Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Cecil Rollo Payton Andrews (1870–1951)

by David Mossenson

This article was published:

Cecil Rollo Payton Andrews (1870-1951), director of education, was born on 2 February 1870 in London, son of John Marshall Andrews, vicar of St Jude's, Grays Inn Road, and his wife Lucy Ann, née Nash. He was educated at Merchant Taylors' School and St John's College, Oxford, graduating with second-class honours in classics and humanities in 1892 (M.A., 1898). After teaching in 1893-96, he became resident tutor at Battersea Teachers' Training College. He arrived in Western Australia early in 1901, recruited by the inspector general of schools, (Sir) Cyril Jackson, to be first principal of the new teachers' training college at Claremont. He came with a promise of succeeding Jackson and did so early in 1903; he was to direct the Education Department for twenty-six years. In 1900 he had married Bertha Arnold Agnew; they had three children.

The movement of population from declining goldfields to the new wheat-belt required provision of several hundred one-teacher schools; this strained the resources of the department. However, Andrews's upgrading of rural education was one of his major contributions: the primitive bush schools of the pre-1914 era were transformed in efficiency by the 1920s. He ensured a concurrent improvement in the size and quality of the teaching service through monitors' classes, Normal schools and, ultimately, development of secondary education.

In 1911 Andrews attended the Imperial Education Conference in London, investigated education in Great Britain, Europe and Canada and was able to incorporate some of the ideas collected into his own system. The institution of state high schools was his most notable achievement. He firmly advised successive ministries that the private secondary schools were inadequate. The announcement that the government would establish a state high school precipitated attacks from the influential West Australian and the headmasters of the private schools; Andrews dominated the ensuing controversy and thereby confirmed the government's wavering convictions. The Perth Modern School opened in 1911; the reputation which it acquired enabled Andrews to extend the system to the eastern goldfields and the main rural centres. Although he failed to secure a second metropolitan high school, he established a number of post-primary central schools. Creation of the Perth Modern School and of the University of Western Australia allowed him to replace the old elementary schools by seven-year primary schools. At the secondary level central schools led to the externally examined junior certificate, and high schools provided two further years for the leaving certificate and matriculation.

Besides the constant problems of a large area and sparse population, Andrews faced other difficulties. Economic recessions, harsh living conditions endured by many rural teachers, and salary cuts enforced by governments in financial difficulties stimulated the West Australian State School Teachers' Union to join other public service unions in the strike of July-August 1920. Peter Board of New South Wales, employed in 1921 as a royal commissioner into the affairs of the Education Department, absolved Andrews from blame for the strike and for alarming increases in expenditure.

During the difficult post-war period Andrews criticized the protracted withholding of teachers' annual salary increments by government and the abolition of the kindergarten classes in schools. Whenever conditions were propitious he introduced wide-ranging changes, including curriculum developments, improvements in teaching methods, the encouragement of Parents' and Citizens' associations from 1918 and medical inspection of pupils. He inaugurated the Correspondence School in 1918 and enlarged the scope of evening or continuation classes.

A foundation member of the senate, Andrews was also pro-chancellor of the university in 1912-29. He saw his university work as an extension of his role in government and eventually sought to perpetuate the appointment of his departmental successors to the pro-chancellorship. His experience helped the university to formulate workable administrative practices and he was a useful link with government, but he was never able to secure grants commensurate with those received by his department.

In 1906-12 Andrews was officer commanding cadets for the Commonwealth Military Forces in Western Australia; he was promoted major in 1906 and lieutenant-colonel in 1910. An active botanist, he collected specimens, published articles on the native flora and was an enthusiastic gardener. He played tennis and golf and enjoyed rowing and swimming. He was a member of the Anglican synod over a long period.

After retiring in June 1929, Andrews returned to England and lived at Sanderstead, Surrey, until his death on 14 June 1951.

Select Bibliography

  • J. S. Battye (ed), Cyclopedia of Western Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1912)
  • F. Alexander, Campus at Crawley (Melb, 1963)
  • D. Mossenson, State Education in Western Australia, 1829-1960 (Perth, 1972)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Western Australia), 1921-22, 1 (4)
  • West Australian, 4, 5 Aug 1908, 29 June 1929.

Citation details

David Mossenson, 'Andrews, Cecil Rollo Payton (1870–1951)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 19 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


2 February, 1870
London, Middlesex, England


14 June, 1951 (aged 81)
Sanderstead, Surrey, England

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