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  • Kilgraston School
    Bridge Of Earn
    Perthshire
    PH2 9BQ
  • Head: Mrs Dorothy MacGinty
  • T 01738 812257
  • F 01738 813410
  • E [email protected]
  • W www.kilgraston.com
  • An independent school for girls aged from 5 to 18.
  • Boarding: Yes
  • Local authority: Perth & Kinross
  • Pupils: 248; sixth formers: 66
  • Religion: Roman Catholic
  • Fees: Day £10,890 - £17,640; Boarding £23,025 - £30,135 pa
  • Open days: Open Days in September and February - Scholarship Day in February
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review

What says..

The atmosphere is far from stuffy. 'We have one daughter, aged 15, who still hangs upside down from trees at Kilgraston. Our other daughter wants the full Kardashian birthday party. It really seems to cater for all.' They regularly send 40 per cent of upper sixth to university to study STEM subjects. We loved our tour of the arts and music areas at the top of the main building. Our enthusiastic tour guides (one had just secured a scholarship to Edinburgh School of Art)...

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What the school says...

Kilgraston is Scotland's leading independent school for girls aged 5 - 18*

Kilgraston is a dynamic school. It is distinctive and remarkable and offers a world-class education that is both academic and personal. In 2015, Kilgraston School was named as the Sunday Times top performing independent school for the Scottish Highers Curriculum. Set in 54 acres of stunning Scottish parkland in Perthshire, Kilgraston offers girls security and space to grow and develop while providing a tranquil and gentle-paced environment for the girls to concentrate without distraction.

Academic:

In November 2016, Kilgraston was named ‘top performing independent school for Advanced Highers’ by best-schools.co.uk. This comes after Kilgraston girls achieved an outstanding set of results in August 2016. At Advanced Higher 90.5% of grades were A-B against a national average of 59.3%, 36% of girls are now studying a STEM undergraduate course and 100% of girls were accepted into their choice of university. Kilgraston has an exceptional reputation for girls gaining entry into top Scottish universities. In 2016, over 70% of girls went on to study at universities in Scotland, including, St Andrews, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Boarding:

Kilgraston offers a happy and safe boarding community from the age of 8 and outstanding pastoral care is provided by each of the Housemistresses on the 4 boarding houses, which are connected to the main school, allowing access to the exceptional facilities. The Housemistresses and their assistants work closely with tutors to put pastoral care at the heart of the School, whilst older girls act as big sisters to the younger girls. The girls have an active social calendar with sports fixtures, musical performances, excursions and many socials with partner schools.

Clubs and Activities

Kilgraston’s sporting provision is headed by Pauline Stott MBE, the Director of Sport and former double Olympian. Pauline is a real role model to the girls, and is a key element to the success on the sports fields. Kilgraston's 54 acres offers an enviable range of sporting facilities including an international sized all-weather hockey astroturf, sports hall, tennis courts, fitness room, equestrian centre and a 25m indoor swimming pool. Kilgraston currently has girls representing Scotland in Hockey and Netball.

Music is a key part of the Kilgraston community, which is reflected in the busy calendar of events throughout the year including the annual Christmas Concert. Girls represent the school in regional and national orchestras and choirs. In Drama, pupils take the LAMDA examinations and partake in plays, musicals and house drama competitions. The Art Department are renowned for their outstanding creativity and artwork, in which girls win top art awards at competitions across Scotland.

Kilgraston also offers over 50 additional clubs and activities including DofE, Debating, Dance, Karate, World Challenge, Musical trips and many more.

*leading independent school for Advanced Highers 2016 (Best-schools)
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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

Polo

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

What The Good Schools Guide says

Principal

Since 2015, Dorothy MacGinty, previously head of St Francis’ College in Hertfordshire, where she has also been head of biology, head of games, boarding housemistress and deputy head. She is married to Frank and they have three children. Hobbies include playing golf, swimming, theatre, art galleries and spending time with the family.

Head of the junior school since September 2017, Anne Fidelo DipEd (from Moray House College, Edinburgh University). Has taught at the Royal High Primary School, Edinburgh Academy and Cargilfield Prep; in between, has headed a kindergarten and been head of junior school at the Banda School, both in Nairobi.

Academic matters

Unusually for a Scottish boarding school, Kilgraston works within the Scottish education system. That means that apart from offering one A level (in art), all other qualifications are Highers and Advanced Highers. Mrs MacGinty says this is a careful choice on the part of the school as they believe the two year long A level system suits boys better than girls. Also the Scottish system offers a much broader spectrum and doesn't narrow down the girls’ choices too early on. 'The girls make their UCAS applications at the end of lower sixth and if they change their mind, they can pick up different subjects in upper sixth. So it’s such more flexible.'

Although the girls don’t sit any public exams during their first two years of senior school, S1 and S2, the school has introduced the Kilgraston Diploma. This involves a mixture of academic achievement, community service, learning a new skill and some outdoor pursuits activities, and it is based on the five goals of the Sacred Heart (faith in God, respect for intellectual values, social awareness, community building and personal growth). Mrs MacGinty says, 'We think it gives them focus and helps to introduce them to the school ethos. We’re a Catholic school, and we are actively providing a Catholic education to girls of any faith and of no faith.'

One parent we spoke to said the academic side was one thing that the school did extremely well. 'They seem to know how to handle girls. It’s very relaxed, but they have a good instinct for when to start applying a little bit of pressure.'

Psychology and computer science recently added to the curriculum. The school clearly has a strong science department as they regularly send 40 per cent of upper sixth to university to study STEM subjects. Head says time and again statistics show that girls in a single sex school are more likely to choose STEM subjects than if they are in a co-ed environment. Languages are well catered for too, with Latin taught all the way through and regular exchange opportunities through the Sacred Heart network.

In fact, performance in all academic areas seems equally strong and this is borne out by the Higher and Advanced Higher results. In 2018, 42 per cent A grades at Advanced Highers. As for their Higher results, 55 per cent A grades.

Learning support is free and is covered by a specialist unit (CReSTed WS) with dedicated teachers for dyslexia and other learning difficulties. The head of learning support is an educational psychologist (which we assume saves going outside for testing). Twenty-five per cent of the girls at the school have some kind of learning support. This includes regular one-to-one teaching and small groups, although normal class sizes rarely exceed 12. The school layout, with many stairs, is not ideal for children with mobility issues, but head says, 'We have two girls with cerebral palsy and we have adjusted the environment and the timetable eg language lessons are brought down to the ground floor.'

Games, options, the arts

Mrs MacGinty says, 'Sport is huge here. Very important to the school as a whole,' and the facilities on offer are certainly impressive. Three Astro pitches, an impressive 25m pool, lots of grass pitches, equestrian facilities. 'We’re the only school in Scotland with its own equestrian centre. We run the Scottish championships for dressage, show jumping and cross-country.' Currently seven ponies at livery at the school plus 16 school ponies which anyone may ride, and around 40 per cent of pupils do so.

From fifth form ( 15 years old) they start choosing what they want to do in PE: eg zumba, fencing, yoga, climbing wall, karate, archery, Scottish country dancing, skiing. Hockey, netball, rounders, tennis and swimming are the main inter-school competitive sports (although one parent told us it was far too much 'hockey, hockey, hockey'). Director of sport is an Olympian who captained the British hockey team at the Sydney Olympics. (She has an MBE for contribution to Scottish sport, hockey in particular.) Head says, 'We invest a lot in sport.'

We loved our tour of the arts and music areas at the top of the main building. Our enthusiastic tour guides (one had just secured a scholarship to Edinburgh School of Art) were brimming with information. Lots of impressive artwork and a busy practice schedule was clearly underway in the music department which nestles, quite literally, under the eaves of this impressive building. Plenty of scope here to play with jazz club, fiddle group, brass and wind ensembles, sing in chamber choir…the list is endless.

And for relaxation and fun there are plenty of clubs eg chess, Chinese culture, ethos club and, rather charmingly, the Jane Austen Film Club (bet Colin Firth and his wet shirt feature..).

Mrs MacGinty says they’ve been working on getting the whole school to be as outward looking as possible. 'We’ve established a link with a school in India - pupils are going out there for the first time in October. We chose it because it’s a Hindu school. We’ve been working on understanding geographical differences in immunisation projects. We want them to open the girls up to different issues that affect different societies.'

Boarders

Very small boarding numbers. There are three boarding houses: juniors in Butterstone, most in large rooms with dividers so each has her own space; 13-16 year olds in Mater each with a single room each with washing facilities; 16-18s in Barat or Swinton. Wifi access is moderated. School stops at 4.10pm on a Friday, but there are masses of activities to keep them all busy - from theatre trips to dog sledding. Charming and well-used chapel , which is obviously important in a Sacred Heart School.

Background and atmosphere

Founded in 1930, Kilgraston is one of a 200 strong network of schools and colleges within the Society of the Sacred Heart. Vast, grand, Palladian style mansion with stunning stairway and upper entrance hall. That said, the atmosphere is far from stuffy. 'We have one daughter, aged 15, who still hangs upside down from trees at Kilgraston. Our other daughter wants the full Kardashian birthday party. It really seems to cater for all.' We certainly found the girls charming, relaxed and quite confident. No self-conscious hair flicking or tinkling laughs here. They seemed very relaxed about how they looked and talked. Quite happy to be hearty. The grounds are lovely and secluded with plenty of space to roam around.

'A number of schools have gone co-ed,' says Mrs MacGinty, 'but I think the value of girls' schools is underestimated. It’s about promoting confidence and inner resilience. Our girls will take risks in leadership because they don’t have the boys here. They have space to develop all those skills that they might be more reticent to try out at a co-ed school.'

The junior school is situated in a brilliantly converted stable block with a glazed central atrium. It’s increasingly being run on forest school principles, which encourage the girls to get outside as much as possible. Numbers have been dropping recently, however; the nursery has closed, and there has been some parental concern over composite classes. Mrs MacGinty assures us that this is only a temporary issue, however, and future numbers are on the rise.

'We introduced composite classes for P4 and P5 last year, as well as a composite P1, 2 and 3 class, and the rumour mill suggested we were going to have composite classes further up, but that’s not true. Top class P7 is going to be two separate classes because the numbers have grown.' So not bursting at the seams. It will be interesting how the junior school fares under its newish head.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

Would you be surprised if we told you Kilgraston has its own BFG? In fact it has a whole load of them. Nothing to do with giants, you understand, but instead a fantastic buddy system to help younger girls. (Big Friendly Girl, in case you were wondering.) We actually saw it in action as one of our tour guides was nearly felled by a little person hugging her BFG.

The school stresses that the girls get plenty of interaction with the opposite sex. Many of the girls have brothers at Merchiston and there are regular joint social events - debating as well as parties. (Lucky Merchie boys as they are the social foils for Edinburgh girls’ school St George’s as well.)

The girls are divided into houses and there are house meetings or year group meetings every Friday morning. Tutor meetings every Tuesday and regular PHSE sessions. Social studies in the sixth form also covers age relevant well-being topics. One big school concern is the amount of stress girls are under through social media. 'We drum home the message that appearance is not important. We want to motivate them, celebrate their achievements. We don’t want them to feel under pressure.'

Pupils and parents

Boarders from around 14 different countries worldwide, but the majority of the girls are from Scotland (many from Perthshire). A good number of first time buyers. Although the school is RC, there are plenty of non-Catholics.

Entrance

No entrance exam. Mrs MacGinty meets every girl and her parents to make sure that they’re offering the right style of education. Then a report and reference from the previous school.

Exit

The school is proud of its record in getting their girls into Scottish universities eg Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee. In 2018, two-thirds off to study STEM subjects, including veterinary sciences in Poland.

Money matters

Up to 10 academic, art and music scholarships. Also riding, tennis and sporting scholarships. Almost one quarter receive assistance of some sort. School is 'good at finding trust funding' for those who have fallen on hard times.

Our view

Kilgraston occupies a unique place in Scottish education as the only all girls' boarding school north of the border and the only public school to adhere to the Scottish education system. And it seems to suit them. They get good results and provide a non-pressurised, relaxed, sporty, happy and non-overtly religious atmosphere for their girls.

Special Education Needs

SEN provision at Kilgraston concentrates on meeting the needs of pupils with specific learning difficulties and includes individual lessons, class support and parent/teacher consultations. The Learning Support Department is situated within the Learning Resources Centre and is open until 6.30 p.m.

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