New education at Stanmore Public School, Sydney 1919: the progressive image

Dorothy Kass*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Visual evidence offered by a set of previously unexamined photographic images taken at Stanmore Public School in Sydney, Australia in 1919 informs this paper which considers the images’ purpose, construction, content, use, and reception. It endorses arguments that visual evidence combines with other sources to tell a richer history, and that images have potential to reveal history that otherwise might remain hidden. In the first two decades of the twentieth century, Australian educators participated enthusiastically in the worldwide movement for educational reform known as New Education. The state of New South Wales introduced new curricula and fresh methods of teaching. The Department of Education was proud of its achievements, and the photographs taken at Stanmore reflect, affirm, and promote the changes which had taken place during a period when educators were enthusiastic about making New Education available to all children in the state schools and not just to those in small private progressive schools. This situation would shift in the 1920s and 1930s. The photographs, in conjunction with other sources including archival school files, allow an approach to the school experience of small children in the Infants Department at Stanmore. The School, with the support of influential educators, consciously introduced Kindergarten and Montessori methods into newly refurbished classrooms and an expanded playground. The photographs represent both educational achievement and optimism for the future and fit well into a recently argued genre called “the progressive image”.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)547-570
Number of pages24
JournalPaedagogica Historica
Issue number4
Early online date27 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • educational reform
  • Montessori method
  • new education
  • progressive education
  • visual evidence


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