Uneducated children, if ‘left uncared for, would inevitably grow up to be pests and outcasts of society’.

– 6th Annual Report of Hornbrook Ragged School Association.

In the 1860s, Melbourne’s officials noted a growing number of destitute and neglected children, unable to afford an education. Common and National schools charged a fee too high for Melbourne’s poorest. Dirty, ill-clothed and poor, these children were quickly excluded from respectable schools or were simply unable to sacrifice precious time needed for begging or selling matches. For these families, education was a luxury they could not afford.

The solution was to establish a system of Ragged Schools, named after the ragged appearance of the pupils. These schools were ‘designed for the children of the very lowest class among our population – those who, from extreme poverty (the result too often although not always of intemperance and vice) are unable to take advantage of ordinary existing schools’.