Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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    Toorak College, 1874-1958 : the survival of a girls' private school in Victorian society
    Robinson, Jeffrey Travers ( 1986)
    As one of the oldest of Victoria's privately-owned girls' schools, Toorak College illustrates the influence of the principal in cultivating a clientele whose interests the activities of the school reflected and by whose support its survival was determined. Independent of church or corporation, Toorak College began in 1874 as a boys' school in Douglas Street, Toorak, and was converted to a girls' school in 1897. By 1919, transferred to a gracious building set in expansive formal gardens on the highest point of Glenferrie Road, Malvern, Toorak College presented to the public the appearance of a flourishing school. Ever sensitive to the expectations of a clientele that valued the practices of English education, its principals introduced practical subjects as advocated by Michael Sadler and critically considered the principles of the New Education Fellowship and the Dalton Plan. With the depression, 1929 - 34, and the war, 1939 - 45, the college, whose ownership had been transferred from its principal to a private company in 1927, entered a period of uncertainty. After eighteen months in uncomfortable temporary quarters, the school was transferred to a site on the Mornington Peninsula. The Company's financial resources were strained by the purchase of two properties and the remoteness of Frankston made the attraction and retention of competent staff difficult. By 1932, with its enrolment severely reduced, the college might have closed but for the efforts, little short of heroic, of the Directors and the Misses Hamilton. Gradually the school recovered, supported by a loyal constituency united by appeals to the school's longevity, the product of a fabricated claim of a foundation in 1854. Indeed, the ability of the principal to establish the solid standing of the school in the public esteem has been of greater importance in ensuring Toorak College's continuation than have its fine buildings or a curriculum in which serious scholastic studies were advanced at the expense of a training in the social accomplishments.