Hello and welcome to George Watson’s College.
I’ve been thinking what’s important that you should know about the School and I’ve come up with three things.
First – it’s a big school. When I’m standing on the stage in Assembly looking out on 1,300 maroon blazers it seems like a big school indeed. But for the rest of the time it doesn’t. Why? Because of the systems and the people. Sound, tried and tested systems and excellent people – Class teachers in Junior School, Form Tutors and Heads of Year in Senior School.
And I’ve never before come across a school where staff are so willing to go the extra mile – often, literally the extra hundred miles or more – for Primary School trips to York and London, for S1 Orientation or the S3 Projects which are such a memorable part of the Watson’s experience.
The care we take of the needs of pupils whether they are educational, emotional or practical is genuinely second to none.
So once we’ve dealt with the potential disadvantages of a big school what you’re left with are the advantages of a big school – the huge range of activities, the wider subject choices, the scope to find people who are like you and like the things you do.
Knitting Club, Cubs and Scouts – our troop has been in existence since 1908 – Unicycle Club… the list changes every year, due to demands of pupils and the talents of our staff.
And that’s why we can provide excellence across a wide range of activities. Yes, we’ve a proud rugby tradition – but our pride in success in rugby is at least matched by our pride in hockey and rowing and music and drama and our international links and scouting and yes, knitting and unicycling. And of course, at least one of our former pupils got rather good at riding on two wheels, too.
We’re big enough to be Jack and Jills of all trades and masters and mistresses of most.
The second thing you need to know is that we take academic excellence really seriously. But perhaps we define it slightly differently to some other schools.
It matters to us that not only that pupils get the best grades they can but also that they have the highest quality and widest range of intellectual opportunities that they can.
That approach starts in the Junior School with a curriculum that combines a class-based structure with specialist teaching in Maths, PE, Drama and Modern Languages. And we’ve got the scale and scope to do that really well.
And when you look at the examination results that our pupils achieve bear in mind that at Watson’s we have an open presentation policy. Pupils are never prevented from taking a course or an exam for fear of what it might do to our examination statistics.
What matters to us is what matters to them.
To us, academic excellence also means the breadth of qualifications we provide.
And the third thing that you need to know is that when we talk about the Watson’s family – it’s not just a gimmick or a slogan. The Watson’s Family is our way of saying that we work with parents in the exciting yet often challenging business of bringing up and educating children.
It’s our way of saying that, just like a family, we are interested in who our pupils are and not just what they can do.
And it’s our way of saying that our pupils’ relationship with their school is about much more than just their lessons or the grades at the end of their careers. It’s emotional. It becomes part of who they are. And for many of them it’s an anchor for them for the rest of their lives – whatever they do and wherever they go.
I’ve met people with 70 years of association with the School. I’ve met families that can trace their connection to the School back over six generations. Watsonians meet across the world.
The Watsonian family is big and friendly – and has the advantage that we don’t all have to meet up at Christmas.
Our School Motto is ex corde caritas – Love From The Heart. It expresses the charitable intentions of our Founder which are still reflected in the activities of our Family Foundation, enabling children whose own families could not otherwise afford for them to come here to benefit from this extraordinary place.
Part of our School crest is a tree. It has a stout trunk. It is solid and dependable.
And the tree has both roots and branches.
It’s a good image for a school. We want our pupils to have deep roots in this community and its values. We want them to feel cared for and to care for others in turn. But we also want them to challenge themselves, to branch out with confidence and embrace the opportunities of a future that our Founder could never have imagined.
So those are the things that I think you ought to know about Watson’s.
But don’t rely on what I say, come and visit us and get a feel of the place for yourself. Because the really important things aren’t the things I think are important – they are the things that you think are important.