EVERY parent wants the best for their child and when it comes to education many choose an independent school. Indeed, generations of farming folk have sent their children to one of the many excellent independent schools across Scotland and other parts of the UK.

In Scotland, independent schools attract dedicated teachers who are committed to working with their pupils to instil a love of learning, confidence, curiosity, and values that will stay with them throughout their life. For many parents, the location of the school is important while for others it might be the facilities or its reputation for sport, music, or STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

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Providing a first-rate education in an institution that also offers a rich mix of experiences – both academic and extra-curricular – is what most parents want for their children. Encouraging children to be resilient, confident, enterprising, and caring is central to the aims and ambitions of all independent schools as they help pupils flourish, shape their character, and challenge them to develop themselves in all aspects of life, both inside and outside the classroom.

As independent schools evolve and innovate, it is worth noting that in Scotland, there are 29,414 pupils in 71 independent schools – that’s 4.2% of pupils in Scotland, according to the most recent data (2022) from the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS). There are 19 mainstream boarding schools with 2,745 pupils – 40% of boarders are from overseas.

The 2022 survey by the SCIS also revealed that its members provide at least £55 million annually in fee assistance, with 24.9% of all pupils receiving some form of assistance. What’s more, 3.1% of senior school pupils receive 100% fee assistance. In addition, the independent sector employs over 3,549 teaching staff and there is one teacher for every eight pupils in SCIS schools.

Smaller class sizes are, of course, one of the many advantages of an independent school and while the school you choose will depend on the individual needs of the child and other aspects such as its location and the financial assistance options that are available, they all have their own values and vision. What’s more, smaller class sizes allow teachers to get to know each pupil well and, as a result, understand a child’s needs and interests as they develop their skills and confidence, instil a love of learning and an ability to think creatively and problem solve.

What they all do, however, is pride themselves on nurturing students of all ages within a safe, inspiring environment where they can learn, stretch their imagination, gain leadership and life skills, understand the benefits of teamwork, and boost their confidence. They also celebrate diversity and foster an environment where children from different backgrounds, cultures, and countries can come together, feel comfortable, and be themselves.

With timetables that are designed to balance academic studies with co-curricular activity including sports and music, independent schools offer many benefits.

There are day schools with options to board, schools that cater for children throughout their education – from the age of two to 18 – and there are schools in towns and cities, and in beautiful countryside locations where the scenery is an inspiration for both pupils and staff. Each offers something unique and special – but all of them have the best interests of you and your family at their core.

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Access to the great outdoors is an aspect of independent education that appeals to both pupils and parents, with many schools believing that this is crucial to giving a child an overall experience. It can also help shape the individuals who will go on to become the leaders, role models, and entrepreneurs of tomorrow, be that in business, sport, the arts, music, science, and more.

Exam choices can also be tailored to best suit the individual child. SCIS schools offer a wide range of subjects with the added flexibility of being able to take a mix of qualifications from different examination boards, including Scottish Qualifications Authority exams, GCSEs, A-levels, and the International Baccalaureate.

Challenging pupils to develop themselves in all aspects of life, both inside and outside the classroom, is something all independent schools are committed to – they also benefit from state-of-the-art facilities and equipment.

Here, we focus on four of the most high-profile independent schools in Scotland plus one in Northern Ireland with strong links to Scotland and the farming community.