Row as two leading private schools reject £1million scholarship donation for poor white boys

Harriet Brewis
PA Archive/PA Images

Two top private schools have sparked a national race row after they rejected a £1 million scholarship donation intended exclusively for poor white boys.

Dulwich College and Winchester College turned down the gift from philanthropist Sir Bryan Thwaites, 96, over fears it would break equality laws.

Sir Bryan, who was a scholarship student at both colleges, planned to help disadvantaged, white British boys after studies showed they performed worse academically than almost every other ethnic group.

He aimed to bequeath £400,000 to Dulwich College in south London and £800,000 to Winchester College in Hampshire in his will, in what he hoped would help address “the severe national problem of the underperforming white cohort in schools,” The Times reported.

Dulwich College, in South London, one of Britain's best known public schools (PA Archive/PA Images)

However, Dulwich headmaster Dr Joe Spencer said the college was “resistant” to donations “made with any ethnic or religious criteria”.

“Bursaries are an engine of social mobility and they should be available to all who pass our entrance examinations, irrespective of their background,” he added.

But Sir Bryan defended his proposed grant by citing the rapper Stormzy, who established a Cambridge University scholarship scheme soley for black British students earlier this year.

“If Cambridge University can accept a much larger donation in support of black students, why cannot I do the same for underprivileged white British?” he asked.

“Winchester said it would harm its reputation by accepting my bequest, but in my opinion it would gain enormously by being seen to address what is the severe national problem of the underperforming white cohort in schools.”

A spokeswoman for Winchester College said “acceptance of a bequest of this nature would neither be in the interests of the school as a charity nor the specific interests of those it aims to support through its work”.

She added: “Notwithstanding legal exceptions to the relevant legislation, the school does not see how discrimination on grounds of a boy’s colour could ever be compatible with its values.”

Former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Trevor Phillips, has also been called upon in the debate, after he blamed a “lethal cocktail of inverted snobbery, racial victimhood and liberal guilt” for the reluctance to help white boys, whom he described as “today’s educational left-behinds”.

Writing in the online magazine Standpoint, he said: “On half a dozen occasions over the past five years I’ve been asked to advise on whether it is acceptable to offer bursaries or scholarships to one minority group or another.

“Invariably, I have said yes; but donors remain nervous, and beneficiary institutions are routinely discouraged by their lawyers.

“I have no idea how many such generous offers have been turned down, but I do know that in recent months two well-known fee-paying schools have lost bequests totalling over £1 million that might have supported some of our most disadvantaged children for one reason: the donor, like Stormzy, wants his money to go to people of his own background – poor but talented white British boys.”

Sir Bryan attended Dulwich until the outbreak of the Second World War, when he was sent to Winchester, according to The Times. Scholarships paid for him to attend both institutions.

He later taught at Winchester and has long supported both schools.

The two colleges are understood to have consulted widely with lawyers, trustees and charity experts before declining the bequest.

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