Glossary of school types
The glossary provides definitions of the different school types in operation since 1848.
Download a print version (PDF 53.29KB) of the glossary or view the A-Z list below.
An elementary school dating from 1880 in which school enrolment was mainly for Aboriginal children.
Most Aboriginal schools were provisional schools and staffed until the 1940s and 1950s by untrained teachers. In 1968, the few remaining Aboriginal schools were converted into ordinary public schools.
|Central school (1944- )|
A school containing both primary and secondary departments, and seeks to provide secondary education for children both from nearby primary schools as well as from its own primary section.
The term central school has been used since 1944. Whilst such schools were classified as central schools in 1944, many continue to be known by the name of the specific secondary course offered (for example, intermediate high school, junior technical school). Central schools have become characteristic of regional districts where the population is too small to support a single high school.
|College (1989- )||A senior high school or college which caters for a wide range of post-compulsory school-age students. It offers a full range of Higher School Certificate courses appropriate to the locally identified needs.|
|Commercial school or department (1913- 1948)|
Originating in 1913, it was a department designed to offer both a post-primary education and vocational training for boys intent on a business career. From 1925 some girls were also enrolled.
Specific commercial subjects like business principles and book-keeping were taught. Commercial courses were taught in superior public schools, super-primary schools and in evening continuation schools. No separate commercial schools existed. Instead, commercial departments were closer in character to the general and academic streams of secondary education, and many were converted to intermediate high schools or made redundant by the establishment of separate secondary schools. There were no commercial departments after 1948, although a commercial course was available in some schools after that date.
|Community care school (1867- )||A type of School for Specific Purposes (SSP). Community care schools were conducted within government premises and places set aside for children committed to government care, with full control of these schools transferred to the NSW Department of Education in 1981.|
|Community school (1992- )||A school catering for students from Kindergarten through to Year 12. Community schools differ from central schools in that they have been established not because there are too few secondary students to support a high school, but because of a choice to have K-12 education provided by one school.|
| Correspondence school |
A school providing primary and secondary education by correspondence lessons. Established in 1916, only students unable to attend school because of distance were enrolled.
From 1923 students were also enrolled on medical grounds. Later, students were also enrolled who wished to study a subject not taught at the school they attended daily. Distance education centres now provide educational programs to students who are isolated or whose special circumstances prevent them from attending regular schools. In 1993 the Open Training and Education Network (OTEN) was formed to provide and develop training and distance education facilities for students.
|Demonstration school (1884- )||A school used to demonstrate educational methods to trainee teachers and provide practice in teaching. From 1928, the term demonstration school replaced the previous term 'practice' school. These schools continue to be ordinary schools with an added demonstration function, and are not specifically designated in the database.|
|Distance education centre (1991- )|
Distance education centres were established in 1991 in strategic locations throughout the state to deliver education to those students who were isolated or whose special circumstances prevent them from attending regular schools.
Some distance education centres operate from within regular government schools and are not identified in this database. They are instead listed on the department's website. See also reference to the Open Training and Education Network (OTEN) under
| District rural school |
|Established in 1923, district rural schools combined both primary and secondary departments to provide pre-vocational education for children in regional areas. Students were offered a three year post-primary course, which included subjects such as agriculture, applied farm mechanics and rural economics for boys; and home science and horticulture for girls. From 1926 the Intermediate Certificate was adopted as the final examination. From 1944 all district rural schools were classified as central schools.|
|District school (1906- 1945)||Established in 1906, district schools combined both primary and secondary departments in regional areas as adjuncts of superior public schools. They were designed to provide a two-year course of study for qualified children preparing for entry to teachers colleges, however more generally, they provided higher education for children in regional areas. By 1914 district schools had developed into schools offering literary or academic courses like those taught in high schools and intermediate high schools. Many were promoted to intermediate high schools as their enrolments increased, and others formed the basis for the establishment of separate high schools.|
|Domestic science school||See home science school.|
|Environmental education centre (1971- )||Established in 1971 to provide for the study and observation of the natural environment by primary and secondary pupils. These centres have no regular enrolment, but are visited by pupils with the teachers in the centres working in conjunction with the class teachers. In 1999, all field studies centres were renamed environmental education centres.|
|Evening continuation school |
|Established in 1911, evening continuation school provided vocational education for boys and girls who had completed their primary education and were 14 years or older. It consisted of a two-year course conducted for two hours, three nights each week. In 1946 evening continuation schools were converted into evening colleges, and given that their orientation has been towards adult non-vocational or leisure interests, they have not been included in the schools database.|
|Evening public school |
|Established in 1880, evening public schools sought to provide an elementary education for persons over 14 years of age who had previously received little to no education. They offered young men (very few females were ever enrolled) two hours of instruction three nights a week. They were usually conducted in the local public school building by the headmaster or other teachers. Most schools were poorly attended and were rapidly replaced from 1911 with evening continuation schools.|
|Field studies centre||See environmental education centre.|
|Half-time school |
|An elementary school established in 1867 to cater for children in areas of isolated populations. Between 1867 - 1868 teachers were in charge of up to seven 'stations', and from 1869 each teacher visited only two stations, making the schools become truly half-time. The attendance of at least 20 children was required, in two groups of 10 or more. In 1898 the required attendance was reduced to 16, and by 1908 no fixed number was required.|
|High school (1883-)||
First established in 1883, high schools played a very small part in the education system until the reorganisation of secondary education after 1910. It was then that secondary education was officially sub-divided into a variety of types of courses and schools, with high schools offering an academic
course to a selected intake of pupils. However, from the 1920s there was a long-term trend was towards comprehensive high schools, and by the 1950s many of the other types of secondary schools were either being transformed into or closing in favour of comprehensive high schools. Since the late 1960s
all new high schools have been co-educational, and many older schools have been converted into co-educational schools.|
In this database high school includes specialist secondary schools whose title might be, for example: girls high, boys high, technology high, agricultural high, conservatorium high, performing arts high, community high. Also categorised as high schools are schools which currently have an emphasis on a particular area of study, e.g. technology, performing arts, sport, although this emphasis is not included in the title of the school.
|Home science school |
A school department or a separate school combining post-primary education with home science and commercial training for girls. The home science course (known as domestic science until 1942) included subjects like cookery, home management and hygiene; but girls could also take a commercial course with subjects like economics, shorthand and typing.
From 1923 separate schools, generally known as central domestic science schools were established. They provided a three-year course for girls who had completed their primary education at schools in the surrounding district. However, changing attitudes to the education of girls in the late 1950s resulted in the rapid abandonment of home science courses and the conversion of home science high schools and central home science schools into comprehensive girls high schools and junior high schools.
|Hospital school||See school for specific purpose.|
| House to house school |
|An elementary school which emerged in 1881 to cater for sparsely populated areas unable to be reached by other types of schools. A typical house to house school was composed of two or more teaching stations several miles apart, where children were gathered and visited by the teacher. The teachers were on the whole untrained or of the lowest classification, instruction was confined to basic subjects and no school buildings had to be erected.|
|Infants school (1880-)||A public school enrolling only the youngest children. The first infants schools were opened in Sydney in 1880 to relieve the pressure on nearby public schools.|
|Intermediate high school (1912- 1977)||A school containing both primary and secondary departments, intermediate high schools emerged in 1912 to cater for children that qualified for but were unable to enrol in the NSW's small number of high schools. The intermediate high school offered a basically academic course of instruction to Intermediate Certificate standard and sometimes beyond. In 1944 all intermediate high schools were classified as central schools, however, the numbers of intermediate high schools declined rapidly after 1950 as high schools were established in large numbers.|
|Junior high campus |
|A separate secondary school which emerged in 1930 to offer junior secondary education only.|
|Junior technical school or department (1913- 1962)||Established in 1913, junior technical departments or separate schools combined post-primary education with technical training for boys expected to enter a skilled trade. The vocational subjects included drawing, woodwork, metalwork, etc. In accordance with the general educational trend, these were gradually converted to comprehensive high schools, the last ones becoming boys junior high schools in 1962.|
|Multi-campus college (1999- )||A group of (former) high schools who have combined to become a single education provider across a number of sites within a given community. They usually combine to form a number of junior campuses and a senior campus, however there are some variations.|
|National fitness camp||See sport and recreation centre.|
|National school (1848- 1866)||Previously all schools operated by the Board of National Education were called national schools. They were renamed public schools in 1867.|
|Nursery school (1943- )||The first nursery school was opened in 1943 to provide care for children of preschool age. Only a few of the separate nursery schools are entered in the government schools of NSW 1848 database because most nursery schools have been adjuncts of infants or public schools.|
|Practice school||See demonstration school.|
| Provisional school |
|Emerging in 1867, provisional schools were elementary schools which were established in areas where at least 15 children (but fewer than the 25 required for a public school) could be expected to attend. Parents had to provide the building and furniture, whilst the Council of Education or the Department of Education paid the teacher and supplied books and equipment. After 1882 there were provisions for the Department to provide all or part of the cost of buildings, but parents often met most of the costs well into the twentieth century. The schools were generally staffed by untrained teachers or by teachers of the lowest classification. Gradually they became in effect small public schools, and in 1957 the remaining ones were converted to public schools.|
| Public school |
A basic elementary school known as national schools from 1848 to 1866, and as public schools since 1867. Originally the attendance of 30 children were required for the establishment of a school, but this was reduced to 25 in 1867 and 20 in 1880. In 1957 when provisional schools were converted to public schools, and the minimum figure was reduced to nine.
Until 1875 parents had to pay one-third of the cost of buildings, but the Council of Education and the Department have since met the total costs. Until the 1880s there were no government secondary schools, and no official post-primary courses in public schools. After 1913 many public schools incorporated one or more distinct secondary departments or ‘schools’. The modern development of high schools has meant that, with some exceptions like the central schools, most public schools now offer only primary courses.
|School for specific purposes |
Is a school for children with special needs who require hospitalisation or have physical, intellectual or psychological disabilities. Some of these schools do not have regular enrolment, with the children instead being regarded as temporarily absent from their ordinary school.
There have been many variations in the naming and classification of these schools, especially those conducted in centres run by voluntary organisations. Older titles such as 'School for Crippled Children' or 'School for Sub-Normal Children' have not been used in the database with most of the schools being identified simply with SSP or Hospital SSP. Community care schools are also classified 'SSP' by the department. In 1985 the department adopted a policy of integration of children with disabilities into regular schools.
|School of the air (1956- )||Opening in 1956, lessons were initially conducted by radio from Broken Hill for correspondence students (later distance education students). Currently lessons are now conducted via satellite, with an additional campus opened in Hay in 1992.|
|Sport and recreation centre (1947- )|
In 1947 teachers were appointed to certain national fitness camps, which were then renamed sport and recreation centres in the 1970s. There are no regular enrolment at these centres, but they are visited by groups of children with the teachers in the centres working in conjunction with the class teacher concerned.
Until the early 1970s the emphasis was predominantly on physical education and recreational activities, whereas nowadays pupils’ social development and environmental education are the main priorities. In 1971, the administration of sport and recreation centres was taken over by the NSW Department of Sport, Recreation and Racing, although the Department of Education continued to provide teachers up until 1990.
| Subsidised school |
|A school designed for localities where the minimum attendance required for even the smallest type of government school could not be obtained. Whilst the Department paid a subsidy for each pupil, parents were totally responsible for providing the school building and the teacher. However, it was often that subsidised schools were permitted to use former government school buildings. Subsidised schools were not government schools, and are not included in the schools database.|
| Superior public school |
A public school officially recognised from 1881 as providing both primary and post-primary education. From 1913 superior public schools were re-organised, being restricted to offering two-year vocational courses – commercial, home science or junior technical. An individual school could provide one or more of these.
By 1925 there was a less rigid vocational emphasis, and courses had been extended to three years and students could sit for the Intermediate Certificate examination. After 1931 the term superior public school was abandoned, super-primary schools being known only be the names of the courses offered.
|Travelling school |
|Similar to a house to house school, travelling schools catered for small, isolated groups of children. There were only three such schools. The first opened in 1908, and the last closed in 1949. In the early years, teachers used horse-drawn vans as school classrooms if necessary, whilst in later years teachers used their vehicles only as their means of transport. Teaching was done in the various houses, exactly as house to house teachers had done.|