Researching schools – an Historical Timeline

To understand your ancestor it’s important to know what sort of education was available at that time and in that area, if any. We need to find out what schools were available for our ancestors to attend in the area in which they lived. First we need to know something of the educational system in New South Wales.

Here is a brief timeline of some milestones in the history of education in New South Wales.

1788 – no provision for education of the children of convicts or soldiers.

early 1800s – only schools were private “academies” and “public” schools subsidies or fully-funded by government but run by the Anglican Church.

1801 – Female Orphan School founded to prepare destitute girls for domestic service.

1819 – Male Orphan School founded for destitute boys.

1826-1833 – Clergy and Schools Corporation, run by Anglican Church and funded by grant of one seventh of all land in the Colony. Unpopular with other denominations and private landholders. Repealed in 1833.

1844 – Select Committee found only half of all children going to school.

1848 – Board of National Education introduced government education system. Local communities had to contribute one third of building costs, pay school fees and provide committee to run the school. New National Schools were built mostly in country areas where no schools currently existed provided a minimum of 30 pupils were enrolled, and fees paid.

1866 – Public Schools Act – restrictions on denominational schools, inspection of schools. National Schools became Public Schools, with minimum of 25 pupils. Provisional Schools, where the number was reduced even further, and Half-Time Schools, where a single teacher had to cover two schools, also introduced. The number of schools increased dramatically in the country, where they were most needed.

1870s – school available to almost all children but many attended irregularly or for brief periods. Most denominational schools except Catholic had closed or become government schools.

1880 – Public Instruction Act made attendance at school compulsory for 6-14 year olds. Secondary education introduced to prepare for university, with high fees. Funding was withdrawn from denominational schools resulting in the closure or absorption of many of them. New types of schools were introduced. Superior Public Schools combined primary and secondary education. High Schools were purely secondary schools, with high fees and low enrolments, intended to prepare students for university. Evening Public Schools were intended to cater for young people who had missed out on an education before it became compulsory, and ran at night. replaced the Council of Education with the Department of Public Instruction.

1890s – economic depression reduced spending on school buildings and many teachers retrenched, resulting in large class sizes in poor classrooms.

1904 – New Syllabus introduced – learning by doing.

1911 – High School fees abolished. Intermediate Certificate after two years of High School, and Leaving Certificate after a further two years.

1920s – more pre-vocational and academic courses introduced in High Schools

1914-1945 – World Wars and Great Depression reduce funding for schools and teachers

1961 - Wyndham Scheme introduced – Four years of High School for School Certificate, further two years for Higher School Certificate.

Sources:

Burnswood, J. and Fletcher, J. Sydney and the Bush, A pictorial history of education in New South Wales. [Sydney]: New South Wales Department of Education, 1980.

NSW Department of Education and Training. Government schools of New South Wales from 1848. http://www.governmentschools.det.nsw.edu.au/cli/govt_schools/index.shtm.

State Records NSW. State Records Archives Investigator: Activity Detail, School Education http://investigator.records.nsw.gov.au/Entity.aspx?Path=\Activity\25.

State Records NSW, Index to Schools and Related Records, 1876-1979. Website at http://www.records.nsw.gov.au/state-archives/indexes-online/indexes-to-education-and-child-welfare-records/index-to-schools-and-related-records.

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