Early History
James Ruse Agricultural High School Pioneers Inc.
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Carlingford Public School

Carlingford Public School, like many other schools in New South Wales, owes its foundation to the Public Instruction Act of 1880, and in particular to the clause of that Act which withdrew state aid from church schools at the end of 1882.

The 30 year old Pennant Hills Church of England School was voluntarily closed on that date, and officially converted into Pennant Hills South Public School in January, 1883. For the next few years the Public School operated in the old church school buidling. In 1887 the school was renamed Carlingford and moved into the brick building which still stands today.

Charles Thacker took charge of Carlingford in 1903, and was to remain there for nearly 20 years. One of his chief interests was agriculture, and he was soon giving lessons in the subject and also using the Agricultural Gazette for dictation and composition lessons. On the grounds that this publication would be of "inestimable value to the sons of the fruitgrowers in our District", Thacker successfully negotiated with the Departments of Education and Agriculture to obtain free copies for the school.

There was no practical work in agriculture done at first, but within a few years Thacker had established gardens which were not only ornamental but useful for the new subject of nature study.

In September 1924 the Minister, Albert Bruntnell, visited Carlingford at the request of the Parents and Citizens Association to see for himself the need to extend the 1 hectare school site. Bruntnell was closely associated with Carlingford, being the Member for Parramatta since 1916 until his death in 1929; he was Minister for Education from 1922 to 1925.

The land alongside the narrow school site was unavailable, being occupied by Mobbs Hill Reservoir, but the remainder of Wooster's old property was vacant. The Minister agreed that the school was likely to grow considerably, and also reacted favourably to the parents' suggestion that Carlingford should become a District Rural School. The acquisition of 1.5 hectares at the rear of the original site was therefore approved. It had been divided into 11 lots with seven owners, and was resumed in April 1925.

Carlingford District Rural School (in 1935), had 15% of its pupils as secondary pupils from outside Carlingford. Being the only school within the metropolitan area offering an agricultural study programme, students were drawn from as far afield as Blacktown, Guildford, Stanmore and Hornsby.

George Wright took over as headmaster in 1936, and he appears to have devoted more attention to the rather neglected primary section of the school than it had had for many years.

The rural course continued to receive much emphasis, however, and in 1936 the school acquired its first horse, a quiet "10 year-old gelding of the active draught type" which cost 25 pounds.

In 1936 the school celebrated the Golden Jubilee of the opening of the new school. In November 1936 there was a reunion of old pupils and, to quote Wright's report: "This function was attended by a great gathering of old pupils, present-day pupils and citizens. Chief features of the day were: (a) A roll-call of old pupils (b) The cutting of a fifty-pound Jubilee cake (c) A parade of Junior Air League Cadets, Major Shand taking the salute (d) A flight of a party of old pupils from Mascot to Carlingford, (e) Issue of the Jubilee Journal"

During 1938 and early 1939 a great deal of renovation work was carried out at Carlingford, at a total cost of 1,500 pounds. The refurbishing of the old building had been deferred since 1934, and by 1937 Wright and the Parents and Citizens Association were very anxious to persuade the Department to carry it out.

New fencing and asphalt were required, as well as a feed shed and a machinery shed plus a shed and enclosure for the horse were built.

The attention of the Department was called to the need for major repair and renovation work of the two storey secondary school building in September 1954. Apparently it had not been painted since it was built and was a little the worse for wear and tear. However, this rejuvenation had to wait, presumably for the ever elusive funds.

At this time (1954), the Infants' Department occupied the original large classroom built in 1886 and the 1902 extensions, one portable classroom and the ever useful St. Paul's Church Hall. At the end of the year, the present library building was erected as a temporary structure. Its two classrooms were to help alleviate pupil accommodation pressures within the school.

However, the Department's failure to recommend further classroom construction resulted in much pressure on classroom resources until the building of the kindergarten rooms in 1958 and the removal of the secondary department in the early 1960's.

The re-location of the Secondary Department was mooted in September 1954 by the Principal, Henry Frater. In a memorandum to the Department, Frater wrote, " --- It would appear that population growth in this area will continue for some time. Perhaps the best solution of the problem of accommodation in the long run would be the proposed development of the school site near Baker Street and Felton Road as an Agricultural or Intermediate High School, removing the Secondary Department from this site, thus providing accommodation for primary and infants' children for many years to come".

The school site referred to was the Carlingford District Rural School annexe. This land was resumed by the Department in September 1949 and was intended to be used as a focal point for agricultural education and practise.

By 1955, accommodation problems at the main school were approaching a crisis stage. The increase in school enrolments made it necessary to rent the Memorial Hall which was negotiated at a rate of 17/6d per school week.
By this time, the school was large enough to warrant separate schools for the secondary and primary sections.

As such, in March 1955, the Director of Secondary Education, J. Evans, recommended, "I ... that the transfer of the secondary school at Carlingford from the present site be given favourable consideration".

Enrolment figures at the time were - Infants 237, Primary 330 and Secondary approximately 400 - a total of 967 students.

On the 21st August 1956, five of the fifteen or so secondary classes were transferred from Carlingford District Rural School to the annexe site under the name Carlingford Junior Agricultural High School.

This allowed two primary classes and one infants' class to re-enter the school from the rented halls and an opportunity class to move out of the weathershed which served as a classroom.

However, there were still problems to be faced. Myree Wilson the Infants' Headmistress, wrote to the Department in early 1956 stating, " ... All rooms are in an extremely bad condition. Floors are rough and uneven, paint is peeling off walls, steps are very worn and dangerous, many windows will not open or close properly, doors do not function properly and in windy weather are a menace to the tiny children".

The toilets were described as " ... most unhygienic and extremely inadequate ... " - quite easily understood since there were only 2 seats and 1 trough for 133 boys and 3 seats for 111 girls!  The Mothers' Club, too, were exasperated over the state of the Infants' building, 'built in 1886 ... and apparently nothing has been done to it since'.

This concern combined with the inadequate accommodation circumstances led to repeated calls during the mid-1950's for the establishment of a new Infants' Department.

This development and extension was postponed time and again due to the perennial fund shortages. Work was finally begun, however, on new Infants' accommodation in September 1958 and the rooms were occupied in March 1959, costing about 17,000 pounds. These two new kindergarten rooms were divided by a folding partition and had storerooms, hatroom, clinic and toilet facilities. The provision of wood and coke/coal burning stoves for heating was included, as was standard where gas supply was not connected.

This building activity also involved the provision of an assembly area in front of the new rooms, the conversion of the Infants' toilets for Primary use and the construction of new Infants' toilets with 'provision for septic/sewerage connection'.

The major repair, painting and renovation work required by the whole school was also, finally, undertaken at this time.

Enrolments at the school peaked in 1958. In that year there were 326 Infants', 417 Primary and 605 Secondary students (498 Boys, 107 Girls) - a total of 1348 pupils. A 1959 proposal to split the Primary school into separate Girls' and Boys' Departments was adopted and seems to have been maintained until the mid-1960's.

The Agricultural annexe of the school effectively became a separate secondary school in 1959. In May of that year the school adopted the name of James Ruse Agricultural High School at the suggestion of its founding Principal, James C. Hoskin.

In October 1961, the Director of Secondary Education, J. Evans, recommended, " ... that no first year pupils be placed at Carlingford Central School in 1962 and that, at the close of 1962, secondary classes at that school be discontinued". For the first time in 60 years, Carlingford was to have a surplus of classroom accommodation.

With the departure of the secondary pupils to appropriate schools, such as the new Cumberland High School, it was possible to house the 8 infants' and 11 primary classes (5 girls' and 6 boys' classes) in the permanent school buildings and two portable rooms.

This meant that seven portable or wooden-framed buildings, together with one galvanised iron building (the forge) would no longer be required and could be transferred to other schools.

The following article was taken from an article written by J. Burnswood & R.T. Garland. The article can be found at:- 
This page was last updated: April 11, 2018