Right from the moment that you pass under the rather grand stone archway that marks the entrance to Kilgraston, it’s clear you’ve arrived at a rather special place. Travel down the driveway, over the stream and past fields of horses until you reach our Georgian red sandstone mansion. Inside, our girls’ artwork adorns every wall, and the sounds of music rehearsals echo down each corridor. Across the front lawn – to what was once the stable building but is now our bright and cheery prep school – girls laugh, play and learn together. Only 45 minutes from Edinburgh airport yet Kilgraston is secluded and girls are free to roam around the 54 acres of pristine Scottish parkland.
About the school
We are a school with traditional values but a modern and forward looking perspective on education. Education is not just about exam success; developing interest and talents, nurturing an understanding of divergent cultures, and emphasising our personal responsibility as global citizens are vital. As such, a Kilgraston girl benefits from a wealth of opportunities to extend and enrich her educational experience. We offer an enormous breadth of extra-curricular activities, and enjoy modern, state of the art facilities in sports, art, music and science. With the Equestrian centre, a new International sized all-weather hockey pitch, 8 all-weather tennis courts, sports hall with climbing wall and fitness suite and a new 25m indoor swimming pool there is more than enough to keep the girls occupied! The school is a member of the international network of Sacred Heart Schools which opens Kilgraston to a wide range of personal contacts and potential for lifelong friendships with a number of pupils who attend from Mexico, Spain, Germany and other countries world-wide.
Like so many other arrangements, weekend activities at boarding schools have had to be significantly rethought against the Covid-19 landscape. But at Kilgraston School, pupils activities' have taken on a surprisingly traditional twist.
29th September 2020 — At the Perthshire school, pupils usually spend their down-time visiting museums and galleries, shopping malls and historic monuments. But strict social distancing guidance and increased complications with risk assessments have made organising these outings much more complicated.
“Striking a balance between enjoyment and safety is always a challenge,” comments Head Teacher, Dorothy MacGinty, “however, the start of this year’s autumn term naturally presented many more difficulties than usual.”
But help was at hand. In absence of retail therapy and visits to national landmarks, girls were asked for their preference to fill the time.
“We were very surprised by the answer,” said Mrs MacGinty, “they voted to organise traditional games more commonly found in playgrounds when I was a child!”
Now, at weekends, the School’s front lawns radiate to the sounds of boarding pupils playing old-fashioned favourites, Duck, Duck, Goose; British Bulldog; rounders; grandmother’s footsteps; tag and tug-o-war and all to the greater good of social interaction.
“Girls of all ages love them,” said MacGinty, “they’re laughing together, working as a team, enjoying the competitive nature without match pressure. I can’t believe I’m watching history repeat itself.”
Pupil Greta from Germany agreed with the Head: “It was just really good fun. There is a lot of space at Kilgraston so it was good to stay here and play with my housemates. I’m looking forward to playing the same games next weekend. We had a great laugh.”
Boarding pupils at Kilgraston hail from around the world and operate in ‘house bubbles’ allowing them to spend social time together.
“Immediately we noticed how well girls embraced the games when they started playing,” said Sonja Mueller, Head of Boarding at the School, “Inhibitions were lost, quickly gelling as a group.” She went on to say: “Initially, we were a little concerned that the girls might be negative about staying on campus but the games are entirely their suggestion with everyone, from ten to eighteen year olds, thoroughly enjoying these age-old activities.”
The story gathered huge traction having featured in The Daily Telegraph on tuesday 29 September 2020 https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/09/28/playground-games-past-return-boarding-school-shopping-trips/
Gleneagles Commercial Director speaks to Kilgraston School pupils as part of Women in Business lecture series
14th September 2020 — If advance planning is the name of your game, predicting future arrangements has become twice as hard with changes in necessary government guidance happening almost every day.
“Our Christmas bookings are through the roof,” said Gleneagles Commercial Director, Jane McGee, “but trying to organise family and group tables and social arrangements when rules are fluid can be quite a challenge!”
All part of the business day as pupils from Kilgraston learnt when the Perthshire resort’s staff member visited to give a talk as part of the school’s Women in Business lecture series.
“Lockdown was the first time Gleneagles has been shut since the Second World War, when it was used as a hospital,” Jane told senior pupils, “so reopening after nearly four months in the middle of July, already mid-summer season, with autumn and Christmas beckoning, required all hands to the decks.”
Thankfully, every one of the thousand plus staff have been retained, with the Hotel, once again, pulsating with life: “The trick is being constantly agile,” emphasised Jane to attentive Fifth and Sixth Form ears, “since the start of the pandemic, there has been a huge shift away from corporate gatherings and overseas visitors and a far greater focus from domestic visitors. We have to be constantly vigilant, ensuring our customer offer is appropriate and consistent with demand.”
Having grown-up in Tayside, Jane told the girls how she attended Dundee University, achieving a Masters in Hotel Management, which included a four-month stint at a huge hotel on Florida’s International Drive: “I couldn’t believe my luck being so close to Mickey Mouse.”
Girls learnt how Jane came to the decision about her career having consolidated many subjects in which she was interested: “I wanted to be in a people-facing job and knew I’d like to travel,” she continued, “Hotels are massive concerns, the economics and customer journey really interested me from the outset.”
Her career has seen her working in many exotic locations with one of her favourites being Bangkok’s luxurious Mandarin Oriental: “The level of customer service is phenomenal with several members of staff to every guest. You can just sit high above this amazing city and calmly watch the huge city gyrate before you.”
But after over twenty years based in London, Jane felt the call to come back to her native homeland becoming Director of Sales & Marketing at Fairmont St Andrews, where she was responsible for repositioning the hotel after a multi-million pound refurbishment programme.
Five years later, in 2018, Jane was appointed Gleneagle's Commercial Director, bringing with her 25 years’ experience and taking responsibility for all aspects of the hotel’s revenue and sales strategies. Her appointment came at a crucial time for the brand as it looked to strengthen its position on the global stage, following the completion of the biggest investment project in the hotel’s almost 100-year history.
“My career has taken me all around the world,” she said, “but there’s nowhere like Scotland and I passionately believe in the relaxed luxury offered by Gleneagles and its drive to promote local goods and suppliers. I really do live and breathe my job!”
This enthusiasm was clearly evident with a number of pupils asking questions and requesting further information about the Hotel’s graduate trainee programme: “I had no idea there were so many aspects to the industry,” said one 16 year old, “It’s an incredibly diverse job.”
Commenting on the visit, Kilgraston Headmistress, Dorothy MacGinty, said: “Having the opportunity to hear from someone of Jane’s calibre was a treat indeed. Her global experience and obvious love for her chosen career was a great chance for girls to hear, first hand, about this fascinating path. We’d all like to say a very big thank you to Jane for giving up her valuable time at this extremely busy time.”
The School’s Women in Business series will welcome an engineer from SSE, an orthodontist from Dundee and a stem cell expert from Ninewells Hospital during the next four months.
"At a time of enforced separation, Kilgraston is very much together."
Friday 27 March 2020 - A message from Kilgraston School's Headmistress
27th March 2020 — "Just fourteen days ago, Kilgraston’s theatre was being decorated for the annual Sixth Form Ball, 72 hours later, we were told that our precious School had to close, indeterminately, at the end of the week
Hyperbole is frequently misused.
On this occasion, I feel justified in saying that the speed of unfolding events has been almost incomprehensible for each and every member of our community.
However, I am extremely proud to report that, at the end of our first week of the new working arrangement, every part of Kilgraston has more than risen to the challenge.
Plato said: ‘Necessity is the mother of invention'. Never before has there been a need to reinvent working practice so rapidly.Every member of our close Kilgraston community has changed their routine, embracing new and unfamiliar arrangements.
This is an extremely difficult time; for our community and the entire world. Like never before, working as a collegiate is vital and I feel immensely honoured – and humble – at the way in which pupils, staff, parents, guardians, everybody, have embraced the ‘TEAMS’ technology, enabling us to carry on.
I understand that there are many challenges to having children at home: trying to help teach, trying to work, trying to maintain a routine. I understand the worries of pupils thrown into disarray with exam changes, the possible influences on future education and the ensuing anxiety that this will cause parents and carers.
But please remember that you are not alone. At a time of enforced separation and distance, we are very much together. From Mexico to Spain, France to Kurdistan, Dingwall to Dorset, we’re still a family and very much there for one another.
There is no ‘I’ in either team nor TEAMS. There is only a collective effort. These changes have been hard for everyone but, together, we will get through this and emerge stronger and more resilient.
Every individual has played their vital part, ensuring our Kilgraston School will continue to be the unique and precious community with which we are all so familiar.
Despite these extenuating circumstances, many, many parents and guardians have taken time out of their busy day to write and thank staff for the dedication and ingenuity demonstrated this week, thus ensuring a fulfilling curriculum for their children. If you will permit, I would like to sign-off with their words, not mine. At the end of this extraordinary week, thank you so much for your assistance and consideration."
Dorothy MacGinty, Headmistress
From parents & guardians:
“Can we just say how impressed we have been by the level of support the girls have received this week - much more direct involvement by teaching staff compared with schools in the west. Well done Kilgraston.”
“From our perspective, the virtual teaching has been going very well indeed. Not unexpectedly, (my daughter’s) have risen to the occasion and fully embraced the new ways of learning. A big thank you to all staff for their creativity and commitment to continuing to provide learning and routine for the girls. A brilliant demonstration of how young people can be supported to cope, even thrive, in the face of adversity. True resilience-building.”
“Thank you for all your communication and organisation at this difficult time. The ‘Teams’ seems to have worked well and all the teachers continue to provide fantastic support. It is much appreciated at what is a difficult time for the girls with their exams being cancelled. Stay safe and many thanks.”
“As I sit at my dining table working through this morning’s emails, I am listening to an U3 English class being delivered by Mrs Ramsay on Zoom. The girls are excited by the whole experience and interacting well. I have always had respect for teachers but Mrs Ramsay has gone up a further notch. Great stuff – making me smile and feeling proud to be part of it in some small way!”
“I just wanted to send a quick email to thank you and your team for implementing an efficient and effective changeover for the girls to continue their learning. Daughter (Upper Fourth) has been really diligent in making sure that she is doing her work and keeping up to date. Thank you, as it cannot have been easy to put everything together in a short period of time and under a situation that was changing every day. Best wishes”
“A well balanced and pragmatic risk-based approach from Mrs MacGinty. I am sure I speak for many of the parents - if you need any support (as many of us are now working from home) do reach out. More than happy to help out maintain some sort of normality for the girls, brawn or brain offered. Pass on my support.”
“I just wanted to say thank you for all the excellent communication you have given parents. I feel that in a crazy situation you have led from the front and maintained a real contact with us parents and kept us up-to-date as you have been able. I am so sorry that we have not been able to stay open and I think you and your staff have really kept calm in this crazy time. I am thinking of you all in these difficult days and send my very best to you and your staff."
"Thank you so very much for all your communication and I look forward to getting the girls back to school as soon as possible. In the mean time we shall buckle down and keep healthy!! Best wishes, please all take care of yourselves and thank you for what I consider an amazing job that you are all doing.”
Women and Business welcomes medical Professor to Kilgraston School
Continuing its Women and Business lecture series, Kilgraston School was delighted to welcome Tayside medical expert, Sally Ibbotson, Professor of Photodermatology and Consultant Dermatologist, School of Medicine, University of Dundee, Ninewells Hospital & Medical School.
19th March 2020 — Women and Business – leading ladies
The School’s series of talks has, so far, hosted specialists from the fields of accountancy, law, journalism and private enterprise. Future visits include a Professor of Stem Cell research, the Commercial Director of Gleneagles, an engineer with SSE and a leading orthodontist.
Lectures give senior school pupils the opportunity to hear, first hand, from industry experts, while also being given the chance to speak to them on a one-to-one basis.
Prof Ibbotson spoke to pupils about the route her career had taken, including a spell as a Harvard Medical School Research Fellow in Boston, where she conducted photochemistry research: “Take every opportunity,” she told the 80 pupils, “During my medical student days and career, I’ve spent time studying and working in Sydney, Vancouver and even Bermuda, where I had the chance to focus on paediatrics.”
Initially attending Leeds Medical School – qualifying with a first class honours degree in biochemistry and honours in her medical degree – Prof Ibbotson also completed a postdoctoral thesis in blood clotting disorders and diabetes: “I had wonderful mentors there who sparked my interests in blood clotting and leg ulcers and, ultimately, led to my specialism in dermatology.”
Moving back to Newcastle, the Professor took up postgraduate dermatology training, developing an interest in the effects of sunlight on the skin, where there was “lots of dedicated research into the effects of different wavelengths of light on the diagnosis and treatment of different types of skin diseases.”
Clearly still very passionate about her profession, Prof Ibbotson explained her research into light and skin to the girls, for example describing how pharmaceutical industries have requirements to investigate how drugs may interact with UV light on the skin and that the Photobiology Unit at Dundee University carried out research in this field: “Many drugs are light-sensitising and need to be thoroughly investigated,” she told the audience, “we also specialise in photodynamic therapy, a treatment for non-melanoma skin cancer and sun damage, which combines a drug that makes cells sensitive to light with exposure to visible light.”
The audience, many of whom were considering a medical career, learnt about necessary undergraduate qualifications. At Dundee University, assessment is based on school exam results, UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) and MMI interview.
“Medicine is very competitive, with approximately one in ten applicants being offered a place” explained Prof Ibbotson, “that’s the bad news! But the good news is that it is an extremely rewarding career and there are lots of options regarding career choices with a medical degree, along with a 100% graduate employment rate.”
One Sixth Form pupil, who has been offered places to read Medicine at four Scottish universities, also addressed the girls: “I approached my GP practice and was given a few days’ work experience,” she said, “But also, I kept being told how important ‘soft skills’ were so I’ve found taking my Higher Drama very helpful with communication.”
At the end of the lecture, pupils quizzed the Professor on various routes through a medical career, including general practice, medical and surgical specialties and one enquiry regarding plastic surgery: “There are some very focussed young ladies here.”
The next generation
As well as being the Head of the Photobiology Unit at Dundee University, the Professor told pupils that she continues with research and teaching,particularly enjoying her involvement with the undergraduate medical student programme.
“Early in my career, I was lucky enough to be mentored very well,” she concluded, “so it is always a complete pleasure to offer guidance to the next generation of medical enthusiasts.”
Kilgraston School was very privileged to have welcomed Professor Ibbotson.
The Times spots Kilgraston’s preloved fashion zipping ahead
Looking at it from a different angle, Kilgraston School Sixth Form pupils are thinking 'preloved' - a story that The Times also appreciated...
16th March 2020 — Ah, the Sixth Form Ball. An annual event, in any school’s calendar, which inspires lashings of anticipation and, usually, fake tan.
Add to this mix, a hefty price-tag for a new dress.
But, not necessarily the case at Kilgraston School; a fact spotted by The Times newspaper, the day before the knees' up.
In a bid to reduce the annual 300,000 tonne tally of textiles that end-up in landfill, girls were, this year, encouraged to think differently about their outfits: a ‘preloved’ ball gown swap-shop was established.
“Just after Christmas, staff and pupils were asked to donate,” said Head, Dorothy MacGinty, who will herself wear her own mother’s vintage astrakhan coat and black, velvet, dress. The Head is a great fan of older clothing, regularly donning 35 year old Dior during the school day.
The idea took off: “Even in one year, I see a huge difference in the girls’ attitude when considering different outfit options.”
Upper Sixth pupil, Abbie, is in tune with the Head: “I now think, ‘am I going to wear this again?’ and, if not, I don’t tend to buy it.”
Flora, agrees with her friend: “There’s a cachet to wearing vintage.”
Last year, a speech by Mrs MacGinty initiated a ‘Wear it Again’ day, when all 270 pupils wore vintage.
In it, the Head highlighted the “enormous impact the fashion industry has on the world’s carbon footprint” quoting from a 2015 paper, by the industry-led Circular Fibres Initiative.
This organisation reported that global greenhouse gas emissions, from textile production, totalled 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2; equivalent to more than the emissions of all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
Saturday’s ball pressed-ahead with the drive to reduce textile waste, but pupil ‘rethink’ is not confined to glamorous occasions.
“Even in just a few months, I’m more aware of charity shops and what they have to offer,” says Lola, “there’s also been a huge spike in online retailers who sell vintage – ‘depop’ where you can buy and sell is really popular.” The Sixth Former continued: “Influencers, like teenager Olivia Grace, now wear and promote vintage.”
Mum knows best
Being seen in mum’s old outfit is now definitely de rigueur. Pupil Maggie wore her mother’s full-length, backless, Niteline Della Roufogali dress: “It’s over 25 years old. Mum had it from new and wore it to several events in her 20s. I love the shape but especially the quality of the material. It doesn’t look its age at all and has really lasted.”
Couture clashes were avoided by the girls with the useful initiation of the Sixth Form common room’s ‘Ball board’: “Everyone puts up their name and a picture of their outfit,” explains Lola, “if you’re in vintage, you’re definitely unique!”
THE TIMES: A week in pictures https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/week-in-pictures-scotland-83wq89pn0
Connections made at Kilgraston School with National Theatre performance
Forty years ago, Sigourney Weaver wrestled with a dangerous species inhabiting human bodies.
Fast forward to 2020 and that ‘dangerous species’ is an enemy every parent dreads; teenage mental illness
5th March 2020 — How do you approach the thorny issue of modern-day angst without alienating your audience?
‘The It’ by acclaimed playwright, Vivienne Franzmann, is how.
Set to a contemporary backdrop, the production exposes the kernel of anxiety that grows within troubled teen, Joy Fremantle.
Mythical beast ‘The It’ takes on a life of its own, slowly claiming its host.
Kilgraston School was selected to participate in the prestigious National Theatre Connections project and, along with a handful of other UK schools, pupils had to perform a designated play.
Primarily this took place at their own school, followed (for those from Scotland) by a performance at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh on March 25.
Finally, if chosen, pupils travel to London later in the year to perform infront of a paying audience.
“Joy, I’m not going to nag you, it’s your future,” bellows her father.
“Who was that child?” questions a teacher.
“Joy Freemental,” scoffs a classmate.
The influences on the unhappy teenager’s life are the same as any you will find across the nation: parents, teachers, friends, classmates, social media. Normal day-to-day life.
But watch closely. This tale is a possible metaphor for any young person.
“There’s something growing in my belly,” Joy complains.
Of course, there isn’t, but what is present is the feeling of being anxious and overwhelmed by life.
The maw of direct correlation between Joy’s misery and her contemporaries’ increasing disinterest, opens up.
With her discomfort growing to “the size of a West Highland Terrier,” still nothing is done.
Many witness her downfall, but, crucially, fail to act, seeing their own experience as a singular observation, not fitting it into the greater jigsaw of Joy’s troubled life.
“She stopped coming to class.”
“She became very withdrawn.”
“She stopped communicating.”
The curtain comes down
At the very last minute, Joy discovers she is not alone. Dystopic references throughout the play give credence to the onset of anxiety.
Tragically though, it is too late. ‘The It’ claims its victim on the school’s sports field.
This was a delicate and perhaps, at times, sensitive topic to interpret.
However, the cast of 14 and 15 year olds addressed it head-on, handling their production with energy and insight. What could have been an uncomfortable hour was made entertaining with several comic touches – cardboard Instagram cut-outs and bossy teachers – lightening the mood.
National Theatre Director, Kash Arshad, was on hand to offer praise and advice.
Speaking after their performance, he told the girls: “This was a thoroughly engaging and strong interpretation of ‘The It’. It is a tough play, dealing with a tough subject, but there was a lovely mix of serious moments and humour, so it never felt too heavy or preachy.”
Entertainment with a serious message; don’t ignore what’s in front of you. Beauty may be skin deep but trouble reaches far further into the soul.