Gordonstoun was founded in 1934 by Dr Kurt Hahn, formerly Headmaster of Salem School in southern Germany. Dr Hahn fled Germany in 1933 under threat from the Nazis for standing firm in the face of aggression.
Perceiving decay in the society of the day, he aimed to foster in young people the qualities of skill, compassion, honesty, initiative, adventure and a sense of service to their fellow beings.
His philosophy was based on encouraging young people to develop both as individuals and within communities.
The early years
With just three boys, Hahn started his school at The Doune in Rothiemurchus in September 1933, where they stayed for a short time before moving to Duffus House, owned by Sir Edward Dunbar. By April 1934 the numbers of boys at the school had increased, and Hahn signed a lease with the Gordon-Cumming family for the Gordonstoun estate. Duffus House was subsequently used as a preparatory department for the School until 1937 when the junior pupils were moved to Wester Elchies in Strathspey.
In 1947 Hahn founded Aberlour House as a Preparatory School to operate alongside Wester Elchies. Although always a separate school, it was a natural step that many Aberlour House pupils moved on to Gordonstoun at 13, as it followed the same ethos.
The first few decades at Gordonstoun were far from straightforward. Challenges included:
- evacuation to Llandinam in Central Wales during the war
- a fire-ravaged Gordonstoun House on return from evacuation
- operating on split sites at Altyre in Forres and Gordonstoun in the 1950s
- the introduction of co-education in 1972
The initiative and resourcefulness of those responsible for the School's direction ensured that challenges – political, structural and organisational – were successfully overcome.
Gordonstoun develops continuously. Today's School has all the facilities necessary to give it a lead in independent education in the 21st century.
Facilities added over the past 20 years include:
- IT Centre and campus-wide network
- two new boarding houses
- music school with recital rooms and recording studio
- climbing wall
- floodlit Astroturf playing surface
- performing arts theatre and studio space
- sail training vessel
- state of the art sports complex
- a new dance studio and classroom complex which combines with the theatre and studio space to form the Ogstoun Drama and Dance Centre
Gordonstoun took over the running of Aberlour House in 2000 and it moved into a new, purpose-built school on the Gordonstoun campus in 2004. It became the Junior School at Gordonstoun, creating a single independent educational entity for young people from the ages of 8-18 and offering the full boarding experience as well as opportunities for weekly boarding and day pupils.
The Junior School stands in its own grounds and has its own identity while enjoying all the advantages of being part of the larger, parent school. This includes access to Gordonstoun’s extensive arts, sports and outdoor education facilities.
The philosophy, experience and success of the two schools are merged together and developed in tandem to provide educational opportunities and a preparation for life that is widely respected both in the locality and further afield.
Our affiliation to other organisations
Gordonstoun has been affiliated to standard bodies and associations in the past and is currently a member of:
- the Governing Bodies Association;
- the Boarding Schools' Association; and
- the Scottish Council of Independent Schools.
Our chief affiliation is to Round Square, a worldwide association of 60 schools, committed to the educational philosophy of Kurt Hahn.
Gordonstoun has always been a leading member of this group, which is named after the famous building on the School campus.
The School is also a registered charity - Scottish charity number SC037867. In this context the School is committed to the education of young people regardless of nationality, background or financial means. The School's educational aims are reinforced by its charitable status and expectations in its development of strong links with the local community.