South Australian govt opens Advanced School giving girls first chance for secondary education


The Advanced school gave girls the first public secondary education in South Australia from 1879.

Catherine Helen Spence and John Anderson Hartley were among prime movers in creating the Advanced School for Girls: the first public secondary school in South Australia in 1879.

Before that, boys could get a secondary education at private schools, but there was none for girls.

The Education Act 1875, making education compulsory for all, acknowledged women’s changing role, especially to fill the need for well-educated teachers.
Adelaide University had been founded five years earlier with plans to admit women to degrees.

The Advanced School for Girls originally operated from a two-storey home in Franklin Street but moved to a new building in Grote Street in 1892, with Jane Stanes as headmistress.

The Advanced School provided almost two thirds of the earliest women graduates of Adelaide University. The school changed from catering mainly to middle-class students and admitting only a few bursary winners from state elementary schools.

The bursary winners increased and the middle-class students drifted away to private schools. These private schools were often staffed by Advanced School graduates who had completed degrees and were offering a more academic strand than before.

Among Advanced School graduates was Ellen Benham, who gained a BSc (Hons) in 1892. She taught at the Advanced School and various private girls’ schools and lectured in botany at Adelaide University. In 1914, she bought Walford House School that continues at Hyde Park.

Madeline Rees George, highly regarded headmistress of the Advanced School for 22 years, became senior mistress in charge of girls when it became the coeducational Adelaide High School but she was never the headmistress of the whole school.

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