He is known by many names – friend, mentor, colleague, coach, husband, father and grandfather. His love for the Essendon Football Club and cricket (well all sports really) is unsurpassed. For 40 years Lachie Wright has been the lifeblood of the Junior School – the legacy he leaves will be felt for years to come.
Lachie Wright has championed what it means to cultivate meaningful relationships, providing guidance and support to those who’ve crossed his path. He has a profound ability to know the name of every student that walks through the school gates. After 40 years at the helm of the College’s Junior School, it is a special talent that has endeared him to many.
“I enjoy just knowing them as people as well as students, and the little things they are interested in,” Lachie said. “They love that chat … I have a little strategy with their birthdays, so I find them on their birthday. If I don’t find them, they find me.
He has many fond memories of his time with the students, whether it be the excitement of sharing an achievement or a funny little anecdote that Lachie wishes he had written down. “Children are the excitement of teaching; it’s why teachers teach.” Lachie has long believed that relationships are at the heart of education, providing a foundation for children to be inquisitive and for teachers to develop and grow.
It is what led him back to the school after being a student at Scotch College during the 1960s. After leaving the school, Lachie taught at schools in Hobart and on the East Coast of the state, lectured
in Education at the University of Tasmania before applying to be the Head of the Junior School in 1983. “It was probably the job as much as it was the school,” he said. “Maybe the school’s name caught my eye, but it was the opportunity to lead a campus and a primary school. “It was quite small at the time. A lot has changed in 40 years.”
Junior Boarding House students (in Briggs House), 1963. Lachie Wright, third from the right.
As a boarder at Scotch College from 1962 until 1968 – and a passionate sportsman – Lachie naturally gravitated toward leadership roles in his younger years. During his final year at the College,
Lachie was College Captain and also led the First XI cricket side to a State Premiership win, providing a solid foundation on which to build his capacity as a team player and a leader.
Describing himself as “a very big cricket fan” the self-confessed sports fanatic loves watching his Essendon Bombers line up on the MCG or attending the Australian Open. “Sport’s been a real passion of mine. Once upon a time, it was mainly cricket and football but increasingly, it’s just all sports. I love all sports.”
He believes “physical activity is more important than ever” for students, saying it provides many life skills from teamwork and problem solving, through to social interaction and time away from screens. “The children of today are different to the children 10 years ago and 20 years ago,” he reflects. Technology has brought about a lot of this change, not only in the way children learn but also in the way education is taught.
“There is no doubt it is changing children, it’s changing people… We’re all different as a result of it,” he said.
“The old 20th century models of teaching and learning are no longer sufficient. Contemporary neuroscience tells us so much more about learning and just how capable students are from the earliest ages. Their higher order thinking skills need to be guided and supported to maximise their avenues for future academic success.
“The internet now has given students all the content they want as they pursue their passions, so we don’t have to be teaching the content so much in the same way at all. We need to be guiding students as they develop the skills to learn and conceptually understand, enabling them to think critically and to apply heir learning in new contexts.
“I often think teaching and learning nowadays is the wrong way around. It should be learning and teaching.” As a passionate and innovative educator, Lachie has spent years as a member of the Independent Primary School Heads of Australia (IPSHA), at one time holding the titles of State and Federal secretary. Described as a “man of great integrity, good humour and wisdom, and for his dedication, commitment, professional input and strong sense of collegiality”, Lachie received an IPSHA Fellowship in 2016 in recognition of the outstanding service he has given to Australian primary education since starting at the College.
His involvement in IPSHA has seen him play a role in the development of the Australian education curriculum as well as be active in ensuring teachers are up-to-date on the latest educational research. “I think within all the subject areas … of a curriculum … they’re much more integrated than they used to be, particularly at Primary level, but then within each subject, it’s really the
approach to learning that’s changed
Lachie Wright 1987
“(It’s) very much an inquiry-based approach focused more on helping them reflect on how they are learning and understand what it is they’re learning as opposed to just memorising things. “We’re focusing on their (the students’) ability to develop their own curiosity, just to be agile in their thinking, to solve problems, to self-regulate. “There’s been an enormous amount (of educational research) and we know so much more about how children learn, how learners’ learn, full stop. “Over time, it’s also become about wanting to support the teachers themselves in their learning, in their development and growth. I’ve been grateful to have the chance to do that, and over the years, some opportunity to do it more broadly than here.”
The development of an Elphin Enquiry and Environmental Centre is one project Lachie is looking forward to coming to fruition at the Elphin Campus, which will enable students to be inquisitive and understand their impacts on the environment better. “It is quite a forward-looking project, largely self-sustainable and set up so that the students … are able to understand, see and know their
energy and water usage,” he said.
“They’re learning sustainability.” One of the bigger modernisers in his time at the College has been the inclusion of the Early Learning Centre, which has seen the school expand and flourish. “In terms of actual buildings, the Early Learning Centre was a major change, a dedicated Early Learning Centre, and that’s been a significant factor in the growth of enrolments at the school.
“Early Learning is a big part of the school now… it’s a great learning environment and a great start to school for young children. If you can help them become engaged and wanting to be here from the outset, it makes such a difference for them, let alone their peers working with them.
“We’ve had some really exciting developments actually and we’ve tried really hard to do it without losing outdoor space. Some of it’s been significant refurbishments of existing buildings… things like the Prep-Year 1 space over in the Jean Gardner, which have become very contemporary learning spaces. “We acquired Claremont Garden so that made a big difference to space in general – outdoor space – but also supported environmental learning and some of our education outdoors learning. The Thornton Lewis Building opened in 2011 was a major project with ConneXions, the
HPEC@Elphin and 2 contemporary classrooms providing a dramatic new impetus to learning for all students and staff across the Elphin Campus. “We’ve been able to continually update it (the campus) without losing the character and tradition that’s there.”
The Wright family tradition has also continued at the College with both of Lachie and wife Anne’s sons Sam (‘97) and Tom (‘03) attending the school. More recently, Tom’s son Henry has commenced at the Junior School with Lachie admitting that the occasional “grandad” can be heard across the playground. “It’s certainly special and lovely to be able to see him… not that I go there
a whole lot because he needs to be his own person and able to be himself. I think that’s really important,” Lachie said.
Thinking about the legacy he would like to leave at the College, Lachie hopes “it’s a caring place where everyone belongs, everyone is included, everyone knows they’re supported and helped, and that’s staff as well as students”.
“Everyone, in fact, in the school community I suppose it goes more broadly, parents know that they’re very much a part of what we want to do and part of the partnership.
“I think it’d be around caring, inclusion, belonging, it’s those sorts of things that are important.
“I guess I hope that the students that have been here once upon a time feel it’s helped them to get to here they wanted, to realise their dreams, whatever they might be.”
Continuing to be involved in the College is something Lachie is looking forward to in his retirement, after a few rounds of golf, some gardening and family time. “I love bushwalking, so I will certainly be doing plenty of that. Anne and I will travel a bit I think.
“It’ll be a huge life change, there is no doubt about that. I’ll certainly miss the students.”
As we say goodbye Lachie, we cannot help but reflect on the countless memories and milestones we have shared. Your unwavering commitment to all the students who have walked through our gates is unsurpassed. Our hearts are filled with a mix of gratitude, admiration, and bittersweet ostalgia. Your time here has been nothing short of remarkable, leaving an indelible mark on the lives of countless students, staff and the entire College community. Enjoy your well-earned break.
On behalf of the entire Scotch Oakburn community, we thank you.