Palmers Island Public School

Citizenship, Scholarship and Sportsmanship

Telephone02 6646 0114

History of the school

On the 12th January 1863 Reverend John Hill Garven (photo above) requested a school be built on behalf of Palmers Island residents.

The closest school was at Ulmarra 30 miles away.

On the 25 May 1863 Reverend John Garven and Messrs. Allan McDonald, Abraham Carr & Thomas Landrigan – the proposed Local Patrons of the national school submitted a formal application for a school at Palmers Island.

In 1866 Mr McIntyre was sent out by the Board of National Education to investigate the possibility of establishing a school at Palmers Island and forwarded a report on the 7th July.

In Mr McIntyre's report he mentioned:

  • 22 pupils were being taught in a barn on Reverend Garven's property by a Miss Ruthe Marchant
  • Miss Marchant agreed to attend the Grafton school for two weeks to learn about school management, record keeping and to sit an examination but turned down the opportunity after arriving at Grafton
  • Mr James Hemphill took on the role as teacher
  • Mr McIntrye strongly recommended the school to be sent books and a salary arranged for a patron once the school was operating within the guidelines of the Board's regulations.                                                                                       

In January 1866 a new school building measuring 30 X 16 feet was erected at a cost of £80 on a two acre site which formed portion of the Church and School Lands Reserve on the riverbank at Palmers Island. The teacher did not receive a salary however, until April 1866 when the school was formally opened.

In 1868 a school inspector was sent to investigate low attendance at the school. The inspector reported that the Local School Board's alleged reasons for low attendance were wet weather, bad thoroughfares and sickness. The inspector believed, to a great extent, these reasons to be true but felt the real cause was the demand of the parents for the field labour of their elder children.  

In July 1881 a request was made for a new boat for the purpose of conveying children to and from school. The second-hand boat purchased for £8 by Maher and O'Connor was no longer fit for use. The boat was reported to be half filling up with water each time it was rowed backwards and forwards and was unsafe for the ten children being transported to and from school each day. The request was declined on the grounds that a similar request was made by another school had also been refused.

1884 Miss Amy McDonald was the first pupil teacher appointed but had to leave in 1885 as her mother died and she was required at home to take over domestic duties.

1885 Mr John Smith filled Miss McDonald's position.

In 1875 another school building was built with a school room and class room and the old building was converted into a residence.

In 1887 an additionally classroom was built and the partition between the school room and class room was removed.

In January 1888 a new classroom was built.

In 1888 the teacher, Mr Dennis, advised the Department that a candle left burning by his wife had led to a fire that had damaged the residence. In August 1889 a new residence was constructed 

In 1891 the Inspector reported the river bank had been seriously eroded by extensive landslips and a large portion of the road in front of the school had been washed away. He recommended the acquisition of an adjoining two acres but the Department did not buy the land.

Shortly before 1900 a school known as Lower Palmers Island opened on the northern end of land owned by J. O'Keefe. It was opened for some years but closed towards the turn of the century. It reopened prior to the First World War but eventually closed permanently.

On November 6, 1950, the teacher, Mr Willis, reported that erosion of the river bank in front of the school was increasing. An inspector reported that the removal of the school and residence was gravely urgent, as there was a strong possibility that both would be washed away in the next flood.

1951 the school building measuring 55ft X 30ft was placed on a slide. First attempts to move the building using a D3 and D4 tractor failed. A D7 tractor was brought in by the Public Works Department boat "Iluka". With the D6 and D7 tractors pulling and the D4 tractor pushing the building was relocated to it's current location on Yamba Road. Men rode on the ridgecap of the building to lift wires for the building to pass under. Palmers Island people came from near and far to watch the school being moved and many followed in a procession, curious to watch the relocation of the school. The school was ready for occupation in June 1951.

On the 12th November 1966 a "Centenary of Education" was celebrated at Palmers Island PS. A new amenity block was officially opened and art and history exhibitions were on display. After a luncheon a play was performed. Community singing of old bush ballads and school songs preceded a tree-planting ceremony by the youngest and oldest pupil. The day concluded with a centenary cake and afternoon tea.

A history booklet (from which most of this history has been summarised) "Palmers Island Centenary of Schooling 1866-1966" was published to mark the occasion.

Attendance over the years:

  • 1866 the enrolment was 31 average attendance 20
  • 1887 the enrolment was 87 average attendance was over 76 students
  • 1909 the enrolment was 97 average attendance 77
  • 1922 enrolment 83 average attendance 75
  • 1998 enrolment 48 average attendance 46
  • 2010 enrolment 87 average attendance 85