Merchiston Castle School: Junior School

In Merchiston’s Junior Department, I believe we are uniquely placed to give boys the ideal start to their education from 7 years old. We offer a different approach from other schools in that we smooth the progression from Junior to Senior education, which avoids the steep ‘step-up’ boys can experience when moving on from Primary education. We do this by introducing our Juniors to Senior School teachers, teaching methods and resources as they progress.

Some parents also find that starting their sons at Merchiston at 7, 8, 9 or 10 ensures that they avoid the stress and uncertainty around Common Entrance exams – or the decision making process around which senior school they will choose.

Boys at Merchiston Juniors can board or be day boys. Safe and secluded Pringle House, where the boarders live and all boys are based, is a great way to introduce young boys to the concept of boarding, with taster weekends and flexi-boarding options.

Merchiston Juniors also offers parents and boys fantastic added value; the facilities and teaching excellence in science, ICT and technology is significantly enhanced compared to most other junior schools, and the boys enjoy an exceptional range of co-curricular activities and sports.

Mrs Waldron - Head of JuniorsWe believe we have a very special Junior Department – which is perhaps something of a hidden gem. But the best way to find out more is to visit us. I’d be delighted to show you around and introduce you to our staff and some of the boys.

Niamh Waldron, Head of Merchiston Juniors

Please view our Juniors video below:




Why Merchiston Juniors?

Our boys start out in a classic primary school style education in the Pringle Centre, with their Form Teacher. In First Form, (age 10), they experience a transition to a ‘senior school’ style: specialist teachers are introduced, and all the facilities of the Senior School. This continues in Second and Third Forms, so our boys have less of a ‘big jump’ when they move into the Senior School. This means by the time they would usually be sitting Common Entrance exams and changing schools (at 12+), which is often a major change, they are well prepared and ready for the next stage of their education.

No stressful entrance exams.

Moving school can be a stressful and testing time for both child and parents. If a boy joins Merchiston at 13+ (or any senior independent school), some form of entrance exam is usually required. This also can apply to those schools that have their own Prep School attached. Merchiston Juniors boys move up as a matter of course, without an added hurdle for parents and child to worry about.

No stressful and uncertain change of environment.

When any child moves school there is a major change of environment, classmates, teachers, rules and culture. Whilst we understand some parents like to join a senior school at 13, we also know that our boys moving from Merchiston Juniors to the the Senior School arrive with their peer group, well adjusted, relaxed and ready to get on with the serious business of preparing for GCSEs. This, we feel, is one of the major advantages of starting life at Merchiston at 8 or 9 years old.

A gentle introduction to boarding.

The years in Pringle House (Merchiston Juniors boarding house) allow boys who so wish to make a gradual transition from being day-boys to boarding. Boys can flexi-board (in J4 to I Form), or even spend the odd weekend boarding. This lets parents see if their sons are ready to gain more independence and enjoy the boarding lifestyle. We find that many day boys quite quickly ask to board, and the fun on offer at weekends results in many asking to stay on at school!

The added-value of access to all the Senior School facilities.

Few primary, prep or junior schools in Scotland have access to the range of facilities and experiences our Juniors do. Even though the boys have their own discrete boarding house, teaching centre and play areas, they all have access to the School’s music, drama, art, ICT, design and sports facilities. This includes the swimming pool, fives courts, and the full range of all-weather tennis and cricket facilities. Merchiston Juniors can also experience our Tennis and Golf Academy courses if desired.

Nothing on this website can truly reflect what Merchiston Juniors have to offer your son – or the unique ethos and flavour of the life in Pringle House. A visit is the best way to get a feel of what we offer – and we welcome any parents who wish to come and see us. Please just get in touch.

An education at Merchiston can start at 7 years old. From 7 to 13, boys are in Merchiston Juniors and their care and social life revolves around Pringle House, which is within the school grounds but separate from the main school. Thus the boys have their own identity and the benefits of a smaller community suitable for their age.

All the boarders live in Pringle House, which is their base for homework, relaxation and sleeping. Day boys also use Pringle as their base. Pringle also has its own walled playing fields for football and other sports.

The boys are cared for by their Housemaster, the Housekeepers and House Mother, whose role extends to a wide range of pastoral and domestic issues. In addition, there is a dedicated team of House Tutors, and a team of residential Prefects who assist with the running of the House. The Prefects are excellent role models for the younger boys and play a vital role in all aspects of House life.

For the first two years (J4 and J5) the boys are taught by a single Form Teacher in the modern Pringle Teaching Centre nearby. This mirrors what is best about primary education. Thereafter (I, II and III Forms) the boys start to take lessons in the Senior School and enjoy a balance of learning styles. Crucially they get a ‘gentle’ introduction to an education in a Senior School but also enjoy all the facilities the main school offers.

By the time the boys are 12, and in their final year, they are ready to move up to the Senior School – and we find the transition is generally effortless. The boys also are in many respects further advanced than boys from other schools, insofar as they have had the advantages of Senior School teaching. At this point they are joined by an intake of boys from other schools and move up through the Senior School as a cohort of around 70 to 80 boys.

For a further insight into a boy’s life at Merchiston, view the Merchiston Journey.

Boarding or day?

Many of the younger Merchiston Juniors’ boys join as either boarders or day boys. For the day boys, the School provides many of the benefits of its boarding education whilst enabling them to return home each evening. Day boys are encouraged to take part in all aspects of School life, and at Merchiston we aim to be as flexible as possible to suit parents’ work and social arrangements. As boys move through their junior years they may opt to become full time boarders. It may also possible for day boys to spend the night in Pringle House to experience boarding life .

Junior boarding for some is a necessity, due to family or work situations, but for many it is a choice. This choice is made for a variety of reasons; evening and weekend activities provided for boarders, the wonderful community spirit, and the relationship between staff and boys. Boarders themselves recognize that they can enjoy a diverse social life, a wide variety of interests, and close relationships with their friends. Boarding can promote confidence, independence, social skills, cultural awareness, self motivation, and a genuine respect for others.

Exeats/Weekend Leaves

During the longer Autumn and Lent Terms there are two Weekend Leaves in each term in addition to the usual Half Term break. In Summer Term there is one further Weekend Leave. These long weekends allow boarding parents who live further away enough time to make the weekend a worthwhile break for their children.

In addition to this, parents are welcome to make arrangements with the Housemaster to take their son out at times to suit them, such as an evening tea or a Sunday afternoon when they are in the city. Parents are always welcome at Services, concerts, plays, barbecues or on match days, whether their son happens to be involved or not, also providing valuable opportunities to chat to other parents and staff.


Niamh Waldron
Head of Merchiston Juniors
Ms Waldron joined Merchiston in 2005 having moved to Edinburgh from Hampshire, where she taught in a prep school and was a tennis coach. She is currently Head of Merchiston Juniors, and also teaches across the junior year groups. Teaching J4 was Ms Waldron's first teaching position in the School, having started coaching tennis to boys across the age range when moving to Edinburgh. She is a member of the School Leadership Team. Her two sons thoroughly enjoyed their time in Pringle, the younger finishing his Merchiston journey in 2013.
Ruth Foster MA
Leader of Pringle Centre
Miss Foster joined Merchiston Juniors in August 2016 from Dollar Academy where she taught for 18 years. She read French at Aberdeen University, spending time in Grenoble and Normandy as part of her studies. She gained her Post Graduate qualification in Primary Education at Moray House School of Education before embarking on her teaching career. In 2013 she gained a further Post Graduate qualification in Developing Educational Leadership and Learning.  Her interests include playing the piano, flute and cello.
Alexandra Torrance BA
Teacher in the Pringle Centre
Juliet Vaughan BA
Teacher of Mathematics; Director of Studies, Merchiston Juniors
Miss Vaughan is Deputy Head (Academic) of Merchiston Juniors and leads on curriculum and academic issues and Support for Learning in the Juniors, as well as teaching Junior Maths. She is a very experienced teacher who brings out the best in all of her pupils.
Martin Harkins BA
Assistant Housemaster in Pringle, Teacher of Geography, Primary Specialist
Mr Harkins is an upper primary specialist. After reading for his BA in Economics at the University of Stirling he obtained his teaching qualification at the University of Strathclyde, and completed his probationary year in Inverness. As well as teaching Geography up to III Form, his co-curricular involvement includes a number of sports and outdoor education.
Jackie Ghazal
Pringle Teaching Assistant
Mrs Ghazal joined Merchiston in 2007 as Pringle Centre Teaching Assistant and her role has since developed to include all Junior classes, offering both small group, individual and in-class support. She is a Pringle House Tutor and the younger boys thoroughly enjoy her bedtime stories. She is also responsible for The Communicator, a termly production of articles and photos about life in Merchiston Juniors. Her creative skills are also in evidence in displays where her input is invaluable.
Michael Raikes MA
Teacher of Geography, Director of Junior Sport
Mr Raikes teaches both Physical Education and Geography to the younger years. He is a keen geographer (having completed his MA in Town and Country Planning at the University of Manchester), and has experience coaching sports and teaching both at Sedbergh School and Pembroke House Preparatory School in Kenya. He is heavily involved in all areas of life in Merchiston Juniors.

Prefects: Students in the Upper Sixth are an integral part of the leadership and pastoral care in Pringle. We have 4 resident prefects and a further 6 non-resident prefects. As well as helping with duties, such as prep supervision and bedtime, the prefects know their charges well and provide an additional layer of support.


Boys entering Merchiston Juniors between the ages of 7 and 12 become members of Pringle House, the junior house of the School.

The main Merchiston Juniors facilities are named the Pringle Teaching Centre and Pringle House. Both are situated at the bottom of the main School drive, across the playing fields from the senior part of the School.

Pringle House is set within a walled garden. The House has a happy and relaxed atmosphere. Boys spend their time in a variety of welcoming rooms including games, reading and model-making areas. A spacious kitchen and comfortably furnished Day Rooms provide further focal points for relaxation and, if a boy chooses to board, accommodation in homely dormitories. The Pringle boarding house has capacity for around 50 boarders as well as space for day boys. The boarders and day boys make use of the House’s recreational facilities enabling them to enjoy model making, snooker, table tennis, air hockey, reading, cooking, TV and IT. There is also a spacious kitchen, landscaped garden, and football/cricket pitch and nets.

Older boys, 11, 12 and 13 years, are taught exclusively by Senior School teachers using the facilities in the departmental bases in the Senior School, whilst younger boys of 7 to 10 years are based and mainly taught in the Pringle Centre. All Junior boys have access to Senior School facilities including well-equipped IT, Technology, and Music Centres, and the Spawforth Library.


Curriculum content is largely based on the English National Curriculum Key Stages 2 and 3. We are very aware of the aims of A Curriculum for Excellence and, although we have chosen not to directly address any of the content changes outlined in this curriculum, we strive to develop the ‘four capacities’ in all pupils by providing a variety of learning experiences in and out of the classroom. We are dedicated to helping our pupils become: successful learners, effective contributors, responsible citizens and confident individuals. In addition, we are committed to integrating Assessment is For Learning, active learning and cross-curricular work into our existing curriculum where appropriate.

We believe that all teachers are teachers of literacy and numeracy. As such, the staff of Merchiston Juniors are committed to developing literacy and numeracy skills in all of our pupils, in the belief that it will support their learning and raise standards across the curriculum.

Junior Four and Five (7/8/9 year olds) – equivalent to P4 and 5

Our youngest Merchiston Juniors boys follow a broad and stimulating curriculum, with particular importance paid to literacy and numeracy. Language, Mathematics, Environmental Studies, Religious Education, and Personal and Social Health education are taught in their spacious and well-equipped classroom by the classroom teacher. Specialist facilities are available for use in Science, Art and Design and Technology when appropriate. The boys in Junior Four and Five have the benefit of specialist teachers for Modern Languages, Games, Music, PE and Swimming.

First Form (10+ year olds) – equivalent to P6

In First Form, the boys begin an early transition to a more secondary style of education. The First Form has its own Form Room and a dedicated Form Tutor who looks after them. About half the First Form lessons are taught in the Pringle Centre by primary staff. However, the boys have the additional stimulus of visiting specialist departments for Art and Design, Languages, Design and Technology, ICT, Science, Music, PE, Swimming and Games, where they are taught by subject specialist teachers. We firmly believe in this early, phased transition and are delighted that boys in First Form have access to both primary trained and subject specialist staff.

Second and Third Forms (11+ and 12+ year olds) – equivalent to P7 and S1

In Second and Third Form the boys visit specialist departments for all lessons and are taught by a full range of specialist staff, with most subjects set by ability. The boys are also assigned an academic tutor who will tutor and support them during Second and Third Form. In Second Form, Latin is introduced in to the curriculum and in the Third Form, Science is taught in its separate components: Biology, Chemistry and Physics.

Daily Routine

Daily between 8.00am and 8.10am Day boys arrive at Pringle House or Centre
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday: 4.00pm, 5.30pm or 6.15pm Flexible Collection times for J4 & J5
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday: from 7.15pm (7.40pm) Collection time for the First and Second Forms (Third Form)
Tuesday, and Thursday: from 4.00pm, 5.30pm and 6.15pm Collection time for all year groups
Saturday: 12.45pm Collection time for all years groups from First Form to Third Form.

Lessons take place every morning including Saturdays (First Form upwards). Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday afternoons are given over to games and other activities.

First Form and above have supervised prep until 7.15/7.30 pm or even longer if boys wish to remain for our fun evening activities such as swimming or football.


Weekends are busy times for our pupils, with plenty on offer. Saturday is a normal school day with lessons taught as they would be on a Tuesday or Thursday. After lunch, most boys will have sports fixtures, either at home or away. The evenings will often see an activity such as a pizza or DVD evening, or reel clubs and ceilidhs with local girls’ schools.

On Sundays, a Service is held either in the morning or evening, and activities are organized during the rest of the day.  The range is vast, and typical examples include cinema trips, swimming pool/leisure centre visits, ice skating, international rugby matches at Murrayfield, visits to places of interest, football and other games.

Entry Requirements

Entry is by assessment using computer-based INCAS software, which is administered by Durham University. This measures three key areas: Reading, General Maths and Mental Arithmetic. Completion of an online screening assessment is also required.

International students take assessments in Mathematics and English (usually in their home country). They are also screened for English Language support on entry and receive an individual ESOL programme, including small group, or one-to-one support.

Boys' views videos

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