School Histories

Categories of Early Schools in WA

The history of our early schools highlights the importance of the category in which they were placed, as this determined the type of education services which would be provided. Matters taken into consideration by the Education Department when applications were made for the establishment of new schools included the number of children involved, the distance they lived from existing schools and possible parental obligations required.

A three-volume provisional publication, compiled by John Rikkers of the Planning Branch of the Education Department in the 1980s, provides an excellent resource for researchers. These informative works can be viewed at the State Library of Western Australia.

The following definitions are taken from Rikkers and help to clarify the histories of the schools on the website.[1]


With few exemptions, the title ‘State School’ is used as a collective name for the various classes of Government Elementary Day Schools from 1896 to 1945. Many of these schools were reclassified from year to year, owing to the fluctuating attendance which determined their classification. Details of the classification of each Government School can be found in the Annual Report of the Education Department from 1871 to 1925, in the Education Circular from 1899 to 1962, and in the Schools and Staffing Supplement to the Education Circular from 1963 onwards.[2]

Classes of Schools as at 1896:-

Public Schools – (named State Schools in 1898). In any locality where an average attendance of fifteen children between the ages of four and sixteen could be guaranteed.

Half-Time Schools – wherever at least twenty children between the ages of four and sixteen were residing within an estimated radius of ten miles from a central point. An Itinerant Teacher could be appointed, provided that an aggregate average of fifteen children was maintained.

[Half-Time Schools had been discontinued by 1932]

Provisional Schools – where there were at least fifteen children of school age within a radius of three miles from the proposed school. A provisional school would not be maintained where the average attendance for a period of six months fell below ten.

[In 1913, when two more Public Schools salary scales were added to the six determined in 1896, all the schools listed in 1912 under the heading Provisional were shown in the following year (1913) under the heading State Schools classification VII or VIII. The latter classification was reserved for schools with fewer than twenty children in average daily attendance in the previous year.]

SPD Schools – schools in sparsely-peopled districts as for House-to-House Schools.

[SPD Schools were listed as House-to-House Schools in 1901, and House-to-House Schools were recorded as SPD Schools from 1912 to 1914.]

House-to-House Schools – in sparsely peopled districts, the settlers could apply for a grant for the teaching of school-aged children provided that proper rooms and furniture were available, and provided that no public half-time or provisional school be within four miles of the homes of any children; a competent teacher was secured; and the settlers were willing to supplement the grant from the Department by such amount as would provide the teacher with a salary of at least 60 pounds per annum.

[From 1914 onwards, the House-to-House Schools were named Assisted Schools.]

Special Schools – where its distance from Perth prevented regular visits by an Inspector, a Special School could be maintained. These Special Schools could be classed Public Schools, but the teachers might be paid at a higher [Special] rate.

Evening Schools – these could be established where no fewer than ten persons wished to attend. The pupils of an Evening School met in a Public School room at least three times weekly, and every such meeting had to be of not less than 1½ hours’ duration.

Assisted Schools (1916 Education Circular) – ‘The need of isolated families, where it is possible to get together as many as eight children, are met by a system of assisted schools. If the parents secure a suitable teacher, the Department gives a grant of 10 pounds p.a. for each pupil in attendance on condition that … [certain requirements are complied with]. The necessary books and apparatus are supplied by the Department … Even a single family may become an assisted school.’

[NB The schools formerly entitled ‘Assisted’ were named ‘Private School’ in 1896.

In 1916 the lowest average attendance for maintaining a Government Assisted School was reduced from ten to eight pupils.]

Central Schools – The adjective ‘central’ has been used to denote a central location, such as Central Greenough or Greenough Central, and in connection with Perth Boys’, Perth Girls’ and Perth Monitors from 1896 to 1906. It was also used from 1909 onwards to indicate a change of status of a few primary schools.

[1] John Rikkers, Planning Branch, Education Department of WA, Schools in Western Australia 1830 – 1980, Part 3 A Spread of Schools, 1982, p. 5.

[2] Western Australian Government Gazettes and the Western Australian Public Service Lists, often known as the ‘Blue Books’ are earlier sources.