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Pupil Leadership

International Womens Day

Merchiston is pleased to support International Woman’s Day today, and some of our LVI boys write about a woman who inspires them.

Euro Quizzers

Five I Form boys compete in the Euro Quiz in the Edinburgh City Chambers.

junior year boy students talking to sixth form boy student

The days of heroic leadership in schools are numbered. Instances of figureheads leading the charge in isolation are becoming fewer and further between.

Instead, forward-thinking establishments now opt for a more complete approach to leadership. They favour the instilling of positive values, and enabling those within the structures to lead themselves and others to excellence by doing simple things well and by habit. Clarity of vision and consistency of the message are key to this so that all parties feel included and part of something bigger than themselves.

At Merchiston we aim to develop leadership skills in your son from an early age, and provide him with opportunities to build his skills and confidence. We will equip him with the necessary tools to thrive and to play his part in leading the school to excellence, be that doing his best in a Maths lesson in Juniors, or delivering a presentation in front of 600 people as Captain of the School.

We have learned as staff that ‘it’s not about us’ and we believe the pupils hold the keys to the future; we simply want to provide them with the doors of opportunity.

Freddie Main Assistant Head Pupil Support

6 ways your son might learn to lead include:


Our traditional leadership roles such as Senior Prefects and Prefects remain some of the highest leadership honours on offer and these positions can be prepared for throughout your son’s career. The Prefect teams have a major role to play in terms of helping to run and manage aspects of the houses and departments, as well as helping to set the tone and ethos of the school through their day to day example.

Prefect Roles

Prefect roles in the Sixth Form fall broadly into 4 categories:

  • Captain of School
  • House based Prefects: each House has a Head of House & Deputy Head of House who live in the House with younger boys. They are supported by House Prefects
  • Non-House Prefects: Afforded the same responsibilities and privileges but live in the Sixth Form House. Duties are assigned by the Department or person requesting a prefect
  • Wellbeing Prefects: each House has a Wellbeing Prefect with strong mentoring skills. Further training is organised, particularly in safeguarding and confidentiality

The Captain of School, the Heads of Houses and the Deputy Head of House have to be boarders (with the exception of Evans, the Sixth Form day House) as many of their responsibilities revolve around boarding life. House Prefects can be day pupils. However, your son will be considered for Captain of School, Head of House or Deputy Head of House, if he is willing to board in his final year.

Sports Team

It would be rare to find just one leader in a Merchiston sports team, instead you would be likely to find leadership groups that share the load of leadership and take time to discuss issues, off and on the field, deciding what would be best for the collective and then using their skills to implement the plan. Through sports captaincy your son would have a say in how sessions are coached and even lead aspects of the coaching himself.

Pupil Voice

At Merchiston there are numerous forums where your son can have his say and contribute to school life. As well as well as being nominated to represent any of the committees, he can put himself forward. These elected posts give opportunities to gain experience in leadership, whatever his age. He will be taught early on that the major aspect of leadership is service, and that great responsibility goes hand in hand with any such role.


We run several volunteer programmes at Merchiston, one of them is our amazing Koinonia (Community) outreach initiative where your son can spend time each week at local primary schools, old folks’ homes or at the food bank, serving and caring for others. These opportunities are invaluable and further develop leadership, empathy and compassion, qualities that will stand him in good stead whatever he does in life.

Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP)

As part of the Life skills classes in the Sixth Form, your son will have sessions on issues such as anti-bullying, controlling behaviour, alcohol & consent. He will be invited to participate from the perspective of the bystander, which is powerful in developing empathy, the ability to think through options, and make good decisions that challenge negative behaviour whilst keeping himself out of harm’s way. By learning that others share his viewpoint, your son will feel more confident to speak up and do the right thing safely.

As well as receiving these sessions, your son can apply to become a MVP Mentor. Mentors receive teacher training from staff to deliver the same types of session to our pupils in Third Form (Year 9/S1) and Fourth Form (Year 10/S2). These vital messages and skills coming from older pupils, our younger pupils’ ‘heroes’, have a much stronger impact than when they come from teachers and encourage open discussion.

Skills Development

Skills development is key to promoting positive leadership in schools. Through being given the opportunity to develop his skills in a safe environment, your son will become more confident in thinking through ideas and presenting them to others. Opportunities are available through debating, English Speaking Board presentations and delivering talks.