Martyn Smith, writing about Wesley College

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A History of the School, written in 1977
A HISTORY OF THE SCHOOL
(1990, for booklet calling for applications for appointment of new Principal)

Wesley College Melbourne is situated on three metropolitan campuses - Prahran, Glen Waverley and Elsternwick - and two permanent camps, one in mountain bushland and the other by the coast.  Now co-educational, it was a school for boys until December 1977.

It was founded as the Wesleyan Methodist Grammar School in January, 1865, but opened twelve months later as Wesley College Melbourne.  In personalising and broadening their school's name, the founders of the College were acknowledging John Wesley's enormous eighteenth century contribution to general education which, with pride and gusto, his 'Methodists' had continued in colonial Victoria and were in the process of expanding.

The College was aimed at furthering the Methodists' religious and social passion for education:  "Give your children a comprehensive education," implored the College's first President, Rev. James Waugh, in his Inaugural Address, delivered amidst some fervour, in January, 1866.  "Cultivate their minds and consciences.  Endow them, as far as you can, with a better fortune than gold or silver.  Equip them for the duties of the coming time.

"You may not be able to select their path in life or choose their place, but you can educate them, and by God's help train them in the way they ought to go.  Then they will rise up to call you blessed and to aid in the intellectual and religious progress of our land," he added.

Waugh's address was, and remains, an inspiration for the Wesley College community.  In his speech, Waugh places the school clearly in its religious context and eulogises education, uniting it with religion in a mission not only to enhance the lives of pupils but also to refine and elevate society.

To offer a "comprehensive education" in the young, gold-besotted colony of Victoria required energy and enterprise and Wesley's first Headmaster, James Corrigan, reported in December, 1866, that the College already had instituted curriculum content and organisational structure which were about to be recommended in the legislature.  Such willingness to act in response to foreshadowed needs is a hallmark of Wesley College's education tradition. After all, John Wesley's insistence on schooling anticipated by a century moves for universal education.

Modern Wesley College, now constituted by the Uniting Church in Australia, following the union of the Methodist, Presbyterian  and Congregational Churches in 1977, has continued to pursue valid innovation and development with the vitality and vision inherited from its history.  Blessed with superb foresight, decision-makers of the late 'forties and early 'fifties purchased land in then outer-suburban Glen Waverley and accepted a gift of a large tract of land near rural Healesville.  These decisions bequeathed space to grow, both physically and educationally.

The Glen Waverley site, once an orchard and now at the demographic centre of Melbourne, will, in 1993, cater for approximately 1500 students from Beginners to Year 12.  From its inception, in 1966, until 1977 it was Wesley's Junior School with approximately 400 students.  Now, the Glen Waverley Campus complements the traditional Prahran Campus which comprises 1350 students from Year 5 to Year 12.  The Prahran Campus dates from 1866 and is situated on St Kilda Road within ten minutes of the City of Melbourne's cultural heritage and services.  In 1989, Cato College amalgamated with Wesley College and became the Elsternwick Campus of the College.  It has 350 students from Beginners to Year 10, thereby giving a current total enrolment of 2750.  Each campus is administered by a Head who is accountable to the Principal.

Additionally, the camp at Chum Creek near Healesville has been the catalyst for a far-reaching programme of Outdoor Education which recently saw the leasing of a second camp - Camp Mallana - on the shores of the Gippsland Lakes on the south-eastern coast of Victoria.

Since 1977, when Wesley's decision to become co-educational was implemented, extensive renovation and new building has occurred at all campuses and camps.  These developments have been accompanied by vigorous educational, administrative and managerial growth which remains under active and constant review.  The College continues to plan for the future and currently, for example, is creating partnerships with various schools in Asia with a view to student and staff exchanges occurring.

In November, 1989, a major fire gutted the historic central quadrangle of the Prahran Campus, thus destroying the library, offices and some classrooms.  Valued archives were lost also.  Speedy re-organization and generous help from the neighbouring School for Deaf Children and Royal Freemasons' Homes enabled the school to commence 1990 with no diminution of its services.

Wesley College is lively, diverse and stimulating.  An open-entry school, it attracts parents and teachers from a wide variety of backgrounds who believe in James Waugh's dictum:  "Give your children a comprehensive education."   The College Council supports the quest for excellence in all components of such an education and encourages and welcomes the seeking of new ways to achieve it.

Related link
A History of the School, written in 1977
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