For many decades children from Birkenhead and Wirral have benefited from the outstanding all-round education available at Birkenhead School, many of them going on to the best universities and from there taking up responsible positions in society.
They were able to do that irrespective of social status or parental means. The abolition of the Direct Grant and more recently in 1997 of the Government Assisted Places scheme has left the School with a double challenge: to maintain high academic standards and to retain its long-standing commitment to open access.
In order to maintain standards we have for the time being reduced our intake at 11 from four forms to three, leaving us with a smaller, more intimate school which in itself has advantages compared to other very large local schools. The question of access is more difficult to resolve. Fifteen years ago about a third of pupils entering the School did so because the Government Assisted Places scheme enabled them, through means - tested funding, to benefit from the excellent opportunities which the School could offer.
The last Assisted Place pupils left the Upper Sixth in 2004 and from then on we have been totally dependent on our own resources. Thanks to the generous support of former pupils and friends of the School and through the sale of assets such as Fender Field we have managed to replace some of that fee assistance. But in reality we can at present support only about a quarter of the number of pupils who used to receive Assisted Places. As a result, able and talented pupils, who thoroughly deserve to benefit from a Birkenhead School education, are unable to come here.
My colleagues, governors and I want the School to be independent not private – independent in our freedom from government meddling, able to provide what we consider to be the best kind of education, but not a private club to which only the privileged have access. We will remain unashamedly elitist in educational terms, but to be socially elite would be to negate the School’s fundamental character. That is why it is vital that we continue to build up our financial resources in order to become truly independent, so that we decide who deserves an education here not the politicians.
If you have not already thought of contributing, through donation or bequest, or if you would like to increase your support please download a Trust Donation Form.
Alternatively, contact Carol Keegan by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I urge you to join us in this challenge. By investing in the Birkenhead School Foundation Trust you are investing in the future independence of the School and in the education of the next generation of Birkonians.