Secondary Schools Fife/Kinross/Stirlin
I am hoping to get some personal insight from fellow mumsnetters about secondary education in these areas of Scotland. We are hoping to move in the next few months and while I have read all there is to read about particular schools, there is nothing like first hand knowledge. HMIE reports can tell me attainment etc but not what the school is really like. So I am looking for information on how nurturing, anti-bullying, encouraging, supportive, both academically and socially/emotionally, etc these following schools are and any other information that you think could be helpful in deciding between them.
The schools we are thinking about are Dunblane, Wallace High, Kinross, Madras College, Bell Baxter, Waid Academy, Balwearie and Inverkeithing.
(have posted this on local sites too but not much traffic there!)
Can comment on Dunblane and Wallace as I have taught/ currently teach in Stirling Council and DDs attend a secondary school in Stirling. Wallace is often described as "the most comprehensive school in Scotland" as its catchment area encompasses some of the wealthiest (up in the hill in BofA) areas in Scotland and some very deprived ones. This results in a very diverse school community. Can lead to very tolerant young adults who are accepting of their peers and understanding of the factors that impact on them. Current HT is a real rising star in Scottish Education and has radically improved the ethos and culture of the school. Sport is a huge focus ( can be a plus or minus depending on your stance). Pastoral care a priority. Depends on your DC fragile easily shocked quiet children might be horrified if they are coming from a leafy shire.
Dunblane is at its highest position in results league tables at no 3 in Scotland. Viewed as very academic but school ethos is effort driven. Not diverse at all and as a result some pupils can feel marginalised. From what I understand parental perception on bullying is mixed but I imagine that's a fairly standard view. If you are coming from a large multi cultural, mixed range of income levels then your DC might find it stiflingly middle class. HT just retired who was proclaimed by the media as the "Alex Ferguson of Scottish Education". HTH pm if you want.
Just posted this on your other thread in the Education section...
Bell Baxter, Waid and Madras are all really good schools in Fife with nice catchments, all are strong on music and community involvement. Balwearie and Inverkeithing are much larger schools with more varied catchments. I know Balwearie well, and it does well for its high achieving pupils but it's not so strong for the below-average group.
My DC have just left a similar large school in the Fife area and have done well, but I would have opted for BB, Waid or Madras if I could have chosen to live in those areas (I couldn't due to jobs).
I know of one
former? MNer who withdrew her dd from Dunblane during S1 (now finishing S4) and was much happier with Wallace (new headteacher made a massive difference) and another who has 2xds at Dunblane and seems happy - although there seems to be a few issues. My impression is that Dunblane has been coasting on its reputation and its more privilege catchment whereas Wallace is a more holistic school.
No direct experience of them though so happy to be corrected.
My nephew attends Kinross High. They are really quite happy with it all and the extra curricular too.
Wallace is my catchment school and I'm the one with two DSs at Dunblane mentioned by prettybird above. Wallace is undoubtedly better since the new head (former deputy at Dunblane) has come on the scene but in some ways it's still a case of they talk a good game. My DS had bullying issues before he was due to go to Wallace and my knowledge (through a friend with a child there) of their bullying handling made me decide that he wouldn't have been happy or safe there. Obviously the vast majority of my neighbors have children at the school and seem happy enough although some I have spoken to say that the lessons can sometimes be disrupted by pupil behaviour issues. I think if your child isn't into sport particularly then it's not so good. They are a school of sport and promote this a lot to engage and motivate pupils and if your child is into sport that's obviously and advantage. I think the main difference is that in Dunblane, the vast majority of children want to do well so there is less low level disruption of disciplinary issues. There can be a fair bit of carry on in Wallace as a lot of the children are less academically motivated. The system of not being in exam classes until S4 doesn't help this as classes are mixed until then. Dunblane also competes in sport and has won trophies across the region, they have pupils competing for scotland in many disciplines but I'd say on balance that the vast majority of those are where they are because of outside interests
But having said that I know of children who have come out with straight A's, it is probably also easier to be in the running for head boy/girl and other such things as less children stay on for 5th and 6th year whereas in Dunblane virtually all pupils stay on. I think less than half a dozen have left at the end of 4th year. The myth that there are only middle and upper class children though isn't exactly true - there is a fair sized council estate and some cheaper (non-exec type) estates too. I am at the school at kick out every day and I've never seen any trouble and pupils in general leave the school in a straightforward manner.
There are things in Dunblane that I think could be better of course, but in the main, we've been happy with our choice and our boys have been happy too. DS1 in particular would have been stressed out with the atmosphere in Wallace given his previous bullying experiences. Although other children might thrive and be energised in that more diverse and leery environment. It's horses for courses.
Wasn't sure if your dses went to Dunblane Magnum, so didn't want to answer for you - but that means I know more people with kids there!
Interestingly, iirc, friend who withdrew her dd from Dunblane wasn't happy with the pastoral care there. But that just illustrates how different kids respond differently to different school environments.
I remember one of ds' primary schoolmates' sibling was withdrawn and moved to a different primary where she was much happier - yet from ds' perspective, I can't say a single bad word against the primary.
tbh I can't say I'm overly impressed with pastoral care at times either but then the environment has meant that I've not needed it in the same way and I know I would have needed it a lot if we'd gone to Wallace. But as I say that was from pre High School issues so nothing to do with Wallace per se, just the people that we knew that were going there.
You are absolutely right though, different environments suit different people, my DC are quiet well behaved a bit geeky and keen to do well so it suits them. If they were sporty, gregarious and into fashion then they'd enjoy the Wallace environment better. There are kids of both types in both schools but the %s are different. I think in Wallace there is a bit more pressure to fit in that doesn't feature in dunblane, girls in Wallace wear make up from the get go, subtle make up is allowed from 4th year in Dunblane. I don't know, it just seems that they are allowed longer to grow up at DHS.
Ex-Madrasser here. I could be biased but (at the moment) there is a few downsides to it.
Most of the kids are bussed in - the catchment spreads to the bridgehead.
It's a split site - meaning teachers leave early and arrive late if they have been teaching in the other building.
Both buildings are crumbling - and the new build is being blocked by former teachers, who really should know better. (I suspect this is down to the fact that the new school would be within walking distance of the former rectors house). Hate to say it but our rival school Bell Baxter (same founder, Andrew Bell) has the better building.
When I was there there was a couple of shockingly incompetent teachers - in one higher history class just 3 out of 28 passed!
HOWEVER in spite of all this it is a great school - particularly for music and drama. Loads of folk I know have gone off to Oxbridge/st Andrews/Edinburgh/Glasgow
Though in terms of what it's like living in a catchment area, Anstruther and the inner part of the Madras catchment (up to Leuchars) would be preferable in my mind to Cupar (never liked the place)
My teens are at Balwearie
as I was myself once. Any questions I'd be happy to answer if you PM me 😀.
I also know the Dunfermline high schools in a professional capacity particularly regarding ASN provision.
My dd has just finished S6 at Bell Baxter. It is a large school - 1,562 pupils on the roll this year - and has a wide catchment area with 18 feeder primaries. It has a diverse range of pupils. One advantage of its size is that since the introduction of the CfE exams, senior pupils have had free choice of subjects across the board - no columns to choose from. I have no idea how they timetable this! The school does well in sport and music, and there are lots of different clubs, trips and shows to participate in. There are also extra subject support classes run through quite a bit of the year at lunchtimes and after school. Their pupil support system seems very good for such a large school.
Madras is slightly smaller than Bell Baxter - around 1300 pupils, I think, and as a pp poster said suffers from being split site. A new Madras building has been on the cards for years, with lots of wrangling over potential sites and there currently seems to be a stalemate situation. Around two-thirds of pupils are now bussed into St Andrews from the surrounding area. A lot of families with kids can no longer afford the extortionate house prices in the town.
And Wyldfyre - what is wrong with Cupar????
Thank you all so much for your very helpful insights. I am originally from Fife (Balwearie was my high school but many moons ago) and we lived in Cupar for seven years where I had my children. However, we left there before they started school and now we are thinking of returning so doing a bit of research. I understand that it is personal experience and all children are different so it is hard to give advice but only parents who are currently in the schools really know what goes on. My oldest daughter is also dyslexic and while she copes well with this it is quite pronounced so anyone with experience of how the aforementioned schools deal with this would also be helpful. Thanks
My older two have been or are at present at Kinross.
Nice new building.
Can choose 7 national 5's ( quite a few children swapped from Bell Baxter when Fife only allowed 5)
Smallish, nice rural catchment
Good academic results
Nice ASN dept
Don't seem to offer much for less academic pupils, concentrate on the brighter ones after third year ( this is not good in an area with poor public transport restricting access to college).
Seem to be some issues at the moment with time tabling restricting choice in the senior phase for some pupils.
New Rector seems a bit low profile.
I find it broadly similar to dunblane which I attended in ye olde days.
My DH's niece attended Wallace High and while quite bright the school did not manage to tempt her to stay on, she is training as a hairdresser and wears hair/ make- up / clothing combos that make her Dad blanche. Not a bad school but probably not the most comfortable fit for a shrinking violet.
I always feel a bit uncomfortable making generalisations about schools but we all know our kids and I feel going on instinct after visiting and seeing whether your child would fit in ( higher nerd quotient in Ds2's case!) works as well as anything. I am not sure anywhere would have suited Ds1 who is not one of Kinross's success stories unfortunately ( although he has lots of nice friends out of it).
Some people are hard to please though, I remember someone who Pm'ed me for advice after a similar thread, she visited Dunblane but her daughter thought it was a bit too rough! ( girls with too short skirts and a broken window apparently), she ended up sending her kids to Dollar Academy instead.
lol wiggly - the "broken" window is a window where the inner treatment on the glass at the lower bit so at floor level and isn't clear glass - has been affected by the sun so has a crackle effect.
That's what I was trying to say before, there are kids that like a short skirt and a bit of makeup in Dunblane, but at the same time there are older girls still wearing flowery hairbands and no makeup. The kids seem to be able to just be themselves which was important to us since DS1 was bullied in primary. I'd say it has a higher nerd/geek quotient than average but the kids just seem to come and go with no issues. I'd recommend just sitting in the car near the schools at kick out time and watch the dynamics - it'll give you a lot of insight into the pupils and suitability for your children.
As for dyslexia, I know that there was a boy in my elder son's year who transferred from Beaconhurst at S1 'as they felt his dyslexia would be better managed, he is still there in S5, DS1 gets to use a laptop for his exams and he just has poor handwriting but to be fair we don't really have a lot of experience with the department other than them arranging that.
Hah, Magnum, I could have saved that family a lot of money if I'd known that about the window! They were coming up from Oxfordshire and a grammar school I think and were a bit fearty about the Scottish system
Nice that Dunblane is still a haven for the late bloomers, I remember still playing at " show- jumping" ( not in the playground) and various other uncool pursuits well into my teens.
the art Dept at Kinross is not the best, sciences, humanities and modern languages are strong.
Balwearie you say oldmac? <wonders if you're as old as me > DS has two dyslexic friends at Balwearie - one in S5 (S6 tomorrow, gulp) who got 8 N5's last year, and one in S4 who sat 6 N5's this year. As a SfL teacher I might be able to use the teachers mafia to find out anything you'd like to know
Can choose 7 national 5's ( quite a few children swapped from Bell Baxter when Fife only allowed 5)
It's not the case that Fife only allow 5 subjects at Nat 5. My Dd has just left Queen Anne in Dunfermline and sat 8, although I believe they reduced that to 7 for the following year group and it remains at 7. It's an individual decision for each school rather than a regional one.
I think there might be two windows like that now.....It's proper rough!
When my daughter first got diagnosed with dyslexia (3 years ago) it was like hens teeth trying to find out schools that catered well for dyslexic learners. We currently live in South Ayrshire which has 'dyslexia friendly schools', but having a box with coloured overlays and ear defenders, and printing all letters home on buff paper does not make a dyslexia friendly school IMHO!! My daughter excels in the arts and anything creative so a good art department in a school that values the arts as much as the more academic subjects would be good for her. She struggles particularly with reading but is very bright so understands that the things she finds come naturally to her are not the subjects which are most valued in a school setting! I guess I may be looking for the impossible but I know there are so many schools out there that look great on paper but it does not make them a 'good' school. Equally other schools that don't get the best results (based purely on the demographic they are pulling from) but add far more quality . My daughter can be quite anxious and sensitive but is bubbly and bright at the same time and needs nurturing, caring teachers who like children and want to enable them to realise their potential! Btw Balwearie class of '95.
I think it may have been Bell Baxter that thought about doing 5 or 6 Nat 5's and put the wind up a few prospective parents, I nearly qualified my statement along the lines of my information being a bit out of date and hearsay but was typing in a hurry, sorry if I offended any Fife parents ( Kinross started out doing 8 but dropped to 7 which seems to be more manageable timetable wise IMO). speaking of timetables, Perth and Kinross schools shut up shop at lunchtime on Fridays which may or may not suit you OP. One of Ds2's classmates was complaining about not being able to do two creative subjects in fifth year due to time tabling issues. I dissed the art dept ( although Dh and I are both artists so we are not too bothered as we can make up deficiencies at home) but the drama dept is good.
Ds2 has the vestiges of dyslexia type issues and also an injury to his dominant hand which means he can no longer write legibly so uses a laptop. The school have been good about providing him with printed class notes and arranging digital exams etc.
Last year at Balwearie S4 could sit 8 N5s. The current S4 were made to drop one subject at the end of S3
not sure how they phrased that decision so they've just sat a maximum of 7 N5s. DD is S4 tomorrow can't quite believe that and she's on course for 7 N5s next May/June.
Re dyslexia and Dunblane High School DD1 went to DHS for S6 as she couldn't get the Advanced Highers she wanted at the school she had (happily 5 Highers etc) previously attended. She had began screening at first school and it was completed by SfL dept at Dunblane. Fascinating, detailed screening which resulted in her being reassessed at uni and qualified for disabled student's allowance. Due to the complexity of the array of tests carried out she has a much greater awareness of why she has struggled with certain tasks. Personally I'll always be grateful
Bell Baxter has done 6 Nat 5s from the start. However, as I said before, there has been free choice so kids don't end up wasting choices having to take something they are not too keen on from a certain column.
PurpleFrog nothing per se. I've never really been able to put my finger on it but never liked if as much as St Andrews
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