What was the motivation for Bishops Broughton and Barry in establishing grammar schools?
From the earliest beginnings of the colony, the Church of England in Australia was committed to the education of the young. The first chaplains, Samuel Marsden and Richard Johnson, were evangelicals who believed that school education should have a strong focus on teaching Bible knowledge and impressing moral imperatives. Until around 1815 the Anglican chaplains were virtually unchallenged in their role as supervisors of education. But this dominance would not last. As public opinion turned against state support of sectarian education, legislative changes meant that Anglican parochial Day Schools could no longer be maintained. Interestingly, there was still much work that could be done in the public schools through ‘Religious Instruction’ classes. Yet the Anglicans instead turned their attention towards the establishment of three prominent grammar schools: The King’s School in Parramatta, St Andrew’s Cathedral School in Sydney and Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore).
This move towards grammar schools has been summarised pejoratively as an abandonment of the elementary schools in favour of providing for the elite. In this essay, we will assess whether this is an accurate claim by examining, as far as is possible, the motivations of those who established those grammar schools—Bishop William Broughton and Bishop Alfred Barry. We will show that both men were driven by their desire to see the new colony prosper as a Christian land. To achieve that goal, a solid, Anglican education of the colony’s future leaders was crucial. In the context of the day, those future leaders would unquestionably come from the middle and upper classes. So rather than demonstrating a bias for the elite, the decision to establish grammar schools was the means to a much greater end of seeing the whole colony prosper under the direction of godly, Christian leaders.