1851 Governor James Douglas recommends that schools be established for "the children of the labouring and poorer classes" on the colony of Vancouver Island.

1852 In March, a "common school" is opened in temporary quarters in Fort Victoria. This is the first government-funded public school in what becomes British Columbia. Charles Bailey is the first teacher.

1853 The first purpose-built public school house is erected at "Minie's Plain," about a mile from Fort Victoria, in the summer of 1853. The colony's second common school is opened later that year in Nanaimo. Charles Bailey is transferred from the Colonial School at Victoria to take charge of the new school in Nanaimo. Robert Barr replaces Bailey as schoolmaster in Victoria.

1855 A third common school is opened at Craigflower, near Victoria, for families employed by the Puget Sound Agricultural Company. Charles Clark is appointed schoolmaster.


The Council of Vancouver Island appoints a Committee of Inquiry into Public Schools. The Hudson Bay Company's Anglican chaplain, the Rev. Edward Cridge, is appointed (de facto) Superintendent of Schools for the colony of Vancouver Island.

Cridge's first report on schools in the Victoria area is submitted to Governor Douglas in November 1856. Cridge reports that seventeen boys, aged 6 to 15, are enrolled in the common school in Victoria. Their schoolmaster is Robert Barr. The school at Craigflower is in the charge of Charles Clark. Twenty-one children - 11 girls and 10 boys - between 4 and 16 years attend the school. Regretably, Cridge doesn't provide any information on the common school at Nanaimo in this report.

However, Cridge mentions that a Roman Catholic School for boys had lately been established in Victoria. Little is known about this school, but it must have been authorized by Bishop Modeste Demers.


A school is opened by the Sisters of St. Ann in Victoria. Although it is intended primarily for Roman Catholic scholars, St. Ann's Schoolhouse also accommodates Protestant children.

Father Peter Rondeault establishes a school for aboriginal children at Comiaken Hill, Cowichan Bay, north of Victoria, in 1858. The school caters mainly to boys and operates, sporadically, until 1874.

On the Mainland, gold is discovered on the Fraser River and in November 1858 a new British colony -- British Columbia -- is formally created.

1859 The first school for non-native children on the mainland colony of British Columbia is opened at Sapperton, near New Westminster. The school is organized by the Reverend John Sheepshanks for the children of the Royal Engineers who were encamped at Sapperton.