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  • Glenalmond College
    Glenalmond
    Perth
    PH1 3RY
  • Head: Hugh Ouston Interim Head
  • T 01738 842000
  • F 01738 842063
  • E [email protected]
  • W www.glenalmondcollege.co.uk
  • An independent school for boys and girls aged from 12 to 18.
  • Boarding: Yes
  • Local authority: Perth & Kinross
  • Pupils: 368; sixth formers: 157
  • Religion: Episcopalian
  • Fees: Day £16,881 - £22,503; Boarding: £25,851 - £34,506 pa
  • Open days: Open Days are held in September and March, but parents are welcome to visit on any day.
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review

What says..

The idea is that ‘no-one is alone and that everyone is supported’. Teachers now routinely observe each other's lessons to spread good practice and help eliminate the bad and are coached and supported if improvements are needed. Meanwhile, the pupils' academic and social movements are now closely tracked. ‘How many schools have a front and back avenue, Mum?’ Well, probably more than we realise, but it does emphasise the sheer grandeur of the place both in architectural and scenic terms. There is a school golf course and the possibility of fishing on the river Almond, which flows through the school... 

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What the school says...

Glenalmond College is an independent boarding and day school set in 300 acres of spectacular countryside just outside Perth, yet within easy reach of Edinburgh and Glasgow airports. It makes the most of its rural Scottish location with its pupils living and learning free from the distractions of city life. Glenalmond offers an all-encompassing education that allows each child to fulfil his/her potential and enter adulthood with confidence. There is a strong emphasis on academic success with the school following the English system of GCSEs and A Levels along with Scottish Highers for those who prefer a broader-based curriculum. The support basis for pupils is extensive, with a carefully-designed programme to nurture the academically gifted through cross-age discussion groups and lectures. There is also an excellent Learning Support Department. Regular recognition is gained by the schools scholars, mathematicians, musicians, singers and sportsmen and women, who compete at national level.

Leadership, creative and dramatic arts are also integral to life at Glenalmond, which has an active CCF (army, navy and RAF branches), an active drama programme which includes biennial productions at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and an outstanding music department.

Glenalmond provides an excellent setting for young people to learn and grow, and for them to start the story of their adult lives in a uniquely supportive and encouraging environment.
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Curricula

Cambridge Pre-U - an alternative to A levels, with all exams at the end of the two-year course.

Sports

Shooting

Sailing

What The Good Schools Guide says

Interim Warden

Hugh Ouston is holding the reins after the departure of previous head Elaine Logan in December 2018 on compassionate grounds. He is a board member who was head of Robert Gordons in Aberdeen for 10 years, and a former Glenalmond pupil.

The new warden from April 2020 will be Dr Michael Alderson, currently deputy head at Durham School. Modern languages degree from Durham and PGCE from Homerton College, Cambridge. Also has a master's degree on historical narratives, and a doctorate on church history of the reformation from Durham University. His wife, Emma, and their two-year old working black labrador, Angus, will join him at Glenalmond. A former master in charge of cross-country, he enjoys running, skiing and walking.

Academic matters

One of the biggest changes recently has been ‘improving academic rigour and ambition’. This has been achieved by introducing the Learning Project - a big name for a radical restructuring of the way the children and the teachers are monitored and taught.

The idea is that ‘no-one is alone and that everyone is supported’. Teachers now routinely observe each other's lessons to spread good practice and help eliminate the bad and are coached and supported if improvements are needed. Meanwhile, the pupils' academic and social movements are now closely tracked, with regular meetings between house teachers, academic teachers and senior staff to evaluate progress and pastoral needs. Prep is now being monitored for all but upper sixth (one parent told us their child was thrilled by this development as they were actually getting work done). In addition, there are tutorials to help pupils develop core skills for learning including essay planning, revision strategies, mind-mapping, time management, literacy and numeracy foundation skills.

A housemaster says they are all discussing pupils and their welfare far more than they used to. Sharing best practice is common and all the house staff have meet every week to discuss pupils and their progress. Senior management aren’t being left on the shelf either. They’re being trained to manage their departments in a more effective and supportive way.

So a huge upskilling all round, but is it working? Apparently! Education Scotland is recommending they spread this good practice asap. Meanwhile, parents we spoke to felt that both the children and the teaching standards are beginning to reap the benefits. '[My son] actually looks forward to his supervised study…incredible.'

Glenalmond will never be an academic hothouse, but would like us to judge them on how much the pupils improve on their journey through the school. 2018 saw one of the best GCSE performances ever with 60 per cent A*-A/9-7 grades. At A level, 34 per cent A*/A and 62 per cent A*-B, with many surpassing expectations.

Subjects on offer cover the usual spectrum from politics to history of art (26 subjects on offer at A level) and are now being supplemented by Mandarin and computer science at GCSE and computer science at A level. Now offers 13 subjects at Higher level; 64 per cent A grades in 2018.

A significant proportion of the school is involved with the learning support department at some level. This ranges from extra time in exams all the way through to a reader and a scribe. There is a policy of free screening for all pupils who enter the school in second, third or fourth form. Thereafter there are charges for eg additional assessments and individual support sessions.

There’s a prep club at break and lunchtimes so more support on offer then.

The staff ratio is particularly good at 1:7 and class sizes rarely exceed 16. The bottom sets may have as few as six or seven pupils. They recruited heavily for new staff recently (there was a lot of stagnation to deal with in our view) and the results are new faces with enthusiasm and drive. Another school head has commented that there seems to be a real buzz about the school and they are attracting some real talent to their ranks.

Games, options, the arts

One of the major changes is a complete restructuring of the sports department so that it functions co-educationally ie boys' and girls' games are given equal billing (rather than the rugger buggers hogging the limelight). Touch rugby has also been introduced for girls. In fact the school now has heads for hockey, lacrosse and rugby and hopefully soon tennis, golf and cricket. 'One of the best things about Glenalmond is the great support the parents give to sport.'

Parity has also been brought for the firsts lacrosse team, who now share the former firsts rugby pitch, Neish’s, as it’s known. This has been revamped and a new stand has been built (this time facing the right way ie towards the beautiful hills). The sporting facilities also include a first class swimming pool and now an Olympic standard water-based hockey pitch, which has already hosted some international players, plus a new Astro.

They’re not the most amazing sporting facilities that you will come across but, as elsewhere in the school, the ambition seems to be big. There are also plans to make more of what is a truly fabulous outdoor location. There is a school golf course and the possibility of fishing on the river Almond, which flows through the school. DofE enthusiastically pursued, as are clay pigeon shooting, tennis, white water rafting, skiing. The activity programme is booted up further at the weekend, and at Cairnies, the newly created junior boys' house (second and third form), there are compulsory activities so that they are kept busy.

Expressive arts has always been somewhat understated at Glenalmond, but there are plans to improve this starting with the introduction of dance at GCSE. With the old warden’s house now being repatriated as an admin hub, there is also a permanent display area for any artistic endeavour, while neatly putting it in front of any prospective parents.

Boarders

Girls are being given a bigger slice of the pie and are being 'promoted' to the Quad. This is the Oxbridge-style area at the heart of the school, traditionally the site of three boys' houses. Now one of them, Goodacres, has been made over to girls. Neighbouring boys' house Patchell's is the Testosterone Towers of the school, housing a lot of the rugby boys in long dorms in something akin to horse boxes. They seem to love it, though. Another house, Cairnies, formerly for fifth form girls, has been turned into a junior house for second and third form boys - increasing in numbers apparently due to more pupils arriving from destinations other than traditional prep schools.

All of the staff live on site, so the pupils get to see them in their civvies and leading a normal life. Relationships tend to be stronger because currently this ‘really is a full boarding school’, but be warned if your child doesn’t fit in, there is very little escape. However, introducing weekly and flexi boarding from 2019.

Background and atmosphere

‘How many schools have a front and back avenue, Mum?’ Well, probably more than we realise, but it does emphasise the sheer grandeur of the place both in architectural and scenic terms. Going down the drive on a warm summer’s day (they do happen, apparently) or a crisp winter one with snow on the hills can be an uplifting experience. The school was founded by the former prime minister William Gladstone to keep young men free ‘from the sins of the city’, and to a certain extent that still happens. Sadly, after years of dodgy mobile phone reception, the pupils can call out with ease, but there is still a feeling of beautiful isolation which helps keep the worst offenders out of trouble, and if your child is sociable and likes the outdoors, they will probably form friendships to last a lifetime. Be prepared to blink when you see the school uniform. The boys are traditional in grey flannels and blazers, with tweed jackets for upper sixth. But the girls, well the girls have navy floor-length skirts. ‘Victorian parlour maids’ was one description, but according to the school the girls are adamant they won’t have it any other way. Reports say they enjoy wearing their pyjamas and wellies underneath in bad weather, so who could blame them? And school believes it helps with evening out those body image crises that so many other schools have to deal with.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

The school has appointed a deputy head of pastoral care who oversees the eight housemasters/mistresses and there is far more exchanging of information so that nobody slips through the net. House staff and teachers meet weekly to discuss pupils, especially any there are concerns about.

Discipline appears to have improved since the arrival of the current warden. Drugs have never really been an issue at the school, but alcohol could be. This, parents say, has definitely been tightened up, although the occasional lapse still occurs.

Pupils and parents

A high 70 per cent are UK boarders. The school has traditionally been the 'county' choice, or 'tweed central', as some have dubbed it, so many from surrounding Perthshire, Angus, Fife and Aberdeenshire, and the other 30 per cent are international with Germany leading the table. You are less likely to get hard-working lawyer or property developer parents and more likely to see well-heeled farmers and castle dwellers.

Entrance

Common entrance is on the wane, apparently with less coming in from the prep route, so the school also tests independently for maths and English. There is no waiting list so entry is fairly straightforward at the moment if you wave a cheque book, but with the new buzz around the place this may well change.

Exit

Around half to Russell Group universities including Oxbridge (one place in 2018, plus one medic); others off to Oslo, Amsterdam and Inner Mongolia.

Money matters

They stress they don’t buy in talent, so no 100 per cent scholarships for the rugby gorillas, but they do support four pupils every year on a bursary basis of 90 to 100 per cent. This isn’t based purely on academic potential, but if there is a child who would clearly benefit from the boarding experience then they will try to help. The total remission pot is £2 million a year of which the lion's share goes to bursaries. Scholarships get the usual 10 per cent reduction. Most applicants will try for both.

Our view

Get in fast, Glenalmond is on the up and up. If they can continue to combine academic rigour and making use of their spectacular setting then Glenalmond is set for a cracking future over the next few years.

Special Education Needs

We have significant experience of mild dyslexia and can offer learning support for dyslexia and dyspraxia, using one-to-one withdrawal from main classes perhaps once or twice a week. Additionally we offer Teaching of English as a Second language, for individuals and groups. Intermediate level is required for entry, students can be tested in the UK or abroad. 10-09

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia Y
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
Genetic
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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