Cargilfield Prep School

Welcome to Cargilfield

Cargilfield is the oldest independent boarding and day prep school in Scotland, for more than 300 girls and boys, aged 3-13 years. Each child has an extensive range of opportunities to learn, explore and discover before they leave Cargilfield to join leading senior schools across the UK.

Children leave with confident, lively minds, secure values and a sense of identity and community spirit that serves them well for their future lives. We achieve this by delivering a broad and challenging education in a supportive and caring family-led environment.

We pride ourselves on high standards of teaching and a coherent programme of learning from Nursery through to Form 8. This is perhaps best measured by the outcomes for our pupils.

In the classroom, we aim to take our children well beyond the conventional curriculum expectations for 13+, through a coherent programme of learning from the Nursery and early years towards success in Common Entrance and Scholarship examinations in Form 8.

We prepare girls and boys for senior schools all over the country, offering parents the choice of the very best schools in Edinburgh, across Scotland and the United Kingdom.

There are a broad range of abilities at Cargilfield but a combination of excellent teaching, high expectations and small classes (an average of 14-16 children per class) helps to explain our results.

Cargilfield is a family school, with boarding at the heart of what we offer; an extension of our family home and a place where children are valued members of the community and secure of their place in that community.

We play sport every day and creative activities such as music, drama, art and design are an important part of our curriculum. We also offer over 50 clubs that take place during the term, either during the day, the evening or on boarding weekends. Whether it be cooking or jewellery making, climbing or archery, skiing or fencing, debating or dance, your child will find something to enjoy at Cargilfield and develop interests for their future education and the rest of their lives.


Cargilfield is located on the south west side of Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city.

Nearest Airport: 15 minutes (4.7 miles)

Nearest Railway Station: Edinburgh Gateway – 12 minutes (3.3 miles)

Further information

With class sizes around the 14 mark and with the school not wanting to get any bigger it is certainly the case that all the children are well known to the staff as individuals. The staff are keen to ensure that all pupils thrive and are prepared to go the extra mile to achieve this. Cargilfield has an excellent record at the Scholarship and Common Entrance level to senior schools all over the United Kingdom. There were 27 scholarships awarded by 12 different schools at the end of the summer term in 2012.

We see ourselves as a school that tries to ignite enthusiasm and build confidence. We hope that every child finds something that they are passionate about, and subsequently feel good about themselves, so that the next step is one they are comfortable about and ready for.

We prepare boys and girls for senior schools all over the United Kingdom.

We are keen that sporting opportunity is for all our pupils here. The concept of pulling on the school strip and representing the school, winning or losing with grace, and acting in a dignified manner is crucial for all pupils. At the top end we are keen to develop and stretch our coaching staff and their international experience.

We aim to instil independence for our pupils. We are delighted that there is no such thing as a “Cargilfield type” and that our pupils leave full of confidence. Equally as they progress through the school we talk to you the parents about what schools you may aspire and whether they fit with the interpretations of your child. Getting “the hand to fit the glove” is a crucial bit about what we do here.We are unusual as we don’t set homework for our pupils (we work them hard enough when they are here). Equally we are a 5 day week school. The result is that we enable families to still be families, and for there to be positive time at home. Should you wish to board, we have a range of boarding options that provide complete flexibility for your busy lifestyles, including a day option from 8am to 8pm.

Our location is the envy of many Prep Schools. We have the great outdoors on our doorstep, for our camps and activities only 15 minutes away, and yet our pupils can be in the museums and theatres of Edinburgh city in only 15 minutes in the other direction.


“Cargilfield is in extremely good heart at present and what is so impressive is the quality of the staff and their commitment to all aspects of the way of Cargilfield life, both within and out of the classroom.” 

Andrew Hunter, Headmaster of Merchiston

“We currently have six Cargilfield children at Oundle and all are thriving. They have been well-prepared for life here; they come across as calm, confident and assured; they are generally bright and understated. They make a fundamentally good impression for the right reasons and are noticed within the Oundle community, containing many talented children, for being contributors with high standards. We greatly value our connection with Cargilfield.” 

Charles Bush, Headmaster of Oundle

“Cargilfield is a school which values the individual and allows each boy and girl to develop their own strengths. The children are celebrated for who they are and grow into happy, well-adjusted young adults.” 

Fr Gabriel, Headmaster of Ampleforth

Admissions & Fees

You will find detailed information about Cargilfield on our website but since deciding on the right school for your child is very important, we believe that a personal visit is essential and we would want you and your child to visit the School before we offer a place. Please contact Fiona Craig, our Registrar on 0131 336 2207 or to arrange a visit which will include a private tour and a meeting with the Headmaster and his wife. This will enable us to spend time with you and to explain the nature of Cargilfield and our admissions process and to help us all to arrive at the right decisions for your child.

Points of Entry

Admission to Cargilfield is generally via our Nursery for children aged 3-5 although we do also accept a significant group of children into P1 aged 5-6 and at other ages throughout the School. It would be unusual for us to accept a pupil into Form 8 for only one year as this would offer very limited time to prepare a child for Common Entrance or Scholarship examinations.

The Assessment Process

We look to accept a broad range of abilities and do not have a selective entry system. Nonetheless, our pupils are all expected to sit either Common Entrance or Scholarship exams in their final year at Cargilfield. The nature of this curriculum is demanding and goes beyond normal expectations for children of this age. While we feel that we can offer this more demanding curriculum to a broad range of abilities through good teaching, small classes (an average of about 15-16 children per class and a maximum of 18 per class) and high expectations, there may be some children who will not benefit from this challenge at this stage.

With that in mind, we do conduct a short assessment for pupils joining the school:

  • For Nursery pupils, this comprises a general observation of how children behave and interact with others, and a short play based assessment activity. These are designed to check whether developmental milestones have been met and children are ready for the challenges of a schoolbased nursery. Entry into the Nursery does not guarantee a subsequent place in P1. However, it is very unusual for a place not to be automatically offered. There are however, rare occasions where we feel both our expectations, and the nature of the curriculum on offer would not suit a child. In this instance, we would have an initial conversation with parents before Christmas in the final year of Nursery and would, even then, expect to review their progress across the next two terms.
  • For pupils looking to join Cargilfield in P1, the process also comprises a general observation along with a more detailed assessment of early numeracy and literacy skills. This is to ensure that a child has the basic skills necessary to access the P1 curriculum.
  • For pupils entering the school after P1, we wish to ascertain that children will be suited to the nature of a Cargilfield curriculum. We, therefore, gather more specific information by carrying out standardised testing in English and Maths along with classroom observations and, for older children, there is sometimes an interview with the Headmaster.

Bursary programme

The Governors of Cargilfield are pleased to offer means-tested bursaries aimed at children who might not otherwise be able to attend the School but would, in the opinion of the Governors, benefit from the education at Cargilfield and an on-going independent school education. The School offers a limited number of awards each year to pupils joining Form 4 or above. In this case, both parents are required to provide proof of their income and assets. The level of support depends upon parental need but can be extended to full fee remission in cases of proven need. All bursary awards are subject to an annual review of parental means and may vary depending on changing parental circumstances. It may sometimes also be necessary to operate further checks such as home visits as part of this review.

Boarding Fees per Term£6,481
Day Fees per Term£3,427 - £5,281
Registration Fee£75