THE GOOD SCHOOLS GUIDE REVIEW 2022

We welcomed The Good Schools Guide to Ardvreck School in September 2021, and we are delighted to share an excerpt from their latest review.

EXTRACT FROM THEIR REVIEW

On first impression, it would be easy to assume that this school has leapt straight from the pages of an Enid Blyton novel (we loved a Malory Towers tale as much as the next child), but don’t be fooled… While these are among the politest schoolchildren we’ve ever encountered (it’s not often that we are stopped by a tiny person to enquire how we are and if we are enjoying our tour), these kids are made of strong stuff. Resilience was a word we heard many times and our observation was if they didn’t have it when they started, they’d certainly have it by the time they left. Grey and drizzly on the morning of our visit, we saw a gaggle of pupils dressed in waterproofs bounding up the hill, dripping wet and with flushed faces but broad smiles. As they say, ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather – only the wrong clothes.’ And with 42 acres of woodland as their playground and verdant hills and mountains as a backdrop to school life, it’s a philosophy they clearly embrace. Parents we spoke to really treasured this: ‘Such a beautiful place, they take advantage of it in a way that other schools in the area don’t.’ ‘It’s almost like a summer camp every day.’

Outdoor education begins at nursery in the charming nursery located in a former bungalow, where all teachers are trained in Forest School principles. We were greeted by a bubbly nursery teacher in pigtails and with the enthusiasm of a Blue Peter presenter. ‘Sorry, we can’t chat, we are all going on a mud slide,’ she said, before heading off into the woods.

Mrs Kinge can often be heard saying, ‘Classrooms don’t need walls,’ and this spirit of adventure is core to being an Ardvreckian, whether it be studying erosion in the local river, bushcraft in the ‘dams and dens’ area, or an Adventure Friday where a different class goes out each week for a day of excitement. At the helm of all this action is the geography teacher (qualified in masses of outdoor activities) and the affectionately known Biscuit (derived from his real name, Rich T), who seems to have a ‘little bit of magic’ in encouraging even the more hesitant children to participate. ‘I don’t know how they do it, but they give the children the confidence and self-belief to give it a go,’ said a parent. Prepare to be impressed – a recent outing (including the headmistress) involved bagging six Munros in a day, where the pipe band played at the top of Ben Nevis. The next day, all were up early for canoeing and camping under the stars in yurts and tepees. A parent confided in us that this can require a period for children to adjust, saying, ‘Children have to build up a lot of stamina. They are bushwhacked but happy and get strong as a result.’ Opening access to the state school sector, they have launched the Scottish Adventure School, providing residential activity weeks.

We saw an energetic English teacher conduct eager pupils into song about vertebrates, with all enthusiastically stamping their feet. Small class sizes that are split when numbers go over 16. Lessons also run on a Saturday for children aged 8–13. With so many activities, the Saturdays buy a little extra time, and tend to be outdoors and topic based. When studying WWII, they visited the local sweet shop with a ration book. A parent reported, ‘Our neighbours would quite often say, “Oh, Saturday school, poor you”, to which our kids responded, “Saturday morning school – yay!” They love and thrive on it.’ All pupils have Chromebooks and have coding classes, but otherwise careful about exposure to too much technology, with no phones during school hours. Parents praised its excellent communication, with one parent saying, ‘We all have the teachers’ phone numbers – quite a special thing to be able to do, particularly over lockdown.’

The last word

The headmistress, while she may be biased, describes Ardrveck as ‘the school every parent wished they had attended themselves’. It’s hard to disagree.

To read The Good Schools Guide full review click here.