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  • Gordonstoun
    IV30 5RF
  • Head: Lisa Kerr
  • T 01343 837837
  • F 01343 837808
  • E [email protected]
  • W
  • An independent school for boys and girls aged from 6 to 18.
  • Boarding: Yes
  • Local authority: Moray
  • Pupils: 582; sixth formers: 233
  • Religion: Christian Inter-denominational
  • Fees: Day £32,550 - £35,601; Boarding £45,900 - £48,990 pa
  • Open days: We are holding monthly Virtual Open Days – the dates are advertised on our website.
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review

What says..

We’ve all heard schools talking about the importance of physical exercise, but Gordonstoun really does walk the walk. In fact, thanks to its founder, the inspirational Jewish educationalist Kurt Hahn, it invented the walk. Its 80 foot sail training vessel, Ocean Spirit, makes annual trips to destinations such as the Arctic. Pupils regularly leave for drama school. As part of the school’s fully trained fire service, pupils are called out to real blazes...

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What the school says...

As well as preparing students for exams, Gordonstoun prepares them for life.
The school’s uniquely broad curriculum encourages every individual to fulfil their potential academically, but it does more than that. It encourages students to fulfil their potential as human beings. The school motto is ‘Plus est en vous’ – There is more in you. At Gordonstoun, this sense of possibility is presented to its students, every single day.
‘It wasn’t until we saw the curriculum and the schedule of what they would be doing each day that we truly understood the difference between Gordonstoun and other schools.’ Current parent.
Gordonstoun’s remarkable location on a 200 acre woodland estate in the North of Scotland provides the background for its world beating outdoor education programme. Gordonstoun was the birth place of both the Outward Bound Movement and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, and expeditions to the Scottish Highlands or sail training on the School’s 80ft Sailboat are an integral part of the school’s day to day life. Students gain invaluable experience in being both leaders and team players and in having compassion and understanding for their fellows - and of themselves.
Active engagement in service to the local community also comprises a core part of Gordonstoun’s ‘working week’, further expanding the students’ sense of personal and social responsibility and building self-esteem.
Gordonstoun follows the English GCSE and A-Level curriculum. With a staff/pupil ratio of 1:7 and every student’s progress carefully overseen by their tutor, they go on Universities, Colleges and Art Schools all over the world.
The students at Gordonstoun inhabit a community which is both balanced and internationally dynamic. Pupils live and learn alongside fellow students from across the social, cultural and geographical board. And because Gordonstoun is one of the few remaining full boarding schools, it has a seven day programme which ensures that students are happily integrated and engaged. It also affords the opportunity to make full use of the comprehensive facilities on offer - which includes an expansive sports centre, a drama and dance centre and music studios.
The uniquely all-round education on offer at Gordonstoun provides its students with the chance to develop intellectually, emotionally, physically and spiritually because Gordonstoun understands that the broader the experience the broader the mind.
'I send my children to Gordonstoun because I want them to have an excellent academic education. But I want them to have more than that. I want them to enter the ever changing world with a sense of possibility and optimism about themselves and their options. It seems to me that the Gordonstoun’s uniquely broad curriculum gives them the best possible chance of achieving that.' Current parent (and former pupil)
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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.

School associations

Round Square - a network of 40 schools worldwide that share ideals such as internationalism, adventure and service.



What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2017, Lisa Kerr BA (music, York), a former governor at the school with a long career in business, mostly as a strategy and PR consultant. Married to John (Royal Marines officer) with three children at the school.

To be replaced in autumn 2024 by Peter Green, currently executive headmaster of Rugby School Group. An experienced school leader, who has previously led Ardingly and Rugby School, this will be his third headship.

Head of senior school since September 2023, Simon Cane-Hardy BA (history, Cardiff), previously deputy head of Prior Park College in Bath. Grew up in Sussex and worked in London before doing his teacher training. Then taught history and rose through the ranks to head of department, boarding housemaster and head of boarding. Has coached rugby and cricket and says he ‘plays sport to an average level!’ Married to Helen, with three children at the junior school.

Head of junior school since 2021, Cath Lyall. A graduate of Glasgow University, she has taught at state and independent schools including Applegrove Primary and Glasgow Academy over a 20-year career that has also seen her involved in sports coaching and drama direction, as well as support for learning. Lives on site with her husband Andrew; both their children attend the school.


Interview with head plus report and references from current school. Maths, English and verbal reasoning tests for potential scholars entering year 9. For sixth form entry, five grade 4+s at GCSE, two of which should be English and maths.


Up to 10 per cent leave after GCSEs. Majority head off to English universities – Manchester, Exeter, UCL, Royal Holloway London, KCL, Cardiff, Goldsmiths, Nottingham and Newcastle - to study a wide range of subjects including economics, law and material chemistry. Others stay north of the border eg Edinburgh, St Andrews and Glasgow. None to Oxbridge in the last couple of years and, unusually, no medics in 2022. Two abroad, to the prestigious ESCP in Paris and to NYU Abu Dhabi.

Latest results

In 2022, 41 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 59 per cent A*-B at A level. Fifty per cent of students achieved distinctions and above at BTEC. In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), 33 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 26 per cent A*/A at A level (49 per cent A*-B).

Teaching and learning

Fair to say that Gordonstoun has never been known as an academic hothouse and recent results bear that out. Most students choose three subjects at A level, but the school offers the EPQ or an additional A level, such as further maths. A Level courses include everything from art, biology and business studies to photography and theatre studies. They also offer the vocational BTEC qualifications in physical education and A level applied business studies. Pupils typically study nine GCSE subjects, with options including dance and drama.

So they’re not firing them out by the dozen from the classroom straight into the quads of Cambridge or Oxford. But then that isn’t what Gordonstoun is about. They would argue that as a school which is largely non-selective and which takes a much less ‘traditional’ approach to education, they do remarkably well with the overwhelming majority of students meeting or exceeding their baseline predictions.

All of the parents we spoke to were more than happy with the academic offering. ‘I’m expecting a really good set of A levels. The small classes and excellent teaching support has been great for my son.' 'My son came from a school down south. He’s a different boy without the pressure. In fact his work is improving simply because he’s happy.'

The school says, 'We’re going through a curriculum review right now. We want to broaden our offering and vocational BTEC qualifications are part of that, along with looking at collaborations with colleges. Thirty years ago it wasn’t so much of a problem if you left school without some kind of recognised qualification. Now you need that "golden ticket" to get you to the next stage.'

Most recently, the school launched the Gordonstoun Diploma, which records students’ achievements across their years at school - students are awarded a distinction, merit or pass (or not achieved) according to their commitment and approach in the four areas of academic learning; outdoor learning; arts, culture and sport; and citizenship and service.

The junior school, Aberlour, Is one of the cosiest little preps we’ve ever visited. Very small classes, lots of smiling faces. 'The majority of the children move on to the senior school. Our children rarely do Common Entrance these days, but if necessary we can prepare them,' says school.

Outdoor learning increasingly a focus.

Learning support and SEN

‘The learning support department has been outstanding for my child.' With three full-time members of staff (plus two in the junior school), the learning support team offers both one-to-one and group help in and outside of class. In addition, any student, regardless of need, can access the school’s post-lesson curricular support programme. They also offer enhanced support for the 'most able' students, including a scholars' programme of seminars, debates, dialogue society and Model UN.

The arts and extracurricular

Thanks to Kurt Hahn and his belief in the taking responsibility for helping others, service, as it’s called, is integral to the Gordonstoun ethos. Every pupil must pick one of nine services: fire brigade, coastguard, lifeguard, tech crew, first aid, community service, conservation, outdoor leadership or sports service. After training they provide support in the school and the local community. 'This teaches them the value of helping others and gives them valuable life skills,' says school.

Wow drama, wow dance, wow music. Wonderful facilities and a thriving creative environment. Three major drama productions a year with a series of minor ones dotted in between. Pupils regularly leave for drama school here in the UK or in the States. There's a sprung-floored dance studio. The music department is thriving - every child in the junior school learns an instrument and most continue to learn in senior school too.

The art department has a teacher from virtually every discipline, fine art to photography.


Well, where to start, that’s the real question. We’ve all heard schools talking about the importance of physical exercise on the young mind, but Gordonstoun really does walk the walk. In fact, thanks to its founder, the inspirational Jewish educationalist Kurt Hahn, it invented the walk. Having been released from prison in Nazi Germany, Hahn was encouraged to set up Gordonstoun as an example of his educational theory. In his case this included plenty of outdoor pursuits, cold showers and runs. We're assured there hasn’t been an intentional cold shower at Gordonstoun for many a year, but that passion for activity still runs like a golden thread through everything they do.

On offer are all the traditional school sports – rugby, cricket, hockey – along with horse riding, skiing, mountain biking, snowboarding, karate, aerobics. They also have Scotland’s only five-hole golf course, but the area abounds with plenty of full fat courses. This is Scotland, after all. They have recently completed a magnificent new sports centre with an indoor climbing wall, a fully equipped strength and conditioning room and a floodlit hockey Astroturf, a 400m running track, an indoor swimming pool, squash courts and a .22 rifle range.

All sounds pretty amazing, but be aware this school is not about the culture of the sports jock. There is no worshipping of the first XV. And their sheer distance from the majority of the private school sporting circuit means they don’t regularly play the schools who do. 'We play a lot of local teams in Elgin and other places. We much prefer that to spending hours on a coach. We do play other independent schools but it’s good to mix it up.'

Outdoor pursuits are huge and every single student gets involved. Sailing, skiing, hillwalking, climbing. The school owns an 80-foot sail training vessel, Ocean Spirit, which makes annual trips to destinations such as the Arctic. Sailing is taught in the same kind of cutters as those used by Prince Philip when he was at Gordonstoun. Why? Because they have a crew of eight and teamwork is integral. All pupils are trained in expedition skills and try everything from backpacking and canoeing to exploration. And of course the school offers a full DofE programme - they did invent it after all, naming it after their most famous alumnus.

It was vaguely comic to watch a group of pupils in full firefighting gear ferociously hosing down a hedge, but there is serious intent. As part of the school’s fully trained fire service, these pupils are called out to real blazes across the local countryside.


Gordonstoun describes itself as one of the last true boarding schools in the UK. Its relatively remote location plays a part, along with the fact that a third of the school is international (carefully mixed so no one nationality dominates). There are four boys' houses, three girls' and one small boys’ sixth form house. They’re run by a live-in houseparent with a deputy and a matron for back up. The house we saw was modern, clean, and surprisingly homely and the housemaster young enough to relate to his young charges. And, perhaps more surprising in this day and age of flexi-boarding, the junior school has a healthy percentage of full-time boarders. Junior boarders have their own home, Aberlour House.

In 2019, Altyre House was opened – a larger boarding house for sixth form boys.

Ethos and heritage

‘Plus est en vous' - 'There is more in you'. Yes, we know. We don’t usually start a description about a school by dusting off its long-forgotten motto. But let us tell you a story. You may have heard of the miraculous rescue of a group of 12 boys from a series of caves in Thailand. It’s an amazing tale of bravery and fortitude and one of the unsung heroes of that episode was OG Connor Roe. When Connor returned to Gordonstoun to tell of his experiences, he made it clear that the one thing that kept him going through the fear and the challenging conditions was the school motto, 'There is more in you'.

Now you might think that’s a bit cheesy, but really that kind of sums Gordonstoun up. If you push all the royal razzmatazz to the side - Prince Phillip was an OG as was King Charles (albeit unhappily - maybe they hadn’t switched on the hot water at that point), Prince Andrew and Prince Edward too. Forget about the sons of rock stars and Hollywood actors (David Bowie and Sean Connery) and look at what Gordonstoun is about: there is a real ring of truth about the place. As the head says, 'One headmaster said to me at a conference, "The thing about Gordonstoun is you don’t really have to sit chewing your pen trying to think of what makes your school unique".'

Thanks to Kurt Hahn they were the originators of the ‘holistic’ education. He believed that the challenge of outdoor activities, internationalism and service to others were as important as academic pursuits in creating a happy, rounded person.

‘I’ve seen the stress leave my child’s face ever since he started here.' 'Somebody told me my son was "humble" the other day. I was so proud. That’s the thing about Gordonstoun, they produce pupils who are as happy talking to a prince as to the cleaner.'

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

As well as the houseparents, there are tutors and 'every member of staff is trained to look after the children'. There is a secure online system to keep track of every child and share necessary information. Recently appointed head of pastoral care is a school inspector, so she ought to know her stuff. 'The pastoral set-up is the best I’ve seen. Well planned, supportive and built around the child.'

Pupils and parents

Pupils arrive from all directions, from Scunthorpe to Singapore. The royal link still pulls them in from abroad, but on the home front there is a mix of Hahn idealists, first-time adopters who find it a less ‘threatening’ public school environment than some, and trad public school families.

Money matters

More than 30 per cent of students receive some sort of bursary. School constantly searching for non-fee ways of funding education. Scholarships give 10 per cent discount.

The last word

Gordonstoun doesn’t have to try to be different - it just is. It’s the original holistic education, using outdoor challenges and service to others to build confidence and improve academic performance. If straight As are all that matter to you and your child then you might want to look elsewhere. But if you want an escape from the academic sausage factory and the chance to think out of the box, sign up now.

Special Education Needs

Gordonstoun School provides learning support for students across the mainstream educational curriculum, within its dedicated Learning Support building, offering state of the art resources and ICT equipment. The department aims to build the confidence and self-esteem of all the students whilst meeting their specific learning challenges both in the Learning Support lessons and through collaborative approaches with mainstream colleagues. The school has over the years built upon its foundations in meeting the often diverse needs of its students by offering a diverse and unique curriculum, aiming to develop confident and competent young people for today's society.

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