Located in the heart of the university city of St Andrews, St Leonards School has an international outlook that is reflected in its delivery of all four IB programmes, as well as an outstanding golf academy and enviable location.
Since it was founded in 1877, St Leonards has transformed from a traditional all-girls school to a fully co-educational school offering the International Baccalaureate. The school enrols 500 students and draws girls and boys from far and wide; around 30% are boarders and 30% comes from overseas.
St Leonards is repeatedly singled out for its academic achievements (it is one of the top 40 performing IB schools in the UK, and in the top three for Scotland). It’s a nurturing school with a “flourishing PTA” that balances its academic ambitions with a strong focus on preparing students “Ad Vitam, for life”. As well as being truly international in its outlook, St Leonards is rightly proud of its Scottish heritage; one week students may be celebrating Burns Night or learning Scottish dancing, the next they are together for the Chinese New Year.
Head of St Leonards Simon Brian was previously at Deputy Head (Academic) at Charterhouse School Surrey; he joined St Leonards in August 2021. Mr Brian started his headship with a promise to “continue to build on the school’s academic ambition, its pioneering heritage and its warm home-from-home community to ensure that the future for all those at St Leonards remains bright and hugely aspirational.”
There are five full IB schools in the UK offering all three programmes including the IB Primary Years (PYP) and Middle Years Programmes (MYP), and the (IBDP) – the other four are ACS International School (Egham), Dwight School London, ICS London and International School of London. St Leonards is the only IB continuum school in the UK to actively offer all four IB programmes, from the PYP, through the MYP, to the IB Career-related Programme or Diploma Programme in the Sixth Form.
The IB's three programmes were not actually designed as a continuum. Each is a standalone framework and curriculum, developed at different times and stages of the IB's evolution. However, students with an MYP and PYP background can find it easier to meet the varied demands of the DP. For example, the experience of the MYP can equip students with the research skills need for the DP’s Extended Essay.
The primary school delivers the PYP, where all subjects (mathematics, languages, science, social studies, personal, social and PE, technology, music, and art) are taught through integrated units. The final year of primary ends with the PYP Exhibition, which gives students the opportunity to showcase their learning. French is taught from Year 1, Spanish from Year 5 alongside French, and Latin from Year 6.
Years 10 and 11 study for formal UK qualifications – GCSEs and IGCSEs – alongside the MYP. The school’s option areas at I/GCSE reflect the spread of subjects and disciplines that will need to be taken in the Diploma Programme. A list of 20-plus subjects includes the three separate sciences, French, German, Spanish and Latin and computer science.
The I/GCSE exams can be seen as a valuable ‘add-on’ for parents who are concerned about the lack of measurement in the MYP. It’s also a chance for students to show that they can succeed in examinations as well as completing the externally moderated MYP Personal Project.
There’s also a one-year Pre-IB course for students joining the school in Year 11, which is particularly popular with international students.
In the Sixth Form, there’s a choice of pathways. The IBDP takes a broad and balanced learning approach to subjects. Students study two modern languages, a humanities or social science subject, an experimental science, mathematics or computer science, and another subject including the arts. In addition, they complete a two-year course called Theory of Knowledge (TOK), write an Extended Essay, and take part in Creativity, Action, Service (CAS). It’s certainly more suited to students who are all-rounders compared to A Levels, which are favoured by students who are stronger in one subject or specialist area.
The school offers an alternative to the IBDP that’s specifically developed for students who want to focus on career-related learning. Students on the Career-related Programme study two Diploma Programme courses (when they share classes with their IBDP peers), as well as completing a BTEC in Business or Sport. The programme combines academic and practical learning and includes a Reflective Project that develops research skills and independent learning, as well as service learning and language development courses to develop global and cultural awareness.
Set aside any misconceptions that the IBCP is an easier or inferior alternative to the more academic IBDP; it is technically rigorous and requires both skill and practical knowledge.
Sport is a strength at the school. Golf is taken very seriously here. The seven St Andrews Links courses, including the world-famous Old Course, are on the doorstep – and students have access, at an incredibly low cost. They also have coaching at the Links Academy as part of their timetabled PE lessons and co-curricular programme from as young as five. And the St Leonards Golf Programme offers five tiers of coaching to students, from the minis through to high performance.
There’s a sport for all ethos here, and all major sports are taught within a broad PE curriculum, including football, rugby, tennis, rounders, netball, hockey, lacrosse, cricket, golf and athletics, as well as swimming, judo, gymnastics and dance. Thanks to being close to the coast, the school can offer popular sports including sailing, windsurfing and kayaking on the water.
The school has played an historic role in the development of lacrosse after a previous headmistress brought the game back from Canada in 1890. It’s a charming piece of history that continues to inspire girls on the lacrosse field to this day.
As well as being taught across the curriculum, music, art and drama play a big part in the students’ lives after the school day ends. There are several choirs, orchestras and ensembles, including brass, string, wind, jazz, flute and a pipe band. There are drama sessions in the school’s yurt. Two productions are staged in a professional theatre every year. And there are theatre trips and workshops to New York, Venice and Verona, as well as student participation in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
The school has a broad programme of co-curricular activities focused on readying its students for their next steps. Activities range from kayaking to chess, Mandarin to Scottish country dancing, and creative writing to beekeeping (students have just harvested their first batch of St Leonards honey, which is available to buy) – and students taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award enjoy expeditions in the Highlands
St Leonards also continues to develop its Outdoor Learning Programme – two yurts have been added to the campus most recently.
In 2021, the average IB score was 34 points (compared to 34.4 points in 2020).
Students go on to leading British and international universities including Oxford, Cambridge, St Andrews, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Exeter, Durham, York, London School of Economics, Munich, Boston and Toronto. Courses have included Law, Medicine, International Relations, Engineering, Chemistry, Art and Geology.
There are three recently refurbished boarding houses for students aged 10 to 18 years; one all-boys, one all-girls and one co-ed, with many rooms having lovely sea views. A weekend activities programme, keeps students active and busy with sushi-making to skiing, cooking to coastal walks, and film nights to football. There are day rooms in the boarding houses to help integrate all students across the school, as well as a well-established house system to encourage a community (and competitive) spirit.
Bound by Medieval walls, St Leonards’ campus is impressive. Believed to have been the inspiration for Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers series of novels, the school has the North Sea on one side and cathedral ruins on the other. It’s also in the heart of a thriving university city, and the school’s close links with the University of St Andrews include a calendar of talks and lectures, student access to the university library and other facilities, and a doctoral student who works with students to develop their research skills.
Years 1-6 stay within their own part of the campus, and the Senior School is housed in a cluster of buildings that have some fascinating stories from the past; Mary Queen of Scots is said to have stayed in the Queen Mary’s Library (her bedroom is still on display within shelves of books) and the Head lives in the house of Sir David Brewster, inventor of the kaleidoscope.
Facilities include a purpose-built music school and auditorium, art and drama studios, ICT labs, as well as indoor swimming pool, squash courts, Astroturf pitches and grass playing fields. All students dine in the very stylish Restaurant 1877.
St Leonards is a selective school, and entry for Years 7-11 is by CAT4 assessment or Common Entrance held in November or January; students are also interviewed by the Head or the relevant Head of Year. About 75% of the intake in Year 8 trasnition from the Junior School and do not need to sit the entrance exam
Scholarships are awarded for high achievement in academics, drama, music, art, sport and golf, and do not offer any fee remission.
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