Education in NSW in the 19th Century

Members of the Colony of NSW were interested in educating the young very early in the 19th Century. At a meeting held on Friday 7 March 1817, with, His Excellency the Governor in the Chair it was resolved that, ” the Education Of the Young is the first importance to the best interest of this Colony, as affording a sure Hope of the Advantages which the general circulation of the Holy Scriptures tends to bestow.” The meeting decided to open Public Schools in different parts of the territory for the instruction of children belonging to parents who were unable to afford education for them. This instruction was to be held on Sundays and such other days and times as the regulations of the Institution and the discretion of the President and Committee may suggest. (1) By 1842 the total estimated cost of supporting the school establishments was 14,713 pounds and 10 shillings. There was a male orphan school, a female orphan school plus a school for destitute Roman Catholic children and schools run by the Church of England, Presbyterian Church, Wesleyan Methodist Church and Roman Catholic Church. (2)

In 1820s to 1830s there was the Clergy and School Lands Corporation but this was abolished in 1833. In 1848 a dual system of church and national schools each under separate boards was established. Four separate administrative units, representing each of the four main denominations. The amount of money appropriated to each denomination was fixed by Parliament according to the proportion of the population belonging to that denomination, as determined by the last census statistics. The public school system came under the Board of National Education.

In 1866 the two boards were abolished replacing them with a Council of Education by the passing of the Public Schools Act. (3) There needs to be many more hours spent on researching the history of education in the St Marys area. Some examples are listed below.

NSW Archives

  1. Information compiled by the Secretary for the formation of regulations by the Board, 1848 -City 1/305 – 1 volume – draft report on questionnaire form sent to clergymen of the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian and Wesleyan denominations. Covers No of schools receiving government aid, the competency of teachers, the number of children attending schools, the tenure of schoolhouses and fees.
  2. Miscellaneous letters received – 1848 -49, 1851-66 (City 1/310-23) 14 Vols
  3. Inspectors report 1856-66 (City1/324-26) 3 Vols.
  4. Minute Books, 4 Jun 1856-31 Dec. 1866 (City 1/307A, 1?307) 2 vols
  5. Printed annual reports and school attendance statistics 1848-62 (City 1/308-09) 2 vols

Board of National Education

  1. Correspondence Miscellaneous letters received, 1848-66 (1/381-443B), microfilm copy AO Reels 4001-4038) 66 vols.
  2. Calendar of miscellaneous letters received – 1864-66 (City 1/444) 1 vol.
  3. Letters received from the Colonial Secretary and government departments, 1848-51, Sep 1856-Jan 1860, Dec 1863-Nov 1866 (City 1/3777-80) 4 Vols.
  4. For more information see NSW Archives – Board of National Education


  1. Sydney Gazette, 15 March 1817, p2
  2. Sydney Gazette 28 July 1842 p4.
  3. NSW Archives Office.