The Proud History of Our Edinburgh Girls School

Founded in 1888 by a group of Victorian women led by Dame Sarah Mair, St George's High School for Girls aimed to provide education to women who had been previously denied. Inspired by Friedrich Froebel, the founders sought to create a non-competitive environment where girls could develop their talents without a sense of failure. They established "St George's Hall Classes" in 1876 to offer education up to university level.

Our heritage: A legendary legacy of girls’ education

At St George’s, we’re immensely proud of our long history and our ability to balance tradition with innovation.

After all, we took the lead at every advance of the women’s educational movement in late 19th Century Scotland. Our female founders were prominent campaigners for the admission of women to Edinburgh University, founding special classes to degree standard, taught by sympathetic lecturers.

They founded St George’s Training College in 1886 to train women as teachers, the first of its kind in Scotland. Then, in 1888, they founded our school, at that time based in Melville Street, offering a full liberal academic education to the 50 girls registered for its opening day.

The courage of these remarkable trailblazing women resonates throughout the long history of the school and offers inspiration and values still relevant today.

St George’s values and ethos

Our Chaucerian motto, conceived in our 19th Century Melville Street building, is as relevant as it has ever been, and it continues to inform our values and school ethos:

Trouthe & Honour, Fredom & Curteisye

Truth: Seeking ‘truth’ is at the heart of our education programme at St George’s. Not only do we encourage our girls to be true to themselves, but we also prize creativity, innovation and a problem-solving mindset amongst our students.

Honour: We encourage every member of our community to be respectful towards one another and to behave with honour within and beyond school. Our mantra is that we welcome and value everyone, every day.

Freedom: Our girls have the freedom to be themselves at St George’s. We individualise each girl’s pathway through school and empower them to find their voice and believe in their own abilities.

Courtesy: The natural courtesy our girls extend to one another, their open-mindedness and willingness to reach out, is exemplified in how we reach out to each other, to the local Edinburgh community and to the world beyond our campus.

A history of female education

Equality in Education

St George's High School for Girls was founded in 1888 by a group of Victorian women, led by Dame Sarah Mair, who wanted to give women the education they had been denied. They were leading campaigners for the admission of women to Scottish universities and a full curriculum for girls of school age. Together they helped to change Scottish education.

The founders were inspired by the ideas of the German philosopher, Friedrich Froebel. They were determined to create a school where girls developed all their talents and worked to the best of their ability, but did not have to compete against one another or feel any sense of failure.

In 1876 they set up 'St George's Hall Classes' to provide teaching up to university level, either by attendance in Edinburgh or by correspondence courses.

First Training College in Scotland for Secondary School Teachers

Ten years later in 1886, they started the first training college in Scotland for women teachers in secondary schools. This was followed in 1888 with the creation of St George's School for Girls which put the finishing touches to their system.

Four years later, the Scottish universities finally admitted women and St George's students were among the first Edinburgh University graduates.

The early days in Melville Street

The school began in October 1888 in a converted house in Melville Street in the centre of Edinburgh, with Miss Walker as the first Headmistress. It had only fifty pupils.

In 1914, due to the growing number of students, the school relocated to a purpose-built facility in Ravelston and Murrayfield.

Find out about St George's Archives.

During World War II, the school temporarily moved to Hallrule House in Bonchester Bridge for the safety of staff and students. In 1944, they returned to Edinburgh and restored the school building.

In 1976, St George's merged with Lansdowne House, utilizing the latter's building for lower school girls.

St Margaret's was founded in 1890 by James Buchanan and flourished as a school offering education for girls until it closed on June 10th, 2010. Many girls came to St George’s from St Margaret’s to complete their schooling, but they retained their devotion to their old school. Find out about St Margaret's School.

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