Gordonstoun is one of the world’s best known public schools, although it is fair to say that this reputation is due in greater part to its educating British royals including Prince Philip and King Charles III.
Today, Gordonstoun is a thriving school for boys and girls with more than 550 students across its junior and senior schools.
Set amidst a gorgeous 200 acre woodland campus, walking distance from the expansive beaches of the Moray Firth (unsurprisingly, sailing is a big part of life at Gordonstoun) and within easy reach of the stunning Scottish Highlands, the school’s location allows for a unique combination of indoor and outdoor learning.
The holistic approach to education is based on the educational philosophy of the school’s founder, Dr. Kurt Hahn, who believed that students should develop valuable life skills while also reaching their full academic potential. Gordonstoun’s motto ‘Plus est en vous’ meaning ‘There is more in you’ says it all.
Widely recogniSed for its commitment to character-building and experiential learning, Gordonstoun has earned a reputation as a distinctive and influential institution, shaping the lives of its students and preparing them for a future of challenges and successes.
Gordonstoun is dedicated to fostering the intellectual, physical, and emotional development of its students. With a unique curriculum that integrates academics, outdoor activities, and community service, the school seeks to instill qualities such as resilience, leadership, and a sense of responsibility in its students.
In the Junior School, class sizes are small so as to facilitate individual attention and exchange of ideas. Gordonstoun prides itself on providing a richly varied environment and welcomes pupils from all over the world so a dedicated learning and support department which offers 1:1 help is on hand to support and an ‘English as an Additional Language Department’ helps students from overseas feel at home.
On entry to senior school in Year 9, each student is assessed for a personalised academic programme which can encourage and challenge their individual talents and needs. Year 10 and 11 students typically study nine subjects at GCSE and go on to choose three or four at A’Level. Pupils looking for an extra challenge can also opt to take an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) and Gordonstoun also offers BTECs in Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, Psychology, Sport and Uniformed Protective Services.
Gordonstoun operates on a belief that every student can excel and as such offers subject-specific weekly ‘clinics’ to provide the opportunity for developing interests. A wide range of events including national academic competitions and trips are run to develop ability and boost confidence.
Gordonstoun’s unique approach aims to nurture well-rounded individuals by fostering qualities such as resilience, leadership and a sense of responsibility. The school believes that its role is not just to prepare children for exams but for life – and this is very evident in everything on offer.
Beyond the traditional academic walls, students engage in a variety of challenging outdoor activities including sailing, hiking and community service – helping to instill a profound sense of self-reliance and teamwork. Gordonsotoun equips students with life skills and instills a wonderful spirit of adventure.
“We don’t put students in boxes at Godonstoun. Classrooms serve a purpose, but many of our learning experiences take place in much more stimulating environments – picture a state-of-the-art dance studio or the middle of the Moray Firth.”
One of the fundamental objectives of the broader curriculum at Gordonstoun is the promotion of internationalism – something we applaud in today’s world.
Not only are there are over 40 different nationalities of children at the school, making up around a third of the entire student population but internationalism is reinforced throughout the senior academic curriculum through a specially designed course in International and Spiritual Citizenship (ISC). There are also plenty of opportunities for exchange programmes and projects abroad.
Gordonstoun’s unique location makes outdoor activities an integral part of school life, with expeditions, sail training and adventure activities all on offer. Students have access to the stunning Scottish landscape – whether for kayaking or mountain-biking, orienteering or skiing plus wilderness survival skills, surfing and so much more.
As is expected from a leading private school, Gordonstoun offers facilities to accommodate a wide variety of sports including rugby, cricket, hockey, football, netball, tennis, squash, athletics, swimming and cross-country running.
And there are plenty of opportunity to take part in non-traditional school sports – be it skiing and snowboarding, karate or aerobics – the school aso has its very own golf course and is in near to championship links courses.
Sports facilities include an impressive sports-centre complete with indoor climbing wall, strength and conditioning room, floodlit hockey pitches, running track, indoor swimming pool, squash courts and rifle range.
In terms of the arts – music, dance and drama are a key part of the curriculum for all pupils until Year 10. Gordonstoun is the only school in Scotland which offers dance as part of the curriculum – indeed, dance has become a popular GCSE choice at the school and an annual show is testament to the enthusiasm for the subject and the talent it enables.
The impressive Ogstoun Studios and Theatre is the hub of all dance and drama activities at the school, with a dedicated dance studio, rehearsal spaces and a 200 seat purpose built auditorium. The Drama Department stages a series of productions throughout the year, giving all students the chance to perform or work behind the scenes.
Gordonstoun is a non-selective school with a focus on nurturing well-rounded and confident individuals, whatever their skills. That said, the school consistently achieves solid exam results with 53% 9-7 grades at GCSE and 31% A-Grades at A-Levels in 2023.
Teachers are dedicated and the learning environment is extremely supportive with one-on-one coaching available.
With its stunning setting, it’s little wonder that Gordonstoun’s campus is pretty idyllic, set amongst acres of woodland and with the Scottish Highlands and expansive beaches nearby. Asides from the aforementioned sport and arts facilities, the main school and boarding houses are equally remarkable.
The ‘physical heart’ of the school is Gordonstoun House which is not only an administrative hub but also a boarding house for senior boys. There are seven further boarding houses – three for girls and four for boys – and the Junior School.
Although primarily a boarding school, around 15% of senior school students are day pupils.Each student – whether day or boarding – joins one of the School’s eight boarding houses.
The ‘Round Square’ is home to a boys house and the school library and archives and also gives its name to the global organisation of schools which was founded by Dr. Kurt Hahn – an association which shares the school’s belief in preparing pupils for life and not just for exams.
Gordonstoun has a ‘2034 Campus Masterplan’, an ambitious building programme that includes a new ‘classroom village’, boarding house, major redevelopment of existing areas, exciting outdoor spaces and increased access to the school’s heritage buildings. The masterplan aims to pay homage to the history and traditions of the past while reflecting modern needs – and it sounds very exciting!
Gordonstoun is a non-selective school and welcomes applications from any child.
Fees per term for 2023/2024 are as follows:
Junior School – Years 1-8, Ages 4 ½ -13 with boarding from age 8.
Boarding £10,350, Weekly Boarding £10,350, Day £6,450 for years 3-8 and £4,750 years 1-2
Senior School – Years 9-12, entry before Year 12
Boarding £15,300, Day £10,850
Overnight boarding for day pupils, subject to availability, costs £63 per night in addition to the day fee.
Unlike many other schools, the fees cover virtually everything in Gordonstoun’s very broad curriculum including expeditions and sail training and most weekend activities for boarders. 'Chargeable extras’ include things like uniform, individual music lessons and one off excursions like a Sport or Music Tour.
Around a third of pupils at Gordonstoun receive financial support via an extensive scholarship programme managed through a designated bursary fund ‘The Prince Philip Gordonstoun Foundation.’
Gordonstoun will not be a school of choice for parents seeking academic results, or a targeted academic education. By any standards, academic attainment is poor set against its peers within the premier league of British boarding schools. However, in its combination of whole child focus, Round Square curriculum, and the prestige of its royal alumni, no other school within the UK comes even close to matching it.
Judged in its own terms, particularly within the context of its Round Square approach and history, Gordonstoun is a genuinely different type of boarding school, that is much better able to find, support, and nurture the many gifts of children outside the classroom than its mainstay public school counterparts – and on that basis the UK educational system, and parents seeking a whole child education, would be much poorer without it.
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