The Model School was an early attempt to standardise education in South Australia, before the passing of the Education Act in 1875.
In the early 1870s the government introduced legislation that would ensure children in the colony could get a consistent standard of public primary education. Model schools were designed to set and deliver this standard. As the South Australian Register newspaper reported in 1874 that, "The grand object of the Model Schools is to bring into full working order a metropolitan education establishment, which shall form the standard and basis by which all Government teachers are to be guided."
Designed by E.J. Woods, the Model School was built between 1873-1874. The South Australian Register commented that the aim was to "secure utility rather than an imposing exterior, yet the design, while extremely plain, presents a solid though not heavy appearance.’
The school had three sections for boys, girls and infants. Boys entered from Brown Street to the western wing; girls and infants were expected to enter from Grote Street to the eastern wing.
Classrooms for the boys and girls measured 70 feet by 24 feet. The infants' rooms were 40 feet by 20 feet. A large slate-paved arcade between the two larger schoolrooms kept them cool and provided shelter. Ventilation systems were a key feature, due to greater concerns for public health.
When it opened, The South Australian Advertiser noted that "The inauguration of the Model Schools points to a flourishing career; and such an institution, managed as it ought to be so as to be true to its name, is sure to exercise a great and most beneficial influence upon education in the colony."
On the first day of school, 26 January 1874, there were only 282 students, but the Model School could hold up to 600. After the South Australia Education Act of 1875, made primary school education compulsory, enrolments grew.
In 1892 and 1908 the Model School was redeveloped. The two main classrooms were divided into three smaller ones. New classrooms were added to the west and east wings. By 1908 there were thirteen classrooms.
That year the Model School joined the Training School for Teachers to become the Continuation School for Boys. Later in the year, the adjacent Advanced School for Girls joined it to form Adelaide High School.
The Model School, the Advanced School for Girls, and the Training School for Teachers show the development of South Australia's education system in the 19th Century. They reflect the colony's push to improve the educational opportunities of its young people.