Aspirations and elevations: the design of the Australian secondary school

Year: 2013

Author: Willis, Julie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Secondary education had been available in various forms in Australia in the nineteenth century, most commonly provided by church schools or other private providers. State-based provision of secondary education through high schools began its expansion around 1906 and by the 1920s was in full flight, with multiple new high schools built across Australia.
The architectural representation of the high school from the 1920s reflected its importance in the community, and their position at the peak of state-provided education for school children. The design of state (primary) schools had been distinct from infants schools, so too were high schools distinct from state schools. Representative of the aspirations of the students and their families who attended them, the architecture of high schools was formal with greater stylistic pretension than those schools that catered for younger students. Such high schools chose an architectural language that was deliberately civic and aligned with other public buildings that sought gravitas and respect through their design. This positioning of the school, and the rhetoric around the greater provision of secondary education to the Australian population, spoke of the moulding of future citizens, being prepared to join civilised society.