Wesley College Melbourne Australia
Wesley College Melbourne

Modern in its time

“New Wesley” from the 1935 Prospectus
“New Wesley” from the 1935 Prospectus

The St Kilda Road Chapel

Wesley has always been an innovative school. Not content to rest on its laurels, the school has sought not just to keep up, but to set standards in school curriculum, philosophy and architecture. 

Yet the world changes and what we thought was fashionable, up to date, even forward thinking, becomes quaint and nostalgic. Some trends last forever, others pass by. These photographs from our archives are very revealing.

Look at the way classrooms have changed. Large classes, rows of desks, quiet boys, gowned teachers, small record books with handwritten notes and results, blackboard and chalk, have given way to colour on the walls, seating in groups, boys and girls, electronic teaching aids. The science classrooms proudly displayed in the Prospectus of the early 1930s, together with the new library, new dormitory for boarders, are not what is expected these days. Some subjects have stopped being taught too – no more wool sorting, or Latin.

The St Kilda Road Chapel

While what goes on inside the classroom has changed, so too has the outside. Some recently revealed photographs of the Chapel at the St Kilda Road campus show a fine example of Modern style, a true hallmark of the 1930s. Sleek and linear, with understated decorative motifs of books on the top of low relief capitals, Modern style was an extension of Art Deco. The chapel was designed by Harry Norris, and built as part of the complete renovation of the school funded by the Nicholas brothers in the early 1930s.

Wool shearing class McCarthy c1920
Wool shearing class McCarthy c1920

Workmen building the new school in the 1930s

The school’s purpose though, has changed very little, namely, to provide a liberal education to prepare students for work and/or further study. What has changed, especially in recent decades, is the design and interior layout of the classroom, as well as the adoption of new teaching methodologies coupled with a greater use of technology. More and more teaching is being done outside of the traditional classroom environment, as evidenced by innovative residential programs such as Clunes and the Yiramalay/Wesley Studio School. Today, the College also takes advantage of the ongoing research and development through the Wesley College Institute.

The new library

The truth is that the College always seeks to educate in the most meaningful and effective way available, appropriate for the students of the day. Wesley College has always had an eye on the possible future trends in education. In daring to be wise the College has not only sought to be at the forefront of educational evolution, but also to contribute significantly to that very process.

Old science classroom