Scotch College is the oldest continuing secondary school in Victoria. The school was founded by the Presbyterian Church of Victoria on the initiative of the first settled minister of the Presbyterian Church in the State, the Reverend James Forbes. Under the first Principal, Mr Robert Lawson, it was initially known as The Melbourne Academy. At this time, the school occupied a small house in Spring Street in the City of Melbourne.
New buildings were erected on a site in Eastern Hill in 1853, where the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre now stands, and classes commenced there the following year. Under the second Principal, Mr Alexander Morrison, the school grew and prospered for the 47 years of his leadership, from 1857 to 1903. Mr William Littlejohn took over as Principal of the school from 1904 to 1933. His successor, Dr Colin Gilray, served for a further 20 years, from 1934 to 1953.
The school owes much to the foresight of those who arranged the purchase of the present site of about 27 hectares at Hawthorn and to those responsible for the transfer of the school to this ’new and distant rural setting’. While the East Melbourne site greatly limited growth, the new site, with ample space for playing fields and direct access to the river, made it possible for the school to expand and develop into that which we know it to be today. The Hawthorn site was purchased in 1915 and by 1926 the transfer to the new site was completed, although many current buildings still had to be built. One of these was the Littlejohn Memorial Chapel, which was dedicated in 1936.
The school operated under the leadership of three Principals in the period 1953 to 1982: Mr Richard Selby Smith (1953-64), Mr Colin Healey (1964-75) and Mr Philip Roff (1975-81). It was during Mr Healey’s and Mr Roff’s tenure that the school fostered the idea of the ‘Scotch Family’ and established the Scotch College Foundation to provide financial support to the school.
In January 1983, Dr Gordon Donaldson arrived from Northern Ireland to head the school. Under his leadership, there were substantial changes to the school’s programmes and an extensive building phase was begun, including the construction of the James Forbes Academy for Music, Drama and Communication. The impact of these changes and new buildings continue to benefit the Scotch community.
In June 2008, Mr Tom Batty arrived from Eton College in the United Kingdom to commence his journey as Scotch College’s ninth Principal. Mr Batty’s time to date has focused on improving the knowledge of each Scotch boy and how he best learns, through pastoral care, academic care and physical setting. Mr Batty's tenure concluded in 2022.
In January 2023, Dr Scott Marsh commenced as the tenth Principal.
Today Scotch has a total enrolment of about 1890 boys, of whom 160 are boarders and 430 are in the Junior School, all on one ideally located campus – a far cry from the early days in a small Spring Street house in the Melbourne Central Business District. In addition to this, other properties are, however, owned and used. The school has 80 hectares of forest in the hills at Healesville and a residential camp at Cowes on Phillip Island. Each of these provides an opportunity for outdoor and recreational activities to be offered to boys of various ages.
Our Scottish Heritage
The school’s Scottish heritage is reflected in many aspects of the school’s life, from its Christian faith, its belief in a broadly-based liberal curriculum in the arts, sciences and humanities, and in a school culture forged in the tradition of Scottish egalitarianism. The School’s badge and flag, Scottish ceremonies, the pipes and drums, the cadet corps, music and cultural references, student exchanges, and the Presbyterian tradition embodied in assemblies, chapel services, religious education and pastoral care, all express the continuing vitality and symbolic importance of this tradition. The Old Scotch Collegians Association has its own pipe band, features Scottish ceremony at its major functions, and has established the Victorian Scottish Heritage Cultural Foundation with the Melbourne Scots.
Scotch College is a product of the enlightenment which swept through Scotland in the 18th Century. By the early 1800s, Scotland had a national system of education more comprehensive than anywhere in Europe with bursaries given to those of ability, but without means, to attend university. By 1830, Scottish universities boasted some 4,400 students (England, with a population eight times that of Scotland, mustered less than 3,000).
The foundation and character of Scotch were deeply influenced by the expression of the enlightenment at Aberdeen University. The school’s founder, Rev. James Forbes, was a graduate of Kings College, Aberdeen University, and Principals Alexander Morrison and William Still Littlejohn were likewise Kings College graduates. These men established the scientific and humane curriculum, and egalitarian and non-sectarian culture which has always characterised the school. Over the decades, these founding values have been fused with Australian optimism that all is possible with hard-work and innovation. It is a tradition of feeding the fire, not dying in its flames.
The Scotch College of today is a modern and dynamic Australian school, and our Scottish heritage continues to be celebrated as the foundation for the value we place on faith, reason and service and the role we believe education plays in empowering young people to take of control of their lives.