Brisbane State High School

Brisbane State High School

Name: Brisbane State High School

Time: 1921 - Current

Epoch: Early 20th Century

Category: State High School

Institution Category: Education

Institution Group: Secondary

Coordinates: -27.479002, 153.0178952

Street Address: Cordelia St &, Glenelg St, South Brisbane QLD 4101

Suburb: South Brisbane

Sector: State

Local Study Area: West End-South Brisbane-North Woolloongabba

Study Stage: MBSH Stage 3 Local Study Areas

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The school developed from the School of Arts in Ann Street, and later from the old Normal School. Around 1913 the school became a co-educational school. Headmasters of various metropolitan state schools were asked to nominate 76 boys and girls for admission to the new school, and a further 70 paying students made up the first year’s enrolment. Brisbane State High School first met in the Technical College buildings, in Ann Street. In 1914 the School moved to lower George Street. In 1921 another move was made to Normal School buildings on the corner of Adelaide and Edward Streets. During this time the School was being administered by the Central Technical College and combined with the Junior High School which had been operating as a secondary department. The School was relocated to the Musgrave Park site in 1925, and become independent of the Technical College system. Isaac Waddle, was Brisbane State High School’s first Principal, and served for 24 years (1920–1945). Herbert G. Watkin was another influential Principal (1947–1951). Secondary Education in Queensland, outside the privileged provisions of the 1860 Grammar Schools Act, did not start until 1912, with the state undertaking to establish free high schools in places with a likely attendance of 25 qualified students, provided that there was no other provision for State-aided secondary education (such as grammar schools) in these places. Even so, secondary education in Queensland was not substantively provided (outside of Grammar and other class-based schools) until the first suburban, multilateral (offering a variety of courses) State high schools were opened in Brisbane; at Wynnum in 1942 and Cavendish Road in 1952. Several state reviews were generated by the great disappointment the community had of the state system, including transitions from primary to secondary education, and the transitions from secondary to tertiary education. Historically, the Queensland education system had been under pressure from instrumental policies which prioritised towards the state’s old agrarian and emerging industrial economy.

The Watkin Committee believed years of compulsory schooling should be coupled with a reduction in the age of transfer from primary to secondary school and the provision of new secondary curricula. These recommendations were largely implemented under the Education Act of 1964. Under this Act, secondary school curricula and examinations became the responsibility of two new administrative bodies, the Board of Junior Secondary School Studies and the Board of Senior Secondary School Studies. During the second half of the 1960s these Boards kept the Junior and Senior syllabuses and examinations under constant review, in an effort to cater for the wider range of abilities and future vocations of the students then entering the secondary school. In some cases, as in certain of the Senior science subjects, such as physics, biology and chemistry, completely new courses were introduced.

The Radford Committee, appointed in 1969, to review the system of public examinations for Queensland secondary school students and to make recommendations for the assessment of students’ achievement, suggested in its 1970 report that public examinations be replaced by a system of internal school assessment. The Radford Committee’s recommendations were enacted in the Education Act Amendment Act (No.2) of 1970. Consequently, the Junior and Senior examinations, first held in 1910, were held for the last time in 1970 and 1972 respectively. The Scholarship examination, first held in 1873, was held for the last time in 1962, and in 1963 Grade 8 became a part of secondary schooling. These changes meant that no Queensland school student in 1973 was required to sit for a public examination. The century long reign of the public examination was over. Freed from the constraints of public examinations, syllabuses could now be significantly revised and teachers given much more freedom in interpreting and teaching them. Overall responsibility for implementing the Radford proposals was given to a Board of Secondary School Studies established in 1971. Between 1971 and 1978, 70 new syllabuses were written, trialled, piloted, brought into full operation and in some cases revised.

Geographic Description 1: Inside The Green Belt

Geographic Description 2: Brisbane River

Geographic Description 3: Flood Plains; Hills; Ridgeline (Slopes off)


Hawkins, T. Max. The Queensland Great Public Schools – A History. Jacaranda Press; 1965; Entry extracted from Queensland Department of Education document, Secondary Education, undated.

Image Citations

Brisbane State High School, circa 1940s – Image ID: KFA9P4. Alamy Purchase.