Lockdown leads Londoners to seek out Scottish schools

The Scottish Council of Independent Schools has reported a rise in inquiries from London and city-based families since the first lockdown. Why are so many Londoners now eyeing up schools north of the border?

Simon Flemington moved his three teenage children, Tom, Cecily and Hope from state schools in Kensington to Gordonstoun just before lockdown. Wild swimming, camping in the hills and sailing around the West Coast of Scotland are a far cry from Portobello Road.

Simon Flemington with his three children at Gordonstoun.
(Credit: Chris Watt )

“At the start of this week my 14 year old daughter was on an eight-mile hike; last week my 18 year old son was hiking across mountains for three days with a guide at least a kilometre away from him at all times,” he says. “It would be very hard to replicate these experiences anywhere else.”

Like all students, London children also are immersed in Scottish culture: they are encouraged to play the drums or bagpipes, dance a reel in a ceilidh and recite Rabbie Burns, all to help develop an emotional connection to the school community and its location.

“There is an authentic, more identifiable culture that Scottishness has over Englishness that is wrapped up in history, habits and proximity to sky and rugged landscape,” explains Mr Flemington, who has now also swapped London for the Highlands and is living a short distance from the school. Despite being less selective than English schools, hefty numbers of children at Scottish boarding schools still make it to Oxbridge and to Scottish universities, which also attract huge numbers of English students

For his London-centric children, Gordonstoun may have been a culture shock at first, but it’s also been the making of them, he says; they still love city life but they now also appreciate hills and wildlife and can navigate a sailing boat in a choppy sea. “They’re more resilient all round,” he says. “And they’ve had a great time teaching their boarding school friends their London street patois.”

You can read more about this story in the Daily Telegraph