Independent School Parent
Independent School of the Year GEORGE HERIOT’S
Building on its rich philanthropic heritage, this Edinburgh school’s foundation continues to offer pupils extensive bursarial support, alongside a rich and varied academic curriculum
It might be difficult to imagine a school you haven’t seen, situated in the shadows of Edinburgh Castle on a World Heritage site, echoing the castle’s magnificent turreted structure in its striking main building, The Wark.
George Heriot’s School foundation stone was laid in 1628, thanks to the vision of early philanthropist, goldsmith and court jeweller George Heriot. George Heriot’s vision, inspired by what he had witnessed at Christ’s Hospital School, was to create a school for fatherless children. The school opened its doors in 1659 and expanded in the 1800s to create a further 18 outschools for the children of Edinburgh, educating many thousands of children before the advent of the 1872 Education Act, when schooling became managed by the state.
The school has survived Cromwell’s troops, two world wars and evolved in its nine-acre city centre site to become today’s leading independent school in Scotland, as voted by The Sunday Times in 2021. Heriot’s is a modern and vibrant hive of co-educational learning, with 1,668 children from ages four to 18 filling its corridors, turrets and learning spaces to study the Scottish curriculum, learning to question, to respect rights, to develop confidence in their own voice and above all, leaving with a skillset to carve their place in the modern world.
Herioters today go on to become actors and writers, advocates and scientists, doctors, researchers, public servants and more, many continuing the legacy of its founder by supporting the school’s foundation.
As Scotland’s oldest independent school, on the cusp of celebrating a 400year anniversary, the school is a good example of widening access. Fees are kept comparatively low (approximately half the level of two other Edinburgh independent schools), with 31 children studying at the school on full bursaries and 61 children attending through the Foundation, set up by George Heriot to educate the fatherless bairns of Edinburgh. Any child who has lost a mother or father through bereavement, and lives within a de ned local area, is entitled to apply to study at George Heriot’s. Over the years, some 4,400 children have studied at Heriot’s through the foundation. e school provides £1.3m of bursarial support each year.
As a selective school, the academic standards at Heriot’s are recognised as being high... it’s a school for children for whom academic success is important and as such, pupils are encouraged to try their hand at all that is on o er. e study of traditional SQA subjects at National, Higher and Advanced Higher level is complemented by specialist classes in less mainstream areas such as choreography, current a airs, sur ng, robotics/AI, Lego, debating, creative writing, and highland dancing, to name but a few.
In the nursery, the school has dedicated teachers, delivering high quality learning experiences to promote creativity, curiosity, independence and kindness. Weekly specialist lessons include physical education, music, outdoor learning, resilience, mindfulness, story massage, philosophy, science and technology.
Philosophy is taught from nursery to primary seven using the P4C method, with parents attending the school’s workshops to develop their own philosophical thinking. Heriot’s is the only school in Scotland to have achieved a Gold Award from the SAPERE organisation, which recognises the high standard of teaching and participation in this subject.
ere are many advantages to teaching children philosophy. It improves literacy and language skills, encourages children to develop articulacy and self-expression, nourishes concentration and thinking skills and invites young people to be e ective in collaboration, group work and reasoning.
e Learning Enhancement team of quali ed primary teachers delivers a programme which incorporates philosophy, resilience, team-building and mindfulness, setting up good habits for life.
In senior school, there’s a choice of 34 examined subjects for pupils to study, from human biology to psychology, Mandarin, politics, economics and graphic communication, to name a few.
Heriot’s has recently been awarded its third consecutive gold award for being a UNICEF Rights Respecting School.
e rights of every child are central to school life, including promotion of rights respecting attitudes and language across year groups, from diversity, equality and inclusion lessons to pupil-led assemblies celebrating Diwali, Black History Month, Dyslexia Awareness Week and much more. “Receiving this award is a tremendous llip for the school,” says Principal, Gareth Warren. “ird-party recognition of what we do gives us encouragement that among 700 schools UK-wide, we’re achieving something special. Today we look to the future to ensure the content of curriculum, the pupil experience we o er and the availability of a compelling extra curricular o er remain at the forefront of our agenda.’’ george-heriots.com
“RECEIVING THIS AWARD IS A TREMENDOUS FILLIP FOR THE SCHOOL. THIRD-PARTY recognition of what we do gives us encouragement THAT AMONG 700 SCHOOLS UK-WIDE, WE’RE ACHIEVING SOMETHING SPECIAL”