History
(James Hoskin)
James Ruse Agricultural High School Pioneers Inc.
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This page was last updated: August 7, 2015
Principal’s 1978 Report

We have now reached the twentieth year since the establishment of James Ruse Agricultural High School as the fourth such school to be set up in New South Wales. During this time I was fortunate to be the founding Headmaster. For some few months in 1959 the school was officially opened as Carlingford Agricultural High School but in April of that year, as a result of a request made by me to the Department, the name was changed to the more appropriate one of James Ruse. It was not envisaged that the school should serve any narrow area but rather offer agricultural education to students in a large part of the Sydney metropolitan area and its rural fringes. The school was set up for day boys only - there were no girls and no boarders. Entry was to be limited to an intake of 120 and these were to be selected on a number of criteria: most importantly the academic potential of the applicant and his suitability for the courses offered. These courses were designed to give a sound theoretical and practical experience in Agriculture and allied subjects against a background of a broad liberal education. Whilst every encouragement was given to students to enter tertiary agricultural and allied studies on completion of their secondary education, care was taken not to close the gate to other tertiary courses.

Competition for admission to James Ruse increased steadily year by year and this at a time when the agricultural industries were depressed economically and when the Departmental policy was operating against selectivity in schools. In this regard it should be noted that James Ruse is selective by demand and not by design — any falling off of public approval of the school would adversely affect the selectivity. Commenting on a recent enquiry on selective High Schools the Premier, Mr. Wran, said "The Agricultural High Schools and the Conservatorium High School will be retained. They serve a useful purpose."

In 1977 some 24 girls were admitted to Year 11 to pioneer the entry of girls into James Ruse in competition with boys. This year there are over one hundred girls in the school in all years except 9 and 10. James Ruse is now academically the most selective secondary school in Australia, public or private.

This will be my last Head­master's message. I must take this opportunity to very sincerely thank all those teachers, students, parents, departmental officers, and members of the public who have worked with me to make James Ruse the outstanding school by any criterion. It has developed at a time when interest in education has been high and at a time when the educational scene was one of continuing change. It has been my policy to move a little behind the extreme, but not so slowly that the school failed to absorb what was best in the changes being made. I must commend the great loyalty and dedication of those with whom I have worked. I must also thank the various political representatives of the district, particularly Mr. Dan Mahoney, and Mr. Jim Cameron, for their support, and the press (both local and state) for their interest in the school over the years.

The agricultural component of the courses offered was early established and consistently maintained. Agriculture is a compulsory subject for students in all years. As taught over the six years it includes elementary ecology, plant and animal physiology and anatomy, soil science, climatology, entomology, microbiology, genetics, biometry and agricultural economics. In addition there are regional studies, including plant and animal husbandry, regional agricultural problems and for seniors a special project which is varied each year. The subject matter is well illustrated by field and laboratory work and by excursions to places of agricultural interest.

For the first four years all students follow a course of Farm Mechanics in the subject of Technics. They may carry this subject on to the final two years. It includes metal­work, wood-work, technical drawing, material science, automotive mechanics and farm machinery. Sheep Husbandry and Wool Science is an elective subject in years 8 to 12.

In the general subjects there are compulsory studies in English, Mathematics and Science. The emphasis on the basic sciences increases in the senior years. Here Chemistry is a compulsory subject and students must in addition do either Physics or Biology. In the Junior School a social science, either Geography or History, must be taken.

To give balance to the junior course one elective must be taken from Art, French, Music, Commerce or Sheep Husbandry and Wool Science.

For the seniors the elective is one of Modern History, Geography, Economics, Art, Music, Farm Mechanics, Sheep and Wool or General Studies. I am particularly pleased with the increasing popularity of Art and Music as 1 regard these two subjects as of value in giving balance to the science orientated courses taken at James Ruse.

All students at James Ruse take seven full subjects to school certificate level and do 13 units of study for the Higher School Certificate. 
James Hoskin
From the 1978 School Magazine


The principal interviewed in 1978

Mr. Hoskin, could you tell me how the school came to be called "James Ruse Agricultural High"?

When I was appointed as Headmaster here, it was called "Carlingford Agricultural High School" - a brand new school. Now when I was at University I was fortunate enough to do a course in Agricultural History. One man who caught my attention for several reasons was James Ruse. Not only his farming activity attract­ed me but because both Ruse and I are of Cornish extraction - my Grandmother was Mary Ann Tresize (a good Cornish name that one!).

I realized that "Carlingford Agricultural High School" was a most unsuitable name because the school was not to serve only Carlingford. Indeed, we had practically no students from Carlingford. We would have had twenty times more students from say Burwood, than Carlingford during those first few years. Well, I suggested in the April of 1959, two names - "Sydney Agricultural' High School", and "Ruse Agricultural High School". The Department did not know too much about Ruse, but I made certain suggestions as to people to consult, and they agreed (I think NOT knowing that he was a convict) that the place should be known as "James Ruse Agricultural High School". At about that time Arthur Philip School was also named. Adding the first names to the surname does make it better, I think.

Prior to my arrival, the school had been run as an annexe to Carlingford Central School and was called the Carlingford Junior Agricultural High School. It was administered by Mr. Frater, Headmaster of the Carlingford Central School, and the Master-in-charge here was Mr. Charles Mullavey, who became the first Deputy Principal of James Ruse.

Have you seen any changes in the type of students who have come to James Ruse over the years?

The type of student who has come here over the years is markedly different from those in local area schools. This would have been the least selective of any secondary school in Sydney. There has been a transition to the point where this is the most selective school either public or private, in the history of Education in this State, and indeed more selective than any tertiary institution.

There is also a marked difference. be­cause the student who comes here must have enough individuality to break away from his peer group in the suburb or street in which he lives, and come to a different school. Very often he is the only student in the street, or even the suburb, that at­tends this school. In one particular case I estimated that a student had to come past 90 High Schools, to come to this school. This is the same now as it was in the be­ginning. It has not changed. This certain individuality is seen by some teachers as an asset and some as a liability; I think it should be seen as an asset. Individuality in students should be treasured.

Have there been any particularly out­standing students that you can remember, and what they have gone on to become?

It is remarkable how well a lot of them have done. One, Murray Badger, who was Dux of the school in his year (I think it was the first H.S.C. Year) went from here to the Faculty of Agriculture and graduated with 1st Class Honours and the University Medal. He then went to the Australian National University to graduate Ph.D., and then he proceeded to the Carnegie Institute for post-Doctoral studies. Last year, he was awarded a Queen's Fellowship at the James Cook University to do studies on photo­synthesis of marine algae. His is a particularly outstanding career. Another student, Peter Warr, graduated in the Faculty of Agriculture with Honours, and then went to Stanford University to graduate Ph.D. and is now at Monash University, lecturing in Economics.

All round, there is a record of academic excellence, but a lot of ex-students work in very practical areas - this school produces both types. One of the first old boys, Adrian Lynch came second in the State in H.S.C. in Agriculture, and after graduation went into Journalism, writing agricultural material for the "Australian". For a time he was on the "Herald" and at present he is Private Secretary to Mr. Sinclair, the Deputy Leader of the Country Party. Adrian has made Public Relations a rewarding career. Some years ago, I could have said that 3 out of 4 of our students who finished at James Ruse were in a vocation that was connected with Agriculture.

Has there been a trend away from interest in Agriculture?

Any trend away has come more because of the lack of opportunity for careers in the Agricultural field. James Ruse has had a large number of students become veterinary surgeons, quite a number are practising medicine and in fact there is no profession where James Ruse is not represented. At least three of our ex-students have come back to Ruse as teachers of Agriculture, and of course Ross McGregor graduated in Agriculture and is on the staff at present. In the teaching service, quite a number of ex-James Ruse students have become Agriculture and Science teachers. I remember at one time also, the "Land" newspaper had three James Ruse students on the staff.

Geoff Lawrence, an ex-school Captain, had a job as a Projects Officer with the Riverina Local Government bodies. I went in to buy something the other day, and met an ex-student who was a music salesman, and of course, on the walls of my office here hang several paintings by Carl String­fellow, an excellent and increasingly well- regarded artist in the Sydney area. At one time, the Music Master at the Kings' School was an ex-James Ruse student. So you can see, we are widely represented in careers well away from the original intention of the school.

What do you consider to be the most important experience that every James Ruse student should leave with?

Basically, of course, the Agriculture experience. We live in a community that, despite marked efforts to get away from it, is still bound very closely to the land. There would be very few children here, other than migrant children, who have not got some association with the land, through parents or uncles. Even the developing urban type of person is increasingly aware of the environment and ecology, and these are things closely bound up with Agriculture. Hence to all, the Agriculture experience can be an important one. If a student becomes a doctor, or a lawyer, or an architect, his school Agricultural experience is still significant. The subject can be made readily justified as a worthwhile part of a liberal education.

Has your own understanding of Agriculture changed over the time you have been Principal of this school, or has your interest changed?

Well, over the forty or so years that I have been a teacher, I have either taught Agriculture or been Principal here. I have devoted a lifetime to propagating the study of Agriculture in schools.

Is there any aspect of Agriculture that you could say was your favourite area?

Personally yes, I like horticulture whether it is flower gardening, orcharding or what­ever. This aspect has been least popular with students, however, more students turn towards raising and care of animals rather than growing things.

This perhaps relates to your choice of school name "Ruse" rather than "Macarthur" . . .

Yes, and of course this area was the gar­den of Sydney. The railway line was put in to take apricots and citrus fruits to the markets; it was not built expressly for passengers.

Is there anything that you would have really liked to do in the school, that has not been possible?

There are hundreds of things that are not completed. The school is a developing institution and will not be finished at any stage. I will say, however, that climbing the hill in establishing a good school is much more interesting, to a Principal, than keeping the school on a plateau of high achievement. For example, if a James Ruse boy or girl misbehaves on Public Transport, I hear complaints from perhaps four or five sources. If it is a boy or girl from another school, it may be overlooked. Parents have a certain level of expectation. If a lad comes to this school and does not do well, I hear about it. The best our school can promise is to keep "good" boys and girls achieving well. We cannot make "naughty" children into good ones.

What achievement made by the school would you be most proud of?

There are many - however, about three years ago we were very pleased when one of our students, Marcus Croft, won first place in the State in H.S.C. Modern History, and last year we gained first place in the State in H.S.C. Agriculture. One of our student's special works in Art gained a superior result and his piece was exhibited. It is these things that the school can be proud of.

Are there any school incidents that you found specially amusing?

Incidents that particularly spring to mind are more personal ones. One especially desperate moment that is amusing when I look back on it, concerns a man who came here to make arrangements to show his performing cockatoos and rabbits. When he arrived the second time to actually give the show, I had forgotten who he was. The double talk that went on at that moment must have sounded absurdly funny. He was talking about his "little darlings" and their performances, while I kept on trying to discover from the conversation who he was, and what students he was talking about. I had forgotten all about cockatoos and rabbits!

I guess there are many "faux pas" in public life . . .

Yes, there is another amusing incident concerning a "faux pas". I had, at one time, three important Africans visit the school, one was a Headmaster from Sierra Leone, one from Nigeria, and the other from Ghana. These three very big black men were looking over the school with me. We were walking along the top of the oval to view the stock - one, a big, red Shorthorn cow with a black calf on her. One of the visitors looked down the bank at the black calf suckling its red mother and enquired how it was possible. I began to explain that black was the dominant gene in cattle, and that it was obvious that there had been a black father, but this should not have been possible for it was supposed to have been fertilized with Shorthorn semen, so I was about to say "there must have been a nigger in the woodpile". I checked it mid­stream. I went red in the face choking it back. They looked at me rather oddly. This was amusing to me, though embarrassing.

Have there been any setbacks or policy changes that have had a direct effect upon the school?

The most important thing relevant here is the coming of girls to this school. It is the most marked change in the history of the school. This school is now a boys' school with some girls in it. The numbers are at present 620 boys and about 100 girls.

My background was in Fort St. Boys' School, and in teaching I taught at two co­educational schools, Grafton and Muswellbrook, though as Agriculture teacher I taught mainly boys. As a Deputy Head­master I came to depend upon a lot of senior girls to establish the school's tone. The situation is rather different in the city however, because in a country town you come to know the boys and girls outside the school situation.

The coming of girls to this school, I really welcomed in my own heart (I felt I had to make some appearance that I did not) be­cause in the long run, they will benefit the school. I expect the number of girls applying might drop from where it is at present.

Apart from that, I can say that I have had a fairly free hand from the Department. I must pay a tribute to the system that gives a Headmaster as much freedom as I have had. I hope the Headmasters of the so-called Independent Schools have as much freedom of action.

Selective schools have been attacked on all sides of the community. How do you see James Ruse in the midst of all this discussion?

When the attacks were made on selective schools, for example, Fort Street, Sydney High, North Sydney Boys' High, the Committee findings were not favourable to their continued existence, but I quote Mr. Wran verbatum when the matter was discussed in Parliament: "We do not propose to interfere with the Conservatorium of Music and the Agricultural High Schools because although selective, they serve a useful purpose."

The implication is that this school's strength is its special purpose, the Agricultural experience.
From the 1978 School Magazine

1978 Valediction

The passing of twenty years in the life of a school since its inception is a noteworthy occasion, and as the reports and articles in this book clearly show, an occasion for congratulations on so much solid achievement. But it is also the end of an era that brings with it a sense of regret because it is an era almost certainly unique and unlikely to be repeated in the development of state schools.

When Mr. Hoskin was appointed Principal of James Ruse Agricultural High School it was to begin not only a new school, but a new concept in the provision of an Agricultural School in the Central Metropolitan Area.

Mr. Hoskin was the first and only Principal of the school and his twenty year term constitutes the uniqueness of the situation. The growth and development of the school is sketched in the various articles of this book, but it is far from easy to give a general picture that so much embodies the personality, aims, and dedicated work of Mr. Hoskin.

The academic and sporting results, the community efforts, the artistic and dramatic productions, the importance of practical agriculture — these are reflected in his de­liberate policies which have brought an­other point of uniqueness. Because of parental and student interest in the sort of education provided, the school has develop­ed to a point where, because of huge in­creases in applications for admission to limited places, it has become the most selective in the state.

The articles in this Anniversary book attempt to show something of the spirit of dedication and achievement in so many areas that must be regarded as a tribute to the past and present staff and students of the school, but most importantly to the man who has been here at the helm throughout the entire history of the school.

It is with regret that we farewell Mr. Hoskin, but also with pleasure in the know­ledge that his retirement will be filled with happy memories, and that his active life, shared with his wife and family, will con­tinue with his boundless energy and en­thusiasm in so many different fields of human endeavour.
From the 1978 School Magazine


School Captain 1978
This year James Ruse Agricultural High School is twenty years of age. In two decades the school has risen from a situation of modest academic attainment to one of very high standard, hav­ing the unique honour of being the most selective school in the state. This rise has been brought about primarily by the continued efforts of one man, our Principal, Mr. James C. Hoskin.

Arriving in 1959 when our school first began to operate, Mr. Hoskin, with firm guidance, over the years has brought about the unique character of James Ruse, Through his careful management and perseverence our school has developed steadily, attaining a distinctiveness of character not to be found in any other school. In this age of conformity, this distinctiveness is becoming more and more important to the school and greater effort must he applied to maintain this distinctiveness. Today it is the exception to the ordinary which is not­iced, the merely average being overlooked, and in today's highly competitive employment market, this is very important. It may seem unfair that students are judged by the school they attend, but this occurs regardless. Regulations within the school, though sometimes unpopular, are necessary in mak­ing sure that people are favourably impressed by the students representing the school.

In all areas of school life our Headmaster has done what he thinks will benefit the school most in creating the uniqueness and distinctiveness that is James Ruse. We thank Mr. Hoskin for his careful management over the years, which has resulted in the school's continuing success both academic­ally and socially.

The "pioneer" girls, as they are affec­tionately known, arrived in 1977, paving the way towards full integration of males and females. The school is still here and the girls have contributed greatly to the `esprit de corps', due to their active involvement and support of school activities. On behalf of the males of James Ruse, I would like to thank them for this involvement.

School spirit has always been strong in James Ruse, as evidenced by the somewhat unorthodox stirring cries put forth by James Ruse supporters in interschool com­petition and I hope this school spirit and involvement will be carried on in years to come.

On behalf of sixth form I would like to thank Mr. Hoskin, Mr. Scanes and the staff for all their efforts. We wish our fellow stu­dents good luck and we wish the school every future success in all fields of school life in the following years.  
Troy Browning, Captain 1978.
From the 1978 School Magazine


A short account of a long association with Carlingford District Rural School and James Ruse Agricultural High School. by J.C.Hoskin

My association with Carlingford School extends over some fifty years, back to 1930. At that time I was living with my family on an orchard at Marsfield and the school was situated in the beautiful rural fringe of Sydney.

As a result of an intensive recruiting effort by the then Headmaster Mr. Ben Tollis, my brother Keith along with several other pupils, including Douglas Christie, left Marsfield school to begin their secondary education at Carlingford District Rural School.

District Rural Schools had been set up in a large number of appropriate centres throughout the State, to offer pre-vocational courses in agriculture and allied subjects to the boys in the area served. The broad aim was to improve the scientific background of future farmers and farm operatives.

Indeed, other than the relative few who attended Hurlstone and Yanco Agricultural High Schools, Hawkesbury Agricultural College or the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Sydney, there was no systematic agricultural education available.

On gaining the Intermediate Certificate (after three years) my brother, Keith, together with Douglas Christie, proceeded to Hawkesbury Agricultural College to follow a three year diploma course in agriculture, leading to the Hawkesbury Diploma in Agriculture (H.D.A.)

In the meantime, I had enrolled in the Faculty of Agriculture at Sydney University with the idea of becoming a graduate teacher of agriculture in our secondary schools. Part of my training during the four year degree course involved practice teaching the schools and I elected to do this at Carlingford District Rural School (C.D.R.S.). By this time, Mr. Tollis had been succeeded as Headmaster by Mr. Mallett and the teaching of Agriculture was in the care of one who was to do a great deal for secondary school agriculture, Mr. Wallace Jones.

I brought to my practice teaching little skill but great enthusiasm for the subject of agriculture. My main class was 1C. The great majority of the class came from either the Church of England Homes or the Methodist Dalmar Homes. In the Homes the lads had great cunning thwarting organised authority and I found myself completely at their mercy - that is, until I received some 'good advice' from the teachers supervising me.

Even so, I liked those kids and thoroughly enjoyed the teaching inside and outside the classroom. I particularly liked the work on the plots. Here they were growing pasture grasses, cereals, green manure crops and vegetable and flower gardens of many kinds. The boys were really at home there.

The teachers were dedicated and I learned much from them and the pupils were happy with a fine school spirit. The boys took up to eleven subjects for the Intermediate - Agriculture I (Crops and Livestock), Agriculture II (Soil Physics and Entomology), Agricultural Botany and Practical Agriculture. The girls did Home Science and Needlework instead of agricultural subjects.

Over the years, I kept in touch with Carlingford District Rural School. I visited the school when Mr. Wright H.D.A., was Headmaster. With Mr. Ernest Breakwell he wrote an excellent textbook for secondary students of agriculture. Another, Headmaster, Mr. Irwin Giovanelli, was a personal friend of mine and I saw him both at Carlingford and Grafton - his home town.
In 1959 I was appointed as the founding Headmaster at Carlingford Agricultural High School. The school evolved from an annexe of the Carlingford District Rural School set up in September 1956 in Felton Road with Mr. Charles Mullavey as Master-in-Charge.

In the first two years, the students had to journey from the Felton Road site to C. D. R. S. for their instruction in woodwork and metalwork. They affectionately referred to C.D.R.S. as the 'top school' - meaning the school up on the hill.

In April 1959, the Department agreed to change the name Carlingford Agricultural High to James Ruse Agricultural High to pay tribute to our first farmer, a Cornish convict James Ruse.
To perpetuate the relationship between C.D.R.S. and James Ruse A.H.S. I named three of the four school sporting houses for people closely associated with the C.D.R.S. - Mr. Wallace Jones, for some years teacher of Agriculture at C.D.R.S.; Mr. Harry Frater, Headmaster of the school when the annexe was established and Mr. Charles Mullavey, Master-in-Charge of the annexe and the first Deputy Headmaster of James Ruse.

I witnessed the transfer of the remainder of the secondary pupils to the Cumberland High School site to form the nucleus of the pupils to found that school. Thus from Carlingford District Rural School had come the foundations of what are now two outstanding High Schools, leaving an excellent Primary School to carry on at the original site.

James C. Hoskin B.Sc. Agr.
Founding Principal James Ruse Agricultural High School
Reference http://www.carlingfor-p.schools.nsw.edu.au/mem-jchoskin.html

James Colin Hoskin.
Known affectionately as The Boss, Mr Hoskin created James Ruse and set it on the road to becoming the prestigious place it is today. He was universally respected and was awarded the Queen's Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977 and the Order of Australia for Services to Education in 1990. Mr Hoskin was born in 1913 at Yetman in North Eastern NSW, the son of a Cornish tin miner turned farmer and grazier.

His mother was a suffragette and a member of the Communist Party. His family moved around NSW and he attended many schools, ending up at Fort St High School in Sydney. He graduated in Agricultural Science at Sydney University and commenced teaching at Grafton High School in 1936. At the age of 26 he became Deputy Mayor of Grafton and he married his wife Jesse, the daughter of a local grazier.

He was Deputy Principal at Muswellbrook before taking over Carlingford Agricultural High School in 1959. He left James Ruse in 1978, the year in which he turned 65. He remained active and continued working (as an articled clerk) in his son's legal practice in Parramatta to the age of 81.

He remained sharp as a tack into his final years and was renowned for recognising men on the streets of Parramatta 15 or 20 years after he had last seen them as schoolboys at James Ruse. After surviving six years of us and almost another quarter century on top of that, he died at the age of 83 on November 14 1996. His Memorial Service was attended by numerous former staff and students of James Ruse among whom his memory will always continue to live.
Reference - http://jrunion.mooh.org/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=16&Itemid=44
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