The history of education in Western
and South Western Sydney follows that of the state of New South Wales. Some
of the major influences are outlined below.
The 'Make-Do' Period 1788-1840s
Parents who could read and write, like Mary Collits of Castlereagh, taught their own and other children. Well-to-do property owners like John Macarthur set up small schools on their properties. While few teachers had formal qualifications, some schools such as Rev.John Fulton's Classical Academy at Castlereagh did exist and The Kings School was opened in Parramatta in 1832. Some church-organised schools, like St Simeon's Church of England School at Castle Hill, existed and received some government assistance. Governor Macquarie set up a school for Aborigines at Parramatta in 1815 and made provision for schools in the towns established by him.
The Government Steps In 1848-1880
A Board of National Education was appointed in 1848 in response to a report that found that half the colony's school-age children were not receiving instruction. At the same time a Denominational School Board was also appointed to handle government funding of church schools. The Board of National Education was given the task of setting up schools under a government system of education. For example, in Western Sydney, National Schools were opened at Camden in 1849 and Smithfield in 1850. As the population of the area increased further government schools opened - eg. Richmond 1860, Colyton 1861, Liverpool 1863 and Penrith 1865. The Public Schools Act of 1866 replaced the two boards with a Council of Education. The Act received wide support and the number of government schools increased substantially over the next few years. In the western region of Sydney, for example, new schools opened at Mount Victoria in 1868, Windsor in 1870, Blacktown in 1871, Campbelltown in 1876, Springwood in 1878 and Lidcombe in 1879. Several small church-run schools and private academies still operated during this period and new ones continued to open. Newington College opened in 1863 at Auburn.
The Introduction of Compulsory Education 1880-1945
In 1880 the Public Instruction Act introduced compulsory education and government high schools and withdrew government funding from denominational schools. With the increase in enrolments the demand for new schools grew and makeshift accommodation was common. For example, new public schools opened in tents in Katoomba in 1881 and Boothtown (Prospect) in 1882. The first government high school in Western Sydney was Parramatta High opened in 1913. A number of public schools were raised to the status of Intermediate High Schools - eg. Katoomba 1920, Penrith 1925. Private and church schools continued to flourish. The Blue Mountains, for example, saw the establishment of a number of non-church private venture schools like Springwood Ladies College (1 897), Woodford Academy (1907), Osborne Ladies College, Blackheath (1923) and the Blue Mountains Grammar School which began in Springwood in 1918. Western Sydney's first institutions of tertiary education also opened during this period - The Hawkesbury Agricultural College in 1891.
The Post-War Period - Baby Booooooooom !!!! 1945-
The years following the Second World War were characterised by population growth in Western Sydney, resulting in an increase in the demand for new schools. In the Blacktown area, for example, forty-nine government schools alone have opened since 1954. The number of high schools increased with the raising of the school leaving age and the greater accessibility of tertiary education. Colleges of Technical & Further Education and Colleges of Advanced Education were opened and in 1989 the Hawkesbury Agricultural College combined with the Nepean CAE to become the University of Western Sydney.