Group VRG 24
Educational Institutions
About this Group Related Agencies Related Functions
Date Range: 1836 - cont
Description of this GroupDescription of this Group
Scope of the Group

This group includes the records created by individual educational institutions and includes the records of:

Primary Schools
Secondary Schools
Technical Schools and Colleges
Special Schools
Technical and Further Education Colleges
Teacher Training Colleges
Colleges of Advanced Education including Institutes of Technology


Administration prior to 1873

Schools in the Port Phillip District were not subject to direct Government administration until 1848 when the Government of New South Wales established the Board of National Education (VA 920) and the Denominational School Board (VA 703). Prior to that time financial assistance either in the form of masters' stipends or a subsidy in proportion to local contributions was granted to schools established by recognized religious denominations and some assistance was given to parents who could not afford to pay school fees.

The Board of National Education (New South Wales) was set up to encourage the establishment of an education system based on the Irish National System. The Board allocated public funds for the establishment of schools which were supported by local residents. Local patrons were responsible for the provision and maintenance of school buildings and equipment and the setting and expenditure of school fees. The Board of National Education was responsible for the appointment of teachers.

The Board of National Education for the Colony of Victoria, commonly known as the National School Board (VA 919) was established in 1852 and took over the responsibilities of the New South Wales Board of National Education.

The Denominational School Board (VA 703) was appointed for "the temporal regulation and inspection of the respective Denominational Schools of the Colony within the district of Port Phillip". The Board was responsible for the distribution of funds to denominational schools from an annual Parliamentary grant. For a brief period following the separation of Victoria from New South Wales in 1851, the Denominational Board was responsible for the conduct of business relating to National Schools.

Several Select Committees had commented on the wasteful duplication of a dual system of education but it was not until 1862, under the provisions of An Act for the better Maintenance and Establishment of Common Schools in Victoria 24 Vic., No.149, that a single Board of Education (VA 713) with responsibility for all schools receiving public funding was established. The Board was responsible for the distribution of funds, for determining where schools should be established, the inspection of schools, the examination and classification of teachers, the determination of a course of secular study to be adopted in schools and the setting of school fees.

From this time children attended either Common Schools, which were funded by grants from consolidated revenue supplemented by local authorities, or the smaller Rural Schools to which the Board of Education granted funds for a teacher's salary.

Schools were required to provide a minimum of four hours secular instruction per day and teachers' salaries were partly determined by average attendance and results. The schools provided a general education for children between the ages of six or seven and early adolescence. Inspectors visited the schools and examined the children against expected levels of achievement established by the Board of Education (VA 713).

Schools since 1873

Victoria was the first of the Colonies to introduce free, compulsory and secular education with the passing of the Education Act 1872 (No.447). The Act provided for the appointment of a Minister of Public Instruction and the establishment of the Education Department (VA 714). Prior to this time the Chief Secretary had been responsible for education.

The Education Act of 1872 made school attendance compulsory for children between the ages of six and fifteen. Education in basic subjects was now free but fees could be charged for instruction in subjects such as Latin, French, natural science, algebra and bookkeeping. School attendance increased by approximately fifty percent as soon as education became free and compulsory and financial aid to denominational schools ceased.

Currently primary schools provide children between the ages of five and eleven with a general education which is designed to develop their literacy and numeracy and which includes additional subjects such as social and environmental studies, physical education, music and art.

Until the establishment of high schools and junior technical schools, it was common for children to complete eight grades at their primary school and then seek employment. A few primary schools continue to offer two years post primary education. These are now known as Central Schools and children from these schools enter secondary schools at year nine level.

In the 1940's and 1950's the Education Department established a number of consolidated schools with the aim of providing improved educational facilities and specialist teaching for children in country areas. Many one teacher rural schools were closed and children travelled by bus to consolidated schools which offered a curriculum comparable to that of primary schools in cities and towns. Some consolidated schools also provided an additional four years of post primary education. Initially some of these courses were specifically designed to meet the needs of the district but subsequently programmes were modified to allow students to transfer more easily to secondary schools.

As the metropolitan area and rural centres developed, some consolidated schools became high schools and some ceased to offer post primary education. The practice of closing smaller country schools and transporting the children to larger primary schools has continued.


High Schools

The state secondary school system began with the opening of the Melbourne Continuation School in 1905. Its establishment was justified in terms of there being a need to provide post primary education for potential teachers. Prior to this time, secondary education had only been available in schools.

The Education Act of 1910 provided for the establishment of secondary schools which have been variously called continuation schools, higher elementary schools, agricultural high schools, district high schools, domestic arts schools, girls secondary schools and high schools. Some, such as agricultural high schools and domestic arts high schools were intended to provide students with a continuation of their general education together with some specialist training. Higher elementary schools and girls high schools offered their students four and five years respectively of post primary education.

Prior to the Second World War, it had been common for children not to continue their education beyond grade eight and completion of the Merit Certificate. From the early 1950's it became usual for all children to undertake post primary education and many new high schools were established. These schools have been responsible for continuing the general education of younger children and for providing older students with more specialised courses which would prepare them for employment or for further post secondary technical or tertiary education. High schools provide six years of education for children between the ages of eleven or twelve and seventeen and eighteen.

In the past, students sat for external examinations to qualify for the Proficiency, Intermediate, Leaving and Matriculation Certificates after three, four, five and six years of education. In more recent years schools have become more responsible for the assessment of their students and for the development of curriculum, but students in year 12 have still been required to sit for external examinations which until 1986 qualified them for the Higher School Certificate and from 1987 for the Victorian Certificate of Education.

Technical Schools

Victoria has had a dual system of secondary education since the early 1900's. On leaving primary school, children could chose to continue their education at either a high school or a (junior) technical school. The first junior technical school for boys was opened at West Melbourne in 1912 and a similar school for girls opened in 1916 in association with Swinburne Technical College. These schools were initially designed to prepare students for entry into senior technical schools and colleges.

For many years junior technical schools provided students with four years of education in both academic and practical subjects. Students could then enter a senior technical school and complete either a four year Diploma course or a part time Certificate, Technical or Trade course in conjunction with employment in an industrial or technical field. Students who completed form three (year nine) were eligible to undertake an apprenticeship.

In later years it became common for technical schools to offer five years of post primary education and in recent years many schools have offered alternative year twelve courses. In the past students sat for the Intermediate Technical Certificate and the Leaving Technical Certificate after four and five years of schooling.

During the 1980's the central administration of technical and high schools has been progressively amalgamated and while separate technical and high schools still exist in 1989, all new schools are designated post primary. Many older schools have combined or adopted a multi-campus organization. Whilst there are still real differences in the curriculum offered in existing technical and high schools, the distinctions have diminished.

In addition to providing secondary technical programmes, some schools have also provided trade schooling for apprentices and post secondary, Technical and Further Education (TAFE) programmes.


The Education Department has for many years been responsible for the establishment and management of schools for children with special needs. Many of these schools catered for children from the age of four or five to early adolescence. All schools provided special training to assist children to manage their particular disabilities and where the children were capable, the schools also offered general education programmes.

Specialist schools have included:

Special Schools for children with learning difficulties
Special Developmental Schools (formerly Day Training Centres) for children with severe intellectual disability
Schools for physically disabled children
Schools for hearing and sight impaired children

For children and young people where health or circumstances prevent them from attending regular schools special schools have been established in hospitals, youth training centres and prisons. The Department also runs a correspondence school. The Department has administered the special school facility within Travancore Child and Family Centre (VA 2861) since its establishment in 1933. This institution was from 1938 to 1968 a Developmental Centre for retarded children. In 1968 it became a centre for the care of emotionally disturbed children.



The University of Melbourne was established in 1853 and remained the only Victorian university until Monash University was opened in 1961. Since then La Trobe and Deakin Universities have been established.

Universities have traditionally offered undergraduate degree courses in such fields as liberal arts, physical, natural and social sciences, engineering, education, law, commerce, economics, medicine, dentistry, architecture and agriculture. They have also provided post graduate degree courses and research programmes.

Colleges of Advanced Education/Institutes of Technology

The first technical institutes were the Schools of Mines established at Ballarat and Bendigo in the 1870's and the Working Men's College (later R.M.I.T.) established in 1887. These and a number of other technical colleges received government grants but were under the control of their own councils. Senior technical schools and colleges established after 1911 were under the direct control of the Education Department (VA 714) until 1965.

These colleges offered certificate, technician, trade and diploma courses in such fields as applied art, engineering, architecture, building construction, commerce, catering and hotel management, foods and food services, dietetics and needlecraft.

Following the Martin Committee Report in 1964 and the decision of the Commonwealth Government to fund diploma courses, it was necessary for colleges to separate the administration of these courses from technical and trade courses. Subsequently the major technical colleges offering diploma level courses became known as Institutes of Technology.

As part of the major development of tertiary education in the 1960's and 1970's, Colleges of Advanced Education were established. These colleges offered diploma (and later degree) courses in fields such as applied science, applied art, liberal arts, social sciences and commerce. Specialist colleges such as the Lincoln Institute, the College of Nursing and the College of the Arts were also established.

In 1965 the Victoria Institute of Colleges Act was passed. The Institute was a co-ordinating, degree awarding authority for the Institutes of Technology and the Colleges of Advanced Education.

Teacher Training Colleges

The first teacher training colleges were established in Melbourne, Ballarat and Bendigo. In the 1950's and 1960's further colleges were opened in Geelong, Toorak, Burwood, Coburg and Frankston. These colleges offered teacher education programmes for primary teachers under the direct control of the Education Department. Other colleges for training specialist secondary, technical and domestic arts teachers were also established and a Centre for the Training of Teachers of the Deaf was opened.

In 1973 the State College of Victoria was established. It consisted of ten former Education Department Colleges, the Kindergarten Teachers College and the Catholic Education Colleges. This federation of teacher training colleges was designed to foster the independent growth of the colleges and to co-ordinate their academic and administrative activities.

Subsequently constituent colleges separated to amalgamate with the Colleges of Advanced Education at Bendigo and Ballarat and with Deakin University. Other constituent colleges amalgamated either with each other or with one of the Institutes of Technology.

In 1978 the Victorian Post Secondary Education Commission was established and in 1980 both the Victoria Institute of Colleges and the State College of Victoria were dissolved, the Commission having taken over many of their responsibilities including the approval and accreditation of courses and the recommendations for funding for individual colleges.

Note: In recent years tertiary education in Australia is again being radically re-organised under the auspices of the Federal Minister responsible for Education and Training and many separate institutions are in the process of amalgamation.

Technical and Further Education (TAFE)

Following the Commonwealth decision to provide funding for diploma studies, it became necessary to separate the administration of these courses from that of other courses provided by technical colleges.

Provision of technical education including vocational courses in apprenticeship trades and certificate courses in fields such as engineering, business studies, applied art and applied science continued in Education Department colleges, in technical schools and in technical colleges associated with the advanced education colleges affiliated with the Victoria Institute of Colleges.

In July 1980 a Technical and Further Education Board was established under the provisions of the Post Secondary Education Act and by 1981 the Board had taken over the management of TAFE from the Education Department. The Board became responsible for sixteen Education Department and eleven non-Department Colleges. Responsibility for TAFE programmes is now exercised by the State Training Board.

In the 1980s TAFE colleges offered a wide range of professional, middle level, basic vocational and recreational programmes in eleven broad fields of study being, applied science, art and design, building, business studies, engineering, rural and horticulture, music, paramedical, industrial services, personal services and general studies.

Research Note

For further information about the development of State Government education and the history of individual institutions see Vision and Realization Vols 1-3, Education Department 1973.

Location of Records

The Public Record Office has significant but very far from complete holdings of records from individual primary schools, a few records from the Victoria Institute of Colleges and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and no records from individual high schools, technical schools or TAFE colleges.

For records of the central administration of education including extensive correspondence with schools see VRG 35 Education. See also List of Holdings 2nd edition 1985, sections 3.8.0 Education and 5.0.0 Educational Institutions.

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Date within Group Agency Title Agency Number Agency Hierarchy
? 1875 - 1918 Norrilim (Primary School No. 1478; previously known as Reedy Lake c1875-1880 and subsequently known as Baillieston East 1911-1918) VA 4426 Other Instrumentalities
? 1884 - cont Armadale (Primary School No. 2634) VA 4425 Other Instrumentalities
? 1893 - cont Merri (Primary School No. 3179; previously known as Brunswick East and Miller Street, Fitzroy) VA 4437 Other Instrumentalities
? 1895 - 1972 Cororoc (Primary School No. 3230) VA 4553 Other Instrumentalities
? 1924 - 1957 Bringalbert South (Primary School No. 2665) VA 4436 Other Instrumentalities
1846 - 1992 Campbellfield (Primary School No.143) VA 3565 Other Instrumentalities
1851 - 1973 Franklinford (Primary School No. 257) VA 3288 Other Instrumentalities
1853 - 1874 Prahran - Chapel Street (Primary School No.491) VA 3873 Other Instrumentalities
1853 - 1993 Brown Hill (Primary School No.35; previously known as Eureka National School; Eureka or Brown Hill Common School) VA 3816 Other Instrumentalities
1854 - 1864 Melbourne (Primary School No. 391; also known as Melbourne Central; also known as Melbourne, Spring Street; also known as Model School; also known as Model and Training Schools 1854-1855) VA 4518 Other Instrumentalities
1854 - 1882 North Melbourne - Hotham (Primary School No. 459) VA 3412 Other Instrumentalities
1855 - 1968 Carlsruhe (Primary School No. 115) VA 3234 Other Instrumentalities
1856 - 1935 North Melbourne - Queensbury Street (Primary School No. 307; previously known as Hotham or Hotham Hill) VA 3413 Other Instrumentalities
1856 - 1993 Freshwater Creek (Primary School No.256) VA 3904 Other Instrumentalities
1857 - 1969 Russell's Bridge (Primary School No. 530) VA 3450 Other Instrumentalities
1857 - 1973 Avoca (Primary School No. 4) VA 3168 Other Instrumentalities
1858 - 1939 Flinders (Primary School No.260; previously known as Flinders National Grammar School) VA 3837 Other Instrumentalities
1858 - 1968 Illowa (Primary School No. 690; previously known as Yangery 1858-1909) VA 3316 Other Instrumentalities
1858 - 1981 Hexham (Primary School No. 296, previously known as Hexham National School 1858-1873) VA 3312 Other Instrumentalities
1858 - 1992 Clyde North (Primary School No.118; previously known as Cranbourne National School 1858-1862; Cranbourne Common School 1862-1872; Cranbourne 1873-1890; Clyde 1890-1913) VA 3569 Other Instrumentalities
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