A Rural Education- Interview with Ali Kinge, Headmistress of Ardvreck School, Scotland
We recently met Mrs Ali Kinge, Headmistress of Ardvreck, a prep school set in the heart of Scotland. We loved what she had to say about the benefits of being educated in an idyllic rural area and her views on why it gives children the best start in life.
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Tell us what is so special about the location of Ardvreck?
Visitors gasp at the awe inspiring views of doorstep Munros as they make their way up the Ardvreck’s sweeping drive. The heavens here are fresh and pure; the Milky Way is a constant presence on a cloudless night and sightings of the Northern Lights a frequent treat. The pure, un-polluted atmosphere ensures that pupils’ eyes shine with wonder and their cheeks constantly bloom with a rosy glow. And this idyllic childhood is just one hour from the worldwide gateways of both Edinburgh and Glasgow airports!
Why is this rural location so important for the children’s education?
The wild, Scottish wilderness is the greatest of all educators and we firmly believe classrooms do not need walls. As well as outdoor lessons, the entire school regularly adventures into the exciting, natural playground on our doorstep to undertake Barvicks (expeditions) and a regular Ard Challenge. Tucked away from the stresses and strains of modern life, in breathtaking Scottish countryside, we can nurture and educate children in a caring, and loving, family environment.
How would you describe the ethos of Ardvreck?
Ardvreck School is resilience personified. Nothing can stop its feisty ethos. Any school can provide excellent academic rigor, a strong pastoral ethos and a broad co- curricular programme. But we truly believe that the real value of a rural, prep school education lies in the things that are remembered long after what was taught has been forgotten. The things that contribute to defining not what we know, but who we are.
What is most remarkable is that each and every child is completely at ease in his, or her, own skin. Through the challenges and situations to which they have been exposed, be it scrambling up a cliff, swimming in a loch, helping in the community or chatting to royalty, every child is equipped with the skills and the confidence to feel unperturbed by any situation.
Tell us about your teaching staff?
Our team of terrific teachers mainly live on site and this loyal, hard-working, committed team are movers and shakers, optimists, can doers, smilers and who all care, beyond belief, about the education and wellbeing of every single child in our care.
We know the school has a full sports programme but what other extra curricular activities do you offer?
Music plays an enormous part in making a school the home from home which so many parents seek for their children. We recognise that music is an extremely important part of a child’s upbringing; it is a way of expressing feelings as well as emotions. We are exceptionally fortunate in having two resident, professional opera singers and a professional violinist on our team so there is music of all kinds around every corner. Due to our location north of the border, the school’s repertoire is injected with the Celtic kick of a full pipe band and a ceilidh band which provides music for our regular, raucous reeling! Drama always culminates in a spectacular musical.
You can see some of their recent Lion King production here!
Where do your pupils go onto Senior School?
My heart very nearly bursts with pride at each speech day when we celebrate the achievements of the girls and boys whose lives we have helped to shape. They are happy, well-rounded and fulfilled children who are full of hope and ambition for their futures. It will come as no surprise then, that Head Teachers from public schools all over the UK are very keen to enlist Ardvreck pupils. This year, our leavers are heading to a total of 12 different public schools, including to Eton and to St Mary’s, Ascot.
How are you all coping with the Covid -19 pandemic?
This is a great example of Ardvreck resilience. With a nod to the school’s renowned robust spirit, we have named it An Ard-e Education! After a live assembly, with live hymn singing, live lessons are delivered every morning for 3 to 13 year olds and, in the afternoons, the children are set free to complete fun, outdoor challenges which are monitored by tutors. A full programme of pastoral care is in place, overseen by the child’s tutor, with online instrumental and LAMDA lessons also in operation! The feedback from pupils and parents is super positive and the entire Ardvreck family is having great fun! Our most recent amusement was putting together the following movie which is proof that, during Ard times, Ard pupils, parents and teachers don’t get down, they GIT UP.
How would you sum up Ardvreck for a parent wondering where to send their prep school child?
This is most definitely the school every grown-up wishes they had attended as a child. It’s where kindness, courtesy and good manners are at the forefront of every human interaction. It’s an environment where working hard and playing hard are of equal importance and where good humour and fun permeate every undertaking. We firmly believe that there is definitely nothing old-fashioned about traditional values.
When parents come to visit, they are thrilled by the spectacle of laughing, children in kilts and wellie boots hanging out of trees, hiding in Dens or building dams in the burn which flows down the Headmistress’ lawn.