Currently, there are more than 155 Anglican Schools throughout the nation, providing education for more than 155,000 students. Australia’s oldest surviving independent school is the King’s School in Parramatta, founded in 1831. Melbourne Grammar School is the second oldest Anglican School in Victoria, beginning in 1858.
Education has long been of paramount importance as a lifelong process which begins in the home and continues through all ages and stages of life. Schooling plays a critical formative role. Anglican schools do not constitute an educational system, as is the case for State or Catholic Schools. Instead, they are the product of an historical evolution over a long period of time. In Victoria, the first group of schools was founded in the 19th century by the first Bishop of Melbourne, the Right Rev’d Dr Charles Perry, who consciously promoted the English Public School model of education.
Fundamentally, it needs to be understood what exactly is meant by being an Anglican School. Anglican Schools are first and foremost Christian Schools; they provide an environment in which young people have an opportunity to develop a personal relationship with God, through Jesus. Secondly, they should celebrate the contribution of the Church to the wider political, social, economic, and artistic life of our culture. This, of course, places the onus on such schools to be connected to the communities in which they reside.
Other distinguishing features of Anglican Schools are that they should:
- develop, in young people, a commitment to tradition and dignity within traditional worship, balanced with modern lifestyles. This may entail the use of richness of symbolism, storytelling and religious ceremony to express important values and meaning in life
- be characterised by an appreciation of diversity as a positive good and a distinguishing feature of a civilised community. Implicit in this is an appreciation of acceptance, care, and respect for others
- have a strong sense of social responsibility. The ethic of service and commitment to social justice is seen within God’s desire to serve His people in the wider community
- have a high respect for intellectual endeavour, an openness to ideas and academic rigour.
Melbourne Grammar School expresses its Christian faith unambiguously through the Chapels of St Andrew (Grimwade House) and St Peter (Wadhurst and Senior School), in Christian and Religious Education classes, through the chaplaincy programme and by a myriad of everyday intentions, actions, and care.
In particular, the three School Chaplains play an essential role ministering to the wider school community by conducting marriages, baptisms, confirmations and funeral services.
In today’s world, it is understood that many Melbourne Grammar School parents may send their children to an Anglican school, despite the fact that they have very little or no connection at all with the Church. In many Anglican schools the commonality that draws the community together is education, rather than faith.
Our current student population identify themselves as belonging to 22 different religions/dominations, with others being agnostic or atheist. Declaring ourselves to these students that we are only a Christian school may send very mixed and unintended messages. However, nor should we be expected to ignore our strong Anglican history and raison d’etre. We make no apologies for asserting that Melbourne Grammar is an Anglican School and is thus strongly connected with Christianity, whilst acknowledging and teaching all World religions in classrooms. Ensuring that students understand our religious ethos is important. Unless we capture their hearts and minds we will never put them in touch with their souls. Melbourne Grammar School Headmaster, Ambrose John Wilson (1885-1983), campaigned hard in 19th century Melbourne society to have a Chapel built at the School but, sadly, never saw the completed building. He famously declared “a school without a Chapel is like an angel without wings.”
His important work has ensured that generations of Melbourne Grammar students have since had the opportunity to spiritually fly.
Roy Kelley Headmaster