The Founding Vision

The idea of an Anglican school in Wollongong began with two men who shared a vision for Christian education, Archdeacon (later Bishop) Gordon Begbie and Reverend Roy Gray. Both were rectors of busy Wollongong parishes. Their personal perseverance, networking skills and ability to inspire others helped generate support for the venture. As a result of their unwavering efforts, the Anglican Diocese of Sydney was prepared to found The Illawarra Grammar School (TIGS).

Photo – Bishop Gordon Begbie


The School Opens: 3 February 1959

In 1958, the Master-of-Orders at SHORE, the Reverend Richard Frederick Bosanquet was appointed as the first TIGS Headmaster. On Tuesday 3 February 1959, with 28 boys enrolled, the School’s first classes were held at St Mark’s Church in West Wollongong.


Building Begins: 10 October 1959

The foundation stone for the first building at Geard’s Hill (now Senior School Reception) was laid by the new Archbishop of Sydney, Hugh Gough on 10 October 1959. Offering glorious westward views of Mt Keira, Mt Kembla, Mt Nebo and other local landmarks, this site provided some surmountable challenges. A blanket of blackberries and lantana almost made it inaccessible. The School’s Parents and Friends volunteered to clear an entrance and level the site to commence construction.


1960 to 1965

Under Bosanquet’s guidance, 359 boys spanning Kindergarten to Leaving Year, had been TIGS students. In 1963, the School introduced the first Higher School Certificate (HSC) candidates who were scheduled to sit examinations in 1967. The School had also expanded their Senior School subject selection by now offering; English, French, German, Modern and Ancient History, Science, Physics, Chemistry, Business Principles and Commerce, Economics, Art, Music, Technical Drawing, Geography, General Mathematics, Mathematics I and IIm Physical Education and Divinity. The first School Houses were also named after influential Christian Englishmen; Wilberforce, Shaftesbury, Kingsley and Hammond.


1966 to 1971

With the introduction of TIGS second Headmaster, Mr Jock Alexander Mackinnon, the School. At the 1967 Speech Night, Mackinnon expresses the following about the purpose of independent Anglican schools…

“In addition to high academic standards, these schools strive to provide a spirtiual and Christian base for education, character training and a development of a sense of social responsibility. Above all, they strive for a maintenance of variety, of experimentation, and of individual character in the education system.”


In keeping with Mackinnon’s belief that each child should challenge themselves in a number of ways, individual standards were introduced for a wide range of physical activities. Swimming, Tennis, Softball, Basketball, Boxing and Cross Country all shared the spotlight as part of the School’s plan to invigorate the students. The School also encouraged students to participate in co-curricular programmes such as dramatic productions, debates, composing music, Chess, Skiing and Hiking. A particular highlight was the 1966 School Production of HMS Pinafore.


1972 to 1975

Ian Kenneth Chapman was installed as the third TIGS Headmaster on 22 February 1972. Chapman noted that TIGS was a pioneering venture in the area of independent schooling. During his first year, Chapman hosted the opening of the new Junior School Complex. During this time, the school also made plans to develop a Manual Arts Complex with a Canteen located to the west of the Library. Chapman also reformed the School House programme with a focus on pastoral care with the objective being to encourage the older boys to assist with the welfare of the younger boys.

Between 1972 and 1974, there was greater cooperation between TIGS and its neighbouring girl’s school, SCEGGS Gleniffer Brae as several senior classes were combined.


The sceggs connection

As the Sydney Church of England Girls Grammar School (SCEGGS) Glenifer Brae officially combined with TIGS in 1976, its story is also part of TIGS story.

Founded as a branch of SCEGGS Darlinghurst in the manor of the Hoskins family of Glenifer Brae (now the Wollongong Conservatorium of Music) in 1955. The School existed for 21 years until 1975 with half of the years under the founding Headmistress, Kathleen McCredie. The School bore her stamp with her sense of humour, Christian perspective, sense of adventure and love of sport. The School started with 78 girls and enrolments slowly grow with 98 girls by the end of the founding year. In 1975, following financial troubles, SCEGGS Glenifer Brae was closed and the School was merged with TIGS. The site at of Glennifer Brae was sold to Wollongong City Council in 1978.


1976 to 1988

With TIGS officially becoming a co-educational institution in 1976, Headmaster Chapman felt a sense of pride as they were now able to offer both boys and girls a co-educational education in an independent school setting. Over the following decade, the curriculum was continually reviewed in order to give students a greater depth of experience. This included the development of a wide array of Music and Arts courses, an annual House Music Competition (now called ArtsFest) and the participation in the Heads of Independent Co-Educational Schools (HICES) Bicentennial Music Festival. In 1984, the opening of the Begbie Library gave younger children ownership of their own library space.



1989 to 1996

In 1989, Reverend Peter James Smart was appointed to the school as Headmaster. Smarts vision for the school was for our students to have a strong belief in themselves and not follow the crowd, but to be “pacesetters in positive good and self-giving service, looking to high goals in every aspect of life.” 1992 saw the School develop a Strategy plan which sought to preserve, among other things, the encouragement of gifted and talented children and the continuing development of sport, in the face of changes in education policy at a State and Commonwealth level. During this time, the School Uniform was modern and styled for the students to show pride in their appearance as they represented themselves and the School. This was also a time for building development and planning. This included the paving of the Senior Square courtyard, improved appearance of the School entrance, planning of a new Design and Technology facility and the opening of the Illawarra Grammar Centre (IGC).


1997 to 2003

At the end of 1996, John Weeks was appointed as the next Headmaster of The Illawarra Grammar School. During the transition between Headmasters, the School was lead by Monica Watt as Acting Head. Through 1997, considerable planning was undertaken to rewrite the Master Plan so that four major projects would be immediately addressed. This in turn would create an expansion of curriculum options for all students from Kindergarten to Year 12. These projects included the creating of a Kindergarten to Year 6 complex, a new Library/Learning Centre, the building of a new Design and Technology centre and the development of a full-sized sports oval. In the following years, the physical changes continued with the opening of a new Music Centre for the Performing Arts Department, development of an Early Learning Centre in the Junior School (now TIGS Prep) and the re-development of the Science Faculty. In 2003, a new system of student leadership was pioneered with an increased number of Prefects and Senior Leaders covering expanded areas of responsibility.


2004 to 2005

In 2004, Anthony Horsley was appointed as the next Headmaster of The Illawarra Grammar School. During his tenure, he was responsible for reinstating the sports programme during school hours in the Senior School as well as an off-campus Year 9 programme. His Christian convictions led to the appointment of a Chaplain for the School as well as introducing daily devotions for staff. In 2005, Deputy Headmaster, Monica Watt stepped in to serve the School as Acting Head. Watt was an advocate for change as she expressed the importance of resilience, flexibility, adaption and that the education of young people had to contain a constant Academic, Christian and Caring environment.


2006 to 2017

The School’s seventh Headmaster, Stephen Kinsella commenced in 2006. During his first year, the School Council redefined its Mission Statement as well as an explanation of key concepts of Academic, Christian and Caring. The Mission Statement was offically.

The achievement of academic excellence in a caring environment that is focused on Christian belief and behaviour, so that students are equipped to act with wisdom, compassion and justice as faithful stewards of our world”

In 2007, the Council, Headmaster and Staff worked on the formation of a Strategic Plan which would direct the School’s activities and projects for the next five years. The plans aim was to bring the School into the 21st Century. Technology in all of its guises was a focus of many decisions made during this time. The appointment of a Director of eLearning was essential to the adoption of Information and Communication Technology. The School also sought to expand its impact both locally and internationally with the introduction of a Manager of Development and Community Engagement and a Dean/Manager of International Enrolments.

In 2011, TIGS became an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School when it was authorised to teach the Primary Years Programme (PYP). In 2016, TIGS also achieved authorisation for the Middle Years Programme (MYP) and Diploma Programme (DP). This international recognition marked the culmination of many years of work by the dedicated TIGS staff. TIGS became the second school in NSW and the twelfth in Australia to be authorised to offer the PYP, MYP and DP. The decision to become an IB World School was chosen as it is an internationally recognised framework for education that represents best practice in teaching and learning,


2018 to present

The Illawarra Grammar School has seen many changes since 28 students first started classes in the hall of St. Marks Anglican Church in 1959. In 2018, Judi Nealy was appointed to be the eighth Principal of TIGS. Before her appointment to Principal, she served as Head of Junior School at TIGS and in 2016 was appointed to the dual role of Deputy Headmaster and Head of Junior School.

During this time, the School Council developed a Strategic Vision that would take the School through to 2022. This Vision displays the commitment to remaining at the forefront of educational practice in an ever-changing global landscape. The four key areas of the Strategic Vision areĀ Academic, Christian, Caring, Stewardship and Service.

In 2020, the decision was made to discontinue the MYP in 2021 as a result of the new mandatory NSW curriculum covering many of the approaches that were previously unique to the MYP. The DP will also no longer be offered to students in Year 11 and Year 12 from 2020. This has allowed increased flexibility to pursue the School’s strategic goals for academic excellence including the priorities identified in the Gonski review of Australian schools.

The School has also implemented a building Master Plan named TIGS21 which will fulfil the School’s vision to create spaces that facilitate the building of community. TIGS21 includes the redevelopment of M Block into an agile learning space, new Junior and Senior School learning spaces, a community sports centre and a new design and science space.


About TIGS