Werribee

Inspector Thomas Walker came to Wyndham in 1855 to look at the possibility of establishing a national school. The innkeeper, Elliott Armstrong offered a zinc house 10 x 14 feet which could be erected in the grounds of his inn, until public subscription and government grants provided something better. Armstrong's daughter, Ellen was willing to be the teacher. The Inspector returned a few months later and found the school ready to start with 19 pupils enrolled.

 

The first Inspector's report on "Miss Armstrong's School" reported that there were 8 boys and 13 girls on the roll and that their average age was 9 years. Miss Armstrong, who had been educated in Sydney, had good discipline and the general tone of the school was very satisfactory. She was described as painstaking and persevering and well liked by the parents. She was only 19 years old. The Inspector recommended that government aid should be given towards the teacher's salary. However, Archdeacon Stretch of Geelong had already announced that the school would receive aid as a Church of England Denominational School.

 

Mrs Margaret Beamish was in charge of the school when the completion of the railway caused an increase in population. Armstrong called a meeting at his hotel in December 1858 calling for a National School and again offered his building. The subscription list towards a new building was headed by Thomas Chirnside and totalled a 104. Soon afterwards John Baker, a trained teacher, was appointed and he had 20 children enrolled.

 

By 1861 there was a plain weatherboard building, 30 x 15 feet with a slate roof, unlined and unfenced, with no heating and only one long desk serving as the school.

 

In the following year with a change in legislation, Victoria's two separate school systems (National and Denominational) were merged and the school became the Wyndham Common School, the forerunner of State School 649. Bluestone classrooms were added as the number of pupils grew. After 1872 when education became compulsory numbers increased considerably, and by 1874 there were over 100 pupils.

 

In 1862 the Board of Education offered to provide a Sewing Mistress, but the local Committee let it be known that it wanted children "to be literary, not taught sewing and the like". However, the parents had other ideas, and after having made a strong protest at the local Committee's decision, they appealed to the Board for such an appointment. Miss Mary Armstrong, sister of Ellen, was appointed in 1864.

The first paid Principal, Mr John Baker served the community for 26 years. As with many early school teachers, he was highly respected in the community. In the early years he arranged Church services in private houses on Sunday afternoons and procured preachers for them, and in the absence of a minister would conduct the services himself. He was a good musician and a fine singer, and arranged concerts for various community causes. He was a Trustee of the Cemetery and Treasurer of the Committee that collected funds in 1882 for the erection of the Mechanics Institute. He was responsible for putting the resolution to a public meeting in 1883 that the Governor in Council be asked to change the name of the township from Wyndham to Werribee.

 

As Werribee grew the little school became inadequate. The original timber building was demolished in 1907 after the Health Officer had condemned the school buildings. The two bluestone classrooms were renovated and new brick rooms were added.

 

In 1917 G.T. Chirnside donated five acres of land for another school. In the same year, Werribee's Schools board was unveiled and G.T. Chirnside donated a 1000 for a memorial fund. The new school opened in 1919 (being S.S.649) and is still on the same site today.

 
Truganina

The earliest known schools at Truganina were run by women in private houses, who taught their neighbour's children. Two of these women were Mrs E. North and Mrs George Cropley.

 

The first two organised schools in the district were John Corr's school at Mt Cottrell and Samuel Hayes' school established April 1856. It was built at the sole expense of James Thomson, Samuel Evans and Thomas Hillman on Thomson's land. These men intended the school primarily for their own children, but permitted district children to attend. The building had rooms lined with canvas and an earth floor and an earthen fireplace with a wooden chimney for heating.

 

Hayes, the first teacher, was a devout man. He conducted the first religious service in the district. In 1857 Inspector Geary wrote: "The parents gave emphatic orders that their children were not to be taught Grammar and Geography, but only Reading, Writing and Arithmetic". Mr Hayes, however, with great patience and diplomacy succeeded in introducing Grammar and the Elements of Geography.

From 1866, school was held in the Wesleyan Chapel at Skeleton Creek in order to accommodate the increasing number of pupils. The number enrolled at this time was 69.

 

With local help, the Common Schools Board established a new school and residence, first occupied in April 1869 by Andrew Hanna, former Presbyterian Minister. The school has had several names but from 1877 it became Truganina State School No. 192.

 
Little River

After the Independent Church Denominational School was established in 1856 it became Common School No. 154 in 1862, when Victoria's Church and National Schools were combined under one administration. The school was later absorbed into the first State School in Little River (No. 1961) in 1877, with its master Thomas Fullager becoming the first head teacher of No.1961.

 

The land on which the original Independent School was built was later purchased by Edward Gleeson, and absorbed into his 'Tarcombe' estate, where the ruins of the bluestone school building were visible for many years.