Bradford-based health insurance provider Sovereign Health Care has funded places for Saffah Farooq, Ans Muhammed and Nouman Zahid in the sixth form at Bradford Grammar School.
The three teenagers have grown up in economically deprived areas and transferred from the state sector after winning the coveted scholarships, and all are now aiming to study medicine or dentistry at university. As well as covering their fees, the grants also fund uniform, sports kit, travel to and from school and other equipment depending on the level of need.
The pupils have all faced adversity and are hoping that their studies at the school will be the springboard to attending top universities and achieving their career goals.
Saffah, who is from Bradford and joined from Feversham Academy in Undercliffe, applied for the fees assistance while her father was being treated for blood cancer. He is the sole earner in their household.
“I was so happy to get a place. I never thought I’d study at a private school and it brought a lot of happiness to all of my family, especially my dad who’s had to endure chemotherapy and has been in and out of hospital.
“My mum encouraged me to keep focused and work hard. I was nervous before joining but the people were really welcoming and the teachers were all nice. You get a lot of support from the teachers to help you succeed, especially if you find something difficult.
“With everything going on with dad it’s made me even more certain that I want a career in medicine.”
Ans, from Huddersfield, previously attended Heckmondwike Grammar, a selective state school.
“We were really pleased to get the place. I was nervous about making friends, like you would be at any new school, but the teachers were fantastic, and I had no problems at all settling in.”
Nouman is also local, joining from Dixons City Academy in Bradford. He dreams of becoming a neurosurgeon and was described as 'incredulous' when he was offered his place.
Sovereign Health Care is one of several corporate sponsors of scholarships and bursaries available to children whose families would not otherwise be able to afford to send them to Bradford Grammar School.
A scholarship was set up in memory of the late Sir Ken Morrison, founder of supermarket chain Morrisons, and this year recipient Blaine Thomas, who grew up on the city's deprived Canterbury estate, received an offer to read law at the University of Oxford. His achievements also inspired his younger brother to raise his own aspirations.
The school's development director, Lindsey Davis, has spearheaded a push to increase engagement with former pupils and local businesses in order to boost the funds available for fees assistance.
She points out that from the 1940s until the 1970s, Bradford Grammar was a 'direct grant' school, meaning that it accepted children who passed the 11-plus exam whose fees were paid by the local authority. Around half of the boys who attended the school during this period were on free places, and many of the alumni from this golden age of social mobility are now retired and reflecting on the head start their education gave them.
"Giving back to the community is written into the school's historic charter, and it will become even more important in the coming years as we see the long-term impact of Covid-19.
"We want to build up the assisted places scheme, and reach out to more alumni and corporate donors who want to help.
"The direct grant period was a real milestone in the school's history, and it enabled so much social mobility. Many of these former pupils, particularly those who attended in the 1960s and 70s, have been reflecting in lockdown on the difference the school made to their lives.
"We have CEOs all over the world, entrepreneurs, people who have been successful in law and finance, and they want to give back. Many of them progressed to Oxbridge and they know that was because of their education here."
The school has set up the 1662 Fund, which will focus on helping children from council wards that are in the five per cent most deprived in the country.
"We want to help talented kids, while also making the school's intake more diverse, which better reflects the world they are going out into."
An outreach officer works with state primary schools to identify children who may apply at 11, and in secondary schools to attract pupils predicted to get excellent GCSE results who may join the sixth form.
"It's about raising aspirations in these schools and greater exposure in these areas, so they are aware of the school and what we can offer."
Previous recipients of bursaries include 2011 leaver Edward Hainsworth, who went on to study at the University of Bath, and now works in policy development in Paris. He has also worked for the UN. His younger brother also received financial support and is now a doctor.
Businesses that have sponsored pupils include Bradford-based publishing firm Emerald Group and the Shears Foundation, which was set up by old boy and transport entrepreneur Trevor Shears.
"Sovereign Health Care are now in their fourth year of working with us, and in 2018 they renewed their support after funding two students in the previous cohort. Sovereign and Emerald are key names in the city, and they also get involved in mentoring and work experience schemes, which build that careers network."
Lindsey acknowledges that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds often lack the 'socal capital' of their middle-class peers, and are unfamiliar with networking and building contacts.
"They often don't have that capital, so it is really helpful that the corporate backers get involved and show them the benefits of networking.
"We focus on financial need, and applicants do need to be academically outstanding. We take into account subject preferences, and try and match their interests. We've not ventured into offering scholarships for sport and music, although there are bursaries available once at the school for things like trips and tours.
"Fundraising for outstanding pupils is our priority, but as assisted places grow we are open to fundraising for other scholarships in the future."