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Fun outdoor play area bung-full of interesting and irresistible bits and pieces. Plenty of inventive stuff to play with - hoses, bits of wood, tyres, crates, tunnels and puddles; the children were happily guddling around at the time of our visit. Impressive Tom Fleming Centre for Performing Arts, a renovated Victorian assembly hall, seats up to 800. So fab that it is recognised as one of Edinburgh's foremost rehearsal and performance venues.Children regularly perform in professional musicals and operas: last year 64 pupils sang in the production of Joseph at the Edinburgh Playhouse... 

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What the school says...

We believe this is a time when children should not lose the joy of discovering the world outside - or the potential within themselves. Here your child will be nurtured to become a happy and confident young person. Girls and boys will learn that if they always do their best they can be proud of themselves and their achievements. They will develop all aspects of their personality, preparing them for the next stage of their education with grace and integrity. ...Read more

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What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2016, Mike Kane, previously head of upper school at Stewart's Melville College. ‘He has a great manner and really cares about the children’. He is well liked by all parents we spoke to. ‘He looks out for every child….is intelligent, measured, astute but down to earth with good values.' His background is in teaching English and he still enjoys taking the occasional lesson with P7 pupils. His previous role gives him a good understanding of the transition from junior to senior school.


Automatic entrance to the school from nursery for the majority. Nursery places are offered by date of application (many parents register their child at birth). Some priority given to siblings and the need to ensure a balance of boys and girls (the school is often ‘boy heavy’).

Otherwise entry is by assessment, which can be arranged at any time during the school year. School is oversubscribed with waiting lists for some years. The main school entry points are P1 (around 15-20 spaces), P3 and P4, with the biggest entry point at P6 (around 50 places). Occasional places available at other levels. Only between five and 10 places available at P7 so parents are encouraged to apply for P6 instead. When we visited, P6 was ‘almost full and there was a growing waiting list for P7’.

Entrance assessment for primary years. Numeracy, writing, reading aloud and a relaxed chat. Children have to be able to ‘cope’. This is a selective school and not everyone makes the grade.


Nearly all (over 95 per cent) go on to one of the senior schools (The Mary Erskine School or Stewart’s Melville College) at 11 or 12. Minimal trickle elsewhere to other independents.

Our view

Huge school on two sites. Early years, nursery to primary 3 (ages 3-7 or 8) and is based at Ravelston on the same site as The Mary Erskine School (girls’ senior school) and the upper junior school is at the Stewart’s Melville College site (boys’ senior school) on Queensferry Road.

Snowdrops nursery children are in their own interjoining, sunny, south facing rooms. At 4 the numbers increase to 120 children divided in four classes sizes of 30, in big, light rooms. All decorated with great thought and creativity and in different ‘zones’ for work and play. Fun outdoor play area bung-full of interesting and irresistible bits and pieces. Plenty of inventive stuff to play with - hoses, bits of wood, tyres, crates, tunnels and puddles; the children were happily guddling around at the time of our visit. Great spaces both inside and out but a class of 30 is still a big pond for little fish to play in. PE, ICT, library and music specialists from nursery.

Wrap-around care available from nursery (early bird 7.45am to after-school club 6pm). This is popular with those we spoke to - ‘an amazing provision for working parents’. Nursery pick up times 12.30pm, 2.30pm or 6pm. After-school club from 2.30pm (free play).

Outdoor learning takes place in the forest kindergarten - a specially developed ‘wild’ area of the school grounds. Hmmm…green but not exactly wild - we’re in well-tended school grounds in central Edinburgh, after all. Here learning is supported by trained forest kindergarten leaders. Nursery children have a few hours of outdoor learning once a week for a 6/8 week block. In P1/2/3 the forest kindergarten is linked to classroom topics so that children can ‘extend their learning’ and develop ‘problem solving skills’.

Primary 1 starts at age 4/5. We hear that the move up from nursery is well done, ‘the school is great at transitioning’. No subject sets in P1 to P3. Reading taught by sight reading and phonetics - whichever works best. Regular internal assessments to pick up any glitches. From P2 there is a more formal assessment to get children ‘used to putting answers down’. Things ramp up again in P3 with GL assessments. From time to time an ‘emotionally young’ child may defer for a year but only after a full consultation with parents. On rare occasions a child may be advised to go elsewhere, but again only after much consultation with parents. French and drama from P1. Spelling (important here) begins in P2 and cursive handwriting in P3.

The support for learning department works across the whole school and moves between the two sites. Support for all intellectual abilities in small groups and in-class support. School happy to take all dys-strata ‘as long as support for learning is not full’, and can cope with ADHD and Asperger’s.

Classes reshuffled in P3. Parents are divided as to whether or not this is beneficial. Some say that it helps the children ‘make other friends and know their year group better’ and ‘it pushes them out of their comfort zone’, while others worry about the ‘lack of continuity’ and ‘the loss of friendships damaging confidence in some children’. A range of 15 different clubs for P3 to choose from, including science and Spanish, with dance from nursery.

P2 and 3 eat in the lunch hall. Nursery and primary 1 currently have packed lunches in classrooms. This will change around the end of 2019 when the fabulous new dining facility is finished, giving far more options.

In P4, aged 8, all move to Queensferry Road site. Full use of the senior school facilities. Set in maths from P4. The junior school favours broad banded setting with smaller classes for the less able. For instance in P4, lowest maths set has only 12 pupils. Maximum class size is usually 25, with 20 for more practical subjects such as home economics and science. Again ‘spelling matters’, as does presentation. All children use a fountain pen from P6. Home economics and science in senior school labs from P7. German and Spanish from P6.

New emphasis on teachers ‘knowing individual pupils’, possibly even more important/difficult in a school as big as this. All class teachers are full time - no job shares - so they can get to know their pupils well.

Great library on two levels. Bright and sunny. Books cleverly colour-coded into genres for ease of use. Lovely airy classrooms. P6/7s have lots of outdoor space including Astros to run around on. Outdoor play area for the P4/5s on the small side and noisy (busy main road the other side of the wall).

Fantastic sport and fantastic facilities - swimming pool, super gyms and lots of games options. Sport for all. A huge number of teams: eight junior school rugby teams (boys only), six junior school cricket teams, eight P6/P7 hockey teams for girls. Boys’ hockey is a growth area with a strong uptake so far. Everyone encouraged to take part. Football extremely popular with boys and girls. Cricket for girls has caught on fast (over 60 girls receiving weekly coaching, U12, U13, U15 teams in the senior school). Strong swimming teams (Edinburgh schools champions - boys and girls). PE classes within the core curriculum.

A mind-boggling number of clubs on offer to those in P4-P7 - over 100, ranging from modern dance and Warhammer to tap-dance and hillwalking. Annual residential camps include walking, climbing, canoeing and aim to develop independence, confidence, friendships and skills.

Outstanding music, dance and drama. Impressive Tom Fleming Centre for Performing Arts, a renovated Victorian assembly hall, seats up to 800. So fab that it is recognised as one of Edinburgh's foremost rehearsal and performance venues and used by external performers as well as the school children. Fourteen choirs, each year group has an orchestra, there's ensembles and bands and over 600 junior school pupils are regularly involved in music making. A choir sings at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo during the Festival, and children regularly perform in professional musicals and operas: last year 64 pupils sang in the production of Joseph at the Edinburgh Playhouse.

Art is strong too. Top facilities and impressive, up to date, creations on display throughout.

Charity work is important. Children are encouraged to organise their charity projects and come up with their own ‘inventive ideas’ to raise money rather than just being told what to do, something that we don’t see enough of in schools. Great for budding entrepreneurial whizz kids as well as raising cash for good causes. Last year the junior school raised over £50,000 for more than 30 charities. Strong contact with Malawi: heavily involved in the establishment, through The Chesney Trust, of The Edinburgh Girls’ High School in north-east Malawi.

Strong anti-bullying programme. A nine-point set of values which are repeated, at every turn, on walls around the school. Each child must show appreciation, commitment, confidence, enthusiasm, grace, integrity, kindness, respect and responsibility. Newly appointed tsar for overall pastoral care (P4-P7) to put more rigid structures in place and make sure that messages on bullying are robust and clear. Parents tell us that any problems have been ‘sorted immediately’ with ‘common sense’ and ‘good dialogue’ between everyone involved.

Parents are a mixed bunch. Many first-time buyers and children of FPs (former pupils). Parents report ‘a broad cross-section of families’, mostly from central Edinburgh and suburbs. Not really a toff school, although there will be a smattering. One parent commented that ‘as the fees are reasonable, the school is a big melting pot of all sorts of different people’ and there is ‘no elitism, which makes a good environment for the children’.

From P4 (age 8), buses to and from everywhere. Thirteen different bus routes - Dunfermline, Dunbar, Melrose and Falkirk as well as around the city itself. Buses leave school at 4.20pm, with a 'bus club' for those who finish school at 3.30pm.

Parking (very) restricted at the Stewart’s Melville campus, with parents mostly parking on the street. However at Ravelston campus, there’s a new car park. Well thought out with oodles of space and a separate ‘bus area’.

Facilities and opportunities abound. Parents say that there is a ‘heathy level of competition’ in the school but ‘children are batted down if they suggest they are better than someone else’. We don't feel that this school is complacent about its success. With a newish head, who is ‘open to new ideas’, it is always striving to improve and develop.


Boarding is available for a ‘small contingent' but only from P6 upwards. Boarding can be full time or weekly, flexi on offer with B&B if space available. Boarding houses are very close to the school in boys' and girls' houses with a married couple in charge of both. But with only two junior school children boarding at present this is very much a day school.

The last word

This is a big, impressive school and a formidable, slick operation. Terrific success stories on every front, not just academically. The sheer size has tremendous benefits, but not every child will thrive as a small fish in such a large pond, and the non-conformist may have less room to manoeuvre.

Special Education Needs

We offer Support for Learning. 09-09

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
English as an additional language (EAL)
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class
HI - Hearing Impairment
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
PD - Physical Disability
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
VI - Visual Impairment

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