Hoping your child might win a prized scholarship? Here's what you need to know



Independent schools have a strong record of honouring talented and hardworking pupils with scholarships. Scholarships are not only awarded for academic potential, but also for success and potential in sports, music, drama and art. Scholarships usually mean an element of prestige and an element of financial help (this varies according to the college).

We've put together a guide to the questions we're most often asked at West Sussex independent school, Sompting Abbotts Preparatory School, about how to go about securing a scholarship.

How do colleges fund scholarships?

Usually through the school's endowments and bequests or from fee income. It's important to remember too that scholarships are not a one-way street and only to the benefit of the pupil. Scholarships are a means of attracting the most talented pupils to a college. The Good Schools Guide says: "With nudges from the Charity Commission, many independent schools are embarking on campaigns to raise more funds for means-tested bursaries. Now, around a third of children educated in the independent sector receive some level of fee remission." If you'd like to research more information about available bursaries and scholarships, you can visit the Scholarships and Bursaries Service here. 

What’s a Common Academic Scholarship?

The Common Academic Scholarship Examination, or CASE, requires your child to sit examinations at a considerably higher level than Common Entrance. As with Common Entrance, you should contact your preferred senior school and register your child as a Scholarship candidate. The same subjects are assessed, most with a single paper, and students are taught separately as a Scholarship group.

Scholarship exams mostly take place in May in Year 8 and they're sat at the senior school. Lancing College, however, asks candidates sit the Scholarship paper in February of Year 8. At Sompting Abbotts Preparatory School, we prepare your children for this. We begin working on the programme of study earlier and offer you extra sessions in the holidays.

You can expect your child to be interviewed too by a senior member of staff at his or her desired senior school. This can seem daunting to some children so we help by giving coaching on interview techniques. We're especially proud of our excellent Scholarship record at Sompting Abbotts Preparatory School.

What does it mean if my child gets a Scholarship?

You become immediately eligible for a Bursary. Without this, you don't have any guarantee you can have assistance. The maximum amount of fee assistance is a 15% reduction. Your child will also be entered into a high-achieving group requiring them to engage in seminars and challenging projects when they begin their senior school.

When is it decided if my child can work towards a Scholarship?

Staff and the Headmaster examine pupils’ examinations at the end of Year 7. Then we'll contact you about your child's options. Of course, well before this time, parents often discuss with staff their child's possibilities.

What if I decide my child isn't coping well with the Scholarship programme?

Students from the Scholarship group have previously transferred back to the Common Entrance programme of study with great success. We usually advise parents to stick to the chosen programme after the end of the Autumn Term of Year 8 though.

Do schools offer any other kinds of Awards?

Yes. There are 'all-rounder' awards, music scholarships, sport scholarships, art scholarships and drama scholarships. The all-rounder awards have different names with each senior school. Lancing’s is the Shearwood Award, Brighton’s is the Millennium Award and Hurstpierpoint’s is the Hurst Award.

What has my child got to do to get an 'all-rounder'?

Your child should be a consistently full participant in choir and choir events, keen in sporting arenas and if possible playing for one team outside of school at a competitive level; they should have either Speech and Drama or Music exam success and perhaps strong specialisms in three academic subjects. Candidates are usually interviewed by a senior member of staff at the senior school. The senior school will assess your child’s specialisms. Lancing currently require their candidates to write two essays under exam conditions; one on a discursive title and one on current affairs. The assessment takes place in February of Year 8 for these. A successful all-rounder candidate will be required to perform well at Common Entrance too.

Can a candidate be awarded a Scholarship in more than one subject? 

Scholarships are usually Academic, Art, Music, Sport, or Drama. If a student is doing a Music Scholarship and an Academic Scholarship, it's inadvisable to try for, say an Art scholarship on top of this, as the workload would be too much. Far better to stick with the stronger field and then the next strongest. 

And the drama award?

Your child has to have sat Speech and Drama assessments at a high level. Sompting Abbotts employs a peripatetic specialist, Ms Howard, for this. He or she will also need to show evidence of success in drama festivals and experience of performing as a cast member in a production in a professional theatre (for example, Worthing Pavillion, Connaught Theatre) and full participation in school productions. The senior school will make its assessment in February of Year 8. A successful drama candidate will be required to perform well at Common Entrance too.

And the music award?

To bag one of these, your child has to have music examination success at a considerably high level and play a minimum of two instruments. Our Head of Music, Mrs Williamson, will give you detailed advice on this. A music award requires considerable commitment with regard to peripatetic lessons and practice. Your child should be present and performing at all musical events in the school calendar. A successful music candidate will be required to perform well at Common Entrance too.

What about the art award?

Again, your child will have to commit to working in his or her spare time on building up a portfolio and skill-set so extra lessons with the Art teacher are strongly recommended. You should visit exhibitions with your child and make sure his or her sketchbooks get assiduously filled with good quality work. Once again, a successful Art candidate will be required to perform well at Common Entrance too.

And how about the sport award?

Your child should have been a successful team member so playing for local clubs is essential. They should have an interest in a variety of sports and should have proven their worth in representing the school. It should be noted that Hurstpierpoint don't offer football and skills in other sports is generally preferred. Both Brighton and Lancing offer Cricket Scholarships. A successful sport candidate will be required to perform well at Common Entrance too.

Will your teachers provide extra support? 

Many do, and will offer their services for students sitting exams that year in holiday time too.

Supposing I still have questions about all this?  Speak to Headmaster Mr Stuart Douch or email him at headmaster@somptingabbotts.org


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Stuart Douch, Headmaster, Sompting Abbotts Preparatory School


Interested in Lancing College?

Find the scholarships information here


Interested in Brighton College?

Find the scholarships information here


Interested in Hurstpierpoint College

Find the scholarships information here

A third of pupils at ISC schools are on reduced fees and about 6000 pupils pay no fees at all. Most of these are on means-tested bursaries – sometimes called assisted places. The school looks at what it is reasonable for you to afford and sets a fee accordingly. Some schools have just a few of these assisted places, others have a large number. At Christ’s Hospital school in Sussex, a boarding school, most of the pupils are on greatly reduced fees or pay nothing at all (2018 ISC annual census). The details of these will always be found on the schools’ websites. If anything is not clear, ring the school’s admissions office.