In 1930, Margaret J R Lyttle (pictured, known as Greta) began teaching five pupils in the living room of her home in Hawthorn (406 Barkers Road), in Melbourne’s inner east. Under the motto ‘Courage’, Greta soon established a following for her child-centred approach, and the nucleus of a school known as Preshil emerged.
Greta’s niece Margaret E Lyttle (affectionately known by the children as Magpie, and later Mug) was one of the first to join Preshil’s teaching staff and remembered the school’s early days as happy if somewhat unorthodox:
“Our dining room was a sub-primary room and an old tram car nearby in the garden was a library for the primary aged children.”
All of this was quite illegal and worrying for the neighbours, explained a visiting school inspector. Nonetheless, he approved the registration of the school, declaring himself impressed with its program. Preshil was already attracting teachers who were ahead of their time. In 1933, Frances Derham, the legendary pioneer of art teaching, joined the school and began to explore new ways to encourage children to express themselves through art.