Percival Mitchell


Hobart High School (AOT, PH30/1/4640)

Percival Harris (Perc) Mitchell (18791964), headmaster of the Hobart State High School 191331, was one of 26 'New Education' shock troops imported to Tasmania following Neale's 1904 report on the low teaching standards there. Having turned Beaconsfield school into a showpiece, Mitchell became pioneer head of the experimental high school in Hobart and faced the difficult task of convincing a querulous public, critical politicians and an antagonistic press that the venture would succeed and not become 'a godless place of larrikins wasting public expenditure'. He emphasised 'tone', 'polish', mens sana in corpore sano and citizenship, and acted out these ideals in public as major in charge of the Derwent Regiment, president of the Tasmanian Football League, vice-president of the RACT, founder of the Old Hobartian Association masonic lodge, conductor of church choirs, secretary of the Kennerley Boys' Home and Missions to Seamen, and later Hobart City Council alderman and deputy major.

The Report of the 1924 Enquiry was a triumph for the new system. Such was the status of Hobart High after he was promoted to the Inspectorate that his successor, HV Biggins, was given a civic reception.

Further reading: PH Mitchell, Headmaster's Journals 191331 (AOT); P Northcott,' The New Education in Tasmania' and other articles (TCAE); BJ Poulson, Hobart Matriculation College Log, 1973 (contains 60 page history of Hobart High); J Reynolds, 'The 1924 Board of Enquiry into State High Schools' in Log 1973.

Bruce Poulson