Wodonga School History

Border Morning Mail Wed Oct 30, 1957

100 years of education

It is big day on Friday next

The Centenary of public education in Wodonga will be celebrated on Friday when the State School has its 100th anniversary.

Wodonga has always been an education conscious centre. Its total population was only 214 when the first “National School” began with 21 pupils on November 1, 1857.

Now the State School ranks as one of the finest in Victoria, with 682 pupils and it is graded as a first class school although its enrolment warrants grading as a special school.

Conditions for pupils and staff are vastly better now than they were in the rough and tumble days of State education in the early frontier town of Wodonga.

The first teacher at Wodonga (then unpopularly named Belvoir) rowed across the Murray from Albury to set up school in a bark hut at the rear of Jackson’s hotel.

The same bark hut had been used for several years as a private school.

John Lee, the teacher, lived in a tent, but it was reported that he had one serious drawback – he was unmarried and therefore had no wife who could be “work mistress” at the school.

The present High School site had been allotted for the school and in those days firewood was no problem because the grounds were full of it.

The original school house was completed on this site in December, 1857 and pupils moved from the old bark hut.

The building (pictured here 13 years after it was built) consisted of a single brick room with a shingle roof and was considered large enough to have 70 pupils although this enrolment was not reached until 1870.

The building cost £237, was structurally damaged in the fire in 1862 when it was reported that the floor, walls, furniture and calico ceiling were burnt, and condemned in 1875 when it was sold for £6 and removed.

The two room to building which took its place in 1874 is still being used today by the High School. The rooms in the centre portion of the High School building are numbered five and six and house the cookery centre and library.

The original shingled roof of the building was recently discovered when repairs were being made to the galvanised iron roof which was placed over it when the school was remodelled in 1909.

The school gradually grew with the town and progressed to a central School in 1923 and higher elementary status in 1938 when the enrolment was 290.

The new portion of the school fronting high Street was constricted with the raise in status.

The most rapid growth occurred in the years after the war and in 1951, when the enrolment had passed 600 with Mr F. H. Jobling as head-teacher, the first units of the Ariel Street school were put into use as an infants’ department.

In the following two years further units were added and more grades were transferred until the final division of the school was made in the beginning of 1954.

Wodonga once again had a State School for junior grades and the old buildings were used for the newly classified High School.

The State School is now comprised of 15 aluminium and timber buildings set in park-like surroundings.

355 boys and 327 girls are taught by 15 teachers. Despite slight overcrowding in the classrooms – there is an average of 48 pupils to each room and five grades have more than 50 scholars – other facilities are good and constantly improving.

There are two shelter sheds, and sheds to protect students’ cycles in wet weather.

All internal roads in the grounds have been sealed and the aprons around buildings and the quadrangle will be sealed before Friday.

Surrounding the school are acres of lush, green playing fields which are large enough to provide sporting facilities for every pupil of the school.

Grounds include four football grounds, a two acres sports oval, four basketball courts, high and broad jumping pits, rounders diamonds, four cricket pictures (another permanent turf pitch is in the course of construction).

The grounds have been laid out with ornamental and shade trees and in future years the grounds are expected to be the equal of any of the State.

Facilities within the school buildings include a radio system which brings school broadcasts to every class and the most modern visual educational equipment. This includes a slide projector and movie-talkie film unit which is used extensively.

Teachers who are qualified to use the equipment show people is up to five films a week on subjects related to the courses and general education. Other school activities include a social service club which has raised large amounts for hospitals and charities in the district, an art club and a Junior Safety Council, which provides the junior traffic officers who police four pedestrian crossings near the school.

Old pupils of the school and parents and friends of present students will be able to inspect all these facilities during the celebrations.