The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

What do we actually want for our boys?

I often wonder what the purpose of school is. As each Year 12 group leaves, I wonder whether we have done enough, and what else we could have done to ensure that they were better prepared for life beyond school. The continued focus on ATARs and league tables is something which distresses and disheartens me. So much of a school's productive energy is directed towards the academic sphere of a young man's world, I wonder how we will ever have the courage to release our grip on this and allow other aspects of a young life to flourish more.

I think school is about providing a foundation upon which a young person can build a life. As adults and parents, we must be careful not to carry pre-determined views as to what that life should look like; I think we focus far too much on what kind of course or job they will do rather than what type of person they could be. Certainly, we should be providing them with the benefit of our own experiences in life but, ultimately, we should contribute to them becoming independent yet connected, autonomous yet having a sense of belonging, and determined yet flexible. This is why we have adopted the three pillars of Respect, Resilience and Relationships as the basis for our Wellbeing programmes.

As long as young people feel capable of engaging with the activities they love, dealing with the difficulties they will face, and contributing to making the world a better place, I am not sure we should be wanting anything more for them. What form those things take should, by and large, be up to them. As long as they do not harm themselves or interfere with other people's experience of life, an individual should be free to make his or her own choices in life.

Keeping one's options open is logical, but at some stage, each of us has to make a choice regarding which option to take. I have often seen people paralysed by having too much choice. Perhaps, in the end, it is much better to be able to adopt a positive attitude towards the choices we make rather than having a huge variety of options from which to choose.

The simple questions I ask myself about the boys and young men I see each day are, "What kind of a man do we want him to be?" and, "What kind of person is he becoming?" To answer these, we should look at how they treat themselves and others and what they do for others. I think you can learn a lot about a person when you see them dealing with something which is outside of their normal range of experience. It is interesting to see how they react and interact with others when they do not realise they are being watched. Perhaps most telling is to see what they do when they are dealing with someone who is less powerful than them or who cannot do anything for them. And more often than not, I am extremely pleased by the common decency which I see.

Harmony Day

In Week 8, Captain of School, Harry Gilchrist spoke at both Middle and Senior School assemblies about Harmony Day (21 March). This is a day to celebrate the richness of humanity, to appreciate the diversity of life and the benefits of seeing the world differently. At a time when it seems easier for people to cling to tribalism in so many forms, and to fear what is different, it is crucial for us to encourage our boys to look at the world with curious eyes and open hearts to ensure that they can see a positive collective future. Harmony Day is something we will be working to celebrate more widely in years to come.


The 'Brain Reset' sessions for Year 11 and 12 have been very well attended, and a number of students have attended multiple sessions. These will continue on Monday and Wednesday for the last two weeks of term, and then will run on Monday and Tuesday in Weeks 1 and 2 of Autumn Term. The more sessions your son attends, the greater the benefit. Please do not foster in or accept from him the excuse that he is too busy. There is nothing more important than him being able to relax his body when it is stressed, to calm his mind when it is crowded with thoughts, and to focus his attention when he faces adversity.

Last Friday, we conducted a whole year experiment with our Year 9s, running a massed mindfulness meditation session in the PE Centre. We spoke with the boys beforehand about the science behind mindfulness and the benefits of regular mindfulness, and then Helen Heppingstone ran a 'Brain Reset'-style session for the boys. It was an incredible occasion; to see over 160 teenage boys engaging with this new skill was remarkable to observe. It was a great start and we will be conducting another session this coming Friday 5 April.

A number of our staff attended a presentation from Mindful Meditation Australia (MMA) on Tuesday night, which is the organisation with whom we are working to train staff and to embed mindfulness in our school. The session was aimed at families and how to incorporate mindfulness into daily life at home, as well as making families more aware of what is being done in school. We will be working with MMA to bring a version of this workshop to Scotch for our parents.