Scholar wanted: only vegetarians need apply

Leading public school insists on unusual condition for £1,500 discount on fees

For centuries great scholars have taken their places at some of the finest educational establishments in the land on the basis of an array of talents, whether academic, artistic or athletic. But rarely has such an honour been bestowed on someone purely because they would rather not have bangers for their breakfast.

One private school, however, is offering a sixth-form scholarship to a vegetarian pupil. The successful candidate will earn his or her parents a hefty £1,500 discount on Wycliffe College's annual fees. This, the school insists, is not simply a whimsical move but an attempt to honour its finest traditions and original ethos.

Founding the college in 1882, the Methodist and vegetarian George Sibly chose its location in Stonehouse, Gloucestershire, for its clean water and pupils were encouraged to grow their own fruit and vegetables. A progressive establishment for its time, with the motto Bold and Loyal, pupils were encouraged to take trips to places as far away as Norway and Nepal. Physical activity was encouraged, with students even helping to dig the school's swimming pool.

Thirty years later, Sibly's son, William, experimented with pupils in Springfield, one of the school's houses, by keeping them on a vegetarian diet while monitoring their health, physical development and intellectual achievements in comparison with those who ate meat. Today, the school welcomes those with a more varied diet, but some pupils continue to grow their own vegetables, selling them to staff to earn pocket money.

Certainly teachers, many of whom do not eat meat, believe vegetarianism is no barrier to great success academically or athletically. Among historical figures the mathematician Pythagoras, philosopher Plato, the statesman Mahatma Ghandi and author Leo Tolstoy were all non-meat eaters.

Wycliffe College's most noted vegetarian past pupil was the late Wing Commander Rowland George OBE, who won a gold medal for rowing at the 1936 Olympics.

The successful pupil will still have to pay the lion's share of the school's annual boarding fees of £23,520, or day fees of £15,465. Despite the discount, the school has struggled to fill the vacancy, explained a spokeswoman, Melanie Gray. "People in the past have taken it up but we haven't had any candidates for several years," she said.

"It would be great to get some good candidates come forward. They would have to be truly vegetarian of, course. They couldn't be caught having a burger, but not eating meat is not the only criteria."

The scholarship calls for a child with qualities of character, promise of leadership and keenness in sport. Ms Gray continued: "They would have to be a good all-round student and fit in with the school academically and with its ethos.

"I don't know any other school that offers something like this. Many of the teachers are vegetarian and I am myself and the food that the school provides is very good."

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