Donaldson's College

Donaldson's School, in Linlithgow is Scotland's national residential and day school, providing education, therapy and care for pupils who are deaf or who have severe speech and language difficulties.

Headteacher and management team

Janice MacNeill is the Principal & Chief Executive of the Donaldsons trust she is assisted by the Headteacher Mary O'Brien and Depute Headteacher Carol Binnie.


Donaldson's was founded in Edinburgh in 1851 as Donaldson's Hospital by James Donaldson (1751–1830), who, for a time, was publisher of the Edinburgh Advertiser. The original benefaction allowed for special bursaries for poor children. Not all were deaf, although applications on behalf of deaf children were encouraged. From 1938, pupils were exclusively deaf. This benefaction was similar in style to the benefaction of George Watson, who founded and supported other schools in Edinburgh.

Queen Victoria is said to have been jealous of the landmark William Henry Playfair building in Edinburgh, apparently stating that it outclassed some of her palaces.

During a German air raid in 1916, much glass was destroyed by a zeppelin.

Move to modern school

After more than 150 years based in the Playfair building, Donaldson's finally concluded that the building was no longer fit for purpose. Many of the rooms were no longer in use, classrooms were unable to utilise the latest educational technology and the Trust could no longer afford to maintain the building. Therefore in 2003 the school's building was put up for sale and was purchased by Scottish property developer Cala Homes.

The school retained use of the building until a brand new, purpose-built Donaldson's campus opened in the nearby town of Linlithgow in January 2008. The new campus, which has facilities for up to 120 pupils, puts Scotland on the map as a centre of excellence for children who are deaf or have communication difficulties.

As a national Grant Aided Special School (GASS) supported by the Scottish Government the central location of the new site makes the facilities more accessible to pupils from all over Scotland and the north of England.

The new Donaldson’s was developed in collaboration with staff, pupils, governors, acousticians and architects. Its modern design is ideally suited to the needs of the pupils and is in keeping with its landscape and surroundings, being built with particular focus on energy efficiency and the environment.

Donaldson’s teaches pupils in an environment of total communication including the use of British Sign Language (BSL), Signed Supported English and spoken English, and caters for children and young people from two and a half years to 19 years. The curriculum is delivered by an interdisciplinary team of teachers who are supported by classroom assistants and residential care workers, providing round the clock education and care. The team includes: teachers of the deaf; speech and language therapists; an educational psychologist; an educational audiologist; a physiotherapist; an occupational therapist; deaf studies tutors; and subject teachers.

Shared teaching, sports and dining facilities form a hub linking two teaching wings — the nursery / primary and secondary schools. Both schools are grouped around individual play spaces with links and views across the surrounding area. Facilities include a gym, swimming pool, fitness room, dining room, library, and assembly hall as well as a "life skills room" and art studio. Classrooms, each of which accommodates six pupils, feature soundfield systems and interactive whiteboards.

To reinforce the separation of home and school and allow a much more domestic scale and feel, Donaldson's Lodge (residential accommodation) has 24 rooms placed in a separate building at the edge of the site. The modern building incorporates bedrooms split into three units with its own kitchen, dining and living space, providing a sense of community and family.

  • Donaldson's Former home in West Coates, Edinburgh

Building Activity

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