Tilda Swinton's school in Scotland has no exams

Drumduan Upper School teaches its students life skills and practical things

By Andrea Tim | Published: 19 Jun 2015

Tilda: No exams!
Photo: Kristina Bumphrey/

Drop your textbooks, everyone. Tilda Swinton is redefining education with her school. We're all too familiar with how most education systems take students through courses and subjects that many will forget or not use at all once they leave school.

The Drumduan Upper School in Moray, Scotland is not like that. "There's no grading, no testing at all," Tilda, the school's co-founder, told The Observer. "My children are now 17, and they will go through this school without any tests at any time, so it's incredibly art-based, practical learning. For example, they learn their science by building a Canadian canoe, or making a knife, or caramelising onions. And they're all happy 17-year-olds. I can't believe it – happy and inspired."

Sounds really artsy, but that is the whole point of Drumduan. Tilda's children went to Moray Steiner School, where she and fellow parent Ian Sutherland McCook wanted the board to create an upper school for its graduates. That didn't work out, so they ventured into it on their own.

Fees are admittedly on the high side; £7,500 a year, with a 25% reduction for second and subsequent siblings. But think of the kind of education kids get there. Core subjects like math, science and language are still focused on, but there is a nice balance of that and cool activities such as cave-exploring and collecting honey to name a few. Drumduan is also big on music, so students' talents are honed through regular workshops.

After all, it's all about giving the students the platform to develop their creative potential, and creative people is exactly what this world needs. Students are also encouraged to document their own learning process in place of examinations. But even that's not the best part, if you take a closer look at their curriculum. (TBH, they already had us at "no exams.")

Related: Michelle Obama in London to promote Let Girls Learn charity


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