Knox Grammar School

Knox Grammar School

Knox Grammar School
Latin: Virile Agitur
The Manly Thing Is Being Done[1]
Wahroonga, New South Wales
Type Independent, Day & Boarding
Denomination Uniting Church[2]
Established 1924 by John Gilmore, William McIlrath, Robert Gillespie and Andrew Reid [3]
Chairman Peter Roach
Headmaster John Weeks[4]
Chaplain Reverend Peter Robinson
Employees ~163[5]
Key people
  • John Weeks (Headmaster)
  • Scott James (Deputy Headmaster)
  • Mark Hemphil (Head of the Prep School)
  • Wayne Inwood (Head of Junior Secondary Academy)
  • Gemma Granozio (Head of Middle Secondary Academy)
  • Phil Harmer (Head of Senior Secondary Academy)
Gender Boys
Enrolment ~2,170 (K-12)[5]
Colour(s) Black and Blue

Knox Grammar School is an independent, Uniting Church, day and boarding school for boys, located in Wahroonga, New South Wales, an upper North Shore suburb of Sydney, Australia. Founded in 1924 by the Presbyterian Church of Australia as an all-boys school, and named after John Knox. The school has since grown, branching out into a large Senior School of approximately 1550 students and a Preparatory School of 550.[1] The school also caters for approximately 160 boarding students from Years 7 to 12.[3] During the period of Dr Paterson as Headmaster, the school doubled in size, raised education standards and increased participation in a wealth of activities.

Knox is affiliated with the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference,[6] the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA),[7] the Junior School Heads Association of Australia (JSHAA),[8] the Australian Boarding Schools' Association (ABSA),[3] and is a founding member of the Combined Associated Schools (CAS).[9][10]

In January 2015 the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse announced it would conduct a public investigation into how Knox Grammar had responded to allegations of inappropriate conduct and sexual abuse by teachers towards students between 1970 to 2012.[11]


  • History 1
    • Headmasters 1.1
  • Motto 2
  • Campus 3
    • Facilities 3.1
    • Building projects 3.2
  • House system 4
    • Boarding 4.1
    • Other Houses 4.2
  • Co-curriculum 5
    • Army Cadet Unit (KGSACU) 5.1
    • Sport 5.2
    • Music 5.3
  • Notable alumni 6
  • Sex offences by teachers 7
    • Royal Commission hearings 7.1
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


Knox Grammar School was established on Sydney's North Shore in 1924, by the Presbyterian Church. The school was named after John Knox,[12] the 16th century Scottish reformer, who planned a network of schools in every church parish.

'Earlston' (now Gillespie Heritage House), c. 1923

Knox opened as a Presbyterian Boys' School after founding members John Gilmore, William McIlrath, Robert Gillespie and Andrew Reid purchased the original property, 'Earlston', as the first school building.[1] Now the Gillespie Heritage House, 'Earlston' was previously owned by Sir Charles Mackellar, was designed by architects Spain & Cosh, and built in 1908 for W. Moses Esq., Warrawee.[12]

The school was officially opened by the Premier of New South Wales, on 5 February 1924.[12] Under the founding headmaster Neil MacNeil, a Rhodes Scholar, Knox grew rapidly and survived the Great Depression. Student numbers rose from 28 in 1924 to over 300 in 1939.[1]

In 1939, Dr William Bryden FRSE (1904-1992)[13] took over the role of headmaster. As World War II broke out, around 370 Old Knox Grammarians served in the armed forces. 53 of them lost their lives and are now commemorated in the John Williams Memorial Hall, the School Chapel, the Old Students' War Memorial, and the original Science Building. The school's Pipe Band was established during Bryden's period as headmaster.[1]

Knox Pipe Band, c.1950

Dr John Mill Couper, a Scot, became headmaster in 1953. Couper focused on broadening the School's education, with attention to music and art, however, problems culminated in Couper's departure from a divided Knox in 1955.[1]

Dr T Ross McKenzie, former head of Brisbane Boys' College, replaced Couper. The school's fifth headmaster, Dr Ian Paterson, initiated further developments including a substantial building program.[1] During this period three teachers sexually abused students; these teachers were later convicted and it has been alleged that other teachers abused students. In 2015 Paterson told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that he had failed to protect students from abuse.[14]

In 1999, Peter Crawley, former Head of Trinity Grammar School in Melbourne, became Knox's sixth headmaster.[1]


Period Details
1924 – 1938 Neil MacNeil
1939 – 1952 William Bryden CBE
1953 – 1955 John Mill Couper
1956 – 1968 T Ross McKenzie OBE
1969 – 1998 Ian Paterson AM
1999 – 2003 Peter Crawley
2004 – John Weeks[4]


Knox's school motto is a Latin phrase, Virile Agitur,[1] which has been translated variously as being "Do the Manly Thing" (The translation most common in the Preparatory School), "The manly thing is being done".



Knox Grammar School, 1943

Knox's senior campus includes the Great Hall and Aquatic Centre (opened August 2011), sports facility, gymnasium, squash and weights rooms, music and drama centres, two boarding houses (one opened November 2010). Knox owns several major sporting fields including one on campus at the Senior School, two on campus at the Prep School, and two off campus in Warrawee and neighbouring North Turramurra.

Each classroom is equipped with a digital projector and each student has a laptop with wireless internet access. In addition to its extensive academic and sporting programs, the school offers many extra curricular activities including music with several large ensembles and orchestras, drama, debating, public speaking, chess, a science club, and Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme, as well as maintaining the largest secondary school cadet unit in Australia. Since 2006 the school has been actively involved in the Future Problem Solving Program.

Building projects

Knox has in recent years completed new buildings at both the Senior and Prep Schools. The Senior School's KG1 Building, opened in 2007, has several high-tech classrooms, access to the Lawson Centre (sport facility), locker space for approximately 230 students, and a canteen. The KG1 Project also updated the Lawson Centre with a new flooring for the basketball court, new change rooms and a foyer, where Knox's many trophies and memorabilia are displayed. The Prep School's K-2 Centre, opened in 2004, provided new classroom, library, art and music facilities for Years K-2 students.

The new Boarding Centre was finished in November 2010. The Great Hall and Aquatic Centre project was finished August 2011. Situated alongside the Lawson Centre, and adjacent to the new Boarding Precinct, the Great Hall has transformed the Woodville Avenue entrance to the school, effectively creating a "grand boulevard" into the Senior School campus.

The Great Hall/Aquatic Centre building has been creatively designed. Different, multi-functional levels provide an Assembly Hall that seats up to 2200 people, three Olympic size indoor basketball courts, a performance centre for major productions, as well as an indoor 50 metre swimming pool and enhanced weights room/gymnasium.

Construction for the Knox Senior Student Academy has mainly finished on July 2015. This will be a building that is dedicated to years 11 and 12, and will accommodate their locker areas and rest areas, as well as the addition of classrooms.

House system


Knox Grammar School provides boarding facilities for approximately 160 boarders. Boarding facilities have been available since the School's opening, in 1924

Sir Robert Gillespie, a founder of Knox, c. 1920s
  • Gillespie (Maroon) – the original school house and is named for Robert Gillespie, a founder and benefactor of the School, and chairman of the School Council (1923–1945). It was later converted into a Boarding House, now known as "Gillespie Heritage House".
  • Boarding Centre – opened in November 2010, the Boarding Centre accommodates Boarders in 21st Century style.

Other Houses

  • MacNeil (Black) – originally MacNeil House was an expansion to Gillespie House, completed to add room to the new school. It is named for Neil MacNeil, the first headmaster of the School (1924–1938).
  • Adamson (Dark green) – John Adamson – a long-serving chairman of the School Council.
  • Angus (Brown) – Rev Samuel Angus – a Professor of Theology at Sydney University and former member of the School Council.
  • Bryden (Grey) – Dr William Bryden – the second headmaster of the School (1939–1953). Also known as the cultural house.
  • McIlrath (Dark blue) – William McIlrath – a founder and benefactor of the School and a long-serving council member (1923–1955). His widow contributed 50,000 pounds for the construction of the School chapel in 1960, which contains a Ronald Sharp.
  • McKenzie (Orange). Dr Ross McKenzie – fourth headmaster of the School (1956–1969).
  • Montgomery (Lime green) – Ross Montgomery – a council member (1953–1970) and benefactor of the School. His major gifts included the Montgomery Building and Gilmore House.
  • Murdoch (Red) – AM Murdoch – a long-serving School Council member (from 1938) and chairman (1855–1969)
  • Reid (Yellow) – Andrew Reid – a founder and benefactor of the School. A business leader, sole proprietor of James Hardie in 1912, he made many financial contributions to the School; he also built the Margaret Reid Home for Crippled Children in St. Ives, in memory of his late wife.
  • Sinclair (Purple) – George Sinclair – a school council member (from 1944) and chairman (1952–1955).
  • Turnbull (Light Blue) – Alex Turnbull – a founding member of the School Council, serving 1923 to 1947, and an elder at St Margaret's Church in nearby Turramurra.


Army Cadet Unit (KGSACU)

The Knox Grammar School Army Cadet Unit (KGSACU) comprises 950 members, ranging from recruits (RECs) to Cadet Under Officers (CUOs). The KGSACU is a member of 26 Battalion (26 Bn) (Sydney Schools) within the NSW AAC BDE. Participation is compulsory from Term 4 Year 8, through to the end of Term 3 Year 9 for attendees of Knox Grammar School, and offers voluntary participation for attendees at the Ravenswood School for Girls from Term 4 Year 8. After the completion of basic recruit training in their first year, cadets may decide to either discharge from the Unit, or attend a Promotion Course to attempt to attain a higher rank and/or continue into a Senior or Recruit platoon.

The Unit participates in combined Bivouac/Annual Field Exercise at the end of Term 1, and holds its own Junior, Senior, and CUOs Promotions Courses during August/September each year. Additionally, the KGSACU holds ceremonial parades for the Old Knox Grammarians Association (OKGA), an ANZAC Day Parade to commemorate ANZAC Day (though held several weeks after the day itself), and a Passing-Out Parade at the end of the cadet year to farewell the Year 12 members at the conclusion of their service to the unit.


Knox is a member of the Combined Associated Schools (CAS), and plays competitive sport against the five other member Schools namely, Barker College, Cranbrook School, St. Aloysius College, Trinity Grammar School and Waverley College. Trial and pre-season fixtures are played against the GPS and ISA Schools. Students may represent Knox in a variety of inter-school sporting fixtures played each Saturday throughout the term.[9]

The Intra-School sporting programs includes House carnivals, Standards and Inter-School competitions open to all boys.[9]

Participating in sport at Knox is compulsory in both the winter and summer sporting seasons.


Knox is heavily involved in such co-curricular activities such as the Gallery Choir which has a reputation for a high class vocal range consisting of SATB arrangements, and the Knox Symphony Orchestra (KSO), which plays a high standard of repertoire. Knox also accommodates for one of the most prestigious school pipe bands that has a rich source of history and talented young men. The Knox Pipes and Drums have toured around Australia as well as the United Kingdom and currently hold the State Champions title.

Notable alumni

Alumni of Knox are known as "Old Knox Grammarians", and may elect to join the schools alumni association, the Old Knox Grammarian's Association (OKGA).[15]

Sex offences by teachers

The school attracted widespread media coverage in 2009, when criminal charges were laid against five former teachers for alleged sex offences between 1976 and 1990.[16][17] All five teachers were subsequently convicted.[18]

Royal Commission hearings

As of February 2015 the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is conducting public hearings (commenced on 23 February 2015)[19] concerning the response of Knox Grammar, and the Uniting Church, to complaints and criminal proceedings involving teachers who sexually abused students. The Commission will examine the "systems, policies and procedures" involving the school's response to the complaints since 1970 and the experiences of former students sexually abused by teaching staff.[19] The royal commission is expected to conclude in December 2017.[20]

During hearings in early March 2015, several former Knox students and staff alleged that headmaster Ian Paterson did not refer several allegations of sex abuse he received to the police, despite there being a requirement for such allegations to be reported from 1988. The commission heard that in fact Paterson had never reported any student's allegation of sexual abuse to police during his thirty years in charge of the school.[21][22] Paterson also stated that he had allowed several teachers accused of sexual abuse to resign and subsequently gave them positive references. Paterson denied that he had covered up the sexual abuse of students, arguing that he had responded to the allegations brought to his attention, and stated that “I should have known and I should have stopped the events that led to the abuse and its tragic consequences for these boys in my care and their families”.[22][23] Paterson stated that he was not aware that it was a crime for a teacher to grope or sexually proposition a student.[24] Following the section of the hearing concerning Paterson, the current headmaster John Weeks stated that the school had changed considerably since the end of Paterson's period in the role and that Knox's Paterson Centre for Ethics and Business Studies would be renamed. He also stated that less than 10% of the staff at the school from the main period of the alleged assaults, no longer worked at the school, and the school was actively reaching out and providing support to those who were affected.[22]

Weeks also gave evidence to the Royal Commission. During this hearing he was questioned over why he had not sacked the teacher who was arrested in 2009 despite having received allegations in 2007 that the teacher had behaved improperly with a student during the 1980s. Weeks told the media that the allegations had not been detailed or specific, and he had received advice that "it would have been difficult on industrial grounds" to have dismissed the teacher. Weeks also stated that he had reported the teacher to the police child protection unit.[25][26]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "School History". History & Tradition. Knox Grammar School. Retrieved 2015-03-02. 
  2. ^ "Knox Grammar School". New South Wales. School Choice. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  3. ^ a b c "Knox Grammar School". Schools. Australian Boarding Schools' Association. 2007. Archived from the original on 17 November 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  4. ^ a b Bibby, Paul (2015-01-22). "Royal Commission to publicly examine Sydney private school Knox Grammar over child sexual abuse". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2015-03-02. 
  5. ^ a b "Annual Report 2006" (PDF). Prospective. Knox Grammar School. Retrieved 2008-02-07. 
  6. ^ "International Members". HMC Schools. The Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  7. ^ "AHISA Schools". New South Wales. Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia. January 2008. Archived from the original on 2007-11-02. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  8. ^ "JSHAA New South Wales Directory of Members". New South Wales Branch. Junior School Heads' Association of Australia. 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  9. ^ a b c "Sport". Beyond the Classroom. Knox Grammar School. Archived from the original on 2007-10-20. Retrieved 2015-03-02. 
  10. ^ "CAS". About Knox. Knox Grammar School. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  11. ^ "Royal Commission to hold public hearing into Knox Grammar School" (Press release).  
  12. ^ a b c "School Founders". History & Tradition. Knox Grammar School. Retrieved 2015-03-02. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ Chettle, Nicole (7 March 2015). "Knox Grammar: Former headmaster Ian Paterson admits he failed to protect students". ABC News. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  15. ^ "OKGA (Old Knox Grammarian's Association)". OKGA. Knox Grammar School. Retrieved 2015-03-02. 
  16. ^ Kennedy, Les (2009-07-12). "Knox teacher guilty of child sex charge".  
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Royal commission into sex abuse: seven key Knox Grammar figures".  
  19. ^ a b "Case Study 23, February 2015, Sydney". Public Hearings, Child Abuse Royal Commission.  
  20. ^ "Child sex abuse and Australia's institutions". Al Jazeera. 2015-02-16. 
  21. ^ "Knox Grammar Royal Commission: Former headmaster Ian Paterson admits to hindering police investigation into paedophile ring". Daily Telegraph. 4 March 2015. Retrieved 17 May 2015. 
  22. ^ a b c AAP (6 March 2015). "Knox to rename ethics centre after royal commission into child sex abuse". North Shore Times. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  23. ^ "Former Knox headmaster gave glowing reference to teacher with child-sex convictions, inquiry told". North Shore Times. 4 March 2015. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  24. ^ "'"Royal commission into sex abuse: Knox Grammar headmaster Ian Paterson 'did not realise groping was a crime. Sydney Morning Herald. 2015-03-03. 
  25. ^ Higgins, Ean (2 March 2015). "Knox Grammar: Master quit over suspected pedophile’s appointment". The Australian. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  26. ^ Higgins, Ean (6 March 2015). "Knox headmaster insists he informed police". The Australian. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 

Further reading

  • Mansfield, B. (1974). Knox, 1924–1974. Sydney: John Sands.

External links

  • Official website