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Founded in 1818, this is the oldest co-educational day and boarding school in the world. No denying the wow factor as you drive through the entrance and are struck by the fine Doric façade and grand neo-classical design of the Playfair building, comparable to the swishest of Edinburgh’s schools. It’s the setting that really steals the show, however - a stunning 70-acre campus, surrounded by the beautiful Ochil Hills. Super strong academics. Most pupils consequently gain ...

 

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What the school says...

Our boarding community is at the core of Dollar Academy, and has been for over two hundred years. We are proud to be the world’s oldest co-educational day and boarding school.

Dollar Academy is one of the top academic schools in the country and offers the widest range of subjects in Scotland. We strongly believe, however, that some of the greatest lessons take place outside of the classroom, and our vast co-curricular programme incorporates over 70 cultural, service and sporting opportunities.

Boarders aged 10-18 live in period houses that balance traditional charm with modern comfort and style. Our houses are run by Houseparents who view the young people in their care as an extension of their own family. With hundreds of day pupils living in Dollar itself, our boarders also make strong friendships outwith the houses. With Edinburgh and Glasgow less than an hour’s drive away, Dollar is perfectly placed to offer well connected country living.
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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

Unusual sports

Equestrian centre or equestrian team - school has own equestrian centre or an equestrian team.

Fencing

Shooting

What The Good Schools Guide says

Rector

Since 2019, Ian Munro BSc PGCE MA (30s). Flood of media attention when first appointed as youngest-ever head (aged just 34) in the independent sector when at Kelvinside in Glasgow. But his time there was short lived – ‘The opportunity to lead Dollar was too great to pass over. It’s a top Scottish school.’

Born in Aberdeen, he was state school educated at Hazlehead before moving over to the independent sector to George Heriot’s School in S3. Degree in zoology, followed by a PGCE biology, both from Edinburgh. Never resting on his laurels and with a passion for learning, gained a master's from Cambridge in educational leadership and school improvement, and recently completed leadership distance learning course with Harvard. Formerly a teacher at Heriot’s (head of year and biology) and deputy head at Shiplake College. Most inspired, however, by his time at Gordonstoun (head of biology).

Grounded, likeable and efficient (he responded to our emails both quickly and personally – not always the case with heads). Gorgeous office too, among the nicest we’ve seen – think Hotel du Vin, with inky dark blue cupboards and chic lighting.

Future plans are to enhance the curriculum through engagements with businesses and unis – all hush, hush at the moment, but watch this space (and it should be worth the wait, judging on innovative programmes he’s put in place at previous schools). He did let us in on one partnership with Cambridge that has led to school hosting a sustainability conference, with schools invited from around the world to discuss how the education system can evolve and to ensure kids are better equipped to deal with the climate crisis.

Lives in Dollar with wife Catherine, a history teacher at an independent school, and their cocker spaniel, Charles Darwin. No children. Loves the outdoors, sailing, walking, climbing, rugby - anything sporty. Doing more cycling since he moved from Glasgow and is often spotted on his bike in the surrounding Ochil Hills.

Deputy rector (from August 2020), Simon Burbury BA PGCE MA. Been at Dollar Academy since January 2015. Was ‘singled out for praise on recent inspection’, says school. Degree in music performance from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland; masters in music from Lancaster; teaching qualification from Homerton College, Cambridge. Previously director of music at schools in Egypt and Singapore and director of music at Gordonstoun. Wealth of experience in pupil wellbeing and child protection. Contributes to the music department whenever he can and is a sub-lieutenant and dinghy sailing instructor for the CCF Royal Navy Section. Set up the annual trip to Romania to help disadvantaged and disabled children at Little John’s House.

Academic matters

Super strong. In 2019, Highers 68 per cent As; Nat 5, 73 per cent As; AH, 42 per cent As. ‘A grades the highest of any school I’ve ever led,’ says rector. Most pupils consequently gain their first choice of university.

The Sunday Times Scottish independent secondary school of the Year in 2018, offering the Scottish curriculum and widest choice of Highers in the country. No columns for subject choices; based around student choices. Sciences popular as are economics, engineering and history and modern studies. Ditto modern languages, with German and French getting more take-up than Spanish - all three taught from junior school, plus some Mandarin, Russian, Italian. Latin, Greek and classical studies also available. Philosophy and music technology among less traditional offerings.

Class sizes 15-20, with high numbers of teachers; smaller in senior school, especially at Advanced Higher. Staffing very stable, with new appointments usually down to retirements or promotions. To avoid stagnation, a robust professional learning programme includes lectures and workshops in leadership, practitioner enquiry and support for learning (Sfl). Three males to four females in senior management.

SEN support a significant strength. The Sfl team work closely with year heads and guidance staff to ensure a smooth transition between major stages. Small group work and some one-to-one extractions. EAL provision at no extra charge. SfL newsletter for parents, termly.

Careers advisor and UCAS advisors on hand to help with uni applications. Online career profiling from early on and every pupil meets a member of senior management to discuss careers and aspirations from form 2. Careers convention for all year groups with over 70 professions represented. Series of lectures including jobs and careers of the future, eg in sustainability. Edinburgh Uni in to talk about the admissions process.

‘Learning is tailor made to your child and their learning style,’ thought parent.

Games, options, the arts

Notable national and international successes in sport, music and art. Rugby and hockey teams often in national finals, with the girls’ hockey First XI often winning the Scottish League and the Scottish Cup, and the boys’ rugby First XV consistently in the top four winning teams. Some of the senior boys go off on day release to Glasgow Warriors. The First XI cricket team are U15 and U18 Scottish Schools Champions and recently got a write up in Wisden, the cricket magazine. The shooting team have been Scottish champions at Bisley for over 20 years. But what about pupils that are less sporty? ‘The focus is on taking part - almost everyone plays rugby or hockey and teams are for every ability and are all coached in the same way,’ reassured school; parents concur.

Pipe Band have been world champions for six out eight previous years. ‘Pupils board from the US just because they want to be part of the pipe band,’ says rector. Huge Xmas concerts and performances in Usher Hall, Edinburgh and the Concert Hall in Perth. Oodles of concerts in school, from tinies to top-notch orchestras. Auditions for the chamber choir, but the mixed voice choir open to everyone. Huge posters of concerts over the years: chamber choir in Prague, Usher Hall, Christmas concert, Footloose. School musicals and plays aplenty, and sixth years write and direct their own play. Yearly fashion and art shows. Huge art studio that mimics uni experience for sixth years. Every success is celebrated at assemblies – most recently, the quiz team who became the Scottish champions.

Over 80 co-curricular clubs. All the usuals, plus beekeeping, ultimate frisbee (winning the university cup), sea angling in Arbroath and the mapping club, where pupils - supported by teachers - explore cartography’s role in informing humanitarian aid work. Having mapped different areas in Africa, they share the information with humanitarian organisations. Impressive stuff. CCF is huge, voluntary and consistently win national competitions. DofE biggest in the country. Sixth years run the charities committee, organising events such as the bi-annual sponsored walk, which recently raised over £68,000.

Trips abroad are carbon offset by plans to plant a forest (literally), as well as trees on campus. Trips include Costa Rica (biology), France (skiing), China (business), Romania (every summer, to help children with profound special needs). Local trips include P1s to Loch Leven and annual J2 team-building trip to Benmore. CCF out to Canada on cadet scholarships.

Boarders

Around 90 boarders in total – half from UK, half international (US, Asia, Germany, Spain, Russia). ‘We continue to board for all the right reasons, and to increase diversity in the local population,’ says rector. Highly regarded, offering an authentic Scottish experience, represented by the ever-increasing demand for boarding places.

A stones’ throw from the school on the beautiful campus, the small homely boarding houses (two for 41 girls and one for up to 49 boys) are cosy, with lots of places to hang out and study, including the music room with piano and drums, small BBQ area with wooden tables and common room with table tennis and pool. Extremely well-organised, shoes go in boxes as soon as they enter the house and laundry is to be brought down in trays.

Evening meals are served in the dining hall, which is just off the school grounds - could be a dreary walk in inclement Scottish weather. Supper is served in the boarding houses later in the evening – burgers, wraps, homemade pizzas etc which some parents feel could be better (especially less fried food), but which senior houseparent says go down a storm - ‘No celery or carrots here in the boys’ house!’ The cooks were making home-made sausage rolls on our tour and Mac, the houseparents’ dog who accompanied us was more than a little interested.

We found everywhere as shiny as a new pin - exceptionally clean and tidy. One parent impressed ‘by how clean and organised the boarding houses are, yet they don’t feel institutional or overly regimented.’ The house parents are teachers and say, ‘We are approachable at any time.’ A parent agreed, saying, ‘A definite strength of the boarding experience is that the house parents are warmly attentive while also being just hands-off enough to allow the kids' independence and resourcefulness to develop.’
House tutors are on hand during the week. Up to second year, homework done in the main living areas downstairs (not in bedrooms) so no study space in rooms. Older kids have desks in rooms, but doors stay open so staff can check regularly that they are studying. Odd en-suite room but generally bath/shower rooms are shared between two to three bedrooms. Good relationships are formed with day pupils so it is common to stay with a local family at the weekend (permissions sought), but at exam time most stay in. Almost all are full boarders with a few weekly. School says, ‘Not really space for flexi-boarders, some tried it for a few days and then stayed. If there’s space we could look at it, but we’re already full for next year.’
Programme of activities and trips include go-karting, fishing, mountain-biking and book group. Plus some shared (between houses) social events such as karaoke, movie and pizza nights, the formal boarders’ ceilidh at Christmas and intellectual talks on Sunday evenings (optional). The annual team building event sounds super fun and has seen all 90 on giant inflatables.

WiFi is off by 11pm, but a bit ‘patchy’, according to one parent, ‘which can cause temporary communication issues’ (could be more of a regional coverage issue than a school-specific shortcoming, though, she added). Allowed phones in rooms from third year, before that need to hand them in at bedtime.

Background and atmosphere

Founded in 1818, this is the oldest co-educational day and boarding school in the world. No denying the wow factor as you drive through the entrance and are struck by the fine Doric façade and grand neo-classical design of the Playfair building, comparable to the swishest of Edinburgh’s schools. It’s the setting that really steals the show, however - a stunning 70-acre campus, surrounded by the beautiful Ochil Hills. Newer additions include the award-winning Westwater building for languages and economics.
Historically, has been considered a relatively low-budget school, avoided by the super-rich and with boarders typically sons of farmers or of Scottish servicemen. But seemed pretty posh to our eye, especially given that you are met by a huge signed photo of the Queen and Prince Philip (signed 1994) in the reception area. Any intimidations are eased, however, by the extremely cheery receptionist and just as smiley rector.
Lots of super smart blazered misters and madams wandering the grounds. A quiet buzz of learning, with no rowdiness at all at breaks or lunchtimes. Even in prep (which is very bright and colourful, every inch of space covered), you could have heard a pin drop at story time.

Traditional ethos of working hard, getting involved and being kind (before it became a hashtag). ‘Would be a good fit for students who are serious about developing themselves,’ reckoned parent – and ‘to a child who can appreciate nature and the outdoors’. New website built and streamlined on the back of feedback and testing from parents.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

Multi-layered pastoral care includes form tutors, heads of year, assistant heads of year, senior staff group, school councillors and medical centre team. Pupils and parents can reach out to whoever most comfortable with, ‘even if it’s the dinner lady,’ according to rector. In prep/junior school, first port of call tends to be class teacher; in senior school, it’s head of year; and for boarders, the house parents. No exclusions since current rector joined. A parent told us concerns are ‘dealt with there and then’. ‘The pastoral care is truly excellent - we have had peace of mind despite having our child so far away,’ concurred a boarding parent.


All pupils do self-supporting, well-being exercises and if teachers have any pupil concerns, they fill in ‘yellows’ - these online forms are sent to the pastoral team so they can keep their finger on the pulse and address the problem eg if someone is finding a subject difficult, which is making them unhappy. Team of mental health ambassadors made up of form six pupils, and peer mentoring from senior pupils who lead lessons on representing each others’ rights. Goosebery Planet, an online programme to keep children safe online, has been rolled out across the school.

Assemblies three time a week in the senior school with hymns and bible readings. The prep and junior schools have joint assembly once a week. A Christian ethos with all singing.

Pupils and parents

Diverse group of middle-class families from overseas and UK. Large numbers from the local community - especially popular with the town of Dollar itself, with some 400 day pupils from here. Impressive number of buses from within a 30-mile radius of the school. Late buses run each day for those at after-school activities. Lively social scene for both parents and pupils. ‘Dollar has a community that really gets behind the school,’ said a parent. Rector says parents ‘work hard and make real sacrifices to send their kids to the school.’


Exhaustive list of notable former pupils eg Sir James Dewar, inventor of the vacuum flask; Sir David Gill (astronomer); Sir William Snadden Bt, politician; Rt Hon Lord Keen of Elie PC QC, politician; Alan Johnston BBC Gaza correspondent; George Henry Paulin, sculptor; Caroline Flanigan, former president of the Law Society of Scotland. Also various members of the Ethopian Imperial family; James McArthur of Milton, chief of Clan Arthur; John Barclay, rugby player; Jennifer McIntosh, Olympian rifle shooter; Tom Kitchin, Michelin-starred chef.

Entrance

Pupils mainly join at 5 (P1), 10 (J1) or 12 (form 1), although entries are welcome for other year groups, subject to availability. Entry from P3 to form 2 is by selective entrance exam. Entry to all other years via interview. Can be oversubscribed for entry at fifth and sixth forms, but each case is individually considered based on grades, previous school reports and good references. Prep and junior pupils automatically move up to senior school. School says, ‘When you’re in, you are in.’ Open day in September, but parents and prospective pupils are welcome to visit at any point of the year. Current waiting list for certain year groups.

Exit

Dollar has the reputation of having the highest percentage of graduates of any town in the country and leavers from this school certainly have high aspirations. Trickle to Oxbridge most years (four in 2019), with most off to the free Scottish universities - Edinburgh, St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen. Under a quarter go south or abroad. Four medics in 2019. Law and engineering also popular. Heaps of support, so if don’t get first choice, they will call around other unis. Support available after pupils have left school. No booting out for lower achievers. Support can be offered to underperforming pupils by ‘little bit of school, little bit of something else, like college,’ according to the rector, who says they can build a bespoke programme for them.

Money matters

Means-tested academic bursaries for form 1 entry, plus ESU, Forces and boarding bursaries (usually means-tested, with tuition not covered). Fees very reasonable.

Our view

Up there with the best, offering an authentic Scottish boarding experience, as well as catering for local kids. Set in a beautiful tranquil setting, it’s a school with a solid, traditional ethos and top academic results.

Special Education Needs

The school has a Support for Learning department, but most children cope adequately on a normal timetable. A small number of children receive extra support either in class or by extraction. We try to integrate pupils into classes as much as possible. For more information, please visit: https://www.dollaracademy.org.uk/academic/support-forlearning

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

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