We wanted a co-ed, state (free), non-denominational secondary school with a good reputation and that offered drama as a subject, in a catchment area we wanted to live in.
- Read our article: Schooling in Scotland and England (compared to Australia)
We were most fortunate in that we enrolled both our sons into Mearns Castle High School in Newton Mearns on the south side of Glasgow. This school is in the East Renfrewshire Council area and ranks very well in state high schools in the greater Glasgow area (third in 2016).
Information about enrolment and school catchment areas is at the end of this article (past the school lists).
Choosing a High School in Glasgow
The greater Glasgow area is made up of ten council areas – each with their own selection of high schools and many more primary schools (click on a list item below to go to the council’s website):
- East Dunbartsonshire
- West Dunbartonshire
- South Lanarkshire
- North Lanarkshire
- East Renfrewshire
- East Ayrshire
- North Ayrshire
- South Ayrshire
Secondary School Performance tables released by the Evening Times in March 2017 identify which state secondary schools (free schools, not private schools) in the greater Glasgow area provided their school leavers with passes in 3 or more higher subjects.
Schools ranked higher where students stayed to complete S6 (their final year of high school; equivalent to year 12 in Australia).
The top six high schools in the greater Glasgow area ….. by percentage:
- St Ninian’s High…………. 85 (East Renfrewshire)
- Williamwood……………… 84 (East Renfrewshire)
- Mearns Castle High…….. 82 (East Renfrewshire) ** our boys go to this school **
- Gryffe High………………… 78 (Renfrewshire)
- Bearsden Academy……… 75 (East Dunbartsonshire)
- Bishopbriggs Academy… 75 (East Dunbartsonshire)
I created a list of high schools in each region where at least 50% of their school leavers achieved 3+ higher subjects.
Which state (free) high schools are the best for expat children?
I believe kids who want to achieve can achieve if they have a good teacher, supportive parents and circumstances that don’t hinder them. Obviously if a high school student has to work and study and has other distractions and life pressures, their performance will be impacted.
The Evening Times tables show that a school’s performance suffers if it is in an area where a higher number of students come from impoverished households. However, that doesn’t mean it is a ‘bad’ school. It just may pose additional challenges for the expat student who has to assimilate into a new culture as well as achieving at school.
Logically speaking, schools with 50% or higher rankings appear to be the better schools.
If you have high school aged children and are choosing where to rent or buy – you will probably want to target the catchment areas of the better schools, and avoid those that didn’t make the cut. If you do not live in a school’s catchment area you will not usually be able to send your kids there.
High Schools with HIGHER rankings
High Schools where at least 50% of school leavers achieved 3 or more higher subjects – by percentage:
Glasgow Gaelic School – 72
Hyndland Secondary – 67
Notre Dame High School – 57
Hillhead High – 54
St Thomas Aquinas – 52
Bearsden Academy – 75
Bishopbriggs Academy – 75
Douglas Academy – 72
Turnbull High – 72
Lenzie Academy – 69
Boclair Academy – 68
St Ninian’s High – 63
Our Lady & St Patrick’s – 54
Dumbarton Academy – 50
Strathaven Academy – 65
Biggar High School – 61
St Andrew’s and St Bride’s – 59
Calderglen High School – 57
Stonelaw High School – 52
Uddingston Grammar – 52
St John Ogilvie High School – 50
Holy Cross High School – 50
Our Lady’s Cumbernauld – 66
Dalziel High School – 61
St Ambrose High School – 59
Our Lady’s Motherwell – 56
Greenfaulds High School – 54
St Maurice’s High School – 54
Cardinal Newman High – 51
Cumbernauld Academy – 51
Taylor High School – 51
St Ninian’s High – 85
Williamwood – 84
Mearns Castle High – 82
Woodfarm High – 68
Eastwood High – 65
St Luke’s High – 65
Gryffe High – 78
Paisley Grammar – 55
Renfrew High School – 52
Stewarton Academy – 53
James Hamilton Academy – 52
Kilmarnock Academy – 51
Loudon Academy – 50
Arran High – 69
Largs Academy – 69
Marr College – 62
Kyle Academy – 59
Bellmont Academy – 58
Enrolment procedures are different for each school. I recommend checking out each school’s website for enrolment dates and policies.
The Scottish Government website has an informative guide: Choosing a school – A guide for parents.
Finding schools and catchment area information
Many of the major real estate sites list the schools in a catchment area for a property.
- Look for the ‘school checker’ tab on Rightmove
- Look for the ‘map & nearby’ tab on Zoopla (check the schools box)
- Look for the ‘map and schools’ icon on S1 Homes.
This is usually pretty accurate but if you really like a property I recommend you check with the school before you apply for the property. Their catchment area may have changed recently, or be changing in the near future.
- Visit the school’s website and search for ‘catchment’. If you can’t find it, give the school a call and ask them where you can find the information.
- You might have to search the relevant local council area’s website.
Unfortunately, most schools won’t be able to tell you if they have a place for your child until the enrolment interview.
However, you can’t book an enrolment interview until you have a permanent address and have registered with the relevant local council for council tax.
You also can’t register for council tax until you have signed a lease. And you can’t do that until the day before, or the day of, the lease start date.
It is a bit of a gamble. If you can’t get your kids into your catchment area’s school, you may have to send them to another nearby school that has vacancies until your local school can fit you in.
We were very lucky with our younger son as a student had only just moved to England and that freed up a place for him.
If you’ve got any questions about schooling in Glasgow and Scotland, please ask them in the comments below. If I can’t answer them, the boys should be able to.