26 November 2018

In my last Thistle I wrote about the concept of what it means to be a truly independent school. Given we are in the throes of a federal election cycle, and in 2017 we will be facing a state election, it is a good time to remind ourselves of the significant role played by schools such as ours and many others across Western Australia and Australia.

Independent Schools in WA (this does not mean Independent Public Schools) educate 28,379 primary students, and 37,052 secondary, which in total represent approximately 16.2% of the WA school enrolment. There are 141 Independent Schools in WA, including 37 Primary, 7 secondary, 88 combined and 9 special schools. Since 2005 across Australia there has been an increase of 36 schools serving 83,881 students with a further increase in 87 campuses catering for 21,747 students. From 2005-2015, independent schools across Australia now educate an extra 105,628 students across 123 schools and campuses. In the same period WA has seen the addition of 20 new schools and campuses catering for an extra 17,885 students.

The most important thing to remember about independent schools is the right of choice for parents. Independent schooling offers different types of schools with varying educational philosophies to meet the social, economic and philosophical requirements of many families. This is why both state and federal governments, no matter what their political persuasion, will continue to support Independent Schools. No government could ever afford to replace the personal or financial commitment of parents who choose an Independent School education. It is our role to make sure all governments continue to support Independent Schools; this ensuring that parent choice is never diminished.

When you are only the 7th leader of an organisation that commenced in 1897 it is very easy to wonder how the concept of change and renewal can continue to eventuate.

One of my most enriching experiences occurred a couple of months before I formally assumed the mantle of Headmaster; this materialised in the form of a visit to our rural communities with the then Head of Boarding Marilynn Freitag. Why am I relaying this? The answer lies in an event that took place at Scotch on Thursday 26 May 2016.

Our Captain of Keys House Thomas Gooch, who I first encountered as one of his junior football coaches at Claremont JFC in 2011, organised 'Agricultural Day' a seminal moment in the history of our community. Last Thursday our Senior School campus was transformed into all that is great and unique about rural WA.

At Scotch one of our great differentiators is that we value supporting and enhancing our rural roots. We must never lose sight of our role in delivering an educational service to rural WA.

Scotch is now in a special position with the presence of boarders in our Middle School. This expansion has enhanced the education of all Scotch students.

What occurred on Thursday cannot happen without the underlying support of staff. In particular I want to acknowledge Mr Kyle - Head of Keys House and all staff, parents and guests who through their genuine commitment to our boarding community, enabled Thomas and so many of our boarders to deliver a very special day for all of us.

As Headmaster I am incredibly proud of our boarding community and the diversity it adds to Scotch.

When the next history of Scotch is scripted, Agricultural Day will no doubt feature.

There is much happening over the coming weeks across our three sub-schools. Thank you in anticipation of your support and participation.

Have a great fortnight

Dr A J O'Connell