Malcolm Prentis

Publication Date



Purpose: Guthrie Wilson (1914‐1984) was one example of the trend of migration of teachers from New Zealand public schools to Australian private schools. The purpose of this paper is to explore this particular case with a view to revealing some of the dynamics involved and challenges facing certain types of Australasian schools in the 1950s and 1960s.

Design/methodology/approach: This article is essentially founded on empirical historical research and on analysis of data from published and archival sources and from interviews with participants and observers. It is placed in the context of the literature on both educational change in Australasia and trans‐Tasman migration at the time.

Findings: Although Guthrie Wilson craved recognition as a novelist, he excelled as a school Principal, partly because he seemed to fit certain notions of education, leadership and manhood which suited the Council of The Scots College Sydney. In the 1960s, the Council wanted to maintain traditions which appeared to have been weakened by Wilson's progressive predecessor and challenged by social change. Though he fulfilled the Council's expectations, Wilson also proved to be a mediator between traditional and progressive education. Thus, Wilson could be both an honourable representative of the “Old School” and modestly progressive.

Originality/value: Biographical studies can reveal unsuspected patterns as well as challenge casual generalizations. Images of schools and of their leadership, held by both contemporaries and later observers, can prove to be subtly misleading on closer inspection. In particular, the article confronts a number of school myths which affect not only the schools involved but all schools, mutatis mutandis.


School of Arts

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Journal Article

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