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  • Albyn School
    17-23 Queens Road
    Aberdeen
    AB15 4PB
  • Head: Dr I Long
  • T 01224 322408
  • F 01224 209173
  • E [email protected]
  • W www.albynschool.co.uk
  • An independent school for boys and girls aged from 2 to 18.
  • Boarding: Yes
  • Local authority: Aberdeen City
  • Pupils: 646; sixth formers: 132
  • Religion: Non-denominational
  • Fees: Day £9,069 - £14,318; Boarding £29,200 - £31,445 pa
  • Open days: September, November and January
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review

What says..

The existing school has a strong family feel, but logistically it is a complicated complex of corridors and levels between the houses. Fire doors everywhere. No tutors; pupils can, and do, relate to form teachers and guidance staff when in difficulty. Wickedness equals yellow card, followed by red card, usual punishment is an essay. Sense of community - school aims to boost the confidence of the shyest child. Policy of zero tolerance for drink 'n' drugs 'n' rock 'n' roll, so expect…

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What the school says...

Albyn School is an independent coeducational day school for pupils aged 2-18 located in the west end of Aberdeen with its playing fields at Milltimber. It comprises a nursery for children aged 2-5, a Lower (Junior) School for pupils aged 5-12 and an Upper (Senior) School for pupils aged 12-18.

It currently follows the Scottish system of education with Upper School pupils being entered for National 5 examinations (equivalent to GCSEs); Highers (equivalent to AS Levels) and Advanced Highers equivalent to A Levels. Nearly all pupils exit to universities - mostly in Scotland but also around the UK and abroad. While serving longstanding families within Aberdeen in recent decades the School has proved popular with parents who work in the oil and gas industries and the financial and engineering firms that support this sector.

Outside the classroom, the School offers a broad range of sporting and co-curricular activities. Major sports include athletics, football, hockey, netball, rowing and skiing. Large numbers are also involved in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme and Music with the School having numerous choral and orchestral groups.

The School is fortunate to be situated in a city and region that offers a very high quality of life to families moving into the area. Aberdeen is Scotlands third largest city, dominated by energy related industries with two world renowned universities. It has a diverse musical and cultural heritage centred on its theatres, cinemas, art gallery and Music Hall. The city also has over 800 shops and restaurants, including all the most familiar high street names. To the west of Aberdeen, the Cairngorms National Park is an area of outstanding natural beauty that draws in walkers, climbers and skiers. Within a short distance of the city, there are empty beaches, picturesque fishing villages and dramatic cliff top scenery.
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Other features

All-through school (for example 3-18 years). - An all-through school covers junior and senior education. It may start at 3 or 4, or later, and continue through to 16 or 18. Some all-through schools set exams at 11 or 13 that pupils must pass to move on.

Sports

Rowing

What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2008, Dr Ian Long BA AKC BA MA PhD FRGS FRSA (50s); read geography at King’s London and, after a brief spell with Shell (always good to get the outside perspective) worked in a variety of schools before becoming head of sixth form at Brentwood, followed by eight years as (academic) deputy head of City of London Freemen's School.

A lapsed rower and a clever clogs who came to a school on the cusp; the previous head had worked miracles: some a tad expensive. Long has tightened up the finance side. No more babies (staffing ratio hideous) and huge increase in both nursery and chaps throughout the school. ‘Always wanted to work abroad’ but hadn’t quite expected to find Scotland, and possibly Aberdeen in particular, quite so different from previous experiences.

An engaging and entertaining head with a sparkling sense of humour, he is also dead efficient and our request for detailed exam results by subject over the previous three years arrived before we left the place. Wife, Gwyneth, was previously deputy head at Channing School in Highgate, having started her teaching career at St Leonard's School down the coast in Fife as a Latin teacher and assistant housemistress. She teaches classics in the school.

Head of lower school since 2016, Nathan Davies, deputy head here since 2009. Read medieval history at St Andrews before taking a PGCSE at Dundee. He joined Albyn School from Wakefield Grammar School and had also ‘done time’ at Piling Middle School in Jamestown, St Helena. With five children of his own, Nathan takes the notion of a family school to a new level.

Academic matters

Lower school follows (somewhat expensive) International Primary Curriculum (IPC), which seems sensible when you realise it was designed by Shell, taught globally and Albyn is an international oily school. IPC is thematic based, with rather natty books to be filled in when ‘I understand’. Terrific exposure to all manner of cultures: this is exciting stuff. Jolly Phonics in nursery, handwriting important.

Mostly Scottish system: massive numbers and successes in both disciplines with chemistry, physics, biology, maths, English and selection of mod langs. All must take one lang at Nat 5 and choose two, having done a ‘taster course’ in German, French, Spanish and Mandarin, for min two years at S1; currently Mandarin the most popular. Geography needs a kick: classics working its way up; classical civilisation and mythology (wowser) growing, from S1/2 (and we loved our culture lesson). Greek possible: but no takers to date.

Computing science has poked its head above the parapet; but won’t set the world alight yet. Nary a presentation at Advanced Higher level. Business management and modern studies make a showing, with the former probably better overall. Product design and information systems new kids on the block, and stunning. German not currently the flavour of the month. Drama with higher level PE on offer. Spanish (from the upper fifth), Mandarin and engineering science (with its own centre) are the latest additions to the curriculum. Certain amount of almost individual teaching; the results are impressive (if hardly cost-effective). Strong showing in maths challenge and problem-solving. Graphic communication (now replaced by engineering science) increasingly popular with successes at National 5 level, ditto art and design. In 2018, 58 per cent As at Higher level and 39 per cent at Advanced Higher (a very few GCSEs and A level sat).

In August 2018 amalgamated with the Total French School of Aberdeen, and developed a hybrid curriculum designed by Mission Laïque Française (MLF). For those choosing the hybrid curriculum, French, maths, geography, history and citizenship are taught and assessed in French, with all other subjects taught in English.

Class size is low 20s, with low teens for practical subjects (school says 20, but in practice this is much smaller; most classes are 10/15). Comprehensive computer system, class-taught as well as in suites, laptops abound.

All assessed on entry, five learning support teachers cover the whole school, and a pupil’s IEP follows throughout their time. No problems with dyslexia, dyspraxia and mild Asperger's, and in the past did well for a pupil who was profoundly deaf. ‘Some timetabled EFL support now available – mostly for clever Chinese - plus lots of support in the classroom', SEN teacher takes individual groups and double teaches a bit – she is very 'willing' – and was off to help out in a German lesson after we had talked. Scribing, readers and all the rest. No extra charge for SEN help. Digital exams being mooted by SQA, school is investigating voice recognition programmes.

Parents of pupils who underperformed at National 5s were stunned to discover that their young did not automatically go forward into sixth form: retakes possible, but school is keen to build on its academic successes. Vociferous (mainly local) parents are less than amused.

Games, options, the arts

Main games field at Milltimber, five miles away – pupils are bused, fabulous athletics track. Albyn uses university's state-of-the-art sports village for a number of sports: athletics, hockey, football, netball. Positive netball and hockey with regional representation and masses of individual sports: national representation in several. Snowboarding and skiing popular plus golf. With boys throughout the upper school, serious thought was given to what sport the boys would play: 'Both rugby and football have fervent adherents among parents of the boys, but the latter may be more realistic if we are not to be beaten 80–0 for the next five years’; school recently trounced Glenalmond at footie. ‘Rowing may be the answer.' And so it is. Boys and girls are already competing successfully up to Nat Schools level: boating out of Robert Gordon's University boathouse (pairs, quads) but, as yet no eights.

Stunning art department, with a number of pupils going on to higher things in the art world, though not art school per se recently. Very jolly papier mâché, acrylic and silk screen work, fabric design. Hot on costume design and much use made of local museums. Exciting stained glass – bendy stained glass, if you follow. Always a joy to come here. Strong art and architectural stream. Impressive computer graphics mostly on CD covers.

Fantastic music – 'most play a musical instrument' – and loads of participation in either choir or instrumental ensembles. Snazzy professional standard recording studio. Good representation in the National Youth Orchestra plus jazz, ceilidh bands. Blues band. Keen drama and dance (Dancercise important). No CCF or pipe band, though one or two pipers. Clarsach.

Enthusiastic Young Enterprise, RAF cadets and highly competitive DofE with oodles of golds. Strong club culture – quizzes, chess, gardening. Keen on public speaking and debating. Head has encouraged trips: Borneo, Barbados, Morocco and Zambia and cultural tours to Italy and south of France. (Some – mainly indigenous – parents, are not entirely convinced of their necessity: this is Aberdeen, after all.)

The only RAF cadets in Scotland.( Not the only one in Scotland unfortunately. )We found the DofE squad preparing for parents’ evening during our tour: boots, cagoules, tents, mattresses et al were all on show. ‘And’, said the master in charge, ‘if the parents haven’t got the kit, or balk at the price, most of us can find something in our garages’. Now that’s the kind of school we like.

Boarders

A boarding house sleeping eight was opened in 2016.

Background and atmosphere

Founded in 1867 by Harriet Warrack, who started teaching girls at home, advertising locally for pupils. Albyn Place (just down the road) became the school's home in 1881, and Albyn School for Girls moved to Queen's Road in 1925. The son of one of the gardeners at Duff House, Alexander Mackie, was an early moving light, writing books on English (he was a university examiner) and made the school an Aberdeen institution, with emancipated Albyn girls on Aberdeen University student council by 1907. Boys started in the junior department in 2005 and worked their way up, now roughly 55/45 per cent girls/boys. The head was pleased to find his original desk in a passage and it now graces his office (the roll-top concealing all manner of educational detritus).

School based in four attached Victorian merchants' houses, with fantastic ceilings, well-used library and predictable garden expansion. Harriet House houses the toddlers, aged 2 to 3 years, while the juniors have new-build, with classrooms clustered round a splendid hall (with windows on the first floor) giving both extra light and affording entertainment. Lifts in junior school make disabled access available almost everywhere.

Most recent build in 2014 includes sixth form study area with hideous purple and plum high backed chairs (pupils’ choice of colours) and surprisingly comfortable plastic chairs at work stations. No plugs. Laptops arrive by trolley load. Junior library (filled with the same young whom we met in the gym) all agreed, when asked, that ‘yes, it was a good school’. Lecture theatre/performance space and fitness suite overlooking gym and containing rather a desirable throne. Impressive music department above hall/gym.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

School divided into four quite competitive clans, Douglas, Stuart, Forbes and Gordon. No tutors; pupils can, and do, relate to form teachers and guidance staff when in difficulty. Wickedness equals yellow card, followed by red card, usual punishment is an essay. Sense of community – school aims to boost the confidence of the shyest child. Policy of zero tolerance for drink 'n' drugs 'n' rock 'n' roll, so expect to be out for persistent bullying or drugs. Cigarettes and alcohol on school premises = detention followed by exclusion followed by out. 'Bullying is usually changing friendship groups' seems about right, but actual bullying is regarded as a no-no. Cyber-bullying has become increasingly problematic. If there is real cause for concern, then parents are summonsed for a ‘discussion’. First school we have visited to have an LGBT counsellor.

Pupils and parents

Mixture of professionals – around 60 per cent oil and gas, the occasional farmer and marine engineer in the parent body. The former often have to either move or install their young at short notice. Huge ethnic mix. Fair number of first-time buyers; parents can drop off early (from 8am, breakfast available) and pick up late (6pm, having done their homework) but this comes with cost. Recent Nigerian influx through local church, and quite a number of Chinese pupils of late. And a few French, since the amalgamation with the French School of Aberdeen.

International bias, but lots of home-grown ones too; strong middle class ethos with girls neat in check dresses or kilts from October to April. Boys are allowed to wear kilts but few do: mostly on special occasions.

Comprehensive parent-organised bus system, min age 5/6: tinies, unless with older sibling, not encouraged.

Entrance

Entry from lower to upper is automatic. Pupils can and do join at any time – throughout the year (assuming space available). Growing number, but ‘still only a handful’ join school for Highers/Advanced Highers at S5/6. Increasing interest from overseas.

Exit

Around 10-20 per cent leave post Highers in S5, mostly to Scottish unis or for financial constraints. Most to university, odd gap year. Mainly to the (freebie) Scottish unis, with a few south of the border. Currently Strathclyde and Robert Gordon most popular with Edinburgh and St Andrews close behind; generally several to Aberdeen, some to Heriott-Watt and Edinburgh Napier. One to Oxford in 2018 (materials science) and two medics; one to Yale (economics) ad one to Princeton (mechanical and aerospace engineering).






 

Money matters

Incredibly strict scale of rules for payment but (Aberdeen, remember) parents can get a two per cent discount if they pay the whole annual whack within a fortnight of the beginning of the autumn term. Discounts of five per cent for second child from pre-school nursery up and 50 per cent rebate for third and subsequent children. School ‘will do what it can to help parents in difficult times, as long as they are open and talk to us’. Can, and will do, 100 per cent bursary if need be, including uniform and help with trips (apply December, entry test Jan: school carries out stringent financial checks). Be aware, too, the SQA charges exam fees, and there is extra cost for materials used in art and design.

Our view

Co-ed throughout, this is a school on a roll, small enough for every child to be known as an individual and big enough to offer the best in modern teaching methods. Not a scary school, and some first time buyers do find the independent sector intimidating: welcoming, nurturing and ticking all the boxes. Go for it.

Special Education Needs

09-09

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia
Dyspraxia
English as an additional language (EAL)
Genetic
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
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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