AN independent school is to open its doors to children from lower income families who would normally be unable to afford the fees.

Taunton School plans to debunk the myth that a privileged education is the reserve of the rich elite by offering assisted places to 90 children over the next three years.

Headmaster Lee Glaser said he is looking to recruit 15 students in each of Year 7 and 9 for the next three academic years starting from next September - and he isn't looking for high-flyers.

Successful applicants will see up to 80 per cent knocked off the annual fees - currently around £18,000 for day students and £30,000 for boarders, meaning a reduction to £3,600 and £6,000 respectively.

Mr Glaser said: "We feel we're in a strong financial position and are offering a good education.

"We don't want to close our doors to people because the fees are a bit high.

"We're non-selective and aren't after highly talented people. We want children with a proven track record, working hard to try to better themselves.

"We'll look at previous school reports and references from their current schools.

"Unfortunately, the fees may still be prohibitive for some, but it's a great opportunity for the right people."

Taunton School has proved so successful over the years that it generates a surplus of around £1.2 million a year.

It decided to implement the assisted places scheme after the Independent School Council proposed the creation of thousands of places for children from lower income families.

"Broadening access is morally the right thing to be doing and we take that responsibility seriously," said Mr Glaser, who said the bursaries would be confidential and that no stigma would be attached to the successful applicants.

He added that education at Taunton School is not solely about academic achievement and there is an emphasis on preparing youngsters for future success by instilling them with confidence, self belief, raised aspirations, high self-esteem, communication skills, a sense of community and loyalty and integration with students from abroad.

Anyone interested in the scheme should in the first instance contact the school's admissions office on 01823-703702.