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

Now the Federal election is complete, and there is still some way to go before we arrive at an agreed model of funding, it is important to continue to reaffirm why schools such as Scotch exist and what does it truly mean to be independent.

In WA, one of the more interesting educational developments over the last few years has been the implementation and growth of what are now called Independent Public Schools (IPS). The use of the term 'Independent' and the ensuing expansion of its use was a not so subtle way to blur what the term independent truly means in the broader community. In 2020 the Government will open yet another IPS, Subiaco College.

Just recently I was speaking to a parent who for some time had been challenged by his own siblings as to why he would commit a significant amount of his disposable income to send the boys to Scotch. Having recently experienced a few activities and witnessed the progress of his nephews, the person followed this up with a "now I see why" statement.

A couple of years ago, AISWA developed a statement about what the term 'independent school' truly means. This statement can be found on the AISWA website, but I thought it is timely to remind our community of the true test of what it means to be an independent school:

In recent years the Western Australia Government has introduced a category of schools within the government sector referred to as "independent public schools". The use of the word independent has created confusion and a blurring between genuinely Independent Schools and those now referred to as "independent" in the public sector.

The reality is that independent public schools have limited autonomy. Such public schools do not have the power to fully self-determine their operations. They are obliged to meet teacher awards (the Department of Education State Agreement) and workplace entitlements and are subject to a range of department policies and accountability requirements. These public schools have no separate legal status.

On the other hand, the following list illustrates some of the distinctive features of genuinely Independent Schools:

  • Each Independent School has legal status in its own right. Each school is separately constituted under its own constitution.
  • Independent Schools are owned and operated by a separately constituted association or organisation and as such, determine the strategic directions of the school whilst meeting all legislative requirements. Some Independent Schools are part of a small system within the sector and these have an independent governing body that makes determinations for the schools in that small system.
  • Independent Schools are separately registered by the Minister of Education and must have a constitution that outlines the structure, roles and responsibilities of the governing body.
  • The governing body of an Independent School is responsible for the strategic planning for the school, the selection and support of the principal and the financial viability of the school.
  • In an Independent School it is the school's governing body that is ultimately responsible for the welfare of students and the school and ensuring the school meets the standards required by the Education Act.
  • Independent Schools develop their own behavioural management and discipline policies that suit the needs and culture of their school and the community they serve.
  • Many Independent Schools have their own Enterprise Agreements (EAs) and others work under the conditions of the State Independent School Teachers' Award (1976) or the Federal Educational Services (Teachers) Award (2010).
  • Independent Schools develop their own culture, ethos and values system that is reflective of each Independent School's belief structure.

A key part to being independent is to promote brand and choice; this is our job. Why wouldn't we do this? A school such as ours offers a brand that commenced in 1897, a brand that is rich in academic and co-curricular culture and a brand that lasts well beyond the formal years of schooling. As our Old Scotch Collegians motto so rightly highlights, when you graduate from Scotch you graduate into a 'Community for Life'.

My reminder to our community is not to be distracted by pop culture politics querying why anyone would pay fees to receive an education when they can get it for a lot less somewhere else. The families I speak to make many financial disposable income sacrifices to send their son(s) to Scotch. The investment is for a life long journey as part of the community of Old Scotch Collegians; a community that is there for their professional and personal support of each boy well after they have completed the formal schooling years.

Recently I spoke to an OSC who proudly told me he would have five grandsons coming to the College he graduated from in 1954. In so many ways, Scotch 2019 is not the same College that existed in 1954; however, the College's strong sense of history and transmission of its heritage and culture continues today.

Put simply, all schools and sectors are different. It is educational choice that truly matters. I am a great supporter of all education sectors, Independent, Government and Catholic. In WA we are very fortunate to have many great schools that serve their communities very well across all sectors.

In closing, I believe our parents know why they made their choice of school. Hopefully when others who do not understand the true value of independence, or even worse, challenge the concept from a place of ignorance or bias, then the AISWA statement will place you in a better position to explain your decision to send your son to an independent school such as Scotch.

Our job as the current Scotch community is to continually reaffirm 'why Scotch' for your son(s).

Have a great fortnight.