Understanding Robert Evelyn Freeth: A study of the educational ideas and administration of a leader in Western Australian independent schools, 1928-1950

Year: 1994

Author: White, Michael A.

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Robert Evelyn Freeth, Headmaster of Guildford Church of England Grammar School between 1928 and 1949, poses an interesting challenge for the educational historian. His administration of Guildford Grammar School left an indelible imprint on the school that attracts great admiration from schoolboys of the depression and World War II decades. Many of these scaled the heights of Western Australian and Australian society. Research into his career helps to explain this enviable reputation, yet also questions the substance of his educational ideas and administration.

Freeth is revealed as an enigmatic character whose arch-conservatism in educational ideas sat uncomfortably with his earlier life as a missionary in the South Pacific. It also clashed with the more liberal drift of educational thought in the later years of his period as headmaster. The present study explores aspects of Freeth's career, seeking insights into the mystique surrounding his headmastership at Guildford and throwing light upon difficulties this created in the immediate post-war years prior to his retirement. Freeth's time as headmaster spans two of the most difficult yet interesting decades in the development of Anglican grammar schools in Western Australia.