State support for private students
The Department for Education and Skills confirmed that some independent school pupils will be eligible for education maintenance allowances, on offer from September to 16-year-olds in England.
Two of the 120,000 students who have received the payments during a pilot run of the scheme attended fee-charging schools.
The Government believes that half of 16-year-olds could receive the means-tested allowances of pound;10 to pound;30, which are available to those whose parents have a joint income below pound;30,000.
A DfES spokeswoman said independent pupils would be eligible if their parents earned below the maximum amount, although the allowances might only go to those who had scholarships or bursaries.
The Independent Schools Council said that 113,697 pupils at its member schools received scholarships or bursaries last year.
Tony Little, headteacher of Eton, estimated that around 30 of his pupils would be eligible for the allowances. More than 250 pupils at the pound;21,000-a-year school receive scholarships or bursaries.
David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "If the Government did not offer them to private pupils they would be open to accusations of discrimination."
Phil Willis, Liberal Democrats' education spokesman said: "There are better uses for public money than providing additional support for students at private schools."
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