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Aberdeen school to close boarding due to pandemic impact

Albyn's boarders queue up for lunch.

Aberdeen’s Albyn School is to close its boarding school as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Queen’s Road institution began offering accommodation to pupils from China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Holland each year.

Bosses said after the Albyn boarding change, they are going to concentrate their efforts on supporting the city community and the surrounding areas.

It said the coronavirus had made it clear that boarding “was not a sustainable option” for the independent school.

Founders created Albyn School in 1867 as an all-girls institution before becoming co-educational in 2005.

Boarders at Albyn School in 1989.

School to focus on youngsters from city

Stefan Horsman, headmaster at Albyn, said the Albyn boarding change means they will be looking to work alongside families in the city and surrounding area.

He said: “The closure means we will be able to focus all our efforts and energies on children and families who live in the local area.

“Boarding was reintroduced in 2016 following the oil price slump that hit Aberdeen badly in 2014 and was seen as a way of diversifying the school’s income stream.

“Numbers were always small and in any case were limited to eight students by the size of the boarding house which was on Great Western Road.

“In practice, both recruitment and providing a full boarding programme were challenging and drew resources and focus away from recruiting local children and families.

“The pandemic proved a challenge too far, not just for recruitment but also because of the restrictions on international travel and the associated quarantining rules.

“The decision to close boarding permanently was taken in September 2021 and followed the decision to temporarily suspend boarding recruitment for the 2021-22 academic year.”

Boarders from Albyn School.

High-profile pupils attend West End school

Albyn School has a long list of high-profile former pupils although none of them boarded at the Queen’s Road institution.

Miss Myra MacKenzie, was the first woman to graduate with a degree in medicine from the Aberdeen University in 1900.

Mrs Jessie Budge Hutcheon was the school’s PE and dance teacher between 1918 and 1924 and she still has links to the school with three of her great-grandchildren now attending.

More recently  Timi Fatona swapped life at Albyn for a career as a professional footballer with Aberdeen FC.

And continuing on a sporting theme Paralympic swimmer Toni Shaw competed at Tokyo 2020.

Albyn headmaster Stefan Horsman.

Headmaster hopes to widen access to school

Mr Horsman said that the school wants to be able to offer places in their classrooms to those from the poorest backgrounds.

He said they have spoken to primary schools in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire so they can highlight 40 youngsters who could qualify for bursaries to access Albyn.

He said: “We are a school in the heart of Aberdeen’s West End, in a safe and accessible location for the many families that live right around us, so we are really keen to attract these local families.

“This fits in particular with an increasing agenda to become a more sustainable school and to do our bit to limit car travel amongst those who live close enough to walk or cycle.

“We are very keen to widen access to our bursary provision which provides fee assistance to almost 40 of our S1-6 pupils nearly all of whom pay no fees at all to attend Albyn.

“To this end, we have reached out to all the primary schools in the City and Shire which fall into the lowest two quintiles of the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation to encourage head teachers to recommend pupils who would benefit from the broad academic curriculum that Albyn offers.”

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