A PHILANTHROPIST who made his fortune after receiving excellent free education in Portsmouth has launched a bursary scheme for students at his former school.
Brian Wilkie has offered to give two deserving youngsters on free school meals at Mayfield in North End a scholarship for Portsmouth Grammar School’s sixth form, worth almost £12,000 a year.
The 62-year-old entrepreneur, who was a pupil at Mayfield’s previous incarnation – Northern Grammar School – said he wanted to do something to address ‘an education system that is failing deserving kids from deprived backgrounds’.
He admitted he was shocked to learn private school students were 55 times more likely to get a place at Oxbridge than their state-educated peers on free school meals.
Mr Wilkie said: ‘I had a great education in Portsmouth and I got it for free at what was one of the best state grammars in England. I did my A-levels there but chose not to go to university. Instead I emigrated to Australia and travelled the world before settling in Dubai.
‘My dad died when I was 14 and I was on free school meals, but being poor didn’t handicap me in any way.’
Mr Wilkie struck gold when he set up Dubai’s first courier service in the 1980s – and has since backed many charitable projects.
He added: ‘The education divide is growing, and I think a lot of the problems are rooted in the demise of the grammar school system. When I visited Mayfield I was impressed with what I saw. There is so much promise and enthusiasm. Just because some pupils there are classed as being poor it doesn’t mean their prospects have to be.’
James Priory, headmaster at Portsmouth Grammar School where 13 pupils were offered a place at Oxbridge this year, welcomed the offer.