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Edinburgh’s best schools: Are you looking to move to Scotland’s capital to be close to Edinburgh’s best schools.  Not quite sure which area the best primary and secondary schools are in? Every parent wants to send their kids to the best school possible, whether that be public or private. Here, we’d like to give you a hand in choosing an appropriate school for your children in Edinburgh. Our list of Edinburgh’s best schools to move close to in 2024;


Edinburgh’s best schools – Primary 



© Copyright Stephen Dickson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.


Sciennes Primary School

Pupils: 640, aged 4-11

Situated north of South Morningside Primary is Sciennes Primary School, or ‘Sheens’ as it’s pronounced. Sciennes featured in Tatler magazine a few years ago with it being one of the most popular in the city. With 640 pupils, it’s the largest in Edinburgh, however they seem to cope with the size well. The school has parent-run clubs and after school activities which are second to none. Pupils who attend move on to one of Edinburgh’s finest public high schools, James Gillespie’s.


South Morningside Primary School

Pupils: 630, aged 4-11

Also featured in Tatler magazine’s rankings of the top 12 public schools in Britain and named the best school in Scotland. This primary school is definitely one that you should consider. Situated in a lovely part of Edinburgh and the home of literary geniuses JK Rowling and Ian Rankin. This is an area that is great for the kids to grow up.  The only downside to this school is getting your kids enrolled, as classes are currently close to capacity. This is something they are working on, so don’t lose hope! Pupils who attend have gone on to private schools such as George Watson’s College and George Heriots School.


Stockbridge Primary School

Pupils: approx. 210, aged 4-11

The smallest primary school on our list, Stockbridge Primary is situated in an affluent area that’s great for raising children. The school has many perks including a great number of after school clubs. These are tailored for both boys and girls who have different interests. They include cooking, illustration, gardening, football and netball. Additionally, many pupils go on to great public and private schools such as Broughton High School and Edinburgh Academy.




© Copyright Kim Traynor and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

George Watson’s College

Pupils: 2,358, aged 3-18

Both an exceptional primary and secondary school, George Watson’s is considered to be one of Edinburgh’s best private schools. The wide range of extra-curricular activities sets them apart from other Edinburgh-based primary schools. Whether that be activities such as swimming, choir, technology and drama, there’s something to suit every child’s interests.

Erskine Stewart’s Melville Schools (ESMS)

Pupils: 2712 aged 3-18

ESMS is a family of schools set in the heart of Edinburgh.  It is a diamond model school combining the academic benefits of single-sex education. The social advantages of co-education, giving children the best of both worlds. Boys and girls are taught together from Nursery at ESMS Junior School.  As they approach their teenage years, they then move into single sex but closely twinned education. The girls move to The Mary Erskine School and boys to Stewart’s Melville College. Children are then brought back together again for Sixth Form.


ESMS is best known for its sector leading rounded education with a high standard of academic education. It has strong pastoral care and an extensive programme of extra-curricular activities and outdoor learning.

Cargilfield School

Pupils: 309 day and boarding, aged 3-13

Established in 1873, Cargilfield is known as Scotland’s oldest prep school with extremely high standards. Having both the day and boarding options make it even more appealing, not to mention the 19 scholarships won last year.  Additionally, their impressive sports teams which often play against senior schools.

St George’s School For Girls

Founded in 1888 by the pioneers of women’s education in Scotland. St George’s is Scotland’s largest all-girls’ private school and the only all-through (3 – 18 years) girls’ school in Edinburgh. St George’s students receive opportunities and empowerment in equal measure. This powerful blend of education and aspiration allows pupils to find their own distinctive voice, and develop independence of thought. Given meaningful positions of responsibility from an early age. Each St George’s student acquires a ‘YES SHE CAN’ mindset – and is shown that the only limits she faces are those in her mind.

Our academic curriculum is a unique mix of GCSEs at 16, followed by Highers and Advanced Highers in the Sixth Form. The academic rigour and flexibility of this system ensures a breadth of educational choice, delivering the valuable study skills and work ethic these courses require.


Edinburgh’s best schools – Secondary 



James Gillespie’s High School

Pupils: 1150, aged 11-18

Found at the opposite end of the city to Broughton High in the lovely Bruntsfield area, James Gillespie’s is known for having a great reputation. Not only is it Edinburgh’s top performing school with 73% of pupils attaining 3 or more higher qualifications, the author of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Interestingly, Muriel Spark is a former pupil.


Broughton High School

Pupils: 953, aged 11-18

Situated in a great area of the city next to Inverleith park and the Stockbridge neighbourhood. Broughton High is the second highest performing school academically in the capital. Broughton is known for having both specialised music and dance departments. The school is one of seven schools in Scotland chosen by the Scottish Football Association to support talented young footballers with extra coaching. In addition, Tatler has named it the country’s top state school alongside Glasgow’s Jordanhill.


North Berwick High School (East Lothian)

Pupils: 953, aged 11-18

Now, this school is technically not in Edinburgh but we still feel it’s worthy of a mention for those not looking to live in the city centre. This is the best performing school in East Lothian, with 65% of pupils achieving 3 or more Highers. This is one of the best performing schools in Scotland. It has proven itself to be both great academically and excels in sport. The school has a strong rugby team. A former pupil winning an American basketball scholarship in 2011 and another being a professional golfer, Catriona Matthew. Not to mention it was featured in the Tatler guide to state schools 2014!



© Copyright Kim Traynor and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
© Copyright Kim Traynor and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.


George Heriot’s School

Pupils: over 920, aged 3-18

Famously known as JK Rowling’s inspiration for Hogwarts. George Heriot’s is one of the best and most well-established private schools in the city centre. Heriot’s want pupils to benefit from participation in sport in both junior and senior schools. This is achieved by providing curricular-focused and extra-curricular sporting opportunities. The curriculum is built into the child’s school programme with traditional school sports such as rugby, hockey and rowing to name a few. Other extra-curricular sports now offered are the likes of different forms of dance, surfing, archery, judo, and cricket. When it comes to exam results, they consistently place in Scotland’s top 5.


Edinburgh Academy

Pupils: 1017, aged 2-18

Attended by famous author Robert Louis Stevenson, alongside many other famous alumni. Edinburgh Academy is one of Edinburgh’s top-notch private schools. Situated in Edinburgh’s Newtown area, it’s just a short walk for most children near the city centre. The school takes nursery, primary school and senior school students with the latter gaining first position in Scotland last year of its Advanced Higher results. 86.53% of its students gaining A’s and B’s.

So there you have it. Edinburgh’s best primary and secondary schools to consider if you’re moving to the nation’s beautiful capital. We hope you find the list useful in selecting a school for your children!

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