From hilltribes to hilltreks

The value of getting out of the classroom.

By Stephen Cook, Head of Broader Curriculum at Gordonstoun.

In the early 1990s, as a pupil at Gordonstoun, I was fortunate to go on the Thailand Service project and see the subsistence existence of the remote Karen Hilltribes. Last year I returned with our students to meet some of the same people nearly 30 years later. These powerful experiences help to shape young people, building confidence and helping to put their lives in context.

At Gordonstoun we offer our students a varied diet of out-of-classroom learning experiences aimed at enhancing our founder’s ideology of service, internationalism, responsibility and challenge. Students have a wide variety of opportunities through our performing arts programme, which includes an award-winning pipe band, along with dance and drama performances, allowing pupils to develop their confidence. Service is ingrained throughout the School, developing a rapport with the local community and helping to focus on sustainable management of the environment. I have enjoyed working with the Outdoor Leadership Service where we reach out to local schools, leading them on our climbing wall or teaching them how to fly fish. Students involved in the Coastguard and Fire Service are on-call to respond to emergencies; they go through rigorous training with professionals, enabling them to meet these demands with confidence and resilience.

It is always gratifying to hear from former pupils describing how the broad range of activities at Gordonstoun has helped them get into university or secure a job interview. Expeditions and Sail Training are integral activities that remain at the core of Gordonstoun life and whether they come back from these experiences desperate to do more, or not, they will all build on their portfolio of character education.

All students are introduced to cognitive activities which are designed to develop intellectual curiosity in topics that are not covered in the regular curriculum, such as robotics, dialogue and astronomy. Our comprehensive range of sporting opportunities focus on team sports from an early age as well as offering options to enhance specialist sports and fitness, whilst our rehabilitation and conditioning programmes aim to give students assistance in recovery and development.

These activities give students a head-start in the wider world. All students leave campus to explore the mountains and seas around Scotland creating memories, friendships and skills that will last a lifetime.