School student records guide

These records provide information about the admission of children to Government Schools, Orphan Schools and Industrial Schools in NSW. The Index to schools and related records, 1876-1979 is the main source for finding records related to schools, teachers and students.

Page from Crooybar school file

Search the index 1876-1979

30,000+ entries include administrative files & records such as admission registers, punishment books & inspection books

Plan of Dubbo Public School

School records guide

An overview of education in New South Wales 1788-c1979 and a list of the main record series

A group of teachers in training pose for a photo

School teachers guide

Records that relate to teacher employment in the Government sector between 1788 and 1979


NRS 15051: The History Unit of the Department of School Education collected these photographs (from around 1963 to around 1991) when preparing school histories, research for public relations, or giving presentations. The collection consists mainly of photographic prints. Most show school buildings, pupils, teachers, or educational activities, with most including an identifying caption and date. The photographs themselves date from around 1850 to around 1991.

This is an ongoing series digitisation project and you can browse what has been digitised in the catalogue.

List of main record series

Pre-1900 records

Colonial Secretary

Most of the earliest schools in the colony were established to provide basic literacy skills and religious instruction to destitute children and to those whose parents could not afford to provide them with an education.

One of the earliest lists of pupil in our collection is in the Colonial Secretary records

Richmond School Roll
Jul 1823-Feb 1824

Orphan Schools

The index to Child Welfare and Protection provides details of children admitted to Orphan Schools, 1817-1886.

Applications for admission into the Orphan Schools
Applications for children out of the Orphan Schools

Records of admission

Other records of admission can be found in our catalogue using the keywords "orphan school" or you can browse the specific agencies below:

Researchers should also consult our catalogue for records relating to individual homes, schools and shelters.

Pupil records, 1848-1900

Prior to the Public Instruction Act, 1880, education was jointly administered by the Board of National Education and the Denominational School Board, 1848-1866 and subsequently the Council of Education, 1866-1879. The records of these agencies contain occasional references to pupils especially the miscellaneous correspondence series. For further information consult our catalogue and the Index to Schools and Related Records.

Post-1900 records

We don't hold school reports or school certificates. Our holdings are listed alphabetically by the name of the school in the online Index to Schools and Related Records. Researchers can also consult the interim School Records guide, available in the reading room.

Types of student records

Only a small percentage of admission registers, punishment books and examination books have survived. In some instances the school may still hold the registers.

Admission registers

Some of the most useful details concerning pupils for this period are to be found in the admission registers. They usually record pupil's name, age, name of parents/guardian, address, occupation, date of admission, year and class grade and sometimes reason for leaving or next school to be attended.

Punishment books

These books give the name of the pupil who was punished, the date, the offence and punishment.

Examination books

The contents of examination books vary. Some record pupils' examination results for each subject, total marks and place in grade, while others contain samples of examination questions.

School files c.1876-1979

The school files deal mainly with the day-to-day administration and maintenance of the school. Occasionally pupils are mentioned, particularly when an application is made for the opening of a school or a proposal is made for a change in the school's structure.


Records can be viewed in the State Archives Reading Room. Due to the physical size of the school files photocopies can only be ordered in the reading room after viewing the records.

Punishment books

Please be aware that Punishment Books Closed to Public Access (CPA) for 50 years.

To view these records you will need to contact the:

Department of Education at or on 1300 32 32 32.

School Certificates / School Reports

We don't hold copies of school certificates or school reports. Copies of Leaving Certificates, Intermediate Certificates, School Certificates and High School Certificates may be obtained from:

The NSW Education Standards Authority (formerly the Board of Studies)


Phone (02) 9367 8857

Information about applying for a lost certificate is available on their website: Replacement examination results and certificates.

Pupil record cards

Pupil record cards are retained for 25 years from date of birth or 7 years (whichever is the greater) by the last state school a student attended before leaving the State system.

If the student leaves the State system to enter the private system, live interstate or overseas before normal school leaving age, the pupil record card is retained by the last State school attended until the student has passed 25 years of age.