A new charity, the SpringBoard Bursary Foundation, aims to send 2,000 of the UK’s disadvantaged youngsters to leading state and private boarding schools by 2023.
The first 30 pupils are due to start next September, with Eton College, Harrow School, Benenden School, Marlborough College, Roedean, Rugby School, Wellington Academy and Wellington College among those providing bursary places.
Eventually, more than 60 boarding schools from the private and state sectors are expected to be involved, the foundation said.
To be eligible to apply for a bursary, candidates must come from disadvantaged backgrounds and have the potential to gain from a boarding school education, a spokesman said.
The foundation closely follows the idea of a scheme run by Rugby School – a fee-paying boarding school for 11- to 18-year-olds – called the Arnold Foundation. Set up 10 years ago, the Arnold Foundation is funded through voluntary donations, and provides bursaries for pupils to take up boarding places at the historic school.
Ian Davenport, SpringBoard chief executive and former headmaster of Blundell’s, a private boarding school in Devon, said: “Boarding schools have helped transform thousands of children’s lives but have too often been perceived to be the preserve of a social elite; so today marks an important moment for social mobility in this country.
“Alongside business and the third sector, the schools party to the SpringBoard Bursary Foundation will offer major opportunities to young people from communities that suffer from a poverty of educational ambition.”
The foundation said a number of individuals and trusts have already pledged funding for the bursaries.
The fund has been launched in the same week that a new poll suggested that more than half of parents – 57 per cent – would send their children to a private school if they could afford it.
Many also believe that fee-paying schools provide a better standard of education, according to the survey, commissioned by the Independent Schools Council (ISC).
And some thought they offered smaller classes, and a better start for their youngster.