Was your ancestor a school teacher? Was there a teacher in the family? There weren’t many professions open to women in the 19th century, and teaching was one of them.
Until 1905 most teachers trained ‘on the job’ as pupil-teachers. This 4-year training began when they finished school at 13-16, teaching all day and then receiving an hour or so of instruction from the head teacher after school hours. Preference for acceptance to teachers college was given to pupil-teachers who had finished their 4 years, but many pupil-teachers went on to become teachers or assistant teachers without ever going near a teachers college.
Teachers of small bush schools – Provisional, Half-Time and House to House Schools – received no training at all or learned by observation at a larger school.
The length and quality of education teachers received changed over time. Here is a brief timeline of teacher training requirements:
1850 – the first training school was opened at Fort Street. Standard training period was 1 month.
1851 – Pupil teacher training begann at Fort Street.
1856 – Pupil-teacher system extended to all schools of 70 pupils or more where the head teacher was sufficiently qualified (reduced to 50 pupils in 1861)
1859 – standard 1 month course extended to 3 months for a small number of teachers
1867 – 3 month course became standard, some teachers were trained for 1 month or 6 months as necessary.
1872 – standard training 3 months, or 6 months for promising teachers
1875 – standard training 6 months, or 12 months for promising teachers
1883 – standard training 12 months for most students. Residential training school opened in Hurlstone for females, leaving Fort Street to the males.
1889 – standard training 12 months, or 2 years for promising teachers. A 3 year course leading to a B.A. degree was available for a small elite.
1895 – standard training 12 months, with only 1 or 2 students per year chosen to attend university
1905 – pupil-teacher system phased out over 3 or 4 years. Teacher training only availble through the training colleges, with 2 years training standard and 3 years for those with special ability. a 1 year course was still available for teachers training for small bush schools.
1905 – Fort Street and Hurlstone amalgamated to form Sydney Teachers College, at Blackfriars Public School until 1925 and then in new premises at the University of Sydney.
1911 – 6 month short course for bush school teachers at Hereford House in Glebe, an annex of Sydney Teachers College
1911 – University of Sydney introduced a one-year post-graduate Diploma of Education course for secondary school teachers
1918 – 6-month Hereford House course extended to 12 months
1924 – Hereford House closed
1928 – Armidale Teachers College opened
1930 – 12-month short course discontinued; 2-years standard for all primary school teachers
1936 – 12-month short course conducted as an emergency measure during 1936 and 1937 in addition to 2-year course
1946 – Balmain Teachers College opened
1947 – Wagga Wagga Teachers College opened
1949 – Newcastle Teachers College opened
1951 – Bathurst Teachers College opened
1958 – Alexander Mackie opened
1962 – Wollongong Teachers College opened
1969 – Minimum primary school training increased to 3 years
1970 – Goulburn and Lismore Teachers Colleges opened. Bathurst Teachers College absorbed into the new Mitchell College of Advanced Education
1974 – All teachers colleges had become independent of the Department of Education, being established or absorbed into colleges of advanced education
1988-1991 – all colleges of advanced education were incorporated into existing universities or amalgamated to form new ones. All teacher training is now delivered by universities.
J. Fletcher and J. Burnswoods, Government Schools of New South Wales 1848-1983, Department of Education, 1983.
NSW Department of Education, Government Schools of New South Wales from 1848, http://www.governmentschools.det.nsw.edu.au/teacher_education.shtm
There is a wealth of incredibly useful information published in old books that are no longer in wide circulation. This book is an old foolscap-sized publication which I bought at the recent State Records NSW Open Day for about $1.00. The book is falling apart and it doesn’t fit on my bookshelf with the other books. The list of schools and other information has been updated and is available online at http://www.governmentschools.det.nsw.edu.au/index.shtm.
I’ve previously published a number of resources to help you research your ancestor’s school education:
- a timeline of the milestones in NSW public education
- an explanation of the types of government schools
- instructions on how to find information about your ancestor’s local school, particularly the Department of Education school file
- a timeline of compulsory attendance and school fees.