Fettes College

Fettes College

Fettes College

On Sunday a group of us went to “Fettes Open Day” to see the inside of the school that inspired J. K. Rowling in her depiction of Hogwarts.  Now, just to be clear, an “Open Day” at Fettes is intended for prospective students and their families but I had called and asked if it was OK to come and see the school and they said it was.  I don’t know if they assumed that I would be seeing the school as a prospective customer, but we decided to give it a go and got together a good-sized group.  Luckily we did have three children in our group which gave us an whiff of credibility… although the fact that we were all very casually dressed probably diminished the affect.


Anyway, Fettes is well-known and probably one of the most prestigious schools in Scotland.  It has “day students” as well as boarders and is spread over 100 acres of beautiful property.  In an ironic twist it was founded by Sir Fettes for the education of “poor children and orphans.”  With tuition between £18,000 for a day student and £24,000 for a boarder, that aspect of the legacy seems to have been lost.  Fettes boasts such famous alumni as Tony Blair, British Prime Minister, and Ian Flemming, author of the James Bond novels (who wrote into Bond’s backstory that his most famous character was a Fettes grad).

As Americans the concept of being sent off to boarding school is mostly foreign – an idea one encounters in books, so the tour was very interesting to me.  Our tour-guide, in his last year at Fettes, was sent there as a boarder when he was 9!  Can you imagine?  He said it was a difficult adjustment but he soon felt alright about it all.  Fettes takes boarders as young a seven.  7!  Yes, 7.  And the thing that got all the women in our group was that the teachers read these little children bedtime stories each night.  How terribly sad is that?

Fettes does have a tradition for getting its students into good universities – between 13-18 go off to Oxford or Cambridge each year but when a former teacher came into the bookstore the other day, he had other things to say.  He said that it was for “thick, rich kids who aren’t too bright.  Fettes will get them into a university where they will fail.  But that doesn’t really matter because most then just get jobs in the family business.”  Our tour guide seemed to play along the stereotype as he’s a boarder but “my parent’s bought me a house in Edinburgh, so I can go hang out there when I want to.”  As far as plans for the future?  This young man wasn’t sure.  He would apply to university but wasn’t sure if it was something he wanted to do.  Can you imagine spending over £250,000 on a child’s elementary and high school education, only to have him tell you he didn’t think university was in his future?

Anyway, the tour was fascinating.  The best parts of the building are the chapel and the library – both gorgeous and what you would expect from a Victorian school.  But, all in all, I think it’s a very sad place.  I definitely think that there is a place for boarding schools in society and I’m sure that former students have fond memories of their years here – it’s just not a place I would have liked as a child or a place I could ever envision sending my children…but that’s probably the former homeschooler in me talking.

About Rebecca

Hi! After five years in Europe, I'm adjusting to life back in the US. I use this blog to record my adventures, post photos, organize recipes, and post about things that interest me.
This entry was posted in architecture, Edinburgh, Life in Edinburgh. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Fettes College

  1. Sloane says:

    I love that first picture, its kind of dark and a little cloudy. I can just totally picture Professor Snape coming storming down the hallway. *shiver*

  2. Ashli says:

    Interesting. It seems like boarding school attendees in the US might be more serious about academics??? I’m looking forward to hearing more about Fettes!

  3. Rea Berg says:

    Hi Bec,
    Love these photos and loved your perspective about your time there. It is fascinating to consider such a polar opposite way of raising children. Wow, I wonder what kind of neurotic struggles these kids end up with, or if they do!! Also, I can’t wait to see more pics of the Lake District and the authors homes you visited. How fun! Love you!

  4. bel says:

    Just came across your page as I was Googling my old school 🙂 I still live in Edinburgh so it’s nice to still be close.
    Did you like our uniform?! Hehe. Happiest days of my life, sad I’m now 20 😦

    • Caitie says:

      Oooh, you went to Fettes? I am so happy that you liked it – I am thinking of sending my children there, but as day pupils (we are moving to Edinburgh).

      It looks like most Prep-ers are day, but would it be a problem to be a day pupil in the Senior school? Would they feel like they fitted in?

      And I am quite alarmed to hear Fettes described as being for “thick rich kids”. What’s your view?

      And, finally, there has been a lot about drugs in the press recently. I hope there is not a drugs culture in Fettes.

      I would love to hear from you!


      • C says:

        Fettes is great for day kids! It’s an amazing school and the house atmosphere is brilliant. I am a boarder myself there but it’s all nonsense about the thick rich kid thing. I would definatley recommend you send your kids Caitie. When i have kids, they’ll go to Fettes too. I hope at least!


  5. CA says:

    I am currently a boarder at Fettes, and as a former day pupil I have to admit that boarding is so much more fun! I mean living with 80 friends, the atmosphere is unbelievable! I know that there has been a lot of bad press about the a few pupils who got it wrong, but there certainly isn’t a ‘drugs culture’. As for being “thick, rich kids” you do of course get a couple of dim students in every year but the difference is that they aren’t considered ‘cool’ and so it is not something that most students aspire to be seen as. However, the quality of teaching does seriously vary. Some teachers are the best I have ever meet whilst others are just terribly slow. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask me!

  6. marilena says:

    We live overseas and I’m thinking to send my son in 4th form next year (he will be 13 next year). , I heard that there is hazing in boarding schools? is this true and common? what is your experience? thanks M.

  7. John McWilliam says:

    What a load of absolute ignorant, narrow-minded drivel. But then you were home-schooled so I suppose you should be forgiven.

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