Early history

Since the opening of the first school in 1848, over 30 different kinds of government schools have been in existence in New South Wales at one time or another, each with a specific purpose.

Some have catered for children isolated by distance, whilst others have been created in order to separate children according to their age, sex, ethnicity, mental and physical abilities, or vocational aspirations. A full list of these schools can be found in the glossary of school types.

A government school is defined as one under the control of appropriate department administering education across the state. Private, subsidised and denominational schools are not included unless such schools have been absorbed into the government school system, in which case they are dated from the time they were taken over by the government authority.

Establishment of a public education system

During the 1840s, a report highlighted how the denominational system had failed to instruct half of the colony's children who were of school age, and recommended the introduction of the Irish National System. The severe depression in the 1840s had also reduced the Church's ability to maintain existing schools, making it almost impossible to establish new ones in the rapidly expanding country areas.

As such, the Anglican Church withdrew its opposition to the Irish National System on the condition that government subsidies for denominational schools were continued. Consequently, in September 1847 the Legislative Council put aside £2,000 for the establishment of schools similar to the National Schools in Ireland.

In January 1848 the Board of National Education undertook the task of creating the necessary government schools and establishing a public education system, whilst the simultaneously appointed Denominational School Board was to handle government subsidies to church schools.


  • Historical
  • School operations

Business Unit:

  • Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation
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