School History

The initial plans for establishing this school began in 1912 when the Education Department purchased 3 acres of land fronting Reynards Road from landowner Mr Cook at a cost of 10 pounds. A public meeting was convened in the Methodist schoolroom in Munro Street in June 1914 and a committee formed to campaign for the construction of a new school in West Coburg. West Coburg had only 3 made roads - Bell Street, Munro Street and Reynards Road - with large areas of grazing land separating the scattered houses. There were 4 primary schools serving the area - Coburg, Moreland, Pascoe Vale and West Brunswick and no high school in the area, Coburg High being established in 1916. These schools were already overcrowded and Coburg was beginning a period of rapid development. Later in 1914, Maurice Blackburn M.L.A. wrote to the committee saying work was to begin during this financial year. However, the war intervened and there was a sudden shortage of money, materials and teachers as Australia pledged itself to defend the Empire.

The Public Works Department drew up plans for a 3 storey building and after some alterations these plans were approved by the Government in March 1916. The plan provided 4 classrooms, a head teacher’s room and an entrance hall on the ground floor, 4 classrooms and a staffroom on the first floor and an additional classroom on the second floor. In 1917 the School Committee met to discuss two issues, the positioning of the water closets (toilets) and the possibility of applying for a caretaker’s residence.

Coburg West became operational as a Prep - Grade 8 school on September 3rd 1917 with Head Teacher Thomas H Jenkin welcoming 332 students. This figure increased to 437 by the end of 1917.

There was one problem with the new building. The front entrance, which faced north, had to be bricked up because of strong winds and relocated on the east side through an office and storeroom. After a building upgrade in the 1980’s the old front entrance was redeveloped to accommodate two toilets within the community area.

As the area grew, so did the enrolment and in 1924 the school leased additional classroom space in the West Coburg Progress Hall and the St Albans Church Hall in Reynard Street. In 1927, extensions were completed to accommodate an additional 400 students. Enrolment was now around 900. The Education Department purchased an extra quarter of a hectare adjoining the school’s east boundary, for a caretaker’s residence.

The Mother’s Club began in 1925 with the motto “To Serve the Children”. Through their constant work, resources developed in the Infant Department. Another group later formed was the Parent Association who added their contributions to grades 3-6.

Establishing a library in a school during this era was very difficult. The Head Teacher applied for a loan of books for staff and students. For a brief period after 1927, the Lending Branch of the Public Library of Victoria circulated books through its own travelling libraries. It was not until 1958 that the school had a permanent library and a Teacher librarian.

The school was very successful in musical competitions. Junior and Senior choirs won the Choral Shield for metropolitan state school choirs in 1939 and 1940. The String orchestra won the shield for the metropolitan shield orchestra. A Brass band played at school assemblies and at Carols by Candlelight at Shore Reserve. When the band disbanded in 1947 the instruments were sold to the Junior section of the West Coburg Citizens band and the proceeds provided a fence around the school’s tennis court.  Another musical feature of the school was its Annual Ball. During the late 50’s and 60’s instructress Miss Quon conducted rehearsals twice a week for grade levels in the St Albans church hall.

Today the school is very proud of its drum band that plays once a week at school assemblies and on special occasions.

Along with most other primary schools, the seventh and eighth grades were discontinued after 1945. Students now completed their primary education at grade six level.

In 1949 the school received a “Special” classification. With an enrolment of 930, Coburg West was the largest primary school north of the Yarra. Overcrowding in 1952 meant that children aged five and a half were turned away from the school and necessitated the leasing of the Methodist hall in Munro Street. The opening of Pascoe Vale South State School in 1954 relieved this situation. Coburg West became a training school for Melbourne Teachers’ College students in 1954 and, in 1960, for Coburg Teachers’ College. A Rural school (1960) and a Country Infant room (1964) were established to assist in the training of teachers for country schools.

In the mid 1970’s the school was listed by the Australian Schools Commission as a disadvantaged school and received funds to assist in the education of the increasing number of migrant students. In 1977, 450 of the 630 students did not speak English at home.

Volunteer staff introduced the Early Morning program in 1976. Students arrived as early as 7.30am received breakfast and were then involved in planned activities until 8.30am.

Builders arrived in 1977 to construct a new building behind the original building. This additional building provided 3 open units, a library, administration area, toilets and a canteen, Whilst the building was under construction 350 students were transported daily to a portable complex near North West Brunswick primary school. Every Thursday morning, the grades were given a progress report by the site manager on their million dollar new school building.

Early in 1982, 97 year old ex-Coburg West teacher Mr Bill Corrigan visited the school with three of his former pupils. He reminisced about his time as a teacher, having started teaching at the age of 14 in 1898. He was the eldest son in a family of eight and earned a pound a month. He taught at Coburg West for 14 years, often teaching classes of 70 students and being the sports master for the four senior grades. He would never allow his students to address him as “Sir” always as Mr Corrigan.

The L.O.T.E. program has been a component of the curriculum since the early 1980’s. Students have had the opportunity to study Greek, Italian or Arabic. At one period of time, the school was able to offer a Greek Bi-Lingual Prep-Grade 2. Today, students attend classes in either Greek or Italian languages.

Seventy years after its opening, the school had a newly designed entrance and administration area. The old administration area was renovated to create a community area. Here the P.F.A. meet and organise various fundraising stalls.

In 1989, 10 students were given the opportunity to experience rural life by being involved in the Teaching on Farms project. The students spent a week in the Omeo Shire being hosted by families in the area.

In 1992 a Junior School Council was established with each grade level represented on the council. Over the years, the J.S.C. have planned fundraising activities ranging from a hotdog lunch to guessing the number of jelly beans in a jar. As a group, they have provided valuable input into school issues - how to maximize the playground usage ,the physical redesigning of the playground, construction of a junior sand pit and model car track, revision of the Code of Conduct and ideas on how to help implement the Sun Smart policy to their peers. Outdoor facilities were upgraded during the early 1990’s with the installation of new equipment in both the junior and senior adventure playgrounds. Funding for this new style equipment had been a shared project between the P.F.A. and the School Council. Today, as an implementation of the Sun Smart Policy, sails cover the adventure playgrounds.

A visit in 1992 by Aboriginal artist, Biggibilla, led to a written submission for the Artists in School program in 1993, with Biggibilla being the resident artist in school 4 days a week for 5 weeks. This whole school community project using sand etchings. painting and story telling enabled staff, students and parents to participate in a unique experience and produced a 20’ x 6’ canvas titled “Summer Solstice Corroboree”.

Assessment procedures have become an important issue during the 90’s. There was the introduction of Profiles in English and Mathematics, LAP (later renamed A.I.M.) assessment in English, Mathematics, Science and S.O.S.E. at Grade 3 and Grade 5 level. A major project undertaken in 1993 and completed in 1994 was the installation of air conditioning units in the library, upstairs units, art room and the hall. The Parents as Tutors program was introduced to parents in 1994. It provided parents with strategies for working with their children at home, particularly in the areas of reading and writing.

July 1994 saw the school enter the Schools of the Future program. Schools were no longer a part of a highly centralised system. Now they were to deal with the concept of self-management. The first task was to write a Charter which set the school’s goals and major priorities for the next 3 years and was seen as an agreement with the Directorate of School Education. The Reading Recovery program was an initiative implemented in 1995. Students from grade 1 who were at risk in reading and writing attend an intensive half hour session each day.

1997 saw a focus on redeveloping the playground. 66 cubic meters of sand were spread with 25 meters of soil used to top dress the grass area and mounds. The grounds were opened to provide a larger playing area for the students. Trees have been planted around the perimeter and a sprinkler system has been installed in the grassed area. Again, all this redevelopment was based on discussions between staff, parents and the J.S.C.

An exciting initiative implemented in 1997 was the new Information Technology program (computer network). Initial work provided the cabling for 20 terminals but with additional funds from the P.F.A. a further 5 terminals were added. Each classroom has a number of network computers. It’s a program which has a significant impact on staff and students as it presents an array of curriculum.

Eighty-seven years on, Coburg West continues to provide education for approxmiately 500 students. Staff work at a never ending pace to keep abreast of current initiatives and to implement programs which develop and enhance student’s skills for continued learning. The school is here, still, “To Serve the Children” and we “Honour the School” in its 87th year.

In 1999 a technology room was established and equipped with a wide range of tools to involve students in design and construction. As a response to the pressures and problems that are faced in society, an Individual Schools Drug Education Strategy was developed and implemented. Students’ art work was displayed for the school community at the school art show. Camps were held at Sovereign Hill Ballarat, Mount Evelyn and Echuca.

The Bullying Policy and Program were developed in 2000. A collaborative project was set up with a Greek Sister School. Students were able to communicate and share work on-line. Prep students designed a Millennium Wall and students participated in Wakakiri to celebrate the end of the millennium. The grade 5/6 students travelled to Canberra for their camp and visited many interesting landmarks.

Renovations were carried out in 2001 with a major refurbishment to the original Edwardian building. Shade sails were installed to provide for a more comfortable and safer environment for the students. Glenn Payne was appointed to fill the principalís position to be vacated in 2002.

In 2002 the school Principal, Adrian De Ross retired after seventeen years of service at Coburg West. Performing Arts continued to be a feature and a number of grade 5/6 students participated in “Spotlight for Youth Arts” at the Melbourne Concert Hall. An exciting curriculum initiative was the introduction of the Early Numeracy Program. An Intranet was also established for students and teachers.

A landscaped garden was established in 2003 at the front of the school for the school community to enjoy. One of the highlights of the year was the visit by the Minister of Education Lynne Kosky, to launch Fruit and Vegetable Week.