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.
Kilgraston achieves a 100% clear-round during inaugural BHS exam
Top of the class for all Kilgraston pupil candidates taking the first BHS Stage 1 assessment
3rd December 2020 — Kilgraston School is celebrating 100% success with its first pupil-cohort of British Horse Society (BHS) Stage 1 Compete Horsemanship assessment candidates.
“This is an internationally recognised qualification which we are thrilled to be able to offer pupils,” said Equestrian Manager, Rachael MacLean, “all the girls have worked very hard throughout the year and are progressing to the tough BHS Stage 2.”
Equestrian Studies was introduced at the School last year as part of its Alternative Pathway curriculum. “Offering these valuable certificates allow girls to take an equestrian qualification in conjunction with their National 5s, concurrently developing their career strategy,” said MacLean, “Having the on-site Equestrian Centre offers superb continuity of learning, with staff always on-hand to offer help and advice.”
Kilgraston is the only school in Scotland to offer BHS qualifications, allowing those who pass to progress, should they wish, towards careers in the equestrian industry: “Candidates can move towards becoming racing or eventing grooms, professional riders or instructors or even take their study further at college or university where they can study, among other courses, Equine Management or Science,” expands MacLean, “BHS qualifications have a flexible syllabus, allowing candidates to focus on particular aspects of the industry in which they are interested, for instance, teaching or yard management.”
Qualifying for Stage 1 was a year-long process with the five candidates travelling to the BHS-affiliated Aberdeen Riding Club for a full-day external assessment: “Prior to their final assessment, a BHS external assessor came to Kilgraston, meeting the girls and giving feedback,” continued MacLean, “They studied three hours a week - one in the classroom and two practical hours in the yard – on top of riding lessons. It’s a very thorough assessment.”
Pupil Issy Wagg agreed: “It has been such a great privilege to study the BHS Stage I, learning how to properly manage horse care and be rewarded with a professionally recognised certificate which will help me on the first stage of my career with animals.”
All aspects of horse-care were covered, including stable and field management, tack and equipment maintenance and application, feeding, equine health, riding at all paces, with and without stirrups.
“Seeing the girls develop their ability and grow in confidence, becoming fully proficient in the first stage of their possible equestrian career, has been very rewarding. I’m very proud of them all,” concluded MacLean.
BHS Stage 2, which can take up to two academic years to complete, is also recognised throughout the world as a pathway of excellence and includes thorough assessment in care, lunge and mounted disciplines and is taken by pupils aged 15 and 16.
Kilgraston’s Women in Business lecture series continues, reverting to an online speaker for the first time. Dr Rhu McKelvey, from BEAM Orthodontics, described his training and career, bringing him to the point of clinical lead at his Dundee practice.
24th November 2020 — “Peoples smiles are important to them,” Dr Ruaridh McKelvey of BEAM Orthodontics told senior pupils at Kilgraston, “orthodontics is definitely a growth sector.”
Via Zoom from his company’s recently extended designer clinics in Dundee, Dr McKelvey was speaking to pupils in the latest of the School’s Women in Business lecture series: “Mainly, I want to emphasise the importance of taking every opportunity to learn from your seniors and peers at every point through life.”
With a trademark splash of humour, Dr McKelvey described studying dentistry at Glasgow University, where he was known by contemporaries as “Mr 51%,” doing just enough to pass exams!
Despite this label, Rhu sealed his BDS in Dentistry, heading-off to a practice in Chester which saw a year of “lots of drilling and extraction.”
But further study called, taking him to Warwick, Derby and Bristol’s famous Dental School, where he saw some “heavy duty facial reconstruction” dealing with jaw surgery on patients suffering trauma from, among others causes, cancer and traffic accidents: “It was swashbuckling stuff,” explained Rhu, “and, briefly, I considered becoming a full-time surgeon.”
Achieving parts One and Two of his Royal College of Surgeons Fellowship, it was time to make definite career choices. But, deciding to concentrate on Orthodontics, Rhu moved to Exeter for a further three years, ultimately leading to his RCS M.Orth.
“This was a full-time post-grad course - combined with an MSc. - specialising in Orthodontics,” Rhu told pupils. But it was a tough time in the young dentist’s life: “We had teaching one day a week in Bristol, combined with attending patients in Exeter the other four days, then lots of homework on top.” As if this stint in the South West wasn’t busy enough, Rhu also managed to fit-in being a member of the Army Reserves. “I look back on it now and just think “phew, how did I do all that?””
Having qualified as a Specialist Orthodontist it was time to make some firm plans for the future.
“Basically, I had been continually learning and training for twelve years,” he explained, “I was thirty, so it was time to make some long-term decisions.” But, before settling down to a “proper job” Rhu had the opportunity to indulge his soldiering hobby with a 6 month deployment to Afghanistan.
Returning from the heat of the dust, Rhu was offered more traditional locum work in Edinburgh, “It was great to be north of the border again and I was lucky to fall under the wings of the great orthodontists at Edinburgh Orthodontics” and started doing market research into a location for a new Orthodontic practice.
The pin in the map landed in Dundee and he has never looked back. Initially, a surgery was rented to build-up a client base, before buying a building and starting hugely-successful BEAM Orthodontics in 2007. “It was a very steep learning curve,” he told girls, “I knew literally nothing about being a property developer, marketer, employer, sales director etc. etc. We started with myself and three nurses and now employ 25 staff, serving 1600 patients.”
The moral of the story was definitely to pursue a career that makes you happy. “Dentistry is a broad church,” Rhu emphasised, “there are many varied way to be a Dentist and it’s the same with Medicine, Law, Engineering, Design, Accountancy etc. I always tell people, ‘dare to be different’. You don’t meet many unhappy Orthodontists.”
Despite current challenges, Kilgraston School ploughed-ahead with its traditional St Cecilia Concert, albeit in a socially distanced way
24th November 2020 — Never let a pandemic stand in the way of a good performance.
Kilgraston’s Saint Cecilia Concert is an annual showcase of pupils’ musical talent held on the anniversary of the death, in 230AD, of the patron saint of music and musicians. But 2020 proved to be an even greater challenge than usual to ensure that the show must go on.
“To adhere to current Covid restrictions, we were limited to group humming, solo singing behind screens and wind and brass recording their parts separately,” said Jason McAuley, Director of Music, “Despite pupils not being able to play in the Chapel in full groups together though, they came up with something extraordinary.”
Junior Strings, Chamber Choir Clarsach Ensemble, String Quartet and newly formed St Cecilia Ensemble performed a selection of traditional, pop, classical and show music. Additionally, talented young soloists performed, socially-distanced Vivaldi, Saint-Saens and music from Schindler’s List and Frozen.
“Individual rehearsals and recordings have taken place since Half Term,” explains McAuley, “It’s been an enormous challenge but the girls rose admirably to the occasion and it just proves that you have to be resilient and flexible in life and that there is usually a way through a problem.”
The pre-recorded, three-quarters-of-an-hour recital was uploaded to the School’s Facebook page at the traditional time of 7pm on the Sunday evening and is now available on YouTube at https://youtu.be/DABKLZuPQKM
Only Scottish school takes-up place on national shortlist
Kilgraston School in Perth has secured a place as the only Scottish school to be nominated as a finalist, and be invited to attend, the nationally-prestigious i25 Awards.
9th November 2020 — Shortlisted for its pioneering ‘Wear it again’ pre-loved clothing campaign, Kilgraston's initiative garnered national media coverage and saw the policy being adopted by many organisations.
“I am particularly pleased that our initiative for recycling clothes and raising the environmental implications of ‘fast fashion’ was embraced so enthusiastically and especially by our pupils,” said Dorothy MacGinty, Head teacher at Kilgraston. She continued: “Waste, and its reduction, is a matter of huge significance for everyone and so very important that tomorrow’s adults understand and act to redress the situation.”
The virtual ceremony – rescheduled from a glittering event at London’s Waldorf in London in March - recognised UK-wide excellence in innovation and impact across the independent education sector.
Each year, there is fierce competition between hundreds of entries. While Kilgraston was not the out-right winner, it was shortlisted to be among the top 25 - the only school in Scotland to make the final list - and be invited to participate in the online event.
“Being nationally recognised for our work, together with learning about others’ projects and initiatives, is so important,” said Mrs MacGinty, “we must never stop learning and that applies to teachers and Heads just as much as it does to pupils.
From several schools across Britain, the ceremony witnessed, among many others, impressive innovation in the teaching of astronomy and the introduction of exams in the subject; various pupil initiatives, including the campaigning by prep school pupils of Government, resulting in ‘Finn’s Law’ - ultimately changing legislation regarding violence towards animals in the line of duty - and the introduction of a life-long learning curriculum that explored different ways to tackle a subject.
Showing support for the school, dozens of Kilgraston parents and pupils tuned-in to the event, with many dressing-up for the occasion: “It gave me a great excuse to wear my vintage Dior, said Mrs MacGinty, “and there are precious few of those occasions these days!”
The over-all winner was Westminster School in London for its ‘liberating power through education.’ campaign to provide bursaries and out-reach support.
SSE engineer builds career foundations at Kilgraston School
If it’s a varied future you’re after, pupils at Kilgraston need look no further than the fascinating journey of a structural engineer.
5th November 2020 — Rachel Battilana MIStructE, who works from Perth on SSE’s hydro power plant throughout Scotland, visited the school as part of its Women in Business lecture series.
“Engineering has given me the scope to travel, constantly learn and work with a huge range of materials and people,” Rachel told senior pupils at the school, many who were listening-in via Zoom.
Asked by one 16-year-old if she wanted to pursue Civil Engineering from a young age, Rachel told the pupil that it was around the same age as she was, but surprised the audience by telling them that, exploring the career route, the book’s reference stated that for ‘Civil engineering, see boring.’
Of course, the ‘boring’ reference wasn’t casting aspersions at the nature of the task, but a nod to the enormous drill-bits used to drive through sheer rock: “I was hooked,” Rachel told pupils.
Reading engineering at Cambridge University, Rachel described how her Masters project saw her designing and building low maintenance cold-climate shelters for Afghan refugees, including “thoroughly testing them in Ford’s vehicle wind tunnel assessment centre.”
After graduation, global design consultancy Buro Happold offered Rachel the opportunity to work on huge civil projects including the impressive Evelina London Children’s Hospital and state-of-the-art Museum of Liverpool: “This was a huge challenge,” she said, “the area included ancient dock gates which had to be preserved and remain undamaged.”
The solution was a great deal of discussion between various organisations, resulting in a formidable, cantilevered, structure suspended over the dock: “Historically, the wall has crumbled around every eighty years, but thankfully” pupils were told, “after all our efforts to avoid placing any more weight on them, they are holding firm.”
Pupils heard how the young engineer completed her professional training to become a Chartered Structural Engineer, before volunteering for an NGO in Malawi, working on an orphan housing project: “It felt good to really make a difference.”
Returning to the UK, she moved into the renewables sector, being offered a job with Sgurr Energy where more travel was possible, working on, among many projects, Mongolia’s first wind farm and a number of offshore wind farms where unexpected slippage of the turbine tower had occurred.
Family life brought Rachel to Perthshire where the opportunity to combine her engineering experience with environmental awareness arose: “I’ve always wanted to try and make a difference from the inside, rather than just sit on the side-lines,” explains Rachel, “so when the chance to join SSE’s hydro department came up and, in particular, the re-watering of the River Garry project, it was really exciting.”
Girls learnt about the extent of Scotland’s hydro scheme, most of which was constructed during the 1950s. “So much more has been learnt about environmental impact in 70 years so a lot of the equipment has to be rethought and updated,” she said, “I’ve been involved with designing a system of gates and sophisticated pivot-valves to release and control the Garry’s water levels.”
Keen to learn more about the engineer’s experience, enthusiastic pupils grilled the speaker, wanting to find out more about being a woman in a traditionally male industry: “Honestly it has never been an issue,” Rachel assured the young audience, “if you know your stuff and get on with your job, it’s a level playing-field with lots of opportunities. The world definitely needs more engineers. Prospects really are limitless.”
Top line achievement for Scotland’s only winner in worldwide poetry competition
A Kilgraston School Sixth Form pupil has become the only top-placed winner from Scotland in the global Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award 2020 competition, where only fifteen places are awarded.
14th October 2020 — Anna's work ‘Total’ - equating exam stress for teenagers to a balance sheet - was chosen from a field of 6,000 entrants and over 15,000 poems. First, Second and Third places were not awarded, with all fifteen winners earning equal significance.
“The poem was written the week before results day, it’s a poem about exam anxiety,” Anna, commented on her submission. She continued, “Every line was given a monetary value to equate to the emotional strain I was experiencing. However, you can’t put a price-tag on personality; I am so much more than just results. The final line - ‘Trying to add up the breeze’ - represents the impossible, like catching smoke, it’s a poetically expressed concept of being unquantifiable. I think the judges all had their own results day memory so this struck a chord.”
Entries were selected by two judges, distinguished poet Maura Dooley and UK Poetry Slam Champion, Keith Jarrett, whose work explores Black British and Caribbean history and religion.
Dorothy MacGinty, Head teacher at Kilgraston School, said: “Anna has been an inspirational pupil to teach throughout her seven years with us. We have witnessed her talent and enthusiasm for the subject of English rapidly develop and could not be more thrilled for her.”
In normal circumstances, competition winners would be invited to attend a prestigious ceremony at the Southbank Centre in London. However, the on-going situation with Covid-19 required the move to an online celebration. In addition to the digital ceremony on Thursday 15 October, Anna’s winning poem was published on the The Poetry Society’s website and featured on its YouTube and Vimeo channels. Anna will also receive a range of prizes, including an invitation to attend a writing residential course at the Arvon Centre, ‘The Hurst’, during February 2021 half term. At the ‘ceremony’, Anna read her poem to the other 14 winners, assembled guests and judges. “It was still a very moving experience. Such a shame not to actually be with the other winners and to meet the judges face-to-face but a momentous opportunity none-the-less,” she said.
The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award is for entrants aged 11-17. Since beginning 22 years ago, the Award has kick-started the career of some of today’s most exciting new voices like Caroline Bird, Martha Sprackland and Jay Bernard. It is the largest competition of its kind and free to enter. Each year 100 winners (15 overall winners and 85 commendations) are selected by a team of high-profile judges. The top 15 and 85 poets receive a range of book prizes, membership to, and continuing support from, The Poetry Society.
Commenting on Anna’s success, Natasha Ryan of the Poetry Society, said: “This is an amazing and impressive achievement.”
Last year, Anna achieved a top 85 place in the competition when judge and national Poet Laureate of Scotland, Jackie Kay CBE, FRSE, vividly recalled judging Anna’s entry when speaking to her at the London ceremony: “Jackie immediately remembered the name of my poem and its content as being truly unique,” noted Anna. “I was so flattered that out of all the thousands of entries mine stuck in her head.”
Anna started entering competitions when she was 13, inspired by poets like Philip Larkin and Seamus Heaney: “From an early age, Mum really encouraged my sister and I to read and appreciate poetry. I’ve always preferred creating more abstract work which can be interpreted individually by each reader, provoking reaction,” she continued, “During lockdown I continually wrote poetry, finding it therapeutic and soothing. I had control over my words, allowing my individual voice to be heard. Exam concerns consumed my head-space at that time, so this was a reflection of my true feelings.”
Commenting on her Anna’s success, Margaret Saunders, her English teacher, said: “Anna has a unique talent. She has the ability to come at a subject from a totally unexpected angle creating an element of surprise and delight. The overall effect seems effortless and light-hearted but belies a deep awareness of structure and the potency of language. She is always a complete pleasure to teach.”