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Back to the 1930s: Lessons in Time-travel at Gordonstoun / Gordonstoun Schools

Gordonstoun is one of the best-known public schools in the UK, as famous for its previously strict physical regime of early morning runs and cold showers as it is for its royal connections.

In 2009, the school celebrated its 75th anniversary and wanted to seize this opportunity to banish misconceptions of an austere and old-fashioned Gordonstoun by contrasting the school as it was in the 1930s with the modern, dynamic and forward-looking place it is today.

The Brief

Raise the profile of Gordonstoun nationally and internationally through the 75th anniversary. Counter the old-fashioned stereotype of a “harsh” physical regime by re-focusing coverage on the school’s “Four Pillars” – internationalism, service, responsibility and challenge through outdoor education. Allow staff and students to celebrate the anniversary in an exciting and educational way.

What We Did

  • We decided to use a “back to the 1930s” day as a media hook, to get across key messages about the difference between Gordonstoun in days gone by and the school in 2009. In honour of the 75th anniversary, pupils and teachers were asked to dress, eat and learn as they would have in the school’s earliest days.
  • Along with our media release, we issued a 1930s timetable that the pupils would be adhering to, including such activities as morning breathing exercises, 45 minutes of listening to Shakespeare and Agatha Christie read by staff on the lawn, and afternoon cricket.
  • For a photocall we assembled 500 students participating in a “physical military-style drill” on the main lawn, all dressed in 1930s uniform. There was the opportunity to capture the “drill” from the roof of Gordonstoun, providing excellent group shots for the next day’s papers.
  • As well as the Principal, the Head Girl was prepped and made available for interview, while an ex-teacher who taught at the school in the 1960s attended.
  • For online coverage, we played on the school’s connection with video game character Lara Croft (her back-story includes a spell at the school!) and issued a social media release linking the character’s tough image with the strict physical regime of Gordonstoun’s past.

What We Achieved

  • Coverage in all our target media outlets, overwhelmingly positive in tone. Articles appeared across local and national publications, with a combined reach of over 23 million.
  • Broadcasts on the BBC and STV, resulting in a trebling of hits to Gordonstoun’s website.

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