Cowan Public School

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From the department

Celebrating 175 Years of Public Education

175 years of public education logo

Public education in NSW is a cause for celebration this year as it marks its 175th anniversary.

Founded in 1848, the Board of National Education was formed and tasked with establishing a public education system in NSW. Prior to 1848, schools operated under a denominational system and were the responsibility of churches.  

The first public school, Kempsey National School, opened that year and by 1851 more than 37 public schools were in operation in NSW.  

Fast-forward to today, more than 2,200 public schools are operating across the state.  

Over the past 175 years, public education has seen significant change and growth.  As the world has evolved, public education has adapted to meet the needs of a rapidly changing society, ensuring the young people in our care are prepared to lead rewarding lives as engaged citizens.

This year, the NSW Department of Education is recognising this anniversary with a community-wide celebration of the importance and impact of public education in society, our past and present achievements, and current initiatives to improve the learning outcomes of students and young people today.  

Join us throughout the year as we learn from our past, celebrate our achievements, and confidently embrace the future. A soon-to-be-launched dedicated online hub will share historical facts and stories, celebrate our accomplishments, provide teaching and learning resources, and more published throughout the year.  

The department will provide further updates soon. Meanwhile, take a look at  historical 'public school' photos in the NSW State Library catalogue. See if you can find your school.