Wagga Wagga’s James Currie says he didn’t just improve academically when he started boarding at Scotch College in Melbourne; he also learnt more about himself.

Story Ken Eastwood

When Wagga Wagga student James Currie began boarding at Scotch College, Melbourne, in year 9, he had a bit of a shock. “In Wagga it’s not expected that you get good marks, but at Scotch the standard is so much higher,” he says. “It was a bit of a shock academically, and it probably took me about six months to get the hang of it.” James reckons he’s doing four times the work that he would have been doing if he’d stayed at Wagga.

“He’s developed good study patterns – which is a relief to us, because he certainly didn’t have that previously – and has become quite organised,” says his mum Catherine Cornish. She and her husband John Currie say it was a tricky decision to send James to Scotch – a boarding school in another state with 1400 students and about 160 boarders.

John has older children, but James was the only one living at home with them in Wagga. “That sense of independence that it would give him was a really big thing for us – that autonomy,” Catherine says. Her brother and father had gone to Scotch, and the fact that they had extended family living in and around Melbourne made it seem like a good option to send James there, as they thought he could spend weekends with them. “But, to be honest, when they go to boarding school in year 9 and year 10, they become so busy and there are so many activities in their boarding house that they just want to stay there,” she says. 

In particular, James enjoys playing a round of golf every second weekend, and playing club cricket or practising in the school nets. He is now finishing year 10 and preparing for his senior years at Scotch. He says it has been an excellent school for him and he has grown a lot over the past two years. “A few weeks before I went to Scotch though I was a bit nervous about leaving my friends in Wagga,” James says. “But there are so many good people and opportunities to make good friends. Because you’re in the boarding house, you’ve always got people around you and someone to talk to if you need to. There are a lot of rural kids – most are probably rural kids. Most of my mates are from the country – mainly from Alexandria, Hamilton and places like that.

“Everyone that I’m good mates with who has come from a regional town has improved academically. So, academically, it’s a great option. But also boarding teaches you quite a lot about yourself.” Up to year 10, the boys sleep four to a dorm, and James says that means learning to live with slight inconveniences. “You learn to be a lot more resilient and endure things.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #128

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2020