Division of pupils into classes

Early days

From 1848 to 1904 New South Wales used the Irish National system of arranging pupils in classes 1 to 5, based largely on a set of graded reading books. Pupils generally spent more than one year in each class, and it was rare for any but the largest schools to have Classes 4 and 5, as the work expected of these classes was of an advanced nature. From 1881 Class 5 was generally restricted to the senior pupils of Superior Public Schools; such pupils, who had completed the elementary course but did not wish to attend a High School, gradually became known as super-primary pupils.
Between the establishment of the first government High Schools in 1883 and their reorganisation in 1911, High School pupils were usually divided into two groups those preparing for the Junior Public examination and those preparing for the Senior Public examination, both set by the University of Sydney.

'New Education' syllabus

The 'New Education' syllabus introduced in 1904-05 abandoned the Irish National system of classification and divided pupils into five infants and primary classes, and two classes for super-primary pupils; in the larger schools a kindergarten class became gradually more available after 1906. Changes since then to the primary school system of classification have been mainly of title rather than substance.

In 1911 the first course for High Schools laid down by the Department of Education required four years of secondary education, the first two being divided from the second two by an Intermediate Certificate examination. Changes since then have been to extend the first part of the secondary school course progressively to four years.

Recommended time

It should be noted that the time spent in each class as indicated below was the time recommended by the education authorities, and until about 1930 was often exceeded in practice.


1848   Classes 1 to 5 with a Sequel Class between Classes 2 and 3; period of time spent in each class varied.

1867   Classes 1 to 5; 2 years each spent in Classes 1 to 4, and 1 year in Class 5.

1884   Classes 1 to 5; 1.5 years each spent in Classes 1 to 3, and 1 year each in Classes 4 and 5.

1891   Classes 1 to 5; 1.5 years spent in Class 1, 1 year in Class 2, 2 years in Class 3, and 1 year each in Classes 4 and 5.


1904   'New Education' syllabus introduced:

            Infants: Kindergarten (where available), Class 1, 1.5  to 2.5  years

            Primary: Classes 2 to 5, 1 year each

            Super-Primary: Classes 6 and 7, 1 year each.

1911   High School: Years 1 to 4, with Intermediate Certificate examination taken at end of Year 2.

1916   Class 1 divided into 2 classes; school organisation thus became:

            Infants: Kindergarten (where available), Classes 1 and 2, 1 year each

            Primary: Classes 3 to 6, 1 year each

            Super-Primary: Classes 7 and 8, 1 year each.

1918  High School course extended to 5 years by introducing a 'Remove' Year between Years 1 and 2; the first Remove Year operated in 1918 and the last one in 1922; from 1923 High Schools were organised into Years 1 to 5. Super-primary courses were gradually extended to 3 years between 1918 and 1924; they were known as Classes 7 to 9.


1951   In primary and super-primary schools the term 'class' replaced by 'grade'.

1962  First year of Wyndham Scheme, which introduced a 6-year High School course. 'Forms' gradually replaced 'Years'. Forms 1 to 4 were a prelude to the School Certificate examination and Forms 5 and 6 to the Higher School Certificate examination. The first Form 4 emerged in 1965 and the first Form 6 in 1967.

1976 Primary and secondary schools adopted a uniform sequential system

            Primary: Kindergarten, Years 1 to 6

            Secondary: Years 7 to 12

1997  In primary schools multi-age (or composite) class groupings, which had always been used in small schools, had come to be used in an increasing number of larger schools where the mixing of children of different ages was felt to have educational and social advantages. Most commonly these classes were a combination of two consecutive years, eg, 1/2, 3/4, 5/6, but there were other variations, including multi-age classes which involved Kindergarten students.

1999  Multi-campus colleges were introduced with the amalgamation of secondary schools within a specific area. Each former secondary school became a campus of their college. A senior college campus is generally for students in Years 11 and 12 but in some cases, may include Year 10 students.

The colleges have formed cooperative ventures with TAFE Institutes and universities. They offer a wide range of options from specialist senior Higher School Certificate courses to school re-entry courses.

In 2008 there are 10 such collegiates located in these areas.