In most schools, lapses in pupil concentration are as inevitable as stained coffee cups in the staffroom.

However, there are no dry history lessons sending youngsters to sleep at one Scottish secondary.

At Dunoon Grammar School text books have been replaced with practical lessons outside the classroom.

History is taught with the help of curators from the local museum and pupils have been heavily involved in a multi-million pound plan to create an adventure park, learning business and finance skills along the way.

The school's unique approach has not only boosted attainment but has earned it global recognition.

Dunoon Grammar has been named a top three finalist in a competition which celebrates the world's most outstanding schools and has a top prize of $250,000.

Headteacher of ten years David Mitchell says he believes strengthening connections between pupils and local employers will have long-term benefits, resulting in fewer pupils leaving the area.

"One of the things I really wanted to introduce from day one was to make the curriculum one that was real and relevant," said Mr Mitchell.

"Young people learn better when they are doing rather than reading a textbook.

"We looked at our S1 and S2 curriculum and Curriculum for Excellence does give you the freedom to create a curriculum that suits your need," he added.

READ MORE: Alarm as pupils now reading less than at start of pandemic 

One of the biggest education partners is Dunoon Project, a group of local businessmen who plan to build an adventure park in the town.

The scheme would see a cable car installed to ferry passengers up the Kilbride Hill which rises above the town to a cafe and observation spot at the top.

Visitors will be given the option of a zip-slide ride down the hill over a distance of four kilometres or a trip in an “alpine coaster” – a type of rollercoaster which follows the contours of the land.

The plan aims to boost tourism, create jobs and bring investment into an area which has historically struggled to attract interest.

""The project now has a masterplan and the young people have played a huge part in this," said the head teacher proudly.

"Our young people created a junior advisory board and worked with the board of directors to give young peoples' views on what sorts of things they would like to be part of the project.

"They are learning about finance and project management and at the end of the day the young people won't have to leave Dunoon if they don't want to because there is going to be employment in this town again.


During the pandemic pupils helped organise live bingo sessions that were streamed into local care homes and visited elderly who were home alone.

They also ran events for children in local schools when they could not attend after-school clubs.

Mr Mitchell said their approach has led to a steady improvement in National 5 attainment.

"The skills and knowledge they are learning, it is paying dividends when they move into senior school," he said. "Attainment has improved.

READ MORE: Scots town's big plan to bring back the golden age of tourism

"With the educational reform that is going on now - where they are looking at national qualifications - I would like to be able to provide more real and relevant experiences for our senior pupils."

Dunoon Grammar has been shortlisted for the Community Collaboration prize, one of five run by T4 Education, a global organisation that provides initiatives for teachers to improve education.

Other prizes are awarded for environmental action, innovation, overcoming adversity, and supporting health lives.

Argyll and Bute Council’s Policy Lead for Education, Councillor Yvonne McNeilly, said: “This is an incredible achievement for everyone involved, and is a day that will go down in history."

Members of the public have until October 2 to tell judges who they think should win each prize at

The winners will be announced on October 19.