A history of free places

Latymer Upper School was created by a single act of philanthropy

In 1624, Edward Latymer, a wealthy lawyer and man of property, bequeathed part of his wealth for the clothing and education of “eight poore boyes” from Hammersmith. Between 1624 and 1895 the revenues from the Latymer Foundation’s lands paid for local boys to be educated in local schools. Then, in 1895, the Trustees of the Latymer Foundation decided to establish Latymer Upper School which opened its doors on King Street with 106 pupils.

Latymer has always drawn children from diverse backgrounds. At the beginning of the 20th century many of these children were beneficiaries of either Latymer Foundation scholarships or of scholarships funded by the London and Middlesex education authorities. By 1919, four out of ten pupils were receiving full scholarships; a number that continued to rise over the next two or three decades.

In 1944, the Butler Education Act led to the Governors needing to decide between becoming one of the newly established direct grant schools or continuing with grant-aided status. The Governors chose the former. The Latymerian magazine commented, “our system of admission…will remain based strictly on a boy’s intrinsic merit and not on the financial capacity of his parents.” Half of all places were reserved for scholarship pupils, funded by the respective local education authorities, although in fact more were often taken up. The remaining places were available to fee paying pupils, whose families could apply for generously reduced fees if their income fell below a certain threshold. In practice this meant that during the ensuing decades of the 1950s-1970s some 80% of the School pupils were on free places.

Although local authority funding declined during the 1970s, Latymer still strove to maintain its treasured ethos of social and financial diversity. Scholarship and fee-paying boys studied alongside each other, with no distinctions made by the School or by the boys themselves.

The abolition of the direct grant system in 1976 posed the first real threat to Latymer’s tradition of educating pupils from all walks of life in a tolerant, liberal environment. The Governors opted for independent status, rather than being subsumed into the state comprehensive system; they were thereby able to retain the principle of selection on academic ability but were put on the financial defensive. Thankfully, the Assisted Places scheme in 1981 ensured that one-third of all pupils still received some form of financial support.

Valuable as the Assisted Places Scheme was at the outset, successive Governments did not fund the scheme adequately. Increasingly Latymer found itself spending more on the education of Assisted Places pupils than it was receiving in fees through the Assisted Places scheme. Sadly, the only way to remain financially solvent was to leave the scheme, even before it was abolished in 1997. Reluctantly, but recognizing they had no option, the Governors took the decision to set fees at a realistic level and, thereafter, effectively all parents then had to pay full fees. In consequence, it became much more difficult to accept boys from poor families. Indeed, by 1998 there were only 2 permanent free places at Latymer, funded by the Foundation.

The School was unhappy at this inevitable outcome, and the Latymer Development Office was set up in 2004 to help rectify it. A central task for the Development Office is to ensure that the School continues to fulfil its founder’s vision – as relevant today as it was in 1624 – by securing private donations of all sizes that in turn fund means-tested scholarships. As the School began to accept girls in 1996, there is now a need to fund both boys and girls.

In 2002 the best efforts of the School meant that there were 7 pupils in receipt of full means-tested scholarships. As of September 2017, there were 144 Upper School pupils studying at Latymer thanks to a bursary, and another 8 at the Prep; 92 of these pupils receive 100% fee remission.

As the first stage on that journey, the School aspires to be in a position to offer bursaries to 25% of the School roll and to build the endowment for bursaries to protect them for generations to come.

Latymer’s alumni are renowned for their leadership in industry, business, public service, academia, the professions and the arts. To keep Latymer’s doors open to the young people who will lead tomorrow’s world, the School needs your help, and sincerely hopes that you will join us in doing what you can to preserve the special ethos of this remarkable School.