Constance Barrett and her mother, Caroline, founded Kilvington in 1923. Establishing a school at any time is incredibly difficult, but the odds of Kilvington’s success seem to have been almost insurmountable considering the economy at the time and the family’s lack of wealth. Yet Constance and Caroline’s remarkable vision, energy and commitment made this dream a reality.
In 1922, Constance answered an advertisement to tutor a group of children in Ormond. The advertisement was placed by Mrs Phyllis Fethers, after whom the House Fethers is named. Local parents wanted to start a school for their children, but because Constance wasn’t a registered teacher, she convinced her mother to establish a school of her own in Ormond.
This had been a lifelong dream of Caroline’s, who took up the challenge despite being sixty years of age. In 1923, the Ormond Girls’ School was established in Ormond’s Church of England Parish Hall.
The original number of enrolments was 13 girls and two boys. Over the next five years the numbers quickly grew, and the School was forced to move to larger premises to accommodate the growth. It soon became evident that a permanent site was required.
At the age of twenty-one, Constance bought land for £500 and was able to negotiate a bank loan for £2 200 to build a new campus for the School – an impressive feat, considering that it was then extremely rare for women to be granted a loan at that time. The amount Constance was able to borrow was even more remarkable, considering she was young, single and living in uncertain economic times: by today's standards, £2 200 converts to approximately $1 million.
The School, which was renamed ‘Kilvington Girls’ Grammar’, opened at the newly-built Walsh Street site on 18 May 1929. The students were asked to submit designs for a badge and consulted about a School motto. Constance was responsible for the resulting design of the crest. Constance and Caroline developed the School motto together, with Constance choosing the Chevron – the symbol of service – as part of the logo.
In her opening speech, Caroline told parents that 'the School should not be looked upon merely as a machine for grinding out knowledge, but to mould and build the character of the girls and teach them that honour and truth should come first in their lives.'
The School steadily grew in popularity, and enrolments were still increasing even during the early Depression years. Many other private schools at the time were looking to the Churches to purchase them as denominational schools.
The first three students completed their intermediate studies in 1932, which was a landmark year for Kilvington. The first issue of Kilvington's yearbook, The Kilvonian, was launched in the same year. By 1934 Caroline's health was fading, and she passed the reins of the School to the capable hands of Miss Muriel Fysh.
Caroline and Constance Barrett were certainly women of character. They were dedicated to the education of girls, and possessed great strength of spirit – two qualities that have been evident throughout every decade of Kilvington's growth, and which have helped form our School’s character.