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We hope that most of the information you need can be found on
our website or in our prospectus. However, we are often asked
other questions (by parents and their sons) and hope the following
may be helpful. If you cannot find the answer to your question
anywhere in the information we provide, please do get in touch
with us: we will be happy to help. Parents often say to us, 'I know
this is a silly question…' but when you are looking at an
independent school - perhaps for the first time - then we know
that every question is important to you.
Statistics collated by organisations like the Scottish Council
for Independent Schools (SCIS) show that today, the majority
of parents looking at independent schools for their children did
NOT go to an independent school themselves. At Merchiston, we
know that choosing a school for your child is an extremely
important decision, and that you need as much information as
possible to make an informed choice. Please do
not hesitate to ring us to ask as many questions as you like,
or visit us, without any commitment on your part.
Merchiston has approximately 470 pupils, of whom 350 are in the
Senior School and Sixth Form (13 -18 years). About 65% of the
total are boarding pupils. Approximately 85 of the School's pupils
are international students who come from about 20 different
countries. Year group sizes vary: J4 and J5 may be up to 18
pupils, First and Second Forms are between 20 and 30, Third Form is
about 40 pupils. Year groups in the Senior School (Fourth,
Shell and Fifth Forms) are usually 60+ in number, and our
Lower and Upper Sixth Form groups have 80+ pupils. Junior year
groups have a higher proportion of day pupils, whilst our
Sixth Form is usually made up of 80% or more boarding pupils. Our
house system is 'horizontal' so that boys of the same age are
in the same year group here. This means that our house rules,
pastoral care and activity programmes are tailored to
individual year groups, rather than mixed age houses.
There are 3 terms in the UK school year. The first (the Autumn
Term) normally runs from the beginning of September until the
middle of December, and the second (the Lent Term) from
early January until late March. The third (Summer) term runs
from late April until the end of June or beginning of July.
There is a Half Term holiday in the middle of each term, and also
leave-out (exeat) weekends as well. (See 'What is a
Half Term holiday?' and 'What is an exeat?' sections
This depends upon his age. Boys aged 8-12 (Years 4-8) join
Pringle, our Junior House. Chalmers West and Chalmers East are
for pupils aged 13+ and 14+ (Years 9 & 10). Those aged 15+
(Year 11) are in Rogerson, whilst the Lower Sixth Form (Year
12 at 16+) and Upper Sixth Form (Year 13 at 17+) are housed in
our new Sixth Form Boarding House (Laidlaw House) or as prefects in
other houses. Sixth Form day pupils may be allocated a study
in Evans House.
In the Sixth Form, all pupils in Laidlaw House have their own
room each with en suite bathroom. Prefects have
individual study bedrooms in other houses. Our Fifth Form, in
Rogerson, also have individual rooms. In Fourth and Shell
forms, pupils have a work and sleeping area of their own in a
subdivided room. In junior houses pupils sleep in dormitories of up
to 6 pupils.
The staff and pupils at Merchiston work very hard, and we feel
it is important that they have some real breaks during the
term. The School therefore closes for Half
Term and there are no classes during leave- out
weekends. However, international students may stay at school during
There is a Half Term holiday in the middle of each term (about
10 nights in the Autumn Term; 7 nights in the Lent Term, and 4
or 5 nights in the Summer Term). The School closes, and pupils
go home, or to their guardians.
A leave-out (sometimes called an exeat) is a shorter time when
boys may leave school. The Autumn Term has two formal
leave-out (or exeat) weekends (1 before and 1 after Half Term) when
there are no classes and pupils may go home, or to their guardians.
The School provides accommodation and food for international
students during these weekends. Each of the other terms has
one leave-out weekend for Junior pupils only. If parents or
guardians wish, boys can go home for other weekends, by
arrangement with their Housemaster, and provided their sporting
or other commitments allow.
Yes: Merchiston's fees include 3 meals (breakfast, lunch and
tea) plus snacks for boarding pupils and two meals a day
(lunch and tea) for day pupils.
Yes: our catering staff provide a wide variety of nutritious
meals and can cater for a variety of special diets including:
vegetarian; nut- (or other allergy) free; halal and kosher
Merchiston does a great deal to promote contact between the
School and parents, and between parents themselves. After you
visit us to look around the School, we will offer you the
opportunity to speak to some of our current parents if you
Once your son becomes a pupil at Merchiston, you will find that
there are parents' meetings to keep you informed about his
academic progress, and a Parents' Forum which meets to discuss
School issues. You will also be invited to concerts, plays,
sports (and other events) in which your son may take part. We
also hold many social events for parents: Ceilidhs (informal
Scottish Country Dances); Year Group Parents' Dinners; drinks and
supper parties; a Burns Supper; presentation evenings etc.
Parents help with the organisation of these, as well as with the
Pipe Band, with Sports and other tours and with fundraising. In
the first term of each year we produce a Parents' Directory,
which contains the names and addresses of parents (who have
given us their permission) so that you can keep in touch yourselves
with other families who live in your area. If you are
registering your son for entry, and would be happy for
your details to be included in the Directory once he joins us,
tick the box on the registration form which gives us your
In Merchiston Juniors (our Junior House) parents may help
with Prep; transport; arrange social events
amongst themselves; help with our 'Fruit Fridays' for the boys
break time; and offer cooking lessons or arrange things like
Road Safety Awareness courses (for cyclists).
Your son's Housemaster is the first person who will care for
him, with a team of house tutors. Pupils (especially younger
ones) are very busy on the first night of term, so that they do not
have too much time to miss being at home. The Housemaster may
appoint a 'buddy' for your son, ie another pupil who will help
to look after him for a while until he gets used to being here.
When you arrive at Merchiston you will have lots of people to
look after you. Your Housemaster will ensure that you have a
'buddy' to look after you during your first days and weeks here.
Our House system is also helpful when you are making friends.
At Merchiston, all the boys of the same age live in the same
boarding house (though there will be some older boys living there
as prefects). Your year group may also share weekend
activities with another year group close to you in age. So,
you will have a lot of opportunities to make good friends both
in your own House, and in other Houses.
We arrange lots of trips and social events here, and we run some
special outings right at the start of the year to make sure
all the boys in the House get to know one another really well as
term begins. In our younger boarding houses, you will
share an area or dorm with other pupils, and this can
really help you make friends, even though you may be used to
having your own room at home.
Yes: in every school there are some rather odd words which have
just developed over the years, but Merchiston doesn't have too many
of these. Sometimes you will hear staff say that Merchiston
is an 'HMC' school. This stands for Headmaster and
Headmistresses' Conference, which is the group of boarding
schools which we belong to, and whose guidelines we follow.
You may sleep in a 'dorm' (dormitory) or a 'study', and you will
also do prep in your study or the dorm (see also 'What is
Prep?' below). The person who looks after you in the Boarding House
is called a Housemaster, and there will also be Sixth Form boys in
your house who will act as 'prefects'. They help the
Housemaster run the house. In most independent schools, there are
names for the houses you may live in or be attached to (eg
Evans or Pringle), as well as a year group number (Fourth Form).
Parts of the school grounds have particular names ('The Back
Field', 'the West Gardens'; Gibson House), but you will soon
get used to these. Other words include 'leave-out (or exeat),
which means a day or weekend away from school; 'Half Term' (a short
holiday in the middle of a term). At the beginning and end of
the day (or if you have been out of school), the Housemaster
or House tutor may hold a 'roll-call' when he or she will make
sure that everyone is safely in the house.
Boys at Merchiston call male teachers 'Sir' (or Mr ***) and
female teachers are called 'M'am' (or by their full name: Mrs
***, or Miss ***). This is just for politeness and, in turn, staff
will call you by your first name and not by your surname (as
you may have seen happen in old films or read of in books).
Sometimes snacks (sweets, drinks and food which you buy
yourself) are called 'tuck', and you can keep them in a
'tuckbox' or locker. (Merchiston sometimes also uses the word
'scran' for this).
As well as all the usual sports which we play here, there are a
few whose names you may not know, for example Fives (a game
which is a cross between handball and squash) and Swedish Longball
(a really good fun game invented, (so we say), by a member of
Some of the subjects you take at Merchiston may be known by
their initials: PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education); RS
(Religious Studies); PE (Physical Education); ICT ( Information
& Communication Technology); or D&T (Design and
If you hear any words which you do not understand, then do
not be afraid to ask someone what they mean.
In some schools, including Merchiston, homework is called
Preparation or 'Prep' for short. In each house, pupils have a
set Prep time, though older pupils do more work outside these
times. They may also have 'study periods' when they work on
their own during the school day.
Unless they have medical exemption, all boys up to Shell Form
(and many in the Fifth Form) play rugby and receive excellent
coaching. Rugby is not compulsory in the Sixth Form.
The UK as a whole has quite a mild climate, and there is not a
very great variation between the seasons of the year.
Edinburgh (on the eastern side of Scotland) also has quite a dry
climate (in fact we have less rainfall than London!). Although
we are quite far north, we do not get a great deal of
snow (though the boys enjoy it when we do!). The summers are
usually fine, though there is often a breeze (since we are near the
coast) and sometimes in the late spring we get a sea-mist
after a warm day.
Yes. The School has an efficient heating system, and if you come
from a warm climate you should not be worried about
keeping warm. The School Uniform is also very sensible
and warm, and if you wrap up well when you are outside you
will be fine.
A: Yes, he can either continue with an instrument he is already
playing, or take up an instrument here. Music classes take
place during the school day (or before or after school). There is
an extra charge for music lessons.
A: In the evenings and weekends, and at certain other times,
pupils in all year groups are permitted to wear casual clothes
of a tasteful nature. ALL Items must be named. In
addition to other items, ALL pupils MUST
possess one pair of smart casual (not denim) trousers, and some
All the school uniform can be bought in our onsite school shop.
If you are an international student and arrive at school on your
own we can ask someone to help you buy uniform. All uniform items
must be named with sewn in woven nametapes.
All pupils at Merchiston wear a tartan kilt for 'formal
wear', at Sunday morning services, singing in the choir, for
formal dances, and when meeting the public, eg at Information
Mornings. If you would like to know more about wearing the
kilt, have a look at our document called The Kilt (an
introduction for beginners) which is available with the
information for new parents and pupils.
Some Senior pupils use the House laundry to do washing, and this
is a good preparation for University life; but they do
not have to. Each boarding house has a Housekeeper, who takes
care of laundry, and she is responsible (with her team of
house staff) for cleaning. Pupils are expected to make their
own beds, and keep their area of the house tidy.
We are sometimes asked this by students coming from warmer
countries: it appears on the uniform list under 'general
items'. In Scotland it may also be called a 'downie'. A duvet is a
feather or fibre filled cover for sleeping under in colder
countries. You can buy one easily in shops in Edinburgh,
and you will need a 'single bed' sized one. Duvets come in a
variety of weights, (called a 'TOG value' - which ranges from
4-15). The higher the TOG value, the warmer the duvet (about 12 or
13.5 is good for most seasons of the year). You will also have
to provide 2 (cotton or other type of fibre) covers for the
duvet, which are usually sold together with matching covers for
pillows. The School can provide pillows, but you may like to
bring your own new ones. The School will provide sheets for
your mattress, and will send all your bedding to the
Edinburgh is a beautiful (quite small) and generally safe city,
and boys from our Shell, Fifth and Sixth Forms (Years 10-13)
are allowed to go into town on some Saturday and Sunday
afternoons (depending upon sport and other commitments) and
sometimes on our half-days. They sign out in a book kept in
the boarding house, saying where they are going, and then have to
sign back in again by a particular time. They normally travel
by bus (the No 10 bus goes straight to the centre of the city),
and usually go in groups to be sociable. This means they can
go shopping, or to the cinema (though there are organised
outings as well), or they can just meet up with friends (or girl
friends from our sister schools) for coffee or a chat. The
Housemaster regulates this privilege, which can be withdrawn if it
is abused. Younger pupils (Fourth Form and below) do not go
into town by themselves, though they may walk to the shops in
Colinton village - five minutes away. Our Fourth Form (13+
boys) and younger year groups will have organised trips to
Edinburgh (eg to do Christmas shopping, or to visit
the cinema, theatre, 10-pin bowling, Pizza Hut, museums etc).
The School has a very clear Out of School Code of Behaviour,
which is included in our School Policies booklet.
The School arranges lots of social (and some academic) events in
common with our 'sister' schools in Edinburgh, and beyond.
These include debating competitions, Young Enterprise
companies, dances (both discos and Scottish country dancing),
drama productions, and other socials such as joint outings,
barbeques, fun and sports days etc. Older boys are allowed to visit
Edinburgh, and can meet up with girl friends there. Sixth Form
boys can invite their female friends to visit them in the Sixth
Form Club here in School.
There are network points around the School, and a wireless
network is available over most of the campus.
A: Yes, see the Laptop
Each pupil is provided with an email account and may use
email at any reasonable time. Some Sixth Form pupils use
their own email addresses. Limited access to social networking
sites is available for boys in Fifth and Sixth Forms. Skype
and Apple Facetime are available in certain locations around the
The School runs a bus service for day pupils from the
centre of Edinburgh to school on Monday-Friday mornings,
though we do not provide a return service because of the differing
day lengths here for each year group. There is a charge for
the bus service which varies according to pick-up point,
(the average cost is £2.75 per morning). The route
changes slightly each year (according to what pick up points
are requested). However, the bus service has limited places and we
regret that spaces cannot be guaranteed.
The School can arrange transport to the airport at the
beginning and end of term for boarding pupils (if your son's
Guardian cannot help). Senior pupils usually take (or share) taxis
to and from the airport, which is only 20 minutes away.
Yes: and each boy will have a notice-board in his room or area
where he can display pictures and posters. However, posters
are expected to be tasteful, and not to give offence to other
pupils, parents or visitors. The Housemaster reserves the
right to remove any posters or pictures which are
not considered suitable. Boys also bring quite a few other
items including (not always just in the junior houses) a
favourite toy or teddy bear!
Pupils in Third Form (12+) and above are allowed to bring mobile
phones. The School has clear policies for how and when these
may be used, which may be found in the School Policies
Booklet. IPods are allowed at the discretion of Housemasters.
As a general rule, though, they are not allowed to be used
around the School, nor in public places.
Merchiston is a happy and secure place to live, and everyone
here is expected to respect the property, privacy and welfare
of other pupils and staff. However, we also try to take general
and internal security seriously. Arrangements vary from house
to house. All boarding houses have secure keypad access, and
pupils only know the keypad code for their own house entrance.
Within the houses, there may be lockers which can be padlocked
(each boy will have his own and he can also bring a tuckbox)
to keep Tuck, mobile phones and other belongings secure. If older
pupils have iPods, DVD players or other equipment, they may
use a locker or choose to bring a secure box. We do
not encourage students to bring very expensive items to school
(though these can be covered either through your home
insurance, or through the School). It is not a good idea for boys
to keep large sums of cash in the boarding houses, and
Housemasters run House Banks in which parents or boys can deposit
money to draw on and to keep it safe. There is also a bank in
Colinton Village (with cashpoint) to which the School can
provide a letter of introduction if senior boys wish to open an
This is a question we are often asked by parents of
international students, who may be concerned that their son
will learn to speak English with an accent which won't be
understandable back home.
Merchiston has pupils (and staff) from all over Scotland, from
England, Europe, USA, and from a host of other countries.
International students here learn to speak English really well, and
if they do develop a slight accent, it is a very attractive
If you live outside the UK, and your son is a boarding pupil,
then he will need a 'Guardian' to look after him during
leave-out weekends and Half Terms (when the School will close) if
he is not able to fly home. A guardian may also help take your
son to (and collect him from) the airport; look after him
if there is any emergency; or may go to Parents' meetings on
your behalf. A guardian can also come to school for social
events, or to watch your son perform in concerts or plays if you
are not able to come yourself. Guardians may be family
members or family friends. However, they must be over the age of 25
and live within reasonable distance of the school. If you do
not know anyone who can be a guardian for your son, the school
can help you to find someone suitable who will do this for you.
There is a charge for guardianship if the School (or a
guardianship agency) provide the service.
Merchiston has a Christian heritage and ethos, though other
religious faiths are respected, and provision is made for
pupils from a number of differing cultures and beliefs. All pupils
attend morning assemblies. There is a religious service each
Sunday during term-time, either Whole School Services on
Sunday mornings, which all boys are required to attend, or evening
services, which boarding pupils attend. These are specifically
Christian acts of worship of an interdenominational nature. Pupils
of other faiths may be excused attendance on parental request
and consultation, and provision can be made for these pupils
to study their own religious beliefs during Service or to attend
appropriate services outside school.
Yes, we can help with translation of information into German,
French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, or Russian. If you require
assistance with any other language, please get in touch with
The School publishes a list of hotels and B&B (Bed and
Breakfast) establishments in Edinburgh, some of which
are close to the School. This may be found in the information
for pupils joining the School within the secure 'parentnet' area of
The School accepts payment in British Sterling. Payments can be
made by cheque, or by bank transfer, and the School's bank
details can be found in the Fees section of the website. We regret
that we do not accept fee payment by credit card. We can
accept credit cards for registration purposes.
All boarding pupils are registered with the School's Doctor, and
are therefore treated under the British National Health
Service (NHS). Day pupils are treated by their family GP, but may
visit the Medical Centre during the day if necessary. Parents
who wish may take out private medical cover, which will cover
treatment by the physiotherapist in School (which is not covered by
the NHS), or to provide treatment at a private hospital where
necessary. The School also offers private dental insurance,
which covers emergency dental treatment only.
For information on how to apply for a place at Merchiston,
please see the Admissions process page.
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