The new Scotch Principal has an outstanding educational philosophy, strong views on current and future educational issues, and a deep passion for the role.
WORDS: DAVID ASHTON
In a letter to the Scotch Family during October, Scotch College Council Chairman David Crawford announced the appointment of Mr Tom Batty as the new School Principal. Mr Batty is expected to commence his duties towards the middle of next year.
Mr Batty, 45, is currently housemaster of Villiers House at Eton College in the UK. British born, Mr Batty holds Australian citizenship, after a number of years’ teaching in Australia, and he is a communicant member of the Church of England. Mr Batty is married to Lee, and they have two young daughters. Lee is an Australian who was born and educated in NSW.
Mr Crawford said Mr Batty’s appointment follows an extensive worldwide search for a new Principal, with the help of external consultants. ‘The Council was impressed by the quality of the applicants, which reflects well on the standing of the School.’
Mr Batty was educated at Burnham Grammar School, Buckinghamshire, and Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex, where he obtained a BSc Honours degree in mathematics and a Certificate of Education.
He first taught at Thames High School in New Zealand (1987–89), then St Patrick’s College, Wellington, New Zealand (1989–91). He then came to Australia, where he was a tutor at the University of NSW (1991–92). He then moved to Waverley College, Sydney (1992–96) before joining Eton, where he has been employed since 1996.
Mr Crawford said that during the selection process the Council was most impressed with Mr Batty’s educational philosophy, views on current and future issues in education and his commitment to and passion for the role.
Mr Batty sees education as a means ‘through which boys can take control of their lives and emerge confident young men adaptable to both complexity and variety. I believe in a values-based education that focuses on the whole child and a broad curriculum that sets the same standards from the classrooms to the Chapel via the playing fields, music schools and theatre.
‘Essential to my vision is the need to engender in each boy a strong sense of self and a desire to question, discuss and lead. All this, I firmly believe, is best achieved in a Christian setting.’
Mr Crawford said Mr Ian Savage will be Acting Principal in the period between Dr Donaldson stepping down and Mr Batty’s commencement towards the middle of next year. ‘We are indeed fortunate to have the knowledge and experience of Mr Savage to assist us during this time,’ Mr Crawford said.
Great Scot editor Tim Shearer recently spoke to incoming Principal Tom Batty. Their interview covered a range of issues – philosophical, educational and personal.
Tim Shearer: Please tell us about your career in education.
Tom Batty: My commitment to a life in education has its roots in the belief that education offers the means by which young people can take control of their lives.
From my university days in the UK I have been attracted, both on a micro and macro level, to the challenge of developing in boys a sense of self that enables them to learn without fear of failure, and grow into young men who are adaptable to both complexity and variety; young men ready for the responsibilities of adulthood, confident in their ability to shape and lead the communities in which they live and work.
An educational journey which took me from Thames High School to St Patrick’s College in Wellington before crossing first the Tasman to the University of New South Wales and Waverley College, and then the Indian Ocean and a number of continents to Eton, has provided the means to explore the strengths and weaknesses of a variety of approaches to schooling at a time of some change in education.
Education will always be a rich mixture of the practical and theoretical, as governments, schools and teachers look to refine the process of teaching and learning, in the quest to get each boy to become more than he thought possible.
TS: What is involved in your current appointment at Eton?
TB: The position of Eton house master is unusual, in that its origins lie in autonomous businesses which grew up around the college set up by Henry VI in 1440. Being an Eton house master has been likened to running a school within a school. It provides the opportunity to impact on a micro level for each boy, while shaping a community and, through various committees, being part of the running of a school of 1,300 plus boarders in an environment that is very much a ‘full-on’ boarding experience, geared to delivering the highest standards.
An Eton house master is responsible for recruiting boys at age 11 who start when they are 13, and for all aspects of their education until they leave at 18. I teach mathematics across the age range and have coached a range of sports, but mainly soccer and cricket.
TS: Can you please describe your educational philosophy for us?
TB: I believe in a values-based education that focuses on the whole child and a broad curriculum that sets the same standards and expectations, whether pulling on a football jersey, tuning a cello, learning lines for a play or preparing for the VCE. It should be a curriculum that targets the specific needs of each boy, as there can be few crimes in education worse than short-changing a boy on what is his one shot at the school years.
A school should be a place where boys come together to perform and compete to the best of their abilities, while discovering those individual interests and talents which will accompany them through their school years and beyond. It should be a welcoming, stimulating environment that promotes core values of self-worth, integrity, curiosity, tolerance and service, built around a community where all members feel a sense of ownership and confidence in how tradition and innovation are shaping the future.
At the core of a school lie its traditions – scholastic and spiritual – its current pupils and staff and the relationships which exist between them. Boys must be given the space and opportunity to question, initiate, lead and be of service to others. This is the strength of western democracy and the strength of our great schools. In a climate where it is all too easy to become anaesthetised to the suffering of others, it is essential to nurture a belief in boys that there is something more important than the messages being constantly flashed before their eyes.
TS: What are you most looking forward to as you come to Australia?
TB: I love the energy and space of Australia; the sense that there are still things to be done to keep the country ‘young’ and the people looking forward, in the belief that anything is possible. I like the accessibility of the natural beauty; the ease with which Australians can move between city, country and costal life, and I am looking forward to my children growing up confident in who they are and in what they can achieve. And then, of course, there’s the sport!
TS: What was it about Scotch College that appealed to you?
TB: I was very much aware of the first-class reputation of the Scotch staff and of their commitment to research and innovation. I knew Scotch to be a School that maintained the highest academic standards, while placing great value on each boy’s journey through the breadth of a curriculum strong in sport and the creative and performing arts.
I had met a few of the boys, mainly through cricket tours, and remembered their openness, curiosity and obvious loyalty to their School, not to mention a desire to compete in a spirit of fair play. I believe Scotch is a School built on strong traditions, but one committed to ‘feeding the fire’, which has at its heart the values of Christian teaching I share.
TS: What do you see as some of the challenges confronting education?
TB: One of the great things about education is that it never stands still, so we need to preserve traditions while ensuring that each new generation is receiving the very best deal on offer for their once-in-a-lifetime journey.
There are many interesting challenges ahead, not least that of delivering a values-based education against the backdrop of league tables and increasing measurement of performance. Then there is the need to ensure that the great strides in educational research continue to impact at the level of each boy in every classroom, and the challenge of delivering a pastoral care system that makes each boy feel valued in the dynamic environment of large schools, which can offer breadth, diversity and choice.
On the bigger picture, it must be remembered that education is at the forefront of determining the nature of societies we live in, and that there is a need for a strong, healthy educational sector for all Australians. These are some of the challenges I believe will continue to make boys’ education the most exciting and rewarding profession to be involved with in the coming years.
TS: What are some of your hobbies and interests?
TB: I am a keen sportsman, and played competitive soccer all my life until the younger players seemed to discover a way of becoming quicker that they wouldn’t pass on. I still kick a ball about, and play tennis, squash and a strange Eton game called fives.
I recently bought a road bike and took up cycling through the English countryside, and I am still here to talk about near misses with the traffic. I used to scuba-dive when I lived in Sydney and ski when I lived in New Zealand, and these are both things in the back of my mind to be revisited.
I love reading, both fiction and non-fiction – where I have a particular interest in the Eastern Front of World War II. I didn’t get to the ballet until I was 18, but it made a lasting impression, and I now have the pleasure of seeing my young daughters entranced by music and dance. As a family we enjoy travelling, eating out and, when the children finally go to bed, a glass of pinot noir. GS
Scotch College: ABN 86 852 826 445 ACN 005 650 395 CRICOS 00624A (Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students)