Following Sir Henry Parkes’ Education Act of 1880, the Government of the Colony of New South Wales decided to establish, under the control and administration of the Department of Public Instruction, a system of Public High Schools.

The first of these were the two Sydney High Schools. On October 1, 1883, The Boys School enrolled 46 students at the Francis Greenway designed building constructed by convicts in Castlereagh Street, Sydney. This site was that of the present Elizabeth Street Store of David Jones Ltd.

The School has had three locations – Castlereagh Street, Mary Ann Street, Ultimo and Moore Park. The first formerly housed the St James Church of England Grammar School. Prior to its occupancy by the parochial school from 1829-1882 it contained the Sydney Public School. The Boys School commenced formal lessons with a staff of four. Its students occupied the lower floor with its entrance in Castlereagh Street, while the Girls School had the upper floor and entered from Elizabeth Street.

The school was officially opened by Sir George Reid, Minister for Education, on October 8, 1883. Thus Sydney High pioneered the field of Public High School Education in Australia. Early in 1892 the boys moved to new premises in Mary Ann Street, Ultimo, the first building designed as a High School in any of the Colonies. In that year, too, the Sydney High School Old Boys Union was founded.

In 1906 High was accepted by the AAGPS as a member, having played sport with its various member schools since 1885. It became a foundation member of the Combined High Schools Athletic Activities Association (CHSAAA) in 1913 and the school union was inaugurated to coordinate the school’s sporting activities.

The present school was officially opened by the Honorable DH Drummond, Minister for Education, on June 9, 1928 on land formally known as ‘Billy Goats Swamps’ but renamed ‘Moore Park’. The Girls School had moved to this location in 1921. Today at Sydney High, the original bear pits are silent reminders of its former role as a zoo.

Work on the McKay sports grounds commenced in 1928. The first match was played there in May 1932.

The school council was formed in 1951, and the school attained its Rowing Clubhouse at Abbotsford in 1952.

The school has produced an impressive array of achievements as it progressed and is one of the state’s leading schools. Its alumni hold high positions in the service of the state in politics, the judiciary, the foreign service and departments of State