One of the top independent schools in the country has launched a £10 million fund-raising campaign to provide 100 places for pupils from poorer backgrounds.
King Edward’s School in Edgbaston is aiming to transform the lives of youngsters who would otherwise never get the chance to attend the exclusive historic institution.
Around 1,000 alumni and friends have already contributed almost £7 million to the campaign, providing means-tested assisted places for 60 pupils from September this year.
The school hopes they will hit the £10 million target by 2017.
The Assisted Places 100 (AP100) campaign will be officially launched at the House of Commons this week, with a second event at the school on Friday, June 20.
High profile names backing the campaign include leading philanthropist Sir Paul Ruddock, David Willetts MP, TV presenter Bill Oddie, authors Jonathan Coe and Lee Child, and Andy Street, managing director of John Lewis.
Just 21 donors have given a huge combined £5.2 million, with a further £800,000 coming from four telephone campaigns where current and recent former pupils contacted alumni to ask for support.
Individual gifts have ranged from £2 to £1.3 million.
From 1944 until 1980 the government funded places at the school through the direct grant system, and approximately 80 per cent of pupils paid no fees at all.
Since the end of the direct grant system and the subsequent government assisted places scheme in 1997, the King Edward VI Foundation has provided funds for assisted places at the school and now contributes more than £1 million per year to pay or subsidise the fees for 120 boys.
But this funding is not enough to provide assisted places for all boys who achieve highly in the entrance exam and also require financial assistance to pay the £11,000 per year fees.
When scholarships are included, one third of the pupils receive some form of financial support and more than 100 pay no fees at all.
By the end of the AP100 campaign in 2017, the number of assisted places will have doubled, providing support to boys throughout their seven years at the school.
John Claughton, chief master of King Edward’s School, said: “This campaign is not just about numbers. It is about boys and their lives.
“If we achieve our goal, 100 boys from a wide range of backgrounds and communities in Birmingham and beyond will receive a life-changing education, an education that I had the benefit of receiving through the direct grant system.
“None of this would be possible without the remarkable support we have received from our alumni and other supporters. It is testament to the education provided by the school that we have reached 1,000 donors in such a short period of time. No independent day school in this country can match that scale of support and we are very proud of what we have achieved.
“Our alumni are almost always grateful for the education and opportunity they received at King Edward’s and many have gone on to very rewarding careers.
“They feel an immense debt of gratitude to the school and being able to provide the same opportunity for young boys now is a simple, strong and meaningful message.
“This increase in assisted places at King Edward’s is making it the most socially and ethnically diverse independent school in this country and such an education, made available without cost to the brightest, is bound to enrich the lives of individual boys and enhance the prosperity of this city.
“This campaign will change forever not only the lives of our pupils but also the future of this school.”
Rajiv Gogna, a former assisted place pupil of King Edward’s who graduated from the University of Oxford last year, added: “Put simply, there are few places in the country a boy could hope to leave as rounded and prepared for life.
“I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have been able to attend King Edward’s School and this was only possible due to the assisted place I received.”
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