Bradford teenager wins place at the University of Cambridge after retired businessman pays for her to attend his old school

A Bradford girl has the former High Sheriff of West Yorkshire to thank after she gained a place to study at Cambridge.

Charlie Kelly wants to use her engineering degree to become an inventor

Charlie Kelly, who wants to be an inventor, comes from a working-class family background and was able to join Bradford Grammar School's sixth form after winning a bursary funded by former pupil and retired businessman Roger Bowers,

Mr Bowers, from Otley, grew up in a terraced house in Bradford Moor and went to the fee-paying school when it was part of the government's direct grant scheme, which provided assisted places.

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He went on to run his own company and later served as both High Sheriff and deputy lord lieutenant of West Yorkshire.

In the past 20 years, Mr Bowers has sponsored 19 children to attend his former school and he is one of around 16 alumni who are major benefactors of Bradford Grammar.

Charlie, who has received a conditional offer to study engineering, and her family live in Allerton and she attended the local Dixon's Academy until the age of 16.

The 17-year-old has been raised by her mother and two older sisters following her father's death 11 years ago.

She said: “The place at Bradford Grammar has completely changed my life. It’s opened up the world of learning to me and it’s made me enthusiastic about education again. It’s not just about the quality of education, it’s who you surround yourself with. If you’re in a school that cares about learning, you will succeed.”

“I remember being so excited when I got in. One of my main worries when I joined BGS was would I make any friends, would they like me and would they be different to me because it’s a private school. But from the very first day there were others who had come into the sixth form new like me; there was one girl who was in every one of my classes and now we’re best friends.”

Charlie is studying maths, further maths, physics and chemistry at A Level and wants to combine her academic abilities with her passion for art.

“I love art and science and I’d like an opportunity to mix the two. I like having a final product that you can look at. Ultimately, I’d like to invent things. You only get one life and I think I’d really enjoy it. I’d love to make my family proud and for them to say: ‘Charlie made that.’ ”

Around 10 per cent of Bradford Grammar School's pupil body now receives fees assistance and more benefactors with links to the school and the city are being sought to support them.

Mr Bowers said: “Over the years, it’s been gratifying to learn about the students and hear about their progress and be in a position to give them advice. I’m heartened by how bursary provision has grown at BGS. Rewarding hard-working and bright young people, such as Charlie, who wouldn’t be able to attend BGS without financial support, has long been a cornerstone of all that makes BGS great.

“As a benefactor, I believe 100 per cent that in making a gift, you can change a young person’s life.”

Charlie is following in the footsteps of 2020 leaver Blaine Thomas, who attended Bradford Grammar on a bursary sponsored by the estate of the late supermarket founder Sir Ken Morrison.

Blaine went on to become head boy and is now in his first year reading law at the University of Oxford. He lived on the Canterbury council estate, one of the most deprived in Bradford, until he was 14.

Speaking about his experiences at Oxford, Blaine said: "Oxford is less intimidating than I had thought. You quickly get used to the customs and there is, surprisingly, something quite enjoyable about dressing up in 'sub fusc' at the end of your first week and parading the streets before celebrating being an official Oxford student with drinks outside the Radcliffe Camera.

"Life at university during Covid has been difficult at times, but I have still managed to make friends from not just across the UK but across the world.

"One day, I hope to be in a position to give back so someone can have the same enriching experience I’ve had.”