Harmeny Education Trust

Updated: Apr 3, 2019

Tucked in to the foothills of the Pentlands, at the upper end of Balerno village, you will find Harmeny Education Trust, a national, sector leading children’s charity. At its residential school, an amazing, passionately motivated team of teachers, carers and support staff provide nurture and education for 30 of Scotland’s most vulnerable children.




Currently supporting 5-14-year olds, the children referred to Harmeny from all over Scotland have huge and complex social, emotional and behavioural needs. Despite the love that does exist in pockets of their lives, their early years have often been marked by the extremes of abuse and neglect and most have been in care from a very young age. More likely than not, they’ve been passed from pillar to post; by the time they arrive at Harmeny they may have had as many as 12 placement breakdown experiences. Family members, foster carers, children’s homes and local authorities have all found themselves unable to address the demands of a child’s challenging behaviour and as a result, through no fault of their own, these children find themselves excluded from school, stigmatised, isolated and misunderstood.


The results are devastating.


Roddy’s early years were spent living with his mother, exposed to her drug use, self-harm and poor mental health. His dad was a frequent drug user, which meant Roddy knew high levels of domestic violence and emotional abuse. Often sullen and sad, Roddy would tell carers that he was “bad boy”.


With such a start in life, unsurprisingly Roddy didn’t trust adults, didn’t know how to form appropriate relationships, couldn’t cope with any kind of conflict, and had language skills that were way behind those of other children of his age. And while there is no such thing as a typical child at Harmeny, many other children there would recognise Roddy’s experience.

What Harmeny has given Roddy is the chance to find his best self again – he has re-learned how to play and make friends, and knows that he is part of a community committed to his wellbeing and future.


This total belief in the possibility of re-connecting children with their own families and communities drives the school’s staff. It’s all about relationship-building, and parents and carers feel it too. As one carer put it, “When I walk through the gates of Harmeny, I feel as if I’m visiting family.”


Kieran, a past pupil of Harmeny – now grown up and with a child of his own – talks about his own childhood experience of neglect, but says the impact that Harmeny had on him made all the difference. “From Day One the support and attention I was getting at Harmeny was a million times more than at home. It was all the little things. They gave you a childhood. The stuff I’d never have got at home.”


Big into outdoor activities and sport, Kieran’s Harmeny memories are dominated by football, bikes, running and, in the summer, trips further afield into the big outdoors. These were fun, he says, but they also broadened his horizons in other ways. He realises now that he was being trusted by adults – to try new skills, to play independently with others, and to be a responsible member of a group.


Harmeny wants to do more. It wants to develop and expand access to its services and has set a goal to raise £2.4 million through its Learning for Life Appeal. Harmeny’s children learn through doing: through outdoor activities, social enterprise projects, and creative opportunities. But the current learning and outdoor centre is cramped, inflexible and too cold to be used for months at a time.

The children at Harmeny are incredible survivors. Like all children, they have innate talents and skills which, once discovered, play a crucial role in their recovery and their ability to cope with adversity throughout their lives. Help them regain their childhoods. Help Harmeny turn their lives around.

Harmeny wants to build a new centre to provide year-round access to its bike maintenance and outdoor skills workshops, and provide more space for the art, design and technology opportunities that offer inspiration and therapy for the children. This new centre will also enable Harmeny to help more vulnerable children. The school will be able to extend the age range of the children it can work with, and share its skills and facilities with secondary schools in south west Edinburgh; helping other children at the risk of exclusion.


Harmeny needs your support to achieve this goal.

Help raise funds by joining the Harmeny team at the Edinburgh Kiltwalk – a fabulous, flexible fundraising day out in the capital on 15 September. Or conquer new heights for Harmeny by signing up now to abseil 165ft off the iconic Forth Rail Bridge on 6 October – an exhilarating experience that you’ll never forget.

Alternatively, if you’ve other fundraising ideas or would like to donate to the Appeal get in touch at fundraising@harmeny.org.uk or 0131 449 3938.


Harmeny is hugely grateful to all those who have already helped raise over £750,000 through donations, cake bakes, sponsored judo throws, car washes for Porsches, and even a trek to Everest Base Camp!


Visit www.harmeny.org.uk to find out more or follow them on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest news and opportunities to get involved.


The children at Harmeny are incredible survivors. Like all children, they have innate talents and skills which, once discovered, play a crucial role in their recovery and their ability to cope with adversity throughout their lives. Help them regain their childhoods. Help Harmeny turn their lives around.




Harmeny Education Trust Limited, Harmeny School, Mansfield Road, Balerno, EH14 7JY. Registered Scottish Charity No SC024256


Published in Konect April 2019

Author: Harmeny Education Trust

© 2020 Lothian Publications Ltd

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