Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Frederick John Gladman (1839–1884)

by R. J. W. Selleck

This article was published:

Frederick John Gladman (1839-1884), educationist, was born on 1 February 1839 in London, son of William Gladman, police superintendent, and his wife Rebecca, née Barnes. He attended a Lancastrian school until apprenticed at 14 as a pupil-teacher to Robert Soar, headmaster of the British and Foreign School at Bushey, Hertfordshire. On ending his apprenticeship he was admitted as a Queen's scholar to the Borough Road Training College, London, for one year's teacher-training. In 1859-62 he taught at a small British and Foreign School at Godalming in Surrey. He was appointed headmaster of a larger school at Great Yarmouth in 1863, but only after the school's managers had overcome their reluctance to appoint so young a man. He taught brilliantly, meeting the rigid requirements of the payment by result system then in vogue, and at the same time stirring the imagination and capturing, often for life, the affection of his pupils. While at Great Yarmouth he began private studies: in 1869 he matriculated in the University of London (B.A., 1871; B.Sc., 1875). After nine years at Great Yarmouth he was asked to return to the Borough Road Training College as headmaster of the Model and Practising School, a position he filled with distinction. As co-editor with Rev. William Legge he published The Handy Book of English History (London, 1874); it was followed by his own School Method (London, 1877) and in 1886 by his School Work in Jarrold's Pupil Teachers series.

In 1876 the Victorian Education Department had inquired in England for a suitable principal of the Training Institution in Melbourne. Gladman stood out among the applicants because of his experience in teaching and teacher-training, his university record, unusual for one who had begun his professional career as a pupil-teacher, and a glowing testimonial from Matthew Arnold who as a school inspector had examined Gladman. In March 1877 Gladman arrived in Melbourne and before taking up his appointment in June travelled around Victoria getting to know the system. He published a report foreshadowing many of the criticisms which in the next seven years he made in greater detail and, particularly for so mild a man, with increasing acerbity. He was specially perturbed by the failure to develop procedures to secure qualified teachers, by the low standard required of entrants to the Training Institution and by defects in its professional and academic courses. He recommended changes and campaigned for their implementation but had made little impression on the educational authorities when he died suddenly, probably of diabetes, on 23 November 1884 at St Kilda. He was survived by his wife Sarah Ann, née Howard, whom he had married on 9 August 1860, and by five of their eight children; one son, Philip Howard, became an inspector in the Education Department of Western Australia.

Though many of his recommendations were implemented after his death and through his writing were influential in Australia, Gladman's importance is not primarily that of reformer or theorist. He was a rigorous thinker and well-read by any standards; by colonial standards his opinions were progressive but to British and Continental educationists he would have appeared as intelligently derivative. His great contribution was to bring to a narrow and parochial education system a generous view of the task of schooling, a stern moral and intellectual concern, a pride in the craftsmanship of teaching and a passionate conviction of its importance. His students, many of whom later rose high in their professions, were strikingly influenced by his attitudes. As a memorial to him they instituted the Gladman prize, awarded yearly to the best student at Melbourne Teachers' College.

Select Bibliography

  • Australasian Schoolmaster files, 1875-85 (State Library of Victoria)
  • Education Department, registered letters, 1876-85 (State Library of Victoria).

Citation details

R. J. W. Selleck, 'Gladman, Frederick John (1839–1884)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 15 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


1 February, 1839
London, Middlesex, England


23 November, 1884 (aged 45)
St Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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