Fremantle Free Grammar School, a coeducational school, opened on the site in 1856 and later became Fremantle Boys and Princess May’s Girls’ Schools. The first permanent building on the site of today’s college was a manual arts building completed in 1943.
John Curtin Senior High School (named after one of Australia’s greatest Prime Ministers) was founded in 1954 from the merger of Fremantle Boys’ and Princess May’s Girls’ School. The college commenced operation in the present building in 1956. For its first 10 years the college was one of the largest in the State (2600 students). As other high schools were established in surrounding districts, enrolments dropped and the annexes were closed.
John Curtin was the first school in Australia to offer theatre arts and dance as specialist subjects. Programs for gifted and talented dance and drama students have been offered at the college since 1973.
The school was also the first in Australia to have a specialist soccer program. Established in 1990, the specialist Soccer Excellence program at John Curtin has firmly established itself as the State’s leading soccer program in secondary schools.
College of the Arts
In 1999, the Hon Colin Barnett, Minister for Education approved the proposal to establish a secondary school specialising in the Arts on the site occupied by John Curtin Senior High School. The college was to be a model for how Arts should be integrated into student’s learning.
In 2000, formal recognition of more than three decades of excellence in the Arts at John Curtin occurred with the re-badging of the school to John Curtin College of the Arts. This was the first step in the process of increasing specialisation for gifted and talented students.
In 2004, the addition of a state-of-the-art performing arts facility was unveiled with the Curtin Theatre, the first building of its kind in a public school in this State.
Selective College of the Arts
2008 saw the first intake of Year 8 students for Gifted and Talented Visual Arts and Music programs join the existing Ballet, Contemporary Dance, Drama, Music Theatre and Artsmedia GATE programs at the college. With the majority of GATE arts programs of any school across the State, the college was classified as one of only two selective public schools in Western Australia (the other being Perth Modern for Academic GAT programs).
John Curtin College of the Arts was chosen as a selective arts school due to its long and successful history of delivering quality arts programs and its provision of a specialised differentiated curriculum for gifted and talented Arts students and those identified as academically talented, providing them with opportunities for extension and enrichment.
Independent Public School and Building Masterplan
In 2009 the Hon Dr Elizabeth Constable MLA, Minister for Education selected the college as one of the first schools in Western Australia to become an Independent Public School. In 2011 acknowledgement from both the Premier and the Minister for Education that extensive new building works needed to be commenced in the near future led to the creation of a Building Master Plan.