School and education history in Victoria

Research Victoria's primary and secondary schools, text books and readers, past exams and results, curricula

Your Librarian

Profile Photo
Kylie Best
Contact me via our online reference service citing my name and the title of this guide


This guide helps you to research the history of schools and education in Victoria. State Library Victoria holds many resources including books, periodicals, images, maps, online databases and indexes which may help you with your research. We also refer you to other organisations that hold relevant records.

Click onto the tabs across the top of this page for more detailed information on each topic. The suggested catalogue searches and resources listed will provide more detailed information.

Good luck with your research.


When Victoria became an independent colony in 1851, it inherited a dual system of publicly funded schools from New South Wales. The Denominational School Board administered the funding and regulation of church-based schools, and the National School Board oversaw government-funded secular schools.

Some children went to independent schools, others were educated at home with tutors. For the poorest families education was a luxury many could not afford. This led to the establishment of what were known as 'ragged schools'.

This period also saw the establishment of private school schools known as 'grammar schools', which emulated the English public school model, for example Geelong Grammar School (est.1855), and Melbourne Grammar School (1858).

The Board of Education was formed in 1862, at which point the Denominational School Board dissolved, and a system of common and rural schools established. When the Education Act (Vic) was passed in 1872, Victoria was the first of the Australian colonies to set up a central public school system based on the principles of free, secular and compulsory education. 

All children aged 6-15 years were now required to attend school unless they had a reasonable excuse. Financial aid to church schools ended in 1874, with these schools allowed to continue independently. With the Education Act  the Department of Education was established, led by Victoria's first Minister of Education.


Print, wood engraving, Hornbrook ragged school, classroom scene with children and schoolmaster

Hornbrook ragged school IAN20/02/84/20

Photograph, detail of small boy from class photo for Boundary Road School, 2566, Grade Prep.

Detail from Boundary Road 2566 Grade Prep. [cropped]  H2008.12/64

Industry Placement Students

Hannah Barker, industry placement student in Masters of Information Management at RMIT, researched and provided content for the Images, Magazines & yearbooks, and Schools records tabs on this guide.

Nicole Scoble, industry placement student in Graduate Diploma of Information Management at Monash University, researched and provided content for the Buildings, Term Dates, and the Past Exams & Results tabs of this guide.


Kylie Best, Librarian, Victorian and Australian Published Collections

Katie Flack, Manager, Victorian and Australian Published Collections

Juliet O'Conor, Children's Literature Librarian

Sarah Matthews, Librarian, Victorian and Australian Published Collections

Barbara Carswell, Librarian, Information Services

Paul Dee, Collections Coordinator, Victorian and Australian Published Collections

Debra Hutchinson, Librarian, Victorian and Australian Published Collections

Hannah Barker, industry placement student, RMIT

Nicole Scoble, industry placement student, Monash University