Life during and after lockdown – Sixth Form Kilgraston pupil writes in national newspaper about her own experience
Many thousands of column inches have been written about pupils’ return to school, but few have come from the teenagers themselves. Kilgraston School English and poetry enthusiast Anna GH wanted to elaborate on the highs and lows of life in lockdown, her subsequent start of Autumn Term and ‘new normal’ elements that must now be embraced.
Her piece appeared in the national newspaper on 1 September 2020.
In a bid to reduce the annual 300,000 tonne tally of textiles that end-up in landfill, girls were, this year, encouraged to think differently about their outfits: a ‘preloved’ ball gown swap-shop was established.
“Just after Christmas, staff and pupils were asked to donate,” said Head, Dorothy MacGinty, who will herself wear her own mother’s vintage astrakhan coat and black, velvet, dress. The Head is a great fan of older clothing, regularly donning 35 year old Dior during the school day.
The idea took off: “Even in one year, I see a huge difference in the girls’ attitude when considering different outfit options.”
Upper Sixth pupil, Abbie, is in tune with the Head: “I now think, ‘am I going to wear this again?’ and, if not, I don’t tend to buy it.”
Flora, agrees with her friend: “There’s a cachet to wearing vintage.”
Last year, a speech by Mrs MacGinty initiated a ‘Wear it Again’ day, when all 270 pupils wore vintage.
In it, Mrs MacGinty highlighted the “enormous impact the fashion industry has on the world’s carbon footprint” quoting from a 2015 paper, by the industry-led Circular Fibres Initiative.
This organisation reported that global greenhouse gas emissions, from textile production, totalled 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2; equivalent to more than the emissions of all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
Saturday’s ball pressed-ahead with the drive to reduce textile waste, but pupil ‘rethink’ is not confined to glamorous occasions.
“Even in just a few months, I’m more aware of charity shops and what they have to offer,” says Lola, “there’s also been a huge spike in online retailers who sell vintage – ‘depop’ where you can buy and sell is really popular.” The Sixth Former continued: “Influencers, like teenager Olivia Grace, now wear and promote vintage.”
Mum knows best
Being seen in mum’s old outfit is now definitely de rigueur. Pupil Maggie wore her mother’s full-length, backless, Niteline Della Roufogali dress: “It’s over 25 years old. Mum had it from new and wore it to several events in her 20s. I love the shape but especially the quality of the material. It doesn’t look its age at all and has really lasted.”
Couture clashes were avoided by the girls with the useful initiation of the Sixth Form Common Room’s ‘Ball board’: “Everyone puts up their name and a picture of their outfit,” explains Lola, “if you’re in vintage, you’re definitely unique!”
“Should mobile phones be outlawed in schools?”
The question posed by TES Scotland, in its six-page spread this week, while examining the spike in mental health problems, particularly within the teen girl age group.
“Girls were almost addicted to them,” MacGinty told the reporter, “this has become a real problem”.
Since the ban at Kilgraston, in September 2018, things have vastly improved. “It’s given me the ‘headspace’ to focus on other things,” says one Sixth Former.
The magazine continues, telling readers that, ‘Last year the (Kilgraston) School achieved its best exam results for five years and Mrs MacGinty is in no doubt that the phone ban played a significant part.’
To read the full analysis and comment from other industry leaders, TES Scotland – issue 28 February 2020 – can be bought in most supermarkets or WH Smith stores or ordered through Membership subscriptions on 0345 521 7111
We couldn’t agree more.
Featuring a handful of these little UK gems, Country Life magazine this week (on sale from 28 February for one week, with the fantastic Mr Fox on the front cover) highlights Kilgraston School in its limited line-up.
“We’re bucking the national trend in STEM subjects,” Head, Dorothy MacGinty, tells the magazine, “with 60% of pupils pursuing a university course in this topic.”
Small, but mighty indeed.
Read all about it as soon as you can!
Helen inspired pupils with tales of her entirely hand-foraged product, and the testing process of setting-up a successful business: “Think about what really motivates you; follow your passion,” she told the senior school pupils.
After just two years in operation, the eponymously named Badvo Gin (Badvo is the name of the family farm, meaning ‘tree by the house’ in Gaelic) is now found in over 50 outlets. Since its inception, the product has earned the young entrepreneur several awards, including ‘Great Taste’, ‘Scottish Young Thinker’ and ‘Scottish Young Inspirational Person’.
Developing the taste
Girls heard how Helen’s interest in the spirits industry was ignited at Glasgow University while achieving joint honours in English Literature and Linguistics and doing a holiday job at a local distillery: “I decided to do my dissertation on whisky and gin, ‘The Linguistic Legacy Illicit Distilling left in whisky and gin’ combining my love of writing and spirits!”
During what little free time she had, Helen juggled studying with experiments at the family farm of Badvo, which has been worked by her ancestors since 1599: “My parents told me about distant relatives who used to distil on the farm and I became really drawn into the romantic stories of illicit stills in the hills.”
Pursuing her interest, Helen decided to invest in some equipment, emphasising to the attentive audience that it’s all about one step at a time. “I bought small, copper, half-litre still from a street vendor in Portugal and, with the help of dozens of jam jars, vodka and juniper berries from my parents’ farm, I experimented for months before finally coming up with a recipe I was happy with.”
Crafting the brand
Giving girls an insight into branding considerations, Helen talked them through the thought-process behind her labelling: “Where you find pure water, you find plentiful fish and where you find plentiful fish, you find feeding herons; hence the logo.”
Water used in the gin’s distilling process flows off the foothills of the Cairngorm mountains and straight over her parents’ land.
Propelled by the very modern method of crowd-funding, Helen took pupils through the process of raising money online and getting investors to feel enthusiastic about taking a stake in your company: “Early adopters were real gin enthusiasts who wanted to learn – and talk – about the product’s provenance and authenticity. Generating good content is vital to create enthusiasm.”
Marketing, as with so much of the process, was a big learning curve. “I found that different age-groups preferred different methods of communication, the idea often has to be ‘sold’ in different ways.”
Pupils found the talk inspirational: “It’s really made me think about starting my own business,” said one. “There’s so much to think about but it just shows you what can be done if you put your mind to it.”
Helen’s visit to Kilgraston School was featured in Scottish Field magazine 5.3.20
In the Spring 2020 version of Independent School Parent magazine, Dorothy MacGinty, headmistress of Kilgraston School in Perth, analyses independent school bursaries, and why it’s essential that this investment in future generations continues…
“Contemplating the writing of this piece about independent school bursaries, I consulted my old friend, the trusty Chambers Dictionary, seeking its take on the definition of financial awards within the education industry. As ever, I was not disappointed.
A ‘burse’, it would seem, is the old Scots word for a purse. Ergo, the Bursar is, “a person who keeps the purse.” Those benefitting from the goodwill of the “treasury of the college” are described as being, “a pupil maintained at a university or school by funds derived from endowment.”
This is, of course, all accurate and reflective of the bare bones of the bursary award. For the real story though, we must complete due diligence and read between the lines…”
For further information about joining Kilgraston School, please refer to our Admissions Page
Discussing the School’s Woman and Business programme, Mrs MacGinty tells the magazine: “For pupils to hear from women at the very top of their specialist field is, I firmly believe, a rare and invaluable opportunity. It may well change the course of a young life“.
Read the full Business Insider independent schools supplement
- Patrick Sawer, Sunday Telegraph Senior News Reporter
19 January 2020
It has long been a rite of passage for young children; the moment they first begin to grasp how to tell the time as their parents patiently explain the significance of the “big hand” and the “little hand”.
But the ubiquity of mobile phones and tablets, with their digital 24-hour clock, is threatening to make the art of telling the time from a traditional timepiece redundant.
So much so that a school in Scotland has found that pupils as old as 13 are unable to tell the time from the ‘analogue’ clocks hanging in classrooms and corridors.
Teachers at Kilgraston School in Perthshire began to notice that more and more of its senior pupils had no concept of how to read a clock, or at best struggled to do so.
The problem had become so acute that it had even begun to threaten the girls’ exam prospects.
Dorothy MacGinty, head of Kilgraston, said: “Pupils sit in examination rooms with analogue clocks and we have found some who struggle to understand how much longer they have left for an exam because they cannot read the clock face.”
Now the school, in the town of Bridge of Earn, has begun to teach pupils to read a clock the old fashioned way, without resorting to their mobile phones.
In fact mobiles and tablets have been banned during school hours to encourage the girls to look at the clocks around the school.
Teachers began to notice that it was taking longer than normal to teach junior pupils how to tell the time, either because they were not being taught at home or were not receiving “regular reinforcement” from looking at their watches.
However, it quickly became clear the problem was not limited to the younger pupils.
Mrs MacGinty told The Telegraph: “Our head of maths, Mrs Stephanie Speed, mentioned to me that she was also becoming increasingly concerned as more and more senior girls who were joining the school lacked this basic skill.
“Additionally there are maths applications that need this skill. It’s a fundamental numeracy life skill. We are encouraging parents and guardians to buy wristwatches for girls from aged five.”
It’s certainly not a matter of lack of intelligence.
These are pupils, after all, who have happily mastered complex calculus and equations that would stump the majority of adults.
Photo credit: Stuart Nicol/The Telegraph
But just as, following the introduction of domestic electricity, there must have been a generation of children who had no idea how to light the gas lamps their parents had grown up with, the paradigm shift from analogue to digital technology has created a divide in everyday knowledge.
Mrs MacGinty insists however that there are some skills that should transcend the generations.
“Society is changing and the curriculum should change to reflect this,” she said. “But some skills are too important to ignore.
“For example, we are still teaching pupils to read rail and bus timetables, even though it is no longer in the senior school maths syllabus, because it is important that pupils understand how to read these.”
She added: “Having the ability to understand the movement of the minute hand and the hour hand around the face of a clock gives young people a tangible understanding of the passing of time, not just numbers changing on a digital screen.”
Since many of the pupils at the independent day and boarding school, founded in 1930, do not own a wrist watch they were initially reluctant about being separated from their precious mobile phones during the day.
But it appears the rule has had the desired effect of encouraging them to look up at a clock to tell the time.
“Initially I felt anxious about learning to read the time,” said one 13-year-old. “But when I realised that I was not alone learning it didn’t seem to be as scary. Now that I understand it, and we don’t carry phones with us, I find myself using the classroom and corridor clocks to read all the time.”
And as Mrs MacGinty says: “Wouldn’t it be very sad if we got to the point where a whole generation of young people looked at Big Ben in puzzlement?”
The story was followed-up by the Daily Mail on Monday 20 January 2020
“I was approached by Alyth Braithwaite, one of our Junior Years pupils, last term,” said Dorothy MacGinty, Head of Kilgraston, “she was particularly concerned about the effect of air-borne pollution, partially caused by idle engines, on young people and I decided to look into the situation.”
Brief investigation threw-up many shocking statistics about an idle engine: The British Heart Foundation’s website states, bluntly, that: ‘Babies and children are especially vulnerable to air pollution as their lungs are still growing and developing.’
Mrs MacGinty said: “Additionally, the Royal College of Physicians estimate 40,000 deaths a year in the UK are linked to air pollution, with engine idling contributing to this figure. Even living in a rural area we are not immune from the effects of pollutants, like PM10 or PM2.5, which penetrate deep into your lung tissue.”
Parent, Claire Alexander, sees the School’s move as very positive: “I think that the idling ban is especially encouraging as it is the children who are recognising and initiating the move. I am wholeheartedly behind the initiative and hope that everyone will join-in with the children’s enthusiasm.”
Kilgraston appreciates that often those offering a ‘taxi’ service to pupils often have to wait while their charges arrive at the chosen point. “We know hanging around for a child can be chilly work,” comments Mrs MacGinty, “so we have written to parents inviting them to come into the school, whatever the time, and wait in the warmth of Reception, rather than sit with their engine running in the car park.”
It’s not just little lungs that suffer
According to respected ‘auto’ website, Spark Plugs’, damage from an idle engine is not just inflicted on human recipients: “Excessive idling can damage your engine’s components, including spark plugs, cylinders and exhaust systems. Because your vehicle’s engine is not operating at its peak temperature when idling, fuel is only partially combusted, leading to a fuel residue build-up on cylinder walls. This is the gunk that can foul your sparkplugs and muck up your exhaust systems,” it says.
All part of the plan
Kilgraston’s no-idling policy dovetails closely with the School’s many environmental initiatives including the avoidance of single-use plastic and the discouragement of ‘fast fashion’, encouraging the use of vintage clothing.
“An independent school has recorded its best exam results in five years after it banned mobile phones.
Kilgraston School in Bridge of Earn imposed the ban last year and said it had found an immediate improvement in pupils’ concentration. Kilgraston lifted its phone ban for a Christmas carol concert to help pupils with the lyrics, but it was only staff who were browsing social media because the pupils had “got out of the habit,” Ms MacGinty said. Pupils and parents said that have noticed better communication, a reduction in anxiety and a warmer atmosphere both at home and at school since the ban.”
Read full article in The Times
Head of Kilgraston School, Dorothy MacGinty, also featured in The Independent over the festive break, discussing the need to be discreet and mindful of others while sharing your Christmas presents on social media…