Two leading private schools are at the centre of a race row after a philanthropist claimed they rejected scholarships of more than £1m for poor white boys.
Dulwich College and Winchester College turned down Professor Sir Bryan Thwaites’ offer to leave the funds in his will because they feared breaching anti-discrimination laws, The Times said.
Sir Byran, 96, attended both schools on scholarships and wanted to help disadvantaged white British boys because they perform worse at school than nearly every other ethnic group.
Recent studies show they are less likely to attend university than their peers and they perform relatively poorly in exams.
The row comes after the rap star Stormzy created Cambridge University scholarships to aid black British students exclusively.
Sir Bryan said: “If Cambridge University can accept a much larger donation in support of black students, why cannot I do the same for underprivileged white British?
“In my opinion [Winchester] would gain enormously by being seen to address what is the severe national problem of the underperforming white cohort in schools.”
Trevor Phillips, former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, described poor white boys as “today’s educational left-behinds”.
Writing in the online magazine Standpoint, he added: “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.”
A spokesman 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 interests of those it aims to support through its work.
“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.”
A spokesman for Dulwich College said: “The community at Dulwich is proudly diverse, both socio-economically and ethnically, reflecting our location.
“Bursaries are an engine of social mobility and they should be available to all who pass our entrance examinations, irrespective of their background.”