Knox Grammar School

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Knox Grammar School
Knox Grammar School Logo.svg
2 Borambil Street

, ,

Coordinates33°43′24″S 151°7′11″E / 33.72333°S 151.11972°E / -33.72333; 151.11972Coordinates: 33°43′24″S 151°7′11″E / 33.72333°S 151.11972°E / -33.72333; 151.11972
TypeIndependent, day & boarding
MottoLatin: Virile Agitur
(The Manly Thing Is Being Done[5])
DenominationUniting Church[1]
FounderJohn Gilmore, William McIlrath, Robert Gillespie and Andrew Reid[2]
ChairmanSimon Rothery
HeadmasterScott James
Enrolment~2,900[4] (2017)
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 and a Preparatory School, enrolling approximately 2900 students.[6] The school also caters for approximately 160 boarding students from Years 7 to 12.[2] During the term of Ian 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,[7] the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA),[8] the Junior School Heads Association of Australia (JSHAA),[9] the Australian Boarding Schools' Association (ABSA),[2] and is a founding member of the Combined Associated Schools (CAS).[10][11]

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 and 2012.[12] The Royal Commission found in September 2016 that the school's principal between 1969 and 1998 had covered up allegations of sexual abuse made against teachers.[13]


Knox Grammar School was established on Sydney's North Shore in 1924, by the Presbyterian Church. The school was named after John Knox,[14] 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.[5] 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.[14]

The school was officially opened by the Hon. Sir George Fuller KCMG, Premier of New South Wales, on 5 February 1924.[14] 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.[5]

In 1939, William Bryden FRSE (1904-1992)[15] 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.[5] 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.[5]

T. Ross McKenzie, former head of Brisbane Boys' College, replaced Couper. The school's fifth headmaster, Ian Paterson, initiated further developments including a substantial building program.[5] 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.[16]

In 1999, Peter Crawley, former Head of Trinity Grammar School in Melbourne, became Knox's sixth headmaster.[5]


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[17]
2004 – 2018 John Weeks[18]
2018 – Scott James


Knox's school motto is a Latin phrase, Virile Agitur,[5] 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.

Since 2006 the school has been actively involved in the Future Problem Solving Program.

Building projects[edit]

Knox has in recent years completed new buildings at both the Senior and Prep Schools. The Senior School's KG1 Building opened in 2007. The KG1 Project 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,[19] was finished August 2011.

The Great Hall/Aquatic Centre building won several design awards in 2012[20][21].

Construction for the new Knox Senior Student Academy began in 2014, with construction continuing to August 2015 and the Academy being officially opened in October 2015. The building houses the lockers of Year 11 and Year 12 students, as well as featuring a cafe, classrooms for Science as well as Finance and Legal classrooms, a Senior Library and a Lecture theatre.

In 2016, Headmaster John Weeks announced that Knox Grammar School would commence construction of a new Performing Arts Centre and Junior Secondary Academy in February 2017. It was completed in early 2019.

House system[edit]


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[edit]

  • 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. House mascot is the 'Bryden Squid'.
  • 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 Baroque organ by 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)[edit]

The Knox Grammar School Army Cadet Unit (KGSACU) comprises 1100 members, ranging from recruits (RECs) to Cadet Under Officers (CUOs). The KGSACU is an ACU within the NSW 2nd AAC BDE. Participation is compulsory from the start of 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 company.

The Unit participates in combined Annual Field Exercise (AFX) at the end of Term 1, and holds its own Junior, Senior, and CUOs Promotions Courses during August 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.[22]


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.[10]

The Intra-School sporting programs includes House carnivals, Standards and Inter-School competitions open to all boys.[10]

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

Knox plays 5 weeks of sport against GPS schools, and then 5 weeks of sport against CAS schools


Knox has a Gallery Choir and the Knox Symphony Orchestra (KSO). It’s Symphonic Wind Ensemble (SWE) toured Spain and Portugal in December 2019

Knox Grammar School Pipes and Drums[edit]

The Knox Pipes and Drums have toured globally. Most notably, the band toured the United Kingdom in 2016, visiting Scotland, Ireland, England and North Ireland. The band also competed in the 2016 European Pipe Band Championships at Forres as well as the 2016 All Ireland Pipe Band Championships in Malahide.

In Australia, the band have been State Champions, National Champions, and Best Drum Corps. The band was crowned at Grade 4 2018 National Champions.

In the nationals, the Drum corps of KGS were crowned National Champs. The band competed in the 2018 Australian Pipe Band Championships at Brisbane Boys College, Brisbane. The KGS Pipes and Drums took first place in Grade 4 for both the overall band and the Drum crops, hence the band was crowned Grade 4 National Champions.

The KGS Drum Corps won National Drumming Championships in 2016 and 2018.

Notable alumni[edit]

Alumni of Knox are known as "Old Knox Grammarians" or " Old Boys", and may elect to join the schools alumni association, the Old Knox Grammarian's Association (OKGA).[23]

Sex offences by teachers[edit]

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.[24][25] All five teachers were subsequently convicted.[26]

Royal Commission hearings[edit]

As of February 2015 the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is conducting public hearings (commenced on 23 February 2015)[27] 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.[27] The royal commission is expected to conclude in December 2017.[28]

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.[29][30] 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".[30][31] Paterson stated that he was not aware that it was a crime for a teacher to grope or sexually proposition a student.[32] Following the section of the hearing concerning Paterson, the then 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 the school was actively reaching out and providing support to those who were affected.[30]

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.[33][34]

The Royal Commission issued its findings on Knox Grammar in September 2016. The Sydney Morning Herald stated that its conclusions were that "Paterson deliberately covered up allegations about child sexual abuse because he placed the reputation of the school ahead of student welfare".[35] The Royal Commission also found that while principal Paterson had a "dismissive" attitude towards complaints of sexual abuse, "deliberately withheld information" from a police officer investigating allegations made against Knox Grammar staff, and did not notify the school's council or affected parents of complaints. In addition, it judged that a statement made as part of his evidence to the Royal Commission that he had only been aware of a single allegation of misconduct while principal was "clearly incorrect", as he had been aware of five allegations.[35]

As of 1 March 2019 Knox Grammar School has not signed up to compensate its sexual abuse survivors through the National Redress Scheme, though it has indicated it plans to do so.[36] The Royal Commission recommended the establishment of the National Redress Scheme, it commenced on 1 July 2018.[37]

2019 Incident[edit]

On 5 August 2019, Nicholas Warby, the school's 30-year-old "Director of Aquatic Sports", was arrested for possession of "child abuse material" on his mobile phone. After police searched his belongings and premises, two additional counts of possession of a prohibited drug were added. Headmaster Scott James sent a letter to parents, saying that Warby had been had been "removed from his duties at the aquatic centre" and that "[the police] have advised us that there is currently no suggestion that the images relate to Knox boys or swim centre students." The police prosecutor told the court that some files were "physically obtained" rather than sourced from the internet.[38][39][40]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Knox Grammar School". New South Wales. School Choice. Retrieved 23 January 2008.
  2. ^ a b c "Knox Grammar School". Schools. Australian Boarding Schools' Association. 2007. Archived from the original on 17 November 2007. Retrieved 23 January 2008.
  3. ^ "Annual Report 2006" (PDF). Prospective. Knox Grammar School. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 August 2007. Retrieved 7 February 2008.
  4. ^ Cite error: The named reference AnnualReport17 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h "School History". History & Tradition. Knox Grammar School. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  6. ^ "School profile | My School". myschool.edu.au. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  7. ^ "International Members". HMC Schools. The Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference. Archived from the original on 15 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-11.
  8. ^ "AHISA Schools". New South Wales. Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia. January 2008. Archived from the original on 2 November 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
  9. ^ "JSHAA New South Wales Directory of Members". New South Wales Branch. Junior School Heads' Association of Australia. 2007. Archived from the original on 17 January 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
  10. ^ a b c "Sport". Beyond the Classroom. Knox Grammar School. Archived from the original on 20 October 2007. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  11. ^ "CAS". About Knox. Knox Grammar School. Archived from the original on 23 January 2008. Retrieved 23 January 2008.
  12. ^ "Royal Commission to hold public hearing into Knox Grammar School" (Press release). Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  13. ^ Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (13 September 2016). "Report into Knox Grammar School and the Uniting Church released". Media release. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  14. ^ a b c "School Founders". History & Tradition. Knox Grammar School. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  15. ^ "Microsoft Word - oldfells_list_jun06.doc" (PDF). Royalsoced.org.uk. Retrieved 18 December 2016.
  16. ^ Chettle, Nicole (7 March 2015). "Knox Grammar: Former headmaster Ian Paterson admits he failed to protect students". ABC News. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  17. ^ Brereton, Adam (10 March 2015). "Old boys of Knox Grammar, like me, will always be marked by how close we came to the abuse there". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 11 March 2015. Retrieved 26 October 2017.
  18. ^ Bibby, Paul (22 January 2015). "Royal Commission to publicly examine Sydney private school Knox Grammar over child sexual abuse". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  19. ^ "COMPETITION AND AWARDS - MEDIA 2012 Knox Grammar School". JSA Studio Architects. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
  20. ^ "2012 Winners - 2016 Australian Timber Design Awards". www.timberawards.com.au. p. 3.
  21. ^ "2012 SPUN Awards recognise small practice architects". Architecture And Design.
  22. ^ "Cadets". www.knox.nsw.edu.au. Retrieved 15 December 2015.
  23. ^ "OKGA (Old Knox Grammarian's Association)". OKGA. Knox Grammar School. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  24. ^ Kennedy, Les (12 July 2009). "Knox teacher guilty of child sex charge". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  25. ^ [1] Archived 22 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ "Royal commission into sex abuse: seven key Knox Grammar figures". The Sydney Morning Herald. 3 March 2015.
  27. ^ a b "Case Study 23, February 2015, Sydney". Public Hearings, Child Abuse Royal Commission. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. 23 February 2015. Retrieved 2 March 2015. The public hearing will inquire into the response of Knox Grammar School ... and the Uniting Church in Australia between 1970 and 2012 to concerns raised about inappropriate conduct by a number of teachers towards students at Knox Grammar School.
  28. ^ "Child sex abuse and Australia's institutions". Al Jazeera. 16 February 2015.
  29. ^ "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.
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ "Former Knox headmaster gave glowing reference to teacher with child-sex convictions, inquiry told". North Shore Times. 4 March 2015. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  32. ^ "Royal commission into sex abuse: Knox Grammar headmaster Ian Paterson 'did not realise groping was a crime'". Sydney Morning Herald. 3 March 2015.
  33. ^ Higgins, Ean (2 March 2015). "Knox Grammar: Master quit over suspected pedophile's appointment". The Australian. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  34. ^ Higgins, Ean (6 March 2015). "Knox headmaster insists he informed police". The Australian. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  35. ^ a b Browne, Rachel (14 September 2016). "Former Knox Grammar headmaster Ian Paterson 'covered up' abuse, Royal Commission finds". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  36. ^ Eddie, Rachel (1 March 2019). "The institutions with no plans to pay child sex abuse survivors' redress". The New Daily. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  37. ^ "National Redress Scheme". Australian Government Department of Social Services. 17 December 2018. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  38. ^ Rawsthorne, Sally (6 August 2019). "'Strong police case' against Knox teacher facing child porn and drug charges". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  39. ^ Partridge, Emma (6 August 2019). "School swim coach charged over child abuse images". 9 News. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  40. ^ Dole, Nick (6 August 2019). "'The school remains vigilant': Knox Grammar teacher charged over child abuse images". ABC News. Retrieved 7 August 2019.

Further reading[edit]

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

External links[edit]