COLLEGE bosses have vowed to overhaul a bursary scheme after being impressed by a dogged student’s investigation – all sparked by a £1.10 sausage roll.
Determined Conor Hillier, 16, spent a month researching and compiling his findings into the discretionary bursary he receives at St Vincent College.
The IT student had been dismayed after not receiving any change from two £1 meal tickets he cashed in for lunch at the Gosport institution’s canteen.
That sparked the Fareham lad’s probe into whether or not the canteen contractor was cashing in on the difference, or if students on the bursary were being charged extra for food.
Top teachers listened to his findings after Conor submitted a letter and dossier, and have now agreed to overhaul the bursary system after agreeing the way it worked was flawed.
Clever Conor said: ‘It was only when I started using the bursary that I realised students were having to pay more if they were using the meal tickets – I thought it was really unfair.’
Vice-principal Andy Grant, who said he was impressed by Conor’s work, said while it seemed some students were paying more, they were not, and the canteen firm had not been pocketing extra cash unduly.
Conor added: ‘I like to make sure thing are right, things that I think discriminate or aren’t fair, I like to raise to get that changed.
‘In the future I’d love to do something in the IT industry but after this I’m considering law.’
Senior leader Mr Grant said each student on a discretionary bursary can ask for meal tickets, issued with £1 coupons, or for other items needed for study.
While the canteen currently takes two £1 vouchers and doesn’t return any change for a £1.10 meal, caterer ABM only charges the college’s bursary fund £1.10. Students on the means-tested aid don’t lose out as they don’t have an individual budget, with the cash deducted from an overall pot.
But from the autumn all students on the discretionary bursary will be handed a cash card for use in the canteen and to buy other supplies, and they will be able to monitor an allocated budget online.
Conor’s mum Anne-Marie Costello, 36, said: ‘It’s impressive what he’s found – he doesn’t let things go.
‘When I read it I was really gobsmacked – it’s a really well-written report.’
Anne-Marie said Conor, who has three siblings, was encouraged by someone who supports him at college.
‘That’s all he needs is somebody to give a little boost and he’s quite determined,’ she said.
Mr Grant said: ‘We are very impressed with the research Conor has undertaken in relation to his concerns regarding our bursary meal voucher system. The work he has undertaken has directly influenced changes to how the college will manage providing funded meals to students from low income families which will take effect from the new academic year.
‘Conor’s concerns highlighted that our current process of using vouchers to support students for whom the college fund their meals, did not clearly convey to them how bursary funding was recorded when they requested funded meals.
‘As a result of this we are changing the way in which bursary funded meals will be managed with our contractors, ABM, from next year and this follows the work Conor has undertaken to support us improve our services to students.’
The college supports 400 students with discretionary financial assistance, separate to any free school meals scheme. Conor, who will return to college in September for a Level 2 IT course, is set to join the student council. He has also persuaded the college caterer to reduce oil used in its food.
‘We look forward to working with him and his fellow students to assess the positive impact of the changes to bursary funding support in the new academic year,’ Mr Grant said.