Our history

The early years

The College has a proud history, dating back to 1912 when Ann McDonald, then only 12 years of age, arrived with her family from Falkirk in Scotland and settled in Shepparton, Victoria. We honour our Scottish heritage through our College uniform, which features the McDonald Dress tartan.

Ann McDonald moved to Sydney to pursue a singing career at the Conservatorium. To finance her singing lessons, she established the Ann McDonald College of Dancing in 1926 teaching ballroom and Scottish dancing that she had learnt as a child.

During this time Ann McDonald was President of the Federal Association of Teachers of Dancing for fifteen years. John Butt, her husband was Honorary Treasurer and together they were involved in the performing arts for more than fifty years.

Ann McDonald’s love of performing inspired all who encountered her.

The next generation

Upon Ann and John’s retirement in 1970, their daughter Margaret Markham took over the Ann McDonald College of Dancing.

Soon after, Ann Fraser and Maxine Kohler (nee Sullivan) joined forces with Margaret, and the three women became business partners.

It had long been a desire of Ann and John to achieve recognition for the performing arts in education. In 1983, Margaret, Ann and Maxine realised this ambition by establishing a specialised academic and performing arts school for children with a passion for performance.

They agreed to transform the Ann McDonald College of Dancing from a private company into a community based, not-for-profit company, facilitating the establishment of The McDonald College Limited.

In 1984, The McDonald College commenced with 75 students and has since then has grown from strength to strength.

Moving with the times

The McDonald College was quick to outgrow several of its earlier premises. From its original premises in Enfield, owned by the local Council to the purchase of the historic Arnotts (Biscuit) family home in Strathfield. There were further property purchases in Homebush and Strathfield as the College grew. It was the sale of these three properties in 1999 that allowed the College to purchase its present premises at 17 George Street, North Strathfield.

Our historical timeline

1926Ann McDonald established the Ann McDonald College of Dancing teaching ballet, ballroom dancing and training debutants.
1928Ann McDonald receives her certification to teach dancing.
1930Ann McDonald, Gwen Sievers and Penelope Cay were instrumental in forming the NSW Dance Teachers Association.
1935Felix Demery visited Australia on behalf of the Operatic Association of Dance Teachers of Great Britain to conduct examinations. Students of the Ann McDonald College of Dancing were presented and successful in gaining high passes.
1937Ann McDonald was elected President of the NSW Dance Teachers Association.
1938The NSW Dance Teachers Association’s became the Federal Association of Teachers of Dancing of Australia and New Zealand (FATD). At the invitation of the FATD, Miss Phylis Haylor from London came to Australia to conduct examinations in Ballroom Dancing. Ann McDonald and her husband John Butt were successful in passing the teachers examinations and became members of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing, London (ISTD).
1939 – 45Ann McDonald commenced her Annual Recitals of Dance and these were reprised in aid of the war effort and charities.
1946Ann McDonald as President of the FATD visited Perth to establish a branch of FATD and upon her return was appointed to the City of Sydney Eisteddfod Committee as Dance Representative. Competitions were held for the first time.
1962Alumni Ann Fraser goes to Royal Ballet School in London.
1970Margaret Markham, daughter of Ann McDonald and Jack Butt, also trained by her parents in classical ballet, jazz ballet, character, national, tap, latin and American, modern ballroom, social and folk dance, took over the Ann McDonald College of Dancing.
1973The Ann McDonald College of Dancing partnership is established between Margaret Markham, Ann Fraser, and Maxine Kohler (nee Sullivan).
1983Margaret Markham, Ann Fraser, and Maxine Kohler all agreed to change the Ann McDonald College of Dancing into a community-based not for profit organisation, which facilitated the establishment of The McDonald College.
1984The McDonald College commenced with 75 students in Years 7 – 9 and 11 while still running the Ann McDonald College of Dancing. All students did classical ballet.
1985Enrolments ran from Years 7 – 12.
1986The College acquired the historic Arnott’s Biscuit family home at 11 – 13 Beresford Road, Strathfield and 8 – 10 Highbury Street, Croydon which became the boarding house for students. The McDonald College introduced the Dance stream.
1987Leased 1 The Crescent, Homebush as dance studios.
1988With the College expanding, 12 Homebush Road, Homebush was purchased and Ann Fraser, one of the co-founders of The McDonald College retired.
1989 Enrolments begin for Years 5 & 6 students.
1990The McDonald College introduces an Acting stream
1991The College continues to grow and Year 3 – 4 students are enrolled.
1993The College expands into new premises at 1 Beresford Road, Strathfield.
1995The College introduces the Music stream.
1999The College continues to expand and acquires new premises at 17 George Street, North Strathfield. The entire school moves to North Strathfield in Term 4.
2000Nikki Webster opens the Sydney Olympic Games.
2002The College introduces the Infants (Kindergarten – Year 2) school.
2003Preparatory students are enrolled and the Birchgrove Gifted and Talented School is incorporated into The McDonald College.
2005Margaret Markham retired at the end of Term 1 and Maxine Kohler is appointed as Principal. The McDonald College introduces new school uniforms.
2007The College introduces a Musical Theatre stream.
2014Enrolments are consolidated to Years 3 – 12 and an Elite Tennis stream is introduced in partnership with Voyager Tennis Academy.
2016An exciting phase for The McDonald College with the opening of a new, purpose-built boarding house.
2019 – 2022Performing arts partnerships with Sydney Dance Company, Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP), Australian Institute of Music (AIM), and Synergy Gymnastics Academy (rhythmic gymnastics).

Internal renovations are partly funded by BGA Capital Grants program and the College Parents & Friends Association.