A Short History

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“While the School is proud of its traditional past it should not be held back by it. In fact, in the interesting and varied history of St Andrew’s School, the Cathedral itself is perhaps the only constant. There is a need to take new directions…to accommodate the demands of society and to keep our School at the forefront. This is a School for the future,” – Mr Colin Boland, President of the Former ‘Old Boys’ Union.

St Andrew's Cathedral School today is incredibly different from the one that first opened on 14 July 1885 – a single, modest school room on Pitt Street which housed 27 boys. In more than a century, St Andrew’s has grown in both spirit and numbers to become a thriving, coeducational school in the middle of Sydney’s city.

Our beginnings were in the illustrious Choir School tradition. Bishop Alfred Barry saw a need to provide the Choristers of St Andrew’s Cathedral with a high-class education in addition to their musical training. Cathedral Choristers received a free education and the other boys were charged a sum of three guineas.

By 1900 the School’s enrolments had grown to 50 pupils – still all boys. Classes were taught in a variety of church halls around the city – St Andrew’s even shared office space with one of Australia’s longest-running radical newspapers. Plans for school buildings were never made; as student numbers were few it was thought that classes could always run in church facilities.

In 1966 however, the School finally received its own building in Kent Street, opposite the Cathedral. After a demolishment to make way for Sydney Square in the early 1970s, we moved to a city office block, assuming just two levels and a unique rooftop playground. While it was expected that this building would only be a temporary home for the School, the city environment had become firmly intertwined with the unique identity of St Andrew’s. In spite of all assumptions, there would be no move to a ‘traditional’ school setting – the excitement, adaptability and forward-thinking nature of the CBD would prove to be a continued differentiating factor that drew students from across Sydney to St Andrew’s.

In 1999, after more than a century as a boy’s only school, change was again in the air at St Andrew’s. Having expanded throughout St Andrew’s House and acquiring numerous other properties (including Kirrikee, a southern highlands Outdoor Education property) the doors were opened to Senior girls, and later, girls from Kindergarten to Year 12. It was a momentous change – but one that made us one of the only coeducational schools in the city, with record enrolment numbers of over 750 students in the introductory years.

In 2007, the Gawura Campus was established, a means to provide urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children with a strong programme of literacy and numeracy, within the context of their own traditions. Two years later, the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme was launched at the school as an alternative to the Higher School Certificate.

Following the headship of Mr Phillip Heath, who had engendered many of the exciting changes in the recent history of St Andrew’s, Dr John Collier commenced in January 2010 as the 14th Head of School. A passionate educator and academic, Dr Collier has spent over 40 years working in Australian schools, first as an English and History teacher then as a Head of History, a Deputy and then a Head of School in three separate schools. Alongside a dedicated team of staff, he is enthused about growing both the pastoral and academic excellence of St Andrew’s and building the vibrancy of our community.