Gordonstoun has always been different.

From our origins in the 1930s (where our founder Dr Kurt Hahn championed citizenship, challenge in the outdoors and social responsibility long before they were fashionable) we have always thought of ourselves as something of an educational pioneer.

The only school in the UK with an operational fire service, and one of the few with compulsory sailing and mountain expeditions as part of the core curriculum for all, we have never been afraid to forge our own path and stand out from the crowd.

With this in mind, establishing a franchise of Gordonstoun overseas was always going to be an interesting proposition, and one where the conventional was not necessarily going to be the route we took. However, at the outset of that franchise journey many years ago, none of us involved in the process would have expected that the North East corner of Canada would be home to the first of our franchise schools to open, scheduled for Autumn 2021.

The school’s links to Nova Scotia go back hundreds of years. Sir Robert Gordon, after whom the school was named, was also Scotland’s premiere Baronet of Nova Scotia and was responsible for the development of the colony out there in the mid-seventeenth century. However, it was a more recent contact through the parent of a current member of our teaching staff that led to a visit to Gordonstoun in late 2017 of a delegation from Nova Scotia, initially exploring our educational methodology with a view to opening a school out there, rather than as a potential franchise partner.

However, as discussions progressed it became clear that there was synergy between our school’s approach and that which the Nova Scotia team was trying to establish, and the idea of a franchise partnership grew from that first meeting. Further visits to the school by a range of dignitaries, including the Premiere of Nova Scotia Stephen McNeil, soon followed, with a Gordonstoun team also heading out to Canada to learn more about the proposals and investigate site options.

"It has to be one of the most beautiful sites for a UK franchise school to locate anywhere in the world."

Annapolis County was chosen as the region to locate the school; an area of outstanding natural beauty bounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay of Fundy, with the final site being chosen close to the small town of Annapolis Royal.

The site itself comprises over 250 acres of mountain, wild land and sea frontage, and has to be one of the most beautiful sites for a UK franchise school to locate anywhere in the world. It has recently been home to a theme park and, whilst the local community are sad to see the theme park’s demise, the thought of a new and vibrant international community of young people, bringing jobs and investment in to the area, has been greeted with much excitement.

Construction is aiming to be highly environmentally friendly, with the aim being to construct North America’s first Net Zero Energy School. EA Farren Ltd, the franchise partner in Canada, are enlisting the services of a specialist company to ensure that, from ground breaking, through completion and on to operation, the school is as energy efficient as possible, harnessing the latest in sustainable technologies to create a campus that is ready for the next century and beyond.

"Plans are well advanced for a scholarship and bursary programme."

Educationally, the plan is to run the IB Standard and Higher Level programme, married to the Gordonstoun model of breadth, challenge and service to others. At capacity, 600 students will be enrolled from grades 9-12, with enrolment being phased over a four-year period. Students will be mainly boarding (and drawn from all corners of the globe), although it is hoped to have a good number of local Nova Scotian children also enrolled. Plans are also well-advanced for a scholarship and bursary programme for the school, enabling students from a range of social backgrounds to have the opportunity for what is certain to be a wonderful education.

We are exploring opportunities for developing an extensive sail training programme (along the lines of that offered at Gordonstoun) on the water which bounds the site, and aim to develop our links with global educational organisations with which Gordonstoun has very strong links, such as Round Square and Outward Bound.

All of those associated with this project on both sides of the Atlantic are enormously excited by what lies ahead. Our hope is to build something different, but something which stands out as a model of excellence, and paves the way for other significant developments we have announced, or will announce, in the coming years.


This article first appeared in a new report Exporting Educational Excellence - British Schools Overseas from Wild Search.