Brave Hearts, Bold Minds

The Scots College

The Scots College is teaching boys to live life with Brave Hearts and Bold Minds. “That is one of the key things we set out to do,” Principal Ian PM Lambert shares.

The Scots College motto and guiding philosophy is all about creating tomorrow’s leaders today, he explains. “We believe that they should be taught how to lead and be encouraged how to lead. And leadership requires a certain amount of bravery – standing up for what’s right, standing for justice.” Boldness is just as crucial. Successful leadership involves “pushing boundaries and seeking new pathways or new ways of thinking about doing things,” Dr Lambert points out. “We want boys to be very bold in the way that they think about the world and their own learning journey. The world will constantly pose problems and bold thinkers are the ones who actually come up with solutions.”

The vision to create Brave Hearts and Bold Minds draws from a proud Scottish heritage and has developed over a 120 year history of academic excellence. The Scots College was founded back in 1893 and has been “raising fine young men” ever since. Today, the Sydney day and boarding school boasts 1900 students and maintains a reputation as one of Australia’s oldest and most respected institutions of learning.

The school’s roots still run deep. For instance, The Scots College’s heritage is clearly evident in its admissions practices. “We have a lot of diversity within our school,” Dr Lambert explains. “I think that comes from that Scottish Presbyterian theology and philosophy of all human experience being valuable and all people having something to contribute. On that basis we are not a selective school.” The administration does not admit students based on a narrow range of criteria; instead, “We always encourage talent across a broad range of areas.” And, this broad range of talent is regularly on display through a range of co-curricular activities, from sporting and the arts to Cadets and community service. “All of our boys are required to be involved in a lot of different areas,” Dr Lambert explains. As a result, being well rounded is the rule at The Scots College, not the exception.

The Scots College Pipes and Drums band is an excellent example of the school’s ambitious co-curricular programs, as well as its Scottish heritage. The famous band is the largest of its kind in Australia, and, Dr Lambert adds, “we believe possibly the largest pipes and drums band in the world.” Established in 1900, the band has earned international renown. For instance, in the 1970s it was the first juvenile band in the world to be invited to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. More recently, the band performed at the 2012 Tattoo to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The Pipes and Drums Band is also an integral part of the Scots College 120 year anniversary celebrations this year. The administration is actively reminding students, parents, and the community of the school’s heritage via a series of concerts and parades, as well as special services, events and even the dramatic release of 120 white doves during the school’s annual Parade of Remembrance.

The Scots College is also busy moving forward; in fact, the school is in the midst of several exciting new developments. One of the most significant is the construction of an innovative business studies centre. The Scots College has always had one of the strongest business and economics programs in the country, Dr Lambert explains, so creating a dedicated centre for these studies is quite exciting. “We have one of the largest cohorts of students studying in economics, business studies, law and accounting,” he reports. “And a number of our alumni are significant leaders in that area.” The building will be as leading edge as the programs that it will house. “It will not look like a school when you go inside,” Dr Lambert explains. “That is the whole idea of the design. It will have a very beautiful, classical exterior, but when you walk in there, it will look like you are going into a creative space, a stock market floor, a boardroom or a collaborative business workspace.”

This intriguing interior is as practical as it is aesthetic. “The furnishings will [promote] flexible learning and teaching,” Dr Lambert points out. “It will also have some function spaces so we can bring key leaders in to engage the boys. It will be a teaching and learning space but also a community space where we can bring global knowledge to the boys so they can be inspired about business.” Providing students with a solid business education, as well as related mentoring opportunities, is crucial, Dr Lambert insists. “It doesn’t matter what you do – whether you are selling lemonade or playing music or trying to build buildings – success is built around a good business understanding. So there are some generic business skills that are important in life in order to move from ideas to reality. So we want this centre to be a place that is really a generator or incubator of ideas.” The business learning centre is already under construction and will be ready to help students generate new ideas sometime next year.

The second major development project is taking place near the school’s Glengarry campus and will add to The Scots College’s already impressive adventure education program. Currently, Year 9 boys spend an entire six months living and studying at the Glengarry campus, which is located about two hours south west of Sydney in the pristine Kangaroo Valley. The boys take part in a number of character and team building activities there, including kayaking, caving, mountain climbing, sailing, and horseback riding. “Adventure is very important,” Dr Lambert explains. “It is about character development and risk taking – understanding risk and understanding the dangers, but also pushing boys out of their comfort zone and into their courage zone. It is about putting them in a different setting with different challenges. That becomes a real rite of passage for the boys.”

Now, after receiving a generous 750 acre donation, the Scots College will be able to take its adventure program to the next level. Currently still in the development stage, the new site will become a multifunctional education centre focusing on experiential education, sports and adventure learning for Scots’ students of all age groups. The new campus will also welcome family members to participate in parent-student adventure programs, and science and health and local community projects will also be explored. Students will delve into everything from marine science to local indigenous health programs to sustainable farming practices. “This is going to add an amazing dimension to the College that we haven’t had before,” Dr Lambert remarks.

The Scots College is also working hard to ensure that promising young men are able to take advantage of all the school has to offer, regardless of means. Clearly, world class facilities don’t come cheap; nor does the school’s commitment to maintaining the very best educational practices. The school’s single greatest expense, Dr Lambert reports, is teacher salaries. “We have very low student to teacher ratios,” he explains. “That means we have more teachers for our students than many other schools do. That tends to be the majority of the cost in a school.” The multitude of enrichment programs, from sailing to snowsports, add to the expense as well. “It is an expensive school,” Dr Lambert admits. “So the challenge for us is, how do we maintain affordability? How do we maintain our diversity to make sure that we don’t just become a school for those with significant financial resources?” Bursary funds play a key role. “We have been working very hard with our foundation and with our Old Boys Union to establish bursary funds,” Dr Lambert reports. For instance, The Scots College boasts a bursary fund specifically for indigenous boys, and the school fully funds 18 indigenous students. “That is quite an expensive project, but a very important one for an Australian school,” Dr Lambert points out. The school is currently working to increase subsidies even more. Slashing unnecessary spending will also play a crucial role. “As financial demands increase, we have to keep trying to reduce waste and make sure we are spending in the right areas.”

After 120 years, The Scots College is still providing an excellent education to a diverse group of boys – and is eager to continue “raising fine young men.” Indeed, the administration has a number of initiatives in mind for the near future. “There are lots of exiting future plans,” Dr Lambert reports, and all of them will ultimately lead toward creating more brave hearts and bold minds. “Our vision,” Dr Lambert summarises, is that “Scots boys will be fine young men of integrity and principle who will support each other in their quest for excellence.”

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December 19, 2018, 5:32 PM AEDT