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The High School of Glasgow at 900 years old

There is little doubt that 2024 is a momentous year for The High School of Glasgow as we celebrate our 900th anniversary.

The enduring spirit of the school can be seen through our evolution over the centuries: founded in 1124 at Glasgow Cathedral to teach young cathedral choristers to find their voice in praise of God, prior to developing as a Grammar School, first through the Church and then under the stewardship of the City Council until 1976, and since as the independent co-educational school we are today.

Whilst a 900th anniversary is a date to be rightly recognised and celebrated, we also take the view that anniversaries are not merely the marking of a date; they are, at heart, a celebration of the enduring threads that connect our past to the present, a recognition of the journey that has shaped us, and a hopeful gaze towards the future we are yet to weave.

Central to our celebrations is the connecting thread that we strive for in all we do, that being to teach young people to not only make a difference to their own lives, but to the lives of others. In that spirit, a central feature of our celebrations is to actively fundraise via the 900 Campaign to significantly increase our School Bursary Fund to further widen access for young people, irrespective of means, to all a High School of Glasgow education has to offer. We are also raising funds to promote our environmental, sustainability and net zero drive, and to support an educational programme to be shared with as many schools and school pupils as possible around design-thinking and entrepreneurship.

How does a school survive for 900 years? Whilst there will be moments of luck and the good fortune of certain individuals or groups making decisions which prove to be fortuitous, there is unquestionably the constant of a belief, born from those who have experienced it and its outcomes, that having the school is a good thing for young people and society. In the story of the High School, the role of people acting upon this belief has played a significant part in its endurance. For this to have been the case, it reflects, in different guises over historical time, a sense of a shared value of experience and of the positive contribution to learning, society and its needs, offered by ensuring the continual existence of this particular school.

Be that Simon Dalgliesh (Precentor at Glasgow Cathedral) endowing buildings and lands to the Lord Provost, Baillies and Councillors in 1460, when the growth of University scholars forced the Church to relinquish the Grammar School, placing its survival in jeopardy. To the commitment of many Provosts, Councillors and motivated benefactors who invested in new buildings and land around the city of Glasgow, in recognition of the increasing number of pupils arising from the growth in Glasgow’s population. To the incredible act of love and determination by Former Pupils of the school in the 1970s, through their Former Pupil Club with its land and sporting grounds in Anniesland to raise funds, and by a generous merger with Drewsteignton School, keep the name, the purpose and the ethos of the High School alive.

A school is first and foremost about people, no matter what age they are. It is about building and maintaining positive relationships, mutual respect and understanding, so to secure trust and the safe, secure and supportive environment where all-round learning can happen, and each young person has the opportunity to flourish. All our plans and hopes as a school for the future rely absolutely on the power of positive human relationships. After all, it was the impact of relationships in shaping the experiences, memories and connections of those former pupils which ensured the High School did not pass into the history books in 1976.

Remembering the past, celebrating the present, and looking to the future with the purpose of making a difference to the lives of others, is what this remarkable celebration offers our school community, and beyond.

John O’Neill, Rector