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Physical Education

The overall objective of the Department of Physical Education is to ensure that each and every boy leaves the School with an understanding of the role of physical activity in leading an active and healthy lifestyle.

As a department, we are proud of the healthy lifestyles that the boys lead at Merchiston and hours that they dedicate to physical activity. Practical lessons provide the basis of our teaching and the boys follow a structured curriculum through all the years up to the end of Fifth Form. The PE staff are well qualified and enthusiastic and work hard to create a challenging environment to ensure all pupils are stretched.

The staff aim:

  • To maintain and/or stimulate pupil interest and enjoyment in PE and to promote health and fitness for current and future lifestyles.
  • To enable pupils to be familiar with a body of knowledge, principles and vocabulary related to PE.
  • To enable pupils to see PE as a major feature in our lives related to leisure, employment and culture and as part of a wider body of knowledge and skills, e.g. interpersonal and problem solving skills
  • To enable pupils to understand and use safe practice and to appreciate its importance in PE as well as the short and long term effects of exercise on the body.
  • To understand the role of exercise in a fit and healthy lifestyle
  • To enable pupils to work independently and as part of a team in varied activities, so that PE contributes to the development of core skills such as communication by speech.
  • To employ teaching methods and resources that allow all pupils to have equal access to PE, and to experience success and enjoyment in their PE work.
  • To develop an awareness in pupils of the implications of sport and physical activity (past and present) for the individual and the local, national and international communities.


Craig Harrison

Craig Harrison

Head of Physical Education; Master in charge of Athletics

Mr Harrison teaches Physical Education as well as coordinating the work of the other members of staff in the Department. He coaches rugby, football and is also in  charge of athletics. Outwith the Department, Mr Harrison is a tutor in Laidlaw North. 

Bruce Aitchison

Bruce Aitchison

Chalmers East Housemaster, Rugby Coach

Mr Aitchison is new to Merchiston Castle School this year and is looking forward to contributing to the positive PE and sporting culture of the school. Mr Aitchison loves all sport and his enthusiasm is clear to see when he gets talking or teaching! Mr Aitchison has a wealth of experience having taught in Hong Kong and been a Head of Department in Scotland as well an experienced rugby coach. He wants every boy to enjoy being involved in sport and benefit from the friendships, challenges and opportunities that will bring, just like he has.

David Blair

David Blair

Teacher of Physical Education; 1XV Rugby Coach, Rogerson Housemaster

Mr Blair is a former professional rugby player with a First-Class Honours degree in Physical Education, Sports Studies and Professional Education. He is passionate about teaching Physical Education and has extensive knowledge on the subject. He employs a number of teaching styles in his classes in order to develop life skills that go beyond the classroom, such as communication, leadership and responsibility. He particularly enjoys incorporating the use of iPads in his lessons, as they enable boys to analyse and improve their performances. Mr Blair currently teaches Higher Physical Education and really enjoys teaching pupils about the way in which mental and emotional factors can impact performance. In addition to his role within the PE department, Mr Blair is also the lead attack coach and backs specialist for the 1st XV rugby team. In his spare time he enjoys playing golf and racket sports.


Roddy Deans

Roddy Deans

Director of Rugby; Teacher of Physical Education

Mr Deans teaches Physical Education at all levels and the Higher and GCSE courses, where his particular area is the physical aspect of the course. He is the Director of Rugby and oversees all strength and conditioning programmes. He also coaches the 1XV rugby team and is a tutor in Rogerson.  

Rory McCann

Rory McCann

Director of Sport; Teacher of Physical Education

Mr McCann teaches Physical Education. He is the Director of Sport and coordinates the Senior Sports and activity programmes. He is C1 rugby coach. He is Head of Cricket and 1st XI cricket coach. He is also a tutor in Rogerson.

Jennifer McNaught

Miss McNaught is the Graduate Assistant for the sports department. She recently graduated from the University of Glasgow with a History degree. However, Miss McNaught is also extremely passionate about all sports, particularly Hockey and Athletics. She is also involved in the co-curricular program including Rugby and Swimming sessions. As a resident in Pringle, Miss McNaught takes part in the junior sports program, ensuring the boys are supported on and off the pitch. Outside of school, she enjoys playing Club Hockey competitively. 

Michael Raikes

Michael Raikes

Teacher of Geography, Director of Junior Sport

Mr Raikes is an experienced teacher of Physical Education primarily within our Junior School. His main focus is on the teaching of the core aspects of PE as well driving the Fundamental Skills component of the PE curriculum. As Director of Junior Sport, Mr Raikes oversees the running of our Junior Sport and Activity programmes, whilst being a lead coach in both rugby and cricket throughout the school. His main aims are to get boys playing a number of different sports, whilst ensuring that participation and enjoyment are at the forefront of our sporting programmes.


  • 4 lane, 25 yard swimming pool
  • Fitness Suite
  • Strength and Conditioning Room
  • Sports Hall
  • 3 Floodlit Tennis Courts
  • 2 Fives Courts
  • 5 Squash Courts
  • 2 Indoor Cricket Nets
  • 10 Grass Pitches
  • Shooting Range


All year groups up to and including V Form receive at least one lesson of PE and one of swimming per timetable cycle. The subject may be chosen as an option at GCSE and for AS and A2 level in the VI Form.

During the year, the following are covered: Cross Country, Short Tennis, Core Skills,  Attack and Defence, RoundersRugby, Cricket, Football,  Athletics, ASA Water Skills Stroke Development , Water Polo.

I – III Forms
Health-related exercise, baksetball, fitness tests, core skills, gymnastics, short tennis, rounders.Swimming:  Stroke development of Front Crawl, Breaststroke, Backstroke and Butterfly.

IV Form
Badminton, Basketball, Fitness tests, Fitness Training, Handball, Hockey, Softball, Tennis, Volleyball.Swimming: the strokes are developed through the ‘Swim Fitness’ programme written by Nick Gillingham MBE. In addition, water skills, survival swimming, life saving, and water polo will be taught.

Shell & V Forms
The syllabus builds on the knowledge, understanding and skills established at Key Stages 2 and 3. The aims of the course are to: develop knowledge and understanding of anatomy and physiology; understand how training affects performance; explain how athletes respond psychologically to a range of situations and the methods available to enable positive responses; explore the wide range of social issues that affect both the performance and commercial sides of sport; develop and refine the skills necessary to analyse and improve performance; apply knowledge gained in the theory setting to maximise levels of performance in the practical setting.
Activities covered at various stages can include Badminton; Basketball; Cricket; Football; Handball; Hockey; Lacrosse; Netball; Rugby; Table Tennis; Tennis; Volleyball; Athletics; Badminton; Canoeing/Kayaking; Cycling; Dance; Equestrian; Golf; Gymnastics; Rock climbing; Skiing/Snowboarding; Squash and Swimming.
The final examination is a combination of theory and practical elements.

VI Form
A level

The course is a combination of theory and practical elements.
The Theory elements cover; anatomy; cardiovascular, pulmonary and respiratory function; energy systems and recovery from exercise; effects of altitude and heat on performance; diet and nutrition; methods of training to increase strength, aerobic capacity and flexibility; injury prevention and rehabilitation; levers, Newton’s Laws, angular/linear motion, fluid dynamics and projectile motion; analysis of movement through the use of technology; fluid dynamics; transfer of skills; principles, stages and theories of learning and the effect of guidance and feedback; memory; personality and attitudes; motivation, arousal, aggression and anxiety; leadership, groups and teams; methods of practice; goal setting; global sporting events and their impact on society; effect of drugs, violence and gambling; commercialisation and the media; modern technology in sport; the historical development of sport.
The Practical element includes the analysis of a live performance and assessed oral response in which pupils critically analyse the performance and plan the steps that could be used to improve it and technical accuracy, effective performance, and understanding of strategies and tactics in one practical activity

SQA Higher PE
The course enables candidates to: develop a broad and comprehensive range of complex movement and performance skills, and demonstrate them safely and effectively across a range of challenging contexts; select and apply skills and make informed decisions to effectively perform in physical activities; analyse mental, emotional, social and physical factors that impact on performance; understand how skills, techniques and strategies combine to produce an effective performance; analyse and evaluate performance.
The course offers opportunities for personalisation and choice through the selection of physical activities.

A morning in the PE Department