Partnership between GWC and Castlebrae Challenges Perceptions of Independent Schools

Partnership between GWC and Castlebrae Challenges Perceptions of Independent Schools

Published on 12 September 2019

Written and presented by Scottish rapper, journalist and social commentator Darren ‘Loki’ McGarvey, the new series Darren McGarvey’s Scotland explores our unique partnership with Castlebrae High School which has enabled pupils to access Mandarin Chinese language learning. 

The Watson’s-led Swire programme is a collaboration involving two other state secondary schools on the south side of the capital, James Gillespie's High School and Boroughmuir High School. 

The Swire Centre and Watson’s provide a team of seven teachers who teach across 22 schools in Edinburgh and East Lothian with two teachers at Castlebrae.

Funding provided by Watson’s has enabled Castlebrae, like other schools, to secure teaching provision. This had not been previously available due to funding and relatively small pupil numbers. 

The SWIRE programme has also enabled pupils at Castlebrae to travel on fully-funded trips to China. 

The documentary looks at rising levels of deprivation and poverty in Scotland and discusses economic and social inequalities. As part of the series, our pupils had the chance to hear Darren speak about his thought-provoking views on poverty and inequality and in turn challenge him on perceptions of independent schools. 

Norma Prentice, Principal of The Castlebrae Learning Community, said: “Our Mandarin teacher Brooke Walker, funded through GWC, has become a vital part of the Castlebrae community and her energy and enthusiasm for language learning transfers to the students, who have benefited so much from her teaching.  

“The opportunities for our young people, that have developed over the course of the two-year partnership, have been truly astounding, such as the trip to Beijing in October 2018.  

“These opportunities, combined with the forward-thinking initiative for the Independent and State sector schools to collaborate, support, share and learn from one another, has resulted in an innovative and positive partnership, that will also see a group of S4 students at Castlebrae this session working towards achieving National 5 Mandarin.”

As a result of the partnership, every S1 and S2 student at Castlebrae now has one period of Mandarin in addition to two additional periods of French and Spanish. Since Mandarin has now been embedded into the curriculum, S2 pupils now have the option to choose Mandarin as a main subject, with many of them keen to do so. Half of all S3 pupils taking Mandarin carry the subject on to S4.

Melvyn Roffe, Principal of George Watson’s College, said: “We take our responsibility as a charity very seriously. We firmly believe that you tackle inequality by creating opportunity. 

Hearing Darren McGarvey speak was undoubtedly an important experience for our pupils. Recognising, and attempting to address, the inequalities present within our city and the wider society of which we are all part is central to the ethos of our school. 

“We are proud of our work with local authority high schools, local charities and schools in places such as Malawi and India as well as promoting our extensive bursary programme.”

George Watson’s College was founded, in part, to ensure that children from all backgrounds could enjoy the same quality of education regardless of wealth. Three centuries on and Watson’s continues to take its charitable status seriously, working with the local community and internationally to address inequalities.

Darren Mcgarvey’s Scotland is a six-part series, airing every Tuesday on the BBC Scotland channel. 

The episode, featuring GWC pupils, is available on BBC iPlayer for 30 days.