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University of Toronto
U of T Great Past

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In 1907, who started teaching prospective teachers how to teach?

Answer The University of Toronto's Faculty of Education began admitting students, and plans got under way to create a primary/secondary school for "educational experiments." It would become University of Toronto Schools.

On March 15, 1827, King's College - the precursor to the University of Toronto - was granted its royal charter by King George IV. Throughout 2002, U of T celebrated 175 years of Great Minds. As part of the celebration, the U of T website featured excerpts from The University of Toronto: A History, written by Martin Friedland, University Professor and Professor Emeritus of Law at U of T.

The faculty of education opened its three-storey red brick building at the corner of Bloor Street and Spadina Avenue in 1910. The faculty had been established in late 1906 on the recommendation of the royal commission. The commission's members had visited faculties of education at Columbia and Chicago, and it concluded that the teaching of education "is best performed where the theory and practice can be made to supplement each other," and that a university was the place where that could be done best.

A university was the best place for the teaching of education .

A model school would also fit in with the needs of the city of Toronto, which required a new high school in what was then still the northern end of the city. Moreover, such a school would be able to "conduct educational experiments." As it happened, the superintendent of education, John Seath, held the same view and had urged his minister to transfer the Ontario Normal School in Hamilton to the University of Toronto. It was difficult to attract students to Hamilton, and consequently there was a shortage of high school teachers in the province.

Robert Falconer, 1929
Robert Falconer, 1929

The first education students were admitted to the new faculty of education in October 1907. While the building was being constructed, the West Hall of University College and other locations were used for lectures, and various city schools were used for practice teaching.

Property was then acquired on Bloor Street between Spadina and Huron. Plans were drawn up for 200 teachers and a large model school of more than 1,000 students. The school would be for both primary and secondary students - both boys and girls - and would include a technical school. For that reason, it was given a pluralized name - University of Toronto Schools (UTS).

University of Toronto Schools
University of Toronto Schools: The faculty of education opened at the corner of Bloor Street and Spadina Avenue in 1910; additions were later made to both ends of the building.

"We feel very strongly that the girls of Toronto should not be placed at a disadvantage by being excluded from what is to be the leading Secondary School."

As it turned out, however, the funding for the school was limited, and a decision was made to eliminate the technical school and to include only a secondary school and the higher grades of a primary school - and also to teach only boys. The United Alumnae were incensed. "We feel very strongly," they wrote President Robert Falconer, "that the girls of Toronto should not be placed at a disadvantage by being excluded from what is to be the leading Secondary School."

Dr Helen MacMurchy, a noted woman doctor - the first woman to intern at the Toronto General Hospital - wrote to the president that it was shocking for the University to have a school where "no girls need apply - no women are appointed as teachers - and no university student in the Faculty of Education can learn there how to teach girls, because there are no girls there to teach." Falconer wrote that "if the school is successful, we hope that we may be able to extend it before very long" to include women. Women were not admitted to UTS until 1973, however, almost seventy years later.

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