James Gillespie's High School

James Gillespie's High School is a state-funded secondary school in Marchmont, Edinburgh, Scotland. It is a comprehensive high school, educating pupils between the ages of 11 and 18, situated at the centre of Edinburgh. Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace are within the catchment area of James Gillespie's High School.[2]

James Gillespie's High School
Lauderdale Street


TypeState school
MottoFidelis Et Fortis
(Latin: Faithful and Brave)
FounderJames Gillespie
Local authorityEdinburgh City
Head teacherDonald J. Macdonald
StaffFTE 91.5 (2019)[1]
Age11 to 18
Enrolment1260 (2019)


James Gillespie's High School was founded in Bruntsfield Place in 1803 as a result of the legacy of James Gillespie, an Edinburgh tobacco merchant, and was administered by the Merchant Company of Edinburgh. The first class consisted of 65 students and one master. In 1870, the school moved into a larger building on the south side of what is now Gillespie Crescent. The number of students at the school would later exceed 1,000 and include female students.

In 1908, the Edinburgh School Board took responsibility for this school from the Merchant Company of Edinburgh Education Board.

In 1914, the school moved into the original Boroughmuir School building on Bruntsfield Links, which was previously used by Boroughmuir High School as an annex. The novelist Muriel Spark attended James Gillespie's High School from 1923-1935. She based the main character of her 1961 novel 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie' on one of her teachers, Christina Kay.

In 1935, Edinburgh Corporation acquired Bruntsfield House and its grounds from the Warrender family.[3]

The construction of the school on Lauderdale Street began in 1964 and was completed in 1966. The school became a secondary school for 800 girls. The project added three teaching blocks, a separate library, a swimming pool, and a gymnasium to the original Bruntsfield House building.

In 1973, the school became a co-educational comprehensive school, taking in boys and girls.[4]

In 1978, ownership of the school was taken over by Edinburgh District Council, and school uniforms became optional. At this time, the school also started to use an annex at 7 Gillespie Street to cope with the rising intake.

In 1989, the school moved to one site at the completion of an extensive building and modernization program.[4] Prior to the move, the high school divided the student population into four 'houses' — Warrender, Roslin, Spylaw, and Gilmore. The houses would compete in intramural sports events, etc. The house system lasted into the early 1980s. Since then, buildings on the high school campus have adopted the house names along with the addition of a new name, Bruntsfield. Each of the building names reflects a connection to the name of a locality in, or a historic family from, South Edinburgh.

In 2007, improvements were made to the school buildings after a state inspection found significant deficiencies in several of the 1966 structures. There was a campaign to build a new school.[5] Following consultation with parents, students, staff, and the wider community, building of a new school began on the existing site in December 2013. The estimated completion date was summer 2016.[6]

In July 2013, work started to replace all of the school buildings apart from the Bruntsfield House, which is a listed building. The campus was completed in August 2016 and was officially opened by John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister, on 26 October 2016. As of October 2016, it is composed of four buildings: the Bruntsfield House, the Malala Teaching Block, the Muriel Spark Performing Arts Building, and the Eric Liddell Sports Building.

In August 2017, following some re-organisation, the students were organised into one of five communities for the purposes of holistic support. These communities are named Lauder, Roslin, Spylaw, Thirlestane and Warrender.

An entertaining and comprehensive account of the school's history was written by John Macleod and published in 2016 to mark the completion of the refurbishment of the new campus.[7]


It is ranked as one of the top three state secondary schools in Edinburgh and is regularly ranked in the top ten schools in Scotland. In 2015, JGHS was awarded the Sunday Times accolade of being the Top State Secondary in Scotland.[8]

Àrd-sgoil Sheumais Ghilleasbuig

There is a Gàidhlig language unit within the school, catering for around 120 pupils, which allows those students who have been taught through the medium of Gaelic in Primary School (Bun Sgoil Taobh na Pairce) to continue with their Gaelic Medium Education.[9]



  1. "Scottish Schools Online: JGHS". Archived from the original on 26 May 2006. Retrieved 8 May 2008.
  2. "JGHS Catchment - Edinburgh Council" (PDF). Retrieved 8 May 2008.
  3. "Edinburgh, 57 Lauderdale Street, Bruntisfield House". Canmore. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
  4. "Our School". Jamesgillespies.edin.sch.uk. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  5. Rose, Gareth (12 June 2006). "£100m plan to upgrade five schools in Capital unveiled". Edinburgh Evening News. Archived from the original on 15 June 2011. Retrieved 8 May 2008.
  6. "BBC News - Work started on the new James Gillespie's High School in Edinburgh". BBC Online. 11 December 2013. Archived from the original on 27 May 2016. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  7. "Faithful & Brave: A Celebration of James Gillespie's High School by John MacLeod". Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  8. "Best schools in Edinburgh". Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  9. "Gàidhlig and Gaelic Learners". Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  10. "Ronnie Corbett, best known for The Two Ronnies, dies aged 85". BBC News. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
  11. "Rio Olympics 2016: Callum Skinner joy at 'amazing' cycling gold". BBC Sport. 12 August 2016. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
  12. "Olga Wojtas". Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  13. "Fidelis et Fortis". Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  14. "Obituary Alison Laidlaw". Retrieved 17 November 2018.

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