrich, Headmaster of Cumnor House Sussex

We now have five Foundation Scholars in place across years four to six, with the first making their transition to senior school in September 2020. The mother of our first Foundation Scholar commented that, ‘Through the Foundation Scholarship, Cumnor has offered my child an astounding opportunity and environment to unwrap and discover new gifts. Its ethos of children “daring to be different” and its ability as a school to embed wellbeing in every lesson through its unique curriculum, “iSpace Wellbeing”, has allowed my child to manoeuvre confidently through emerging friendships and embrace the unique and newfound interests in subjects that may generally be attributed to a particular gender’.

Our aim is to increase the number to four Foundation Scholars per year group from year four, at which point we will have 20 Foundation Scholars integrated within our school community of three hundred and seventy-five pupils.

This article was originally published in School House: Scholarships & Bursaries Magazine in January 2019.

READ MORE: Ways and Means: How Schools Fund Scholarships | The Recipe for Success: Prospective Scholars