What it’s like
Founded in 1870 under the will of Sir William Fettes, twice Lord Provost of
Edinburgh, it occupies a splendid estate of 85 acres, 1_ miles from the centre
of the city. The main building is Victorian Gothic, and over the past 50 years
there have been extensive additions, including a technology and computing
centre, an all-weather games pitch and a new sports centre. The prep school is
in the college grounds. The college has a Christian ethos but is
inter-denominational. It first accepted girls in 1970 and has been fully
co-educational since 1981. It is a distinguished school with a friendly
atmosphere, in which great attention is given to individual needs. Its declared
aim is to provide a balanced and challenging education. Pupils are encouraged to
aim at and to achieve the very highest standard of which they are capable, and
examination results are very good. Very strong indeed in music, art and drama.
There is an excellent range of sports and games (very high standards) and of
extra-curricular activities. There is a large and active CCF contingent and much
emphasis on specialist skills and adventure training. The college has a big
commitment to community service and a strong record in the Duke of Edinburgh’s
Award Scheme. Copious use is made of Edinburgh’s extensive cultural amenities.
Pupils & entrance
Pupils: Age range 8–18; 581 pupils, 224 day (116 boys, 108 girls),
357 boarding (222 boys, 135 girls).
Entrance: Main entry ages 8–13 and 16. Common Entrance and own exam used;
for sixth-form entry, 6 GCSEs at least grade C (grade B in sixth-form subjects).
Special skills taken into account; no religious requirements. 20% of senior
intake from state schools (plus 25% new entrants to sixth form); 50+% from own
prep (Fettes College Preparatory School).
Scholarships, bursaries & extras 15–30 pa scholarships, value 5%–50%
fees, including academic, art, music, all-rounder (awarded at 11, 13 and 16).
Additional bursaries for award holders, for clergy, children of HM Forces and
Old Fettesians. Parents buy textbooks on a sale or return basis; branch of
university bookshop on campus.
Parents 30% in professions, 20+% in industry or commerce. 50% live in
Scotland; 20% elsewhere in the UK; 30% overseas.
Head & staff
Headmaster: Michael Spens, in post from 1998. Educated at Marlborough and
Cambridge University. Previously Headmaster at Caldicott School and Senior
Housemaster at Radley.
Teaching staff: 71 full time, 5 part time. Annual turnover 5%. Average
GCSE: In 2003, 85 pupils in main GCSE year: 85% passed in 8+ subjects;
15% in 5–7 subjects.
Highers/A-levels: 91 in A-level/Higher year (71 of whom took A-level, 20
Higher): 14% of those taking A-levels passed in 4+ subjects, 86% in 3 subjects.
Average final point score achieved by upper sixth formers 394.
University & college entrance 92% of 2003 sixth-form leavers went on
to a degree course (22% after a gap year), 6% to Oxbridge. 4% took courses in
medicine, dentistry & veterinary science, 18% in science & engineering, 8% in
law, 65% in humanities & social sciences, 5% in vocational subjects eg
ophthalmics, building, marketing. Others typically go on to further study.
Curriculum GCSE (22 subjects), Highers (7 subjects), A-levels (21
subjects). On average 85% of a year take A-levels, the rest Highers; usually an
equal number of pupils study science and arts/humanities.
Vocational: Work experience available.
Special provision: Extra tuition offered in all subjects. Also EFL and
Languages: French (taught from age 8), German and Spanish offered to
GCSE, Higher and A-level. Regular visits to France, Germany, Spain. European
Society arranges lectures from international lawyers, civil servants, academics,
ICT: Taught both as a discrete subject (2 lessons/week in Years 4–10) and
across the curriculum, eg English, science, maths. 150–200 computers for pupil
use (10 hours a day), all networked and with email and internet access. All
pupils use their own laptop, with wireless connection to school network.
Music: Up to 50% of pupils learn a musical instrument; instrumental exams
can be taken. Some 20 musical groups including 4 choirs, 3 orchestras, brass
ensemble, flute group, rock group, clarinet quartet, saxophone ensemble and
various other chamber groups. Chapel choir tours to eg Czech Republic (2001).
Drama: GCSE and Higher drama may be taken. Majority of pupils are
involved in school productions and all in house/other productions. Recent
productions of The Changeling, Fear and Misery of the Third Reich, A Midsummer
Night’s Dream and Anouilh’s Ring Round the Moon. Regular Edinburgh Festival
Art & design: On average, 30 take GCSE, 12+ A-level; also Higher art
available. Regular prizewinners for art work in Scotsman school magazine
Sport & activities
Sport: Rugby, cricket, hockey compulsory for boys; lacrosse, hockey for
girls. Optional: athletics, tennis, squash, fives, swimming, badminton, fencing,
netball, basketball, volleyball. Regular representation in Scottish Junior
lacrosse teams; players in Scottish Schools rugby, cricket and fencing teams.
Activities: Pupils take bronze, silver and gold Duke of Edinburgh’s
Award. CCF compulsory for 2 years at age 14; CCF and community service optional
for sixth form. Up to 10 clubs, eg political, history, debating, cultural,
Christian Fellowship, bridge, skiing.
Uniform: School uniform worn including the sixth form.
Houses & prefects: Competitive houses. Prefects, head boy and girl, head
of each house and house prefects.
Religion: Daily inter-denominational chapel services.
Social: Joint careers talks and society meetings with other local
schools. Organised expeditions to eg Norway, Ecuador, Siberia, Nepal, New
Zealand; sports tours to eg South Africa, Japan, Australia. Meals self-service.
No tobacco allowed; alcohol on specified occasions for sixth formers.
Discipline Strong emphasis on discipline and good manners. Pupils
failing to produce homework may get detention or extra work. Anyone involved in
drugs would be expelled.
Boarding All sixth form in study bedrooms; most others in dormitories
of 4–6. Single-sex houses of approx 60. Resident qualified medical staff.
Central dining room. Pupils can provide and cook own food to a limited extent. 4
Sunday exeats or 2 weekends each term. Visits to the local town allowed at
Alumni association is run by C P Cheetham c/o the College.
Former pupils Tony Blair MP; Iain Macleod; Selwyn Lloyd; Tilda
Swinton; Lord Justice Woolf; General AGD de Chastelain; Sir Robert Walmsley;
David Ogilvy; Ian Strachan; Sir Alexander Glen.