Students in Ward Street outside Whinham College, North Adelaide, in about 1895. The college was founded in 1854 by John Whinham as the North Adelaide Grammar School and was taken over by his son Robert. After Robert's death from a riding accident, the college declined and closed in 1898.
Image by Ernest Gail, courtesy State Library of South Australia

by separating church and state, on the way to free, compulsory and secular state schooling


SOUTH AUSTRALIAN EDUCATION BENEFITED from some of its distinctive strains of Protestant Dissent, including German Lutheranism. The founding of the colony on a theme of freedom from interference by the state and its establishment church was important in shaping the education system.

South Australia in 1851 was the first Australian province to cut off state aid to church schools and insist on a mainly secular curriculum in public-supported schools (1852). This reflected Protestant resentment over established government support in Britain for the Church of England.

The lack of state aid in South Australia didn’t stop the drive for quality Protestant education led by figures such as John Lorenzo Young and his Adelaide Educational Institution. The Congregational Church’s minister James Jefferis, a key figure in founding Adelaide University, reflected a regard for education above sectarian beliefs.

Meanwhile, balancing the Dissenting influence, South Australia private education at the top level was blessed by the arrival of the scholarly first Anglican bishop Augustus Short, who started St Peter's College and in 1854 appointed headmaster George Farr (motivated to move to Adelaide by the illness of his wife Julia Farr) who raised the college to approach the level of the best elite schools in England.

South Australia matched other states in gradually making public education also free and compulsory.

Cutting state aid has been seen as a Protestant tactic to deny Catholic education. But South Australia gave birth to two of the earliest Catholic education forces: the Jesuits and Mary MacKillop’s Sisters of St Joseph.

The liberal element in South Australian Protestantism particularly supported MacKillop’s work. This liberal socially progressive side of Protestant Dissent fed into the votes-for-women campaign and in turn the wider concern over issues such as public education. It produced remarkable female educationists.

Blanche McNamara was made Australia’s first female inspector of schools after the women’s suffrage vote in 1874. Lydia Longmore, inspired by a “divine fire” as the daughter of a Wesleyan missionary, was Australia’s first inspector of public schools specialising in infant education.



to church schools in 1851; primary education compulsory in 1875

First school on North Terrace in 1838 follows Walter Bromley's Kangaroo Island classes

Walter Bromley, an agent of the British and Foreign Bible Society, conducted South Australia’s first school for 24 children near Kingscote, Kangaroo Island, in December 1936. On the mainland, John Shepherdson, also trained by the British and Foreign Bible Society, called a meeting in January 1838 to discuss a school in Adelaide “for all classes”. That school, in the South Australian Banking Company’s former wooden premises, was set up in 1838 opposite Trinity Church on North Terrace, Adelaide. 


Strong Congregational education influence begun by Thomas Stow and James Jefferis

Congregational church minister Thomas Quinton Stow, followed by James Jefferis, shaped early South Australian education. Starting the colony's first higher education academy in 1838, Stow firmly opposed state aid for church schools and, on the first board of education from 1849, he influenced having the grants to churches ended in 1851. Jefferis supported compulsory, comprehensive and secular education from the 1860s and started the North Adelaide Young Men’s Society in schoolrooms under Brougham Place Congregational Church. Thomas Caterer and brother Frederick, also from the Congregational tradition, founded Norwood (1866) and Glenelg grammar schools.

Education Act 1851 cuts funds to church schools; central board oversees shortage of teachers

South Australia’s 1851 Education Act reinforced a basic founding tenet for Dissenter colonists: separating church from state. South Australia became the first province in the British empire to cut off state aid to any education group linked to a church. A central board of education was set up to license and give funds to non-sectarian groups wanting to building and improve low-fee schools. This board also licensed and part funded “efficient” teachers. But teachers were in short supply and poorly paid, lacked training and support, while inspection standards were questioned.

Alexander Hay inquiry leads to compulsory public education up to Grade 4 from 1875

In 1868, politician, merchant and pastoralist Alexander Hay proposed and chaired a parliamentary select committee to look into the South Australian education system. Strongly influenced by Congregational minister Thomas Quinton Stow, Hay was a firm supporter of free primary education. His committee recommended a secular and compulsory education system. This became law seven years later in 1875. Among the opponents was John Lorenzo Young, founder of the private Adelaide Educational Institute, who spoke against any government interference in education.

Education compulsory part-time to Grade 4 from 1875; model schools set standards

Before education become compulsory in 1875 for those aged seven to 13, the South Australian government moved towards model schools in Grote (1874) and Flinders (1878) streets. Model schools set education standards for teachers across South Australia. With compulsory elementary education in 1875, the government started building primary schools: North Adelaide’s Tynte Street (1876), followed by Sturt Street (1883), Currie Street (1893) and Gilles Street (1900).


Williams creates four metro high schools; full-time compulsory education arrives 1915

Full-time compulsory school attendance for those aged seven to 13 didn’t became law until 1915. Previously, attending school for about two thirds of the year was allowed. Director of education Alfred Williams created Adelaide High School in 1908 and three other high schools – Norwood, Unley and Woodville – soon after, along with 18 district high schools by 1911. No more metropolitan high schools were opened until the 1950s with its new migrants and the baby boom.



middle class Dissenters get Young's institution and Prince Alfred 

Bishop Augustus Short starts St Peter's in the manner of schools for England's wealthy elite

St Peter's College originated in wealthier early colonists wanting to have private schools for their sons equal to those they attended in Britain. They founded the Church of England Collegiate School of South Australia or “The Collegiate School” as a proprietary school in 1847 in the schoolroom of Trinity Church on North Terrace. The school's foundation was followed by the arrival from Britain of the first Anglican Bishop of Adelaide, Augustus Short. Short brought an endowment of £2,000 from the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge to set up a Church of England school. Short intended to use the Trinity church schoolroom in North Terrace, Adelaide, as the basis for this new school and his chaplain the Rev. T.P. Wilson became headmaster. He also bought the site in Hackney where the school moved. In 1849, Short negotiated with the Trinity School proprietors to set up a council of governors and rededicate it as the Collegiate School of St Peter at Hackney.Headmaster George Farr (1854-79) is credited with raising St Peter’s to the standard approaching the elite schools in England. Three Nobel laureates – Lawrence Bragg, Howard Florey and J. Robin Warren – have been among St Peter’s students .It has also produced 10 state premiers and 42 Rhodes scholars.Today, the senior school has the bulk of the grounds and most of the historic buildings. To the south are the preparatory school and Palm House (reception-year 2). The “Big School Room” is thought to be Australia's oldest classroom still in constant use. St Peter’s is a a member of Australia’s G20 Schools group.

Pulteney Anglican but open to all from 1848; Queen's College in North Adelaide closes in 1949

Pulteney Grammar School, founded in 1848 as Pulteney Street School, is South Australia’s second oldest private school. Established in the Anglican tradition, it admitted students of all denominations and non-Christian faiths, at its original site on the Pulteney-Flinders streets corner, Adelaide, before moving to South Terrace in 1919. Anglicans lost their third college, Queen's, in North Adelaide, in 1949. Pulteney Grammar School, founded in 1848 as Pulteney Street School, is South Australia’s second oldest private school. Established in the Anglican tradition, it admitted students of all denominations and non-Christian faiths, at its original site on Pulteney-Flinders streets corner, Adelaide. Pulteney’s long-serving principals included W. S. Moore (24 years), W. P. Nicholls (41) and W. R. Ray (26). Its first female principal Anne Dunstan took office in 2014. In 1919, Pulteney Grammar moved to South Terrace, Adelaide, where its Nicholls Building was opened by Australian governor-general Lord Forster in 1921. By 1953, Pulteney Grammar School offered a full education for boys, from reception to until Leaving Honours. The school changed from an all-boys day-school to admit both genders in 1999. Adelaide’s other Anglican college was established in 1883 by the Rev. Thomas Field as the Christ Church Collegiate School in Jeffcott Street, North Adelaide. It was later renamed Queen’s School and then Queen's College. Its pupils included future physics Nobel laureate Lawrence Bragg and famous aviators Ross and Keith Smith. It closed in 1949 during to lack of working capital. Many of its boys transferred to Pulteney.


John Lorenzo Young's unorthodox Adelaide Educational Institution produces colony leaders

John Lorenzo Young arrived in Adelaide in 1850, having been educated in France, Germany and a graduate in the "sciences of the enlightenment" from King's College, London. He taught these new sciences to the sons of Adelaide's dissenting majority from 1852-1880, just 16 years after settlement. After a short trip to the Victorian goldfields, Young set up his Adelaide Educational Institution, at Ebenezer Place, Adelaide, in 1852. This became the premier private school for the sons of colony’s wealthier Protestant Dissenters who went on to eminent careers with a lasting impact on South Australia’s agriculture, architecture, banking, law, mining, health, politics and public services. By 1853, Young’s 96 students included future premier Charles Cameron Kingston; Joseph Cooke Verco, doyen of the medical fraternity; Adelaide's first native-born mayor Caleb Peacock; Dr William Gosse’s three sons; Edgar Smith Wigg’s sons; John Barton Hack’s sons; Herschell Babbage’s sons. Young’s science-based but unorthodox education was non-denominational and egalitarian. His lectures encouraged rational thinking and acute observation. He rejected rote learning, uniforms, punishment and religious instruction. Students could choose some subjects. In 1867, Young’s school, South Australia’s largest, moved from Stephens Place to Freeman Street into the old dissenting Congregational Chapel. The next move, in 1871, was to Young Street, Parkside. Architect Edmund Wright designed his schoolhouse that closed in 1880 when Young retired, having educated 1,500 young South Australians.

Methodist-born Prince Alfred College a social class/sporting rival to St Peter's since 1869

Prince Alfred College, founded at Kent Town in 1869, reflects the ambitions of South Australia’s Protestant dissenters to be an alternate establishment. Prince Alfred College became the social class and sporting rival of St Peter’s College as representing the English Anglican aristocratic establishment that the Protestant dissenters had tried to overcome in their hopes for the South Australian colony. Started by the Methodist Church of Australasia, Prince Alfred College signalled the decline of John Lorenzo Young’s Adelaide Educational Institution, previously the bastion of middle class Protestant dissenters. Young’s school was open, rugged and unorthodox and didn’t teach Latin and Greek (required by the opening of Adelaide University in 1874). Although expecting its students to adhere to the temperance of Methodism’s founder John Wesley, Prince Alfred College became a model of the English establishment (public) private schools, given its name during a visit to Adelaide by a son of Queen Victoria in 1867. The rivalry between St Peter’s College and Prince Alfred was expressed in “intercols” in all sports but especially Australian football and cricket (said to be the game’s longest unbroken annual contest) that became major social occasions at Adelaide Oval. Educationally, at one time, Prince Alfred was the only college in Adelaide offering the International Baccaleureate diploma at all three stages to its 1000-plus students, including boarders. Prince Alfred College added its own kindergarten, Little Princes, in 1999 but renamed it Princes ELC (early learning centre) in 2009.

Jesuits and St Joseph sisters commence their Catholic educating in South Australia

Two forces in Australian Catholic education – the Jesuits and the Sisters of St Joseph – started their work in South Australia. Austrian Jesuits, Fathers Kranewitter and Klinkowstroem, arrived in Adelaide in 1848 with German immigrants. They set up an abbey diocese at Sevenhill, near Clare Valley. Besides planting Clare Valley’s first vines, the Jesuits set up the first Catholic boys’ school in South Australia. It was also a seminary for diocesan and Jesuit priests. Seminary graduates included Christopher Reynolds (first Adelaide bishop) and Julian Tenison Woods (also a distinguished geologist). As Penola parish priest, Woods (later the director of Catholic education) met governess Mary MacKillop and they founded in 1866 the first Australian religious order: Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, dedicated to educating poor children. By 1869, it had 21 schools (the first at Yankalilla) in Adelaide and the country. MacKillop’s road to sainthood (in 2010) involved disputes with church authorities that led to her being excommunicated (1871-72). During that time, she was sheltered at Sevenhill by the Jesuits who'd paved the way for many of her schools. St Mary's Dominican School is on the Franklin Street, Adelaide, site of the earlier Poor School run by the Sisters of St Joseph in 1869. Christian Brothers College opened in 1879 in Wakefield Street, Adelaide, and Sacred Heart College, Somerton Park in 1897. Catholic education gained imputus after the South Australian education act 1875 enabled state primary schools that some Catholics believed "masked Protestant biases as well as general godlessness".

Sisters of the Church from England start St Peter's Girls School in North Adelaide in 1894

St Peter’s Girls School was opened in 1894 by the Community of the Sisters of the Church, a group of English women arriving with little more than a vision for quality girls’ education. The school was opened by the Anglican sisterhood with four pupils at Kermode Street, North Adelaide (on the present sites of Memorial Hospital and western side of the Women's and Children's Hospital) until 1957, when it moved to Stonyfell in the eastern suburbs. In 1949, the school had bought the Ferguson family’s 14-room Chiverton House, as well as 3.6 hectares around the Hallett Road property that was given to the state government for environmental heritage. The Sisters of the Church (under Sister Scholastica, a previous student) handed over the running of the school to a board of governors in 1986. The school’s first lay head, Elizabeth Pike, was appointed in 1969, followed by Douglas Stott and Dianne Nicholls who saw the start of continuing development and growth at the school. The original St Peter’s Girls School was one of a cluster of private schools in Adelaide city and North Adelaide during the second half of the 19th Century. In 1864, there were six North Adelaide schools in Archer, Gover, Jeffcott and Tynte streets, as well as G. W. Moore's, Mrs Woodcock’s and Mrs F. Sheridan's school (MacKinnon Parade). Between the 1870s and 1920s, Queen's and Whinham colleges for boys opened in North Adelaide. Tormore House, Creveen and Wilderness School for girls were within the city square mile. 

William Torr heads Way College in Wayville that becomes the Methodist Ladies College in 1903

William George Torr, often called “Old Oxford”, was the first headmaster of Way College, opened on Greenhill Road, Wayville, in 1892 for boys from Bible Christian and Primitive Methodist faiths.  Torr’s family emigrated from Devon to Burra in 1885 and he was educated at Stanley Grammar School, run by Joseph S. Cole in Watervale. He started as a teacher at Uloolooin in 1872, and gained experience as an assistant at the City Model School in Grote Street. He also took Bible classes at the Bible Christian church in Young Street, Adelaide. In 1878, Torr was appointed headmaster of Moonta Mines Model School. Torr visited England in the mid 1880s and gained a master of arts and bachelor of civil law at Oxford University and doctor of law at Cambridge. He returned to run the new Way College (named after the Rev James Way, Bible Christian father of long-time chief justice Samuel Way) and stayed on as assistant when succeeded by Frank Lade. With the union of Methodist churches in 1900, the work of Way College was taken over by Prince Alfred College and the school closed. In 1903, it became the Methodist Ladies' College (later Annesley College) and its popularity in attracting middle class girls contributed to the closing of the Advanced School for Girls. In 1909, Torr founded and built Brighton Training College, to train young men for the ministry. Its role was taken over around 1925 by Wesley College, North Unley, and the home, renamed “Old Oxford House”. It became a Methodist retreat and memorial to Torr and his assistant the Rev. John Thorne. 

Scotch College succeeds Kyre as Presbyterian school for boys at Torrens Park in 1919

Scotch College was founded in 1919 out of the earlier Kyre College at Unley Park that lost many of its former students in World War I. The delay in getting a Presbyterian school for boys was due to the small size of that denomination only having 5-10% of South Australia’s population and that earlier funds raised for Scotch College were diverted to founding the University of Adelaide. Scotch College, now at Torrens Park property owned and built by Robert Torrens, Walter Hughes and then Robert and Joanna Barr Smith, came from the fundraising of minister John Seymour who also helped start the Presbyterian Ladies (now Seymour) College. In 1918, Kyre College became Scotch College. Founding chairman was influential Cambridge-educated Adelaide University classics professor Darnley Naylor. The move to Torrens Park in 1920 allowed Scotch to be the first South Australian school with a farm on campus for agricultural education. During World War II, the property was used by the United States army and Royal Australian Air Force and the school had to move to Birralee, Belair and Brierly Lodge. Scotch recruited Charles Fisher, a master at Harrow School and son of the archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffey Fisher, as its third headmaster (1962-69). The college's outdoor education and nature conservation programs were boosted by the lease of Goose Island in 1966. In 1972, the college became coeducational under reformist headmaster Philip Roff, with the middle school founded the next year. Today, the school is run by a board of governors linked to the Uniting Church of Australia. 

Lillie Smith's Girton Girls (1915) and King's College (1920s) joined to form Pembroke School

Pembroke School – an upmarket independent coeducation and nondenominational day and boarding school in Adelaide’s Kensington Park for about 1700 students – was formed in 1974 by amalgamating Girton Girls School and King’s School for boys. Girton was one of many private girls’ schools started in Adelaide. Lillie Smith, wife of a stock broker whose fortunes varied, decided to have a regular income by buying a Kensington property in 1915 and setting up her school for girls. It flourished for nearly 50 years. King’s College came out of 1920s moves to amalgamate the Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian churches. Although union didn’t happen, a new cooperative spirit led to the Baptists joining Congregationalists to form King’s College. King’s College emphasised the academic, physical and cultural rather than faith. Its only clergyman headmaster R.A. Cook (from 1957) eventually had a school chapel built in the 1960s. First headmaster J.A. Haslam, was the son of a Methodist minister, and later W.N. Oats, a Quaker with strong Methodist background, revived the school, from 1942. Among challenging views, Oats’ vision for King’s to become co-educational wasn't realised for another 30 years. In 2006, Pembroke became the first South Australian school exempted o accept more girls than boys to redress a gender imbalance in lower years. Pembroke School Foundation has supported major additions such as Diana Medlin Junior School, John Moody Technology Centre, senior and middle schools’ resource centres and Girton arts precinct.


GEORGE FARR, MADELINE GEORGE, JOHN HARTLEY and ELLEN BENHAM key figures in raising the colony's education standards

George Farr (1854-79) raises St Peter's College to the standards of England's elite best

George Henry Farr’s time (1854-79) as headmaster of St Peter’s Collegiate School raised it to the pre-eminent educational institution in South Australia and comparable with any school in England. With a distinguished academic record, especially in mathematics and Greek, Cambridge degrees and legal training, Farr was also an Anglican clergyman dissatisfied with the state of the Church of England. His wife Julia’s health was another reason for leaving England. 

John Hartley leaves Prince Alfred College in 1875 to shape public education system

South Australia’s public education system is a monument to John Anderson Hartley, who came to South Australia in 1871 as headmaster of the new Prince Alfred College. But, in 1875, Hartley resigned to become president of the state government’s new council of education. Four years later, he was appointed inspector general of schools and head of the state education department. Hartley’s efforts to remodel the whole education system met with a mix of praise and opposition.

Advanced School the first public secondary school for girls in Australia from 1879

Building on health reformer Dr Allan Campbell's initial proposal, Catherine Helen Spence and John Anderson Hartley were prime movers in creating the Advanced School for Girls in 1879. This first public secondary school for girls in Australia was 40 years ahead of the first public secondary school for boys in South Australia. The Education Act 1875, making education compulsory, acknowledged women’s changing role and the pressing need for well-educated teachers. The Advanced School for Girls had a curriculum leading to matriculation for university. Until 1898, all University of Adelaide female graduates were former Advanced School students.

Madeline Rees George leads girls' education at Advanced School equal to the best for boys

Madeline Rees George, with a governess background, was appointed in 1880 as part-time German and French mistress at the new Advanced School for Girls in Franklin Street (later Grote Street), South Australia's only state secondary school at that time. As headmistress from 1886, she worked with education inspector-general John Anderson Hartley to maintain high academic standards. Emulating English girls' high schools, Rees George provided higher education for girls equal to that in the best private boys' schools.


Advanced School's Emily Dornwell excels as Adelaide University's first female graduate

Edith Dornwell was the first person in Australia to graduate with a science degree, and the first female graduate from Adelaide University in 1885. After her father's early death when she was 14, Dornwell had won a bursary to attend the Advanced School for Girls in Adelaide. After graduating from Adelaide University with first class honours in physics and physiology, Dornwell taught mathematics, physics, Latin and physiology at her former Advanced School for Girls. Other Advanced School university graduates also became teachers.


Advanced School's Ellen Ida Benham becomes first female academic and influences Walford

Ellen Ida Benham went to the Advanced School for Girls, Adelaide,and graduated in science at Adelaide University from 1889. After studying in Europe in 1895, she returned to teach science. In 1901, the ailing professor of natural science engaged her to give his botany lectures; on his death, Adelaide University confirmed the appointment, making her its first female academic. Benhan took over what is now Walford Church of England Girls' Grammar School at Malvern in 1912.



with School of Mines and Industries as a significant iterim stage

University of Adelaide emerges from Jefferis's Union College and Walter Hughes' £20,000

The University of Adelaide had its origins in the Union College, formed in 1872 for non-sectarian higher education and theological training. Educationalist, the Rev James Jefferis, inspired his fellow Congregationalists to join with Presbyterians and Baptists to set up the Union College. When Presbyterian pastoralist and mine owner Walter Hughes offered £20,000 to the college, Jefferies helped persuade the college council that the money should go instead to  establishing a university. 


James Jefferis followed by William Fletcher as champions of education and intellectual life

The Jefferis medal in philosophy salutes the work of Congregational minister James Jefferis in the founding of University of Adelaide in 1874. Jefferis didn't only earnestly promote education. As a public intellectual, his statements on issues, such as supporting Australian nationhood, earned him the title “prophet of federation”. William Roby Fletcher continued the intellectual tradition when he took over as minister of Stow Congregational Church in 1877. Fletcher took Jefferis's place on the University of Adelaide Council (1878-87) and became vice-chancellor (1883-87).


Adelaide University sets firsts for women in higher education from first classes in 1876

University of Adelaide’s opened in 1874 as the third in Australia. It was second in the English-speaking world (after the University of London, 1878) to allow women to earn degrees on the same terms with men (1881). In contrast to Victoria, the South Australian parliament passed this into law without dissent, despite objections from the British government. Adelaide University's first female graduate was Emily Dornwell, first person in Australia to receive a bachelor of science in 1885. It also graduated Australia’s first female surgeon Laura Fowler (1891) and first Australian woman to receive a music doctorate, Ruby Davy (1907).


South Australian School of Mines and Industries promotes technology in education from 1889

The School of Mines and Industries came out of a South Australian government enquiry in 1888 that found education in technology was needed for mining development and to support agriculture and manufacturing. It contrasted technical education with that by the university and the Fine Art School. Secondary education at that time was largely private and, with Adelaide University, accessible only to a privileged few at that time. Apprenticeship training was primarily on the-job instruction. The South Australian School of Mines and Industries opened in 1889 in the Exhibition Building on North Terrace, later moving to the Brookman Building on the corner of North Terrace and Frome Road, in 1903. The famous Charles Todd was an early nominee for the school’s council president but withdrew in favour of John Langdon Bonython who was a council member and president for 50 years The Brookman Building, funded by a £15,000 gift from George Brookman, was also the home for Adelaide Technical High, set up from the defunct Adelaide Agricultural School founded by Andrew Ferguson in 1897, from 1918 to 1960 as preparatory school for the School of Mines and Industries. In 1960, the school was renamed the South Australian Institute of Technology. Increased building courses saw the name change again in 1963 to the School of Architecture and Building. In 1991 the school merged with the South Australian College of Advanced Education to form the University of South Australia. The former School of the Mines and Industry building is now part of the University of South Australia’s City West campus.  Adelaide Technical High School moved in 1964 to become Glenunga Hugh School.


Flinders Uni created in 1966 by Labor govt to break Adelaide Uni's tertiary-level control

South Australia’s second university, Flinders, was created in 1966 on land being developed at Bedford Park as a second campus for Adelaide University. The Labor state government, elected in 1965, wanted to break Adelaide University’s control of the state’s tertiary education. The Labor party favoured “University of South Australia” but the academic staff wanted the name of a “distinguished but uncontroversial” person. Matthew Flinders, who explored and surveyed the South Australian coastline in 1802, was chosen. A significant early decision was to build the Flinders Medical Centre next to the university campus to have the university’s medical school within the new public hospital. This was the first medical school in Australia to be integrated into a hospital.

UniSA emerges in 1991 on foundation of school of art, teachers colleges and the school of mines

In 1960, the School of Mines and Adelaide Technical High School merged to form the South Australian Institute of Technology. Added building courses saw another name change in 1963 to the School of Architecture and Building. Finally, the University of South Australia was founded in its current form in 1991 with the merger of the South Australian Institute of Technology (1889) and the College of Advanced Education, comprising teachers colleges going back to 1876, and the South Australian School of Design with its origins in Charles Hill and H.P. Gill’s 1856 school of arts.


beyond middle classes to children in the city's slums and outback

Annie Montgomerie Martin respected early educator of Adelaide University graduates

Anna (“Annie”) Montgomerie Martin’s Pulteney Street, Adelaide, school, opened around 1870, provided a well-rounded unconventional education comparable to John Lorenzo Young’s Adelaide Educational Institution. From an English Unitarian liberal background, Martin moved on to other schools, notably Madame Marval's school on North Terrace, Adelaide, and was associated with teaching some of Adelaide University’s first female graduates, such as Edith Cook, Laura Fowler and her niece Caroline Clark. Martin played a part in the campaign for women’s voting rights, addressing meetings with Mary Lee.


The Misses Brown at Wilderness, Caroline Jacobs' Tormore House extend dame tradition

The Brown sisters and Caroline Jacob continued the tradition of dame schools into the 20th Century. Wilderness School started in 1884 when Margaret Hamilton Brown began educating her delicate sister Mamie at home in North Adelaide. The school grew and moved in 1893 to its present location in Medindie. Caroline Jacob reopened Tormore House in North Adelaide with sister Annie in 1898. Jacob later boaught Unley Park School, cycling between her schools several times weekly

Headmasters protest as Blanche McNamara made Australia's first female inspector in 1897

The appointment of Australia’s first woman inspector of state schools, Blanche McNamara, in 1897 was resisted by the males who had dominated as heads of state schools, while most teachers were women, after education became compulsory in 1875. McNamara was one of the women appointed to important government offices after South Australian women won the right to vote in 1895. McNamara became a role model for women teachers. But she also recommended reshaping girls education to make them better fitted for performing domestic duties.


Lydia Longmore starts revolutionising infant schools with joy and Montessori method

Lydia Longmore headed South Australia’s first infant school at Norwood in 1910. In 1915-16, she went to Sydney to study Maria Montessori's method and later began a Montessori class at Norwood. In 1917, she became Australia’s first inspector of schools with a special interest in infant classes. Backed by director of education William McCoy, Longmore went on to organise the flowering of infant education in South Australia.


Lucy Morice starts the Kindergarten Union in 1905 with rapid growth of pre-school education

In 1905, Catherine Helen Spence’s niece Lucy Morice helped to found the Kindergarten Union of South Australia. With Lillian de Lissa (director of the first Adelaide free kindergarten in Franklin Street in 1906), she battled to keep the union's early independence. Morice lectured in history of education at the Kindergarten Union teachers' training college in 1908-25. Her belief in kindergarten as a hope for society's future was allied with her distaste for the regimented state schools.

School of the air founder Adelaide Meithke, with Phebe Watson, makes a dynamic impression

Lifelong friends Adelaide Miethke and Phebe Watson, made a dynamic impression on education, female teaching and other aspects of South Australian life in early 20th Century. Among many achievements, Meithke started the world’s first school of the air from Alice Springs in 1950. Phebe Watson became senior lecturer at Adelaide Teachers’ College. As secretary and president of the Women’s Teachers League in 1937, Watson and Miethke led 600 of the 1000 women members of the South Australian Public School Teachers' Union to leave and form the South Australian Women Teachers' Guild in protest over their lower salaries.




William Muirden, WEA and technical high schools enhance skills

Intellectual giants William Mitchell and William Bragg set path for teacher education

Two brilliant minds, William Mitchell and William Bragg, in 1900 laid the foundation for major developments in the education of South Australian teachers. The Mitchell-Bragg plan involved the university in forgoing fees for two years undergraduate study by all trainee teachers, even infant-teacher trainees, and the education department in Adelaide University a part in educating and training teachers; the trainees were housed within the university. Twenty years later, the training for secondary teachers became a bachelor's degree in the subjects to be taught, followed by a year studying education theory and the teaching craft.

William Muirden brings a broad education to commercial studies with his college from 1900

William Muirden, founder of Muirden College, opened in 1900 and still operating in King William Street, Adelaide, brought broader education to commercial studies. With courses extended to “all subjects necessary to a thorough English education", Muirden students dominated the top positions at public service exams. In 1914, Muirden was sent by the state government to inquire into commercial and technical education in Britain and Europe. From 1913-34, Muirden published his Commonwealth Series on grammar, spelling, commercial practice. It was used by students for public exams all over Australia.


Alfred Williams directs reform/improvement in 1905-10 but clings to girls' domestic classes

Alfred Williams, South Australia’s director of education 1905-10, brought a period of revolution, upgrade and reform. Williams attracted interest as a headmaster by creating South Australia’s top primary school at Norwood where learning was “pleasure and not a task”. As director, Williams introduced new methods of child-centred learning. He supported better-designed schools and higher salaries for teachers whose professionalism increased when the teachers' training college moved from Adelaide University in 1913. But Williams strongly reinforced the traditional role of girls as homemakers by encouraging domestic arts education centres. 

Workers Educational Association (WEA) a hit with middle class women from 1914

The Workers Educational Association (WEA) of South Australia started in 1914 and became, and remains Australia's largest non-government not-for-profit adult community education organisation, almost completely funded by student fees. The WEA in South Australia started from a public meeting addressed by Albert Mansbridge, who had set up an association in 1913 to bring together working-class organisations and universities in England. The first South Australian courses, offered in 1917 to 231 students, were at Adelaide University. One at Trades Hall was cancelled because of a lack of students. The first subjects – economics, English literature, psychology and modern history – reflected the aim to encourage working men with no access to university education to do social and political studies.But the WEA was soon attracting the middle classes, especially women. Social activities of the WEA Club, established in 1920, were popular, as were courses in public speaking and music. When formal links with the university ceased in 1957–58, the WEA opened a teaching centre on South Terrace and appointed a new director. The courses ranged from practical subjects to liberal studies. Significant growth followed the first course guide published in The Advertiser in 1976, leading to larger premises bought in 1983 in Angas Street, Adelaide. The South Australian WEA now offers nearly 1800 courses annually to more than 30,000 adults. Most students are under 45 and two-thirds are female. It publishes five course guides a year and offers educational overseas tours.

Big German education contribution before 49 Lutheran schools shut in World War I backlash

The forced closure of 49 Lutheran schools in 1917 was part of the fierce backlash against South Australian Germans during World War I. The German influence on South Australian education started Dresden missionaries who worked with Aboriginal children after arriving in 1838. Another early arrival, Johannes Menge was passionate about education and science. The same with Carl Muecke, among liberals who left Germany after the 1848 revolution, and his son in law Martin Basedow. Adolph von Treuer was an original member of the South Australian Council of Education and founding member of University of Adelaide council. Theodor Johannes Scherk sat on the board of inquiry that recommended the School of Mines and Industries (opened in 1889). Adolph Leschen started the German School in Wakefield Street, Adelaide.

Adelaide and other technical high schools disappear before a 21st Century reversal

Adelaide Technical High School’s long history ended when it became Glenunga High School in 1974. Established in 1903 from the defunct Adelaide Agricultural School, it became the preparatory school for the South Australian School of Mines and Industries. The word “technical” disappeared from other schools such as Le Fevre Technical High (1974), Port Adelaide Girls’ Technical High and Goodwood Boys' Technical High. St Patrick’s Technical College, opened in the northern suburbs in 2007, represents a swing back to technical education. In 2018, the state givernment proposed a technical college for the western suburbs to meet the need for skills in the anticipated shipbulding boom.


along with a return to phonics in literacy and numeracy debate

Public sector remains biggest education provider with 170,000 students in 520 schools

About 170,000 students were enrolled in South Australia’s 520 public schools in 2016 – the biggest sector of South Australia’s 785 schools. Public schools offer special interest courses, ranging from the space school (with a simulated Martian crater and landscape) at Hamilton Secondary College to 19 music-focus schools including Brighton High School to dance drama at Golden Grove High to sport and physical education at Henley High School. The Australian Science and Mathematics School is based at Flinders University campus. A school is based also at the Adelaide Women's and Children's Hospital. The new Liberal state government in 2018 introduced the concept of four schools teaching students entrepreneurial skills and attitudes, emphasising creativity, problem solving and collaborating. One hundred places places for students with special needs were planned in 2017 for each of the two new schools likely to be in the Munno Para region and the southern school in the Sellicks Beach/Aldinga region. Some metropolitan high schools don't have a geographic zone for students. These include those with an adult education or specialised focus such as Urrbrae Agricultural School.


Private schools grow fastest: St Peter's, Prince Alfred, Wilderness, Pembroke in top ranks

Private (94 independent, 103 Catholic) schools enrolments in South Australia have grown three times faster than in public schools in the 21st Century. Enrolments in Catholic schools peaked in 2013 at 48,557 but dropped to 46,806 by 2016 and were overtaken by independents schools in that year. In recent rankings of Adelaide’s private schools, Wilderness at Medindie has been top, followed by St Peter’s College, Pembroke School, St Peters Collegiate Girls School, Walford Anglican School for Girls, Prince Alfred College, St Ignatius College, Athelstone; Seymour College, Mercedes College and Pedare Christian College.


Botanic High School to lead focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths)

The $100 million Adelaide Botanic High School, on Frome Street, city, opening in 2019, will have students work with teachers and industry mentors to encourage their interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields. Adelaide Botanic High will be a flagship for a state-wide STEM program involving 139 primary and secondary schools and 75,000 students. Half a billion dollars were allocated in the 2016-17 state budget to modernise STEM learning areas in public and non-government schools to give students the opportunity to claim jobs in advanced manufacturing and defence: particularly the frigate and submarine projects in Adelaide from 2022. 

Phonics check and mandated maths and English add to emphasis on literacy/numeracy

South Australia was the first Australian state to deliver phonics checks to improve the literacy of more than 14,000 Year 1 students in all government schools in 2018. South Australia also was first by making it compulsory for students finishing high school to have at least passed Year 11 English and maths. Focus on literacy and numeracy has been sharpened by South Australia’s standards being measured and compared nationally since 2008 through the NAPLAN tests. South Australian schools and students have made improvements but were below the national average in most of the 20 NAPLAN test categories in 2015-16.

Year 12s completing SACE hit record levels in 2017 but gaps in data of student outcomes

A record 15,175 or 97.3% of South Australian Year 12 students completed their South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) in 2017. More students – 4,050 – in country South Australia completed their SACE in that year. A total of 1196 merit certificates were awarded to 920 students, including 107 students from country South Australia. A record 235 students completed a modified SACE, offered to students with intellectual disabilities. But gaps in data shown in 2017 have shown that little is known about the outcomes of educational results of 27% of government school students.


Aboriginal graduates in SACE reach new highs while Warraippendi meets special needs

A record 377 Aboriginal students (58 more than in 2016) completed their South Australian Certificate of Education in 2017. The gap remains but progress is emerging in Aboriginal education. Aboriginal students from remote community schools get help to attend the Wiltja high school program in Adelaide at Woodville High School or Windsor Gardens Vocational College. Students board at the Wiltja residence at Northgate. Aboriginal students who have difficulties at traditional high schools can attend Warriappendi School at Marleston. Warriappendi has a special program that helps students engage again in the education process .The state governmenthas  invested extra funds in the South Australian Aboriginal Sports Training Academy across South Australia. Special learning programs are provided for students at Aboriginal schools in the outback, regional centres and metropolitan Adelaide. Aboriginal languages are spoken at most Aboriginal schools. Anangu schools on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytatiara lands in South Australia’s far north are at Amata, Ernabella, Fregon, Indulkana, Kenmore Park, Mimili, Murpatja and Pipalyatjara. Preschools and kindergartens are at Kalaya Children’s Centre, Queenstown; and Kaunra Plains, Elizabeth. Aboriginal schools are at Carlton Primary, Port Augusta; Kaurna Plains, Elizabeth; Koonibba, Marree, Oak Valley, Maralinga; Oodnadatta, Port Pearce, Raukkan and Yalata.


bilingual curriculums and state certificate used in Asian schools

Education becomes 2nd largest export with the state hosting 35,000 overseas students

Education is South Australia’s largest service export, and second largest export after wine, with international students injecting $1.5 billion (and about $36,000 individually) into the economy. Another $486 million (or 45%) of South Australia’s international visitor spend is from education-purpose visitors. In 2017, South Australia hosted about 35,000 students from about 125 countries. This is less than 5% of the total coming to Australia. China continue to be the No.1 market, accounting for 43 % of students in South Australia. In 2015, Adelaide was ranked 26th on the index of best cities for international students.


Chinese educator sets up Adelaide bilingual school with University of South Australia

Maple Leaf School at the University of South Australia (MLS-UniSA) will be the first high school in Adelaide started by a Chinese education group. The school will offer a bilingual English-Mandarin curriculum for senior high school students in years 10-12. It is expected to open in 2019 with about 60 to 75 students. China Maple Leaf Educational Systems opened its first school in 1995 and has grown to become the largest operator of international schools in China.The Maple Leaf School will open  opportunities for the University of South Australia and its teacher students to be pioneers in the study of bilingual education.

New Zealand swap; links made with Shandong, China; West Java; Da Nang in Vietnam

In an Australian first, two Australian and two New Zealand principals swapped schools in 2016 as part of a new Trans-Tasman professional development program. In other international links, South Australia aimed to increase education links with Da Nang province in Vietnam in an understanding signed in 2016. It is similar to that already signed with Shandong, China; and West Java, Indonesia. Vietnam is South Australia’s fifth largest source of international students,


Five Chinese schools and other Asians teaching the South Australian Education Certificate

Five more Chinese schools have signed on to teach the South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) curriculum. The strong interest in China in the SACE shows its reputation as an innovative and rigorous certificate. Chinese educators want their students to be able to develop – beyond rote learning – skills such as planning, managing time, initiative, evaluating information and making decisions. The SACE is known for innovation, especially through subjects such as the Research Project. The SACE curriculum is taught also in the Northern Territory, five colleges in Malaysia, and two colleges in China. Known as the SACE International outside of Australia, the SACE has been delivered in Malaysia since 1982 and China from 2005. More than 40,000 students across Asia have studied SACE International.

French and Mandarin courses start in 2017; French school named after Tarlee soldier

Selected South Australian schools offered the first bilingual English-Chinese Mandarin and English-French curriculums, starting in 2017. Plympton International College was the first, having half the curriculum for Year 3 students taught in Mandarin. Highgate Primary School and Unley High School, both in Adelaide's inner-south, have been using both the French National and Australian curriculums from 2017. Also in that year, a $12 million languages strategy, introduced by the state government, offered better access to language learning across all school year levels. Scholarships were offered to attract language teachers. In 2018, a primary school in the small French town of Blangy-Tronville was renamed after Private Arthur Clifford Stribling, from the small South Australian town of Tarlee, who died near Blangy-Tronville on April 25, 1918, fighting witfh the 50th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force. Stribling is buried in the town's cemetery.


Glenunga offering the Baccalaureate diploma in setting for gifted and multicultural students

With students from 76 different countries of birth, and incoming overseas exchanges, Glenunga International High School in Adelaide eastern suburbs is highly multicultural and the largest secondary school in the South Australian public system on a single site. It has been the only public school offering the International Baccalaureate diploma, since 1990, and one of only three South Australian schools to offer the Ignite program for gifted students. Other South Australia schools offering International Baccalaureate courses in some form range from Seaford Rise Primary to Waikerie Lutheran Primary to St Peter's College.


of South Australia's education direction, pluses, minuses, plans 

TAFE SA's deep problems in leadership, strategy exposed after the failure of 16 courses in 2017

A damning independent report in 2018 into TAFE (Technical and Further Education) SA, an independent statutory corporation of the state government, criticised poor strategy and leadership that led “four years of lost opportunity”. TAFE SA, which gives skills training to about 70,000 students – about the same as South Australia’s universities – was hit by a crisis in 2017 when 16 courses were suspended due to repeated failures to meet national standards. In its first budget in 2018, the state Liberal government announced the closure of seven TAFE campuses with low usage and allocated $90 million to overcome its budget blowouts.

Governments tighten focus on performance and development of state's 21,000 teachers

State governments have turned the focus on the performance of South Australia’s 21,000 teachers (18,000 in the public system). From 2019, all students seeking teaching qualifications in South Australia will have to pass a test in literacy and numeracy skills. The previous Labor state government in 2017 proposed a teaching excellence and leadership academy to lift school and preschool performance. The academy was to focus on professional development and boost support for teacher expertise. The need for future leaders was emphasised with 35% of school principals and preschool directors reaching retirement age over the next five years.


South Australia's kindy and pre-school centres rated the best quality in Australia in 2018

South Australian early childhood education and care services were found to be leading the nation in 2018, exceeding the expected standards set by the National Quality Standard (NQS) for providing high quality care and education to children. Almost 80% of preschool services managed under the education department were officially rated as exceeding the NQS, compared to 59% nationally. Bertram Hawker Kindergarten at Glen Osmond, Alberton Preschool, Darlington Children’s Centre and Mount Gambier Children’s Centre all received the highest possible tick as excellent. The Kindergarten Union of South Australia was founded in 1905 and the first kindergarten opened in 1906 in Franklin Street, Adelaide, for the poorest children. A kindergarten training college opened in 1907. In 1985, the state government took over the kindergarten union. This changed the emphasis to childcare rather than Montessori learning methods used by the kindergarten pioneers. Bertram Hawker Kindergarten at Glen Osmond is named after one of those pioneers.

Harsher penalties on parents, with school attendance at 90%; behaviour confronted

The South Australian government gained extra powers in 2018 to deal with chronic absenteeism in schools. Since 2011, the trend in attendance was from 89.9% to 90.7% in 2016. The maximum fine for parents who allow their children to be chronically absent has risen to $5000. New changes to legislation protect staff from abuse and deal with violence in schools. A new intensive support team responds to children with complex and challenging behaviours. A psychiatrist, doctor and mental health nurse work with schools, preschools and parents. These are part of the response to the 2014 Nyland royal commission into childhood protection systems.

Year 7 students will follow the rest of Australia in moving to high schools in 2022

South Australian Year 7 public school students will be taught in high schools from 2022 – the same as all other Australian states and territories. This is policy of the Liberal state government, elected in 2108, which believes high school offers young teenagers greater depth of specialist learning. The move will demand greater space in second schools and could draw on the $690 million Building Better Schools scheme announced in 2017 by the previous Labor government. Moving Year 7 to high schools was opposed by the Labor party and primary school principals but supported by secondary school principals who argued it made sense with South Australian schools teaching according to the Australian curriculum since 2012.

3D printing and laptop computers for students part of STEM technology push in state schools

About 50 South Australian primary schools were part of Australia’s first large rollout of 3D printing technology in 2017. This was a joint initiative between the state government, public schools and Makers Empire, a global educational technology company headquartered in Adelaide. The former Labor state government announced at the time that every year 10 public school student across the state would receive a laptop to accelerate learning and enable teachers to deliver a wider range of online curriculum in real-time across the public school system.


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