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Education in the Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains, Australia, Education, History

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Government Schools

Mt Victoria was the first Blue Mountains town to acquire a government school, in 1868. Pupils coming from other towns traveled by train in a goods brake van.

In those days, education depended on the initiative of parents. The parents had to show that they needed a school, figure out the likely number of pupils (30 was the minimum allowed), and put in an application to the government.

Springwood was next, in 1878. With a population of around 200, and the nearest school being in Penrith, an application was made in 1876 by William Henderson, warehouseman; John Ellison, farmer; Charles Moore, merchant; Frank Raymond, store-keeper; Cornelius Lee, farmer. These men were appointed first board of managers.

In those days, education was pretty basic. Children were taught reading, writing, arithmetic and religion. Repetition was the main way of learning. Most children learned to read and write, basic arithmetic, some geography, singing, and a knowledge of everyday things. Most left school between the ages of 12 and 14, then got a job or helped around the home.

John North, owner of Katoomba Coal Mine, was anxious for his miners’ children to gain an education. In 1881, he and Rev. Thomas Harrison organised the residents to apply for a school, guaranteeing 30 pupils. Anxious for classes to begin quickly, North had the school running that same year, with the first classroom being a tent. By 1890, the school had 100 pupils, and secondary education was offered.

In 1885, Lawson made an unsuccessful bid for a school; they had only nine pupils. In 1888, with 18 children, an application was made for a provisional school. A 16x14 foot building was erected for 60, and opened in 1889 with 35 pupils.

Blackheath, Wentworth Falls and Lawson all had their own government schools by 1890, whilst Lawson received a new building at a cost of 403.

Glenbrook Public School opened in 1892, mainly to serve the children of railway workers, then building the deviation and tunnel which would replace Lapstone Zig Zag.


Independent Schools

John MacManamey opened Woodford Academy as a boys school in 1907. Previously, the building had served as a hotel and then boarding house.

Saint Columba’s College, at Springwood, opened as a training centre for priests in 1910 with 26 students.

Stratford Girls School, Lawson, was founded in 1915 by Miss E. Wiles. Starting out in a rented cottage, it moved in 1919 to a house built by Joseph Hay. It had become "The Blue Mountains Sanatorium", & then a guesthouse called "The Palace".

Stratford continued until the 1960's, then another school used the site.  In 1977, the Blue Mountains Community School moved in, but lasted only until 1979. In 1980, the building was gutted by fire. The tower remains to this day, near the Lawson library.

Osborne opened at Blackheath in 1923, under the command of Miss Violet ("The Admiral") Gibbons. The school was named after the Osborne Naval College on the Isle of Wight. "The Admiral" would dress in a sheet and play ghosts along the corridors at night, which the girls found amusing, but frightening!

Queens College, situated in "Essendeen", was established by Miss M'arthur.



Today, all children must attend school from the age of 5 to 15, with many staying on until Year 12 at the age of 18. Most of the towns have their own government primary and secondary schools, with bus companies contracted to carry pupils to and from school. There are also various independent schools, a College of Technical and Further Education (TAFE), and other facilities.


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