Edinburgh schools

(20 Posts)
Fifeburgh7 Sun 10-Jan-21 17:59:46

Hi, not sure I'm in the right place...and I know this has been done on and off over the years (I've seen a lot of the older conversations), but keen to get up-to-date opinions as things can change...

What are views on George Watson's, George Heriot's and Edinburgh Academy? I'm particularly interested in hearing from people actually with kids at these and what you think the best but also worst (or 'meh'/average/could-be-better) aspects of them (for balance) are in your experience.

Many thanks in advance!

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Eightytwenty Sun 10-Jan-21 22:48:56

What stage are your kids and where are you based? (Wondered if your username meant you would be travelling in from Fife?).

Fifeburgh7 Mon 11-Jan-21 07:07:28

We are looking to enter one of these in P7 maybe S1. We live in central Edinburgh so either of these would suit.

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Eightytwenty Mon 11-Jan-21 23:03:57

Can only comment on EA. My DC joined this year (but further up the school). Couldn’t be more pleased with how they’ve settled, how they’ve been stretched and supported (different needs). Kids seem nice & welcoming. Have friends with kids at GW and GH. We were put off by the size of GW. I have a few reasons why we didn’t look at GH (which may be misguided). I think we were put off my the labelling of kids who are there on a bursary, and the reputation that academic achievement is the most important thing.

Fifeburgh7 Tue 12-Jan-21 07:49:45

Thanks. Very interesting. Re EA, what do you mean by stretched and supported if you don’t mind me asking? I know it’s a smaller school so wonder if it is better able to encourage and “push” kids (in a good way) rather than let them coast, if you know what I mean. We think our daughter could benefit from that.

And re GH, was that emphasis on academic performance an impression you got directly from the school?

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Eightytwenty Tue 12-Jan-21 23:25:41

One child is getting additional sfl to help him organise systems - in recognition that most of the kids who’ve been there all the way through are ‘institutionalised’ to follow the processes. Because he has some learning difficulties and is new, that’s been less easy. My other son is being pushed so much further than he was at his previous school (combo or quantity and quality of work set, and marking feedback). Hard to know how much is ‘EA’ vs private vs state vs the stage of education. Either way we’re really pleased.

GH opinion comes from anecdotal evidence but wouldn’t recommend you base your opinion on that :-)

EAparent Tue 12-Jan-21 23:40:14

EA Junior school doesn't "push" at all. If the child is self-motivated to study, they can. If they are not, they coast downwards. There are stories of kids at the end of P5 realising they need help, going to a tutor programme, doing an assessment, and being assessed as being at the end of P3 level... There is absolutely no push to learn the times tables, for example - lots of kids in P6, P7 still don't know half of it.
Senior school is not much better. There is a much greater load there, but the problem is that the kids are absolutely not ready for this from their years at the junior school...

As for GH - yes, I agree with the strong priority for academic performance comment - we considered them at some point and that was the impression we got from the school directly.

GW is a much bigger school, but that has its benefits - lots of facilities onsite, including a shooting range! They also seem to have a much more pragmatic approach to teaching - they try to help kids level up.

In EA, there are the star students, there are the sports students, and everyone else. GW is much more leveled compared to this.

Also, here is a quote for you, explaining EA's attitude to education:
"Our children’s mental health is more important than their academic skills.
Of course, we will do our very best to continue to provide an academic and rigorous education but what we are looking forward to most is having healthy, happy and emotionally secure children back at school" ...

Fifeburgh7 Wed 13-Jan-21 13:03:12

Thanks for the comments. Very interesting. I've heard a lot of the usual claims about schools and have my own views but am trying to challenge them and get past the anecdotal so this has been very helpful.

EAparent: is that quote from the website or a specific publication? Quite a statement really. I mean, we could wax lyrical about whether the pursuit of top grades is all it's really cracked up to be, but it is still a school after all.

Do you have links with/knowledge of GWC? Size is an issue commonly raised with it to the extent I've heard going there called "paying for state school". My daughter is a sensitive type and needs the right environment. Concern would be she could just be lost there. While extremely difficult to gauge and quantify, a school's ethos is quite important to us.

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EAparent Wed 13-Jan-21 14:17:08

@Fifeburgh7
The quote is from a recent communication from the Academy about online learning - a week ago or so. But they make it clear throughout the year that this is their approach - mental health over academics. I agree that they seem to misunderstand the purpose of a school...

As for George Watson's, I'm always amused when people say "the school is too big, the kid will get lost there". If you think about it, it's not like it's a big school with the same number of classes, right? The number of pupils per class may be a bit higher in a bigger school, but really no difference between say 22-23 vs 27-28 per class. Each class has its own teacher, it's just that a big school has more of them. EA has 3 classes per year in Junior School and I think 6 in Senior. GWC has 6-7 classes by the end of Junior School, and up to 12(!) in Senior. That's why it's twice as big!

Also, obviously, more students means more opportunities for specialist teaching. In Academy they don't have any specialist teachers until Senior School (except Art, Music, PE, and such). In Fettes, for example, there are specialist teachers almost from the beginning for History, Geography, Languages, Math, etc. That's a difference in attitude if you ask me.

EAparent Wed 13-Jan-21 14:20:05

@Fifeburgh7

You may be interested in this thread:
www.mumsnet.com/Talk/scotsnet/3966046-Edinburgh-independent-schools-Distance-learning-response

nonamoss Wed 13-Jan-21 15:01:58

GH parent here. We were put off GH initially because of its high academic record, but decided that overall we liked the school so did send our DC there. We have two in the junior school and so far we have been really pleased with it. One DC struggles academically and he has had amazing support (even during home learning). It is a very friendly school and I have come to the conclusion that they archive the results not because they push really hard, but because they take the time to understand how each child learns best.

Fifeburgh7 Wed 13-Jan-21 17:22:29

@EAparent

Thanks for the extra info. All appreciated. We know the least about EA so that's been an eye-opener. It sounds like you're not going to be an EA parent for much longer?! Re GWC, I'm not particularly worried by class size. We visited and were put at ease on that front. I am a bit concerned about the culture at the school. Any views on that? I was hoping people might raise it before I did to see what came out unprompted, but nothing did. Totally get that kids are kids and all schools have their issues but from the outside (and that's the problem and why I'm asking) it seems to have had a few lately. I'm trying to question PR, outward appearance and anecdotes, and get to the reality really.

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EAparent Thu 14-Jan-21 22:34:36

@Fifeburgh7

Are you referring to the bullying incidents reports at GWC? You should read about Fettes...

All schools have these, the question is how they deal with it.
EA also had a fair share of them - one major one even made it to the press in 2006 I believe. At EA, the attitude is - if we can prove you did it, there are consequences; but if we can't point a finger at you because you are denying it and nobody else saw it (apart from the aggrieved party), you are free to go. Even if the incidents continue, and the denials continue.

If you are interested in GWC, you can read the inspection report they got after the latest accusation. I would agree with their headmaster that it's actually almost all positive.
greens.scot/andy-wightman-msp/blog/open-letter-to-parents-of-pupils-at-george-watsons-college-

TheDuchessOfAquitaine Sat 16-Jan-21 09:21:13

I've heard going there called "paying for state school"

Having been through the state school system in Edinburgh myself (admittedly a few years ago now!) but more recently having watched my nieces and nephews grow up in the last 10 years experiencing state school education, I can’t disagree more with that statement grin

My experience of GWC has been night and day compared to my own and my families experience. I feel like I am paying for a significantly differentiated provision which in my opinion anyway is absolutely worth it. DC very happy and thriving there there.

Fifeburgh7 Sat 16-Jan-21 11:18:52

@TheDuchessOfAquitaine

Thanks. Yes, I threw that in hoping someone would pick it up. I didn't/don't particularly believe it given the person who said it (used to work with some sad people - say no more) but thought I'd test the water. It's exactly the sort of comment I'm trying to get past: vague anecdote and biased opinion. Sadly, I get the impression certain people talk their own book and, to validate their own choices in their own head, think they have to denigrate the other options.

We were both state educated as well, don't have that direct experience of private education and so are trying to separate urban myth from fact (appreciating, of course, that everyone's experience or what they value differs). What specifically have you liked at GWC? We're finding it a little hard to judge since our daughter hasn't particularly displayed a strong tendency/liking for a specific discipline e.g. if all she was interested in was music, we might try to narrow it down to a school that had great music provision while still being sound academically, rather than an outright academic school. Feel we're in danger of paralysis by analysis but it is an important decision.

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TheDuchessOfAquitaine Sat 16-Jan-21 11:43:50

Feel we're in danger of paralysis by analysis but it is an important decision.
That was us two years ago 😁
Let me PM later so I don’t out myself - happy to elaborate.

ArmchairCritics Sat 16-Jan-21 11:59:33

@Fifeburgh7 is there any reason in particular you aren’t looking at MES for your daughter? I’m an FP (a good few years ago, but recently enough to be lots of the same staff still) though was state educated for the majority of my time at school, and couldn’t recommend it highly enough. Nurturing, inclusive, highly academic but also great extra-curricular provision and something for everyone. I really wasn’t sure about the single sex aspect having been co-educated previously but lots of crossover with SMC then back together in S6 again, which I personally think works really well for the difficult teenage years (you mention your daughter being quite sensitive, I wonder if this could help?)

Fifeburgh7 Sat 16-Jan-21 12:07:16

@ArmchairCritics

The main reason is, like you say, we’re not sure single sex is the way we want to go.

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ArmchairCritics Sat 16-Jan-21 13:10:39

@Fifeburgh7 definitely a valid point to think about, but I’d argue that it isn’t really single sex in the truest sense of the word. I don’t know what the deal is with visits etc at the moment, but in your position I wouldn’t rule it out entirely, as it sounds like it could tick a lot of your other boxes. I have 2 DDs now and if we were close enough I would absolutely be sending them there.

Fifeburgh7 Sat 23-Jan-21 11:41:00

@ArmchairCritics

Sorry, I meant to reply...I never said but the die is already cast: we are applying for 2021 entry so are well through the process and didn’t consider it. ESMS is also not so easily accessible for us and I’m just not sure it’d be right for various reasons. Tough decisions to make now. Thanks for the input, though. And from everyone else. I really appreciate it. smile

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