Great things happen in small places
The History of Hesket Primary School

Early History
Hesket derived its name from Low Hesket and High Hesket, two small towns, near the Lakes District, in the south-west of England.  Our Hesket is prettily situated at the foot of the north-eastern slopes of the Macedon Ranges, between the towns of Woodend (to the west) and Romsey (to the east).  We see “The Camel’s Hump” to the south and “Hanging Rock” to the north-west.

The early settlers to the area included members of the O’Connor, Dryden, Saxon, Officer, Brock, Beattie and Bowen families.

At the time of settlement Hesket and surrounding districts were thickly timbered, chiefly with White Gum, Stingy-bark, Messmate and Peppermint Gum.  The trees were very large so saw-milling was carried out in the area for many years.  By the 1860s, when the mills were in full swing, Hesket was growing steadily with more workers, and their families, arriving every week.

Hesket soon became a thriving community with a public hall (which was later moved to Kerrie) an Anglican Church, small Catholic Church school, eight sawmills, five hotels, drapers shop, general store, blacksmiths, guest houses, tuberculosis sanitarium Sunday School, two post offices, bluestone quarry, gypsum mines and at least one gold mine.

After all the best timber was cut, the sawmills began to close down and good land was cleared for cultivation.  The land consisted of red and dark soils suitable for growing oats, barley and potatoes; these rapidly became the main crops grown in the area.

After the sawmills had all closed many people began to move away from the area to look for other employment.  The district, having such a mild climate, became very popular and soon tourism was growing.  People came to see the mountains, Mt Macedon, Camel’s Hump, The Monument and Hanging Rock, and to take in the fresh air and the beautiful scenery.

    Hesket Primary School
In 1844 a circular was issued by the Select Committee on Education.  Alexander F. Mollison, in his response to this circular, recommended a “general system of education for all classes and sects”.  This was the beginning of the state-wide education system we have today. 

At that time many children received no formal education at all.  For rural areas, Mr Mollison suggested that people co-operate with the general education fund by donating land for schools and associated facilities, by assisting with the building of these facilities, by assisting with provisions required by the school and by supplying provisions and lodgings for the teacher.  Education was not free; residents needed to meet half the costs.

In May 1869, Inspector Sasse recommended aid for a school with an annual attendance of more than forty.

On the 18th of June 1869, residents of Newham and Rochford applied for a school.  The committee was; William Brooks Hoffman, Richard Bowen, James O’Connor, Edward Bowen, John Saxon, R. W. King and Charles James Row.  They sent a list of seventy-one children in the district.  Richard Bowen donated half an acre for the new school.

In November 1869 a grant of fifty pounds and salary ( the community was expected to match this amount ) was made by the board.  Residents built a ten metre by five metre wooden building with a brick chimney and shingle roof on the site donated by Richard Bowen.

Hesket School, No 1004, opened on Monday 30th of May 1870.  It was known as The American Steam Sawmill School until 1879.

James Grey was the first Head teacher.  He occupied the detached residence of two rooms for one pound, seventeen shillings and sixpence a year rent.

Much of the history of the early years has been lost however we do know the following.

1875 - Both buildings had ceilings and linings installed

1883 - The residence was sold for removal for the sum of ten pounds.

1884 - Net enrolment rose from 83 to 87, but the annual attendance was between 30 and 40

1886 - Due to overcrowding, a new wooden, eight metre by five metre, schoolroom and living quarters for the teacher of four rooms were built, the previous building was sold.

In the early 1890, when the Newham Village settlement was established, conflicts arose over a petition to move the school closer to the new settlement.  Also, children had to be excluded from the school because of overcrowding.

1908 - A new timber classroom was added to the school.

Unfortunately most of the records prior to 1914 have been lost or destroyed.  The following information comes from the Inspector’s record Book and the School Committee Report Book.  It gives us a picture of the development and progress through the years.

1911 - 1914 - Mr Searly was the head teacher with Mrs Searly as the assistant.  There were also two younger teachers.  The average number of pupils was 43.  The school Committee consisted of; G. Harby (President), A. Mumford, R. W. Bowen, M. Bowen, W. H. McElhinney, R. Whan, J. O’Connor, J. F. Bowen and W. Harriage.

1915 - 1920 - Mr Thomas O’Neill Head Teacher, 52 pupils.

1921 - 1926 - Mr McKenzie Head teacher and Miss Harper Sewing Mistress, 49 to 53 pupils.  Various repairs were carried out to the school house and a hedge was planted around the playground.  The School Committee consisted of; D. O’Connor (President), R. Whan, J. F. Bowen, W. Harriage, J. Colwell, J. O’Connor, F. Sanders and  W. H. McElhinney.

1922 - The school introduced an Honour Board and Day Book.  The Honour Board may still be seen and hold pride of place in the school.  There are also two smaller hand carved, “In Memoriam” wreaths  to commemorate members of the community, John A. O’Meara and Private Henry William. Bowen who lost their lives during World War One.  The Honour Board was officially unveiled by the Governor of Victoria, The Earl of Stradbroke.  Local identity, Colonel Harry, also attended the unveiling.

1924 - W. Harriage resigned form the School Committee, the committee was D. O’Connor (President), R. Whan, J. F. Bowen, C. Else, G. Mumford, J. Colwell, J. O’Connor, F. Sanders and  W. H. McElhinney.

1925 - E. Weidermann joined the School Committee.

1926 - C. Else became chairman of the School Committee, new members were the McKeon family.

1927 - 1933 -  Mr Claude LeFoe was the head teacher with Miss Whan as his assistant, there were 40 pupils enrolled at the school.  A piano was purchased for the school, this was later used by Reverend R. Robertson for Divine Worship.  A junior Red Cross was formed.  There were numerous requests to the Department of Education for assistance with repairs to the school.

1928 - Acquisition of the School Plantation.  These plantations were seen as a good way to reforest land that had perviously been logged.  They also provided schools with another income stream as timber would eventually be logged and sold with proceeds going to the school.  The plantation would then be replanted.  Unfortunately most of these school plantations were only planted with Pine Trees  (Pinus radiata).  These trees did not encourage native wildlife to return and between their pollen and a heavy covering of dead needles on the ground very little could grow underneath them.

1934 - 1935 - Mr. W Taylor took over as head Teacher with Miss Whan as his assistant.  Enrolment varied between 29 and 40 pupils.  During 1935 the community formally recognised Miss Whan for her 20 plus years of service to hesket P. S..  Later in the year Mr Taylor was promoted.  New committee members were G. Anderson, J. McRae, F. Baker and J. Richmond.

1935 - 1941 - Mr G. O. Wilson became the new head teacher, he was again ably supported by Miss Whan until 1937 when she retired.  She was replaced by Miss D. O’Connor.  During this period a wireless set was purchased for the school.  There was also a great deal of buildings and grounds work with the construction of a sports oval, a cricket pitch, a basketball court and small pavilion.  The school was also very involved in community services.  These activities included;
    The egg appeal for the Kyneton Hospital,
    Waste paper collection for the Red Cross,
    Knitting for the Comfort Fund and
    Deck Chairs made for the Red Cross.

In 1941 Mr Wilson was promoted and he left the school.  New committee member was Mr E. Bowen.

1942 - A momentous year seeing the appointment of the first woman Head teacher, Mrs E. Romanes.  Her assistant was Mrs. V. Scott.  There were 24 pupils enrolled.   This was a very dry period and the school sought new rain water tanks and increased the overall water storage of the school.  There were changes to the school committee with Mr Anderson on leave, the resignation of Mr McRae and the death of Mr C. Else.  New committee member was Mr R Brain.

1943 - 1945 - A new head teacher, Mr. P. Doherty, was appointed, Mrs Scott remained as assistant.   A first aid medicine chest was added to the school and Mrs. Nicholls was very active in locating library resources.  She was assisted by the Education Department in her endeavours.  New school committee members were G. Colwell and R. Nicholls.

1946 - 1949 - Mr Joseph E. Beck was appointed Head Teacher and Elsie Bowen was the assistant.  There were 25 - 30 pupils enrolled.  The school ground fence was erected.  After 40 years of service to Hesket P. S. Mr. W. McElhinney resigned from the school committee, Mr Whan also resigned.  New committee members were E. Muir and W. Bryce.

1950 - 1952 -Mr. Campbell was appointed as Head teacher.  Public Works transported water tanks from Lauriston however these had to be repaired after leaks were found around the tap.  Neighbouring farmer, Mr McNead, and the school paid, 50/50, for a new fence to be built along their shard boundary.  The school committee was; Mr. Colwell, Mr Bowen, Mrs Nicholls, Mr. Davies, Mr Brown, Mr Muir and Mr Bickerdike.

1953 - 1959 - A new Head teacher, Mr. John Crosbie, was appointed.  During this period the wireless was upgraded, new fencing was put up, an improved water supply was installed and septic toilets were constructed.  An application for Religious Education, Catholic, in the school was approved in 1956.  In 1959 electricity was connected to the teacher’s residence.  In February of 1959 Mr Robin B. Goodridge was appointed Head Teacher, Mr R. Duffy was appointed to that position in May.

1960 - 1964 - Mr. R. Duffy was appointed Head teacher with Mr. M. Muir as assistant.  Enrolments declined from low 30s to high teens.  Mr Muir left in 1962.  A projector was purchased for the school.  The committee made enquiries into the cost of an improved water supply and into the possibility of having a telephone connected to the school.
Mr E Green resigned from the committee and Mr R Rollins was elected.  Other
School Committee members were; Mr S. Wrest, Mr. R. Roach,
Mr. J. Van Blyenburg and Mr G. Colwell.

1965 - 1966 - Head teacher Mr. B. Marshall.  20 pupils enrolled at the school.  Mr Colwell and Mr Davies resigned from the School Council, Mr D Faulkner was elected.

1966 - Mr R. Wilkinson was appointed as Head Teacher.  The decline of enrolments continued

1967 - 1968 - Mr. Bart Plaice was appointed as Head teacher.  Enrolments stabilised
at 20.  The School Council was; Mr. R Bowen, Mr. L. Bowen, Mr S. Wrest,, Mr A. Van Blyenburg, Mr D. Faulkner, Mr B. Scanlon and Mr C. Siebenist.

1969 - 1971 - Mr R. Mangan was appointed Head teacher, 17 pupils were enrolled.  During these years Mr D Faulkner and Mr. B. Scanlon resigned form the school council and Mr. Marshall, Mr. Kroes, Mr. Luons, Mr. Cullis and Mr. Ellison were elected.  In 1970 the school celebrated its centenary.  A number of past councillors, students and teachers gathered at the school for the day.

1972 - 1974 - Mr Paul Wintle was appointed Head Teacher in February.  There were around 13 children enrolled during these years.  New councillors were Mr. Boschen, Mr. King, Mr. Alloway, Mr. Power, Mr. Sweeney, Mr. Nason and Mr. Terrill.

1978 - 1980 - Mr. Steve Horvath was appointed Head Teacher and enrolments grew slightly to the high teens.  School Council sought additional land and the Education Department confirmed the leasing of .4 of a hectare from local farmer, Mr. Bert Bowen.  The school also joined the Mobile Area Resource Committee (MARC Van).  This service provided a mobile library and library trained teacher for the school.  This was a valuable resource.  The school, through the Head teacher, was represented on the MARC committee.

1981 - 1986 - Mr Michael Gallagherwas appointed as Head Teacher, Marina Ubaldi was the 2nd teacher.  There were 16 - 24 students enrolled.  Computer education was 1st introduced during these years.  Additional School Council members were; P. Cutler, A. Phillips, S. Horvath, Mr and Mrs Vella and Mr and Mrs Walta.  In 1983 the school was threatened by a bushfire which burned down from Mount Macedon Park and was only stopped on the school fence.  This fire was very important as a short time later the huge fires of Ash Wednesday erupted and the burnt area from the first fire helped slow the raging flames of the Ash Wednesday fire.

1987 - Mrs Margaret Blaker was appointed as Head Teacher.  The falling enrolments, there were only seven children enrolled, had placed the school under threat of closure.  School Council members were Wayne and Heather DeMack, Mr Whitely, Mr Freeman, P. Cutler and A. Phillips.

1988 - 1990 - Mr Tim Byrne was appointed as Head Teacher.  During these years others teachers were David Taylor, Anne Neeson, Margaret Maloney and Matthew Underwood.  Vicki Byrne and Fiona Gunn shared the position of Integration Teacher.  Integration Aides were Cassandra Campbell, Simone Roberts and Wendy Wymer.  Enrolments grew from seven to 42. 

A Horse Education program was introduced.  Internal works to the old school building saw a work bench, computer space and storage constructed on the southern wall.  The rising enrolments called for a 3rd classroom in 1990.  Until this time the school’s playground was across Romsey Road.  This was not ideal; as children had to be escorted over the road at play-time and lunch-time.  They also had to return to go to the toilets and at the end of the breaks.  The road was growing busier and the community was concerned about the safety of the staff and students.  Just over 6,000 square metres of land was purchased by the Department from local farmer, Mr Bert Bowen.  This was add to the existing school site.  The old playground was to be sold. 

New School councillors were; H Mannhardt, S Nolan, K Gaw, L Brown, J Morgan, H Rosenbloom, J Falzarano, M Riley, D Bender, E Herbert, D Cotton, I Smith, R Algreen-Using, R Gething, T Elliot and V Pranskunas.

1991 - Mr Stuart Barclay was head teacher with Ms Rebecca Brochi his assistant.  Enrolments fell to the low 30s.  Mrs Mary Pomroy joined the staff as Integration Aide.  The school residence was declared no longer suitable as accommodation and School Council entered into extended talks with the Department over the fate of this part of the school.

1992 - 2009 - Mr Anthony Lakey was appointed as Head Teacher, Mrs Jan Crebbin as assistant.   During the following 18 years the enrolment grew to 81 before settling between 55 and 65.  In 1995 the Head Teacher position was abolished and Mr Lakey became the school’s first principal. 

During these years many teachers were appointed to the school; - Ms Jenny Brophy (Integration Teacher),  Liz Higgenson, Kathy Lakey, Denise Barker, Kerryn Carlisle, Gillian Gorrie, Kerry Papaioannou, Sue Don,  Alison Kitching, Kathy Gossip, Elicia Ritchie, Malcolm Hull, Anne Schroeder, Sue Jordan, Marg Holgate, Heldi Carroll and Karen Barr

The wonderful people who worked as Integration Aides were; Helen Young, Jodi Elliot, Andrea Christensen, Marlene Leckie, Debbie Kent, Colleen Forster, Libby Taylor, Helen Keenan, Kerry Lupson,  and Vicki Pickup,

Hesket also had the services of a number of excellent bursars; Joan Pickering, Di Bender, Eva Miletic, Fiona Rankin, Maree van Hoof, Liz Pethica, Estelle Searles and Kerry Crosbie 

In 1996 the rain stopped falling and for the next13 years the school was in drought conditions.  The school had to purchase water and many new ways to save water were trialled.   

There were numerous facilities improvements;
•a large covered area was built on the southern side of the school,
•a small oval with cricket pitch and goal posts was constructed,
•a large area to the west of the buildings was levelled in 1997 and asphalted in 1998,
•a 3.6 m fence was built on the road side of this asphalt area
•in 2003 a new block of toilets were constructed, these replaced the old, corrugated iron clad, toilets.
•the teacher’s residence was remodelled to give an art room, an art store and a small canteen/food preparation area, 
•an extra classroom was added and both portable rooms were replaced by a new Mod 5 double room in 2006,
•the old water supply system was taken down and new tanks and pumps were installed,
•The inside and outside of the old school building were repainted,
•many new elements were added to the adventure playground,
•A fitness track was put in place around the outside of the playground,
•all rooms in the old school building were re-carpeted,
•a fire sprinkler system was installed on the old school building,
•a new sports and general storage shed was constructed,
• the sports oval was modified to make it more level and to increase the width of the cricket pitch,
•the front garden was fenced off and became a quiet area, no running, no ball games etc,
•the school remodelled the computer room providing more useable space and allowing better access to the school’s server,
• The roof of the Old School Building was repaired, new flashing was installed, the chimneys were repointed and new insulation was put into the ceiling.

                The Department of Education introduced School Charters; each school community worked
                 together to draw up a three-year plan for their school.  At the end of this process the school’s progress would be reviewed against this plan.  These Charters later became modified into four-year “Strategic Plans” with a one-year “Annual Implementation Plan” (AIP) drawn up each year.  The content of the AIP relied heavily on the four-year plan.  

Hesket, and all schools within the government education system, also saw the introduction of CASES (Computer Administrations System for Each School), PRMS (Physical Resource Management System)  and HRMS (Human Resource Management System).  All of these systems required much training for the bursar and senior staff, on an ongoing basis as there were continual upgrades to these systems.  

The school was actively involved in the “Access in Schools” program which allowed us to continually update our computers.  The program also saw the school running computer training sessions for community members.  In 2007 and 2008 many laptop computers were purchased and this, combined with the school’s wireless networking, allowed staff and students to make use of these resources both inside the classrooms and outside in the playground. 

The Whole School Camp was introduced.  This program saw all children attending school camp in December of each year.  The program had four rotating themes, Historical, Large City, Outdoor Education and Water. The 1st camp, in 1994, was to Sovereign Hill in Ballarat.  The school community was, and remains, very supportive of this program seeing over 90% of children attended each year.

Interschool Sport was also a focus, the school regularly competed in the sports of football, netball, cricket, softball and athletics.  The softballers won their competition in 2008 and 2009 and went on to represent our district at the zone finals in Bendigo.  While our teams rarely won a match it was a wonderful opportunity for our children to compete against their peers and to get a better understanding of the “Big Fish in a Small Pond” concept.  Regardless of how many wins the teams always enjoyed themselves and were always playing better at the end of the day than at the beginning.

These years also saw formation of the very successful “Hesket Skippers”.  This group of children, from Gr 2 - 6, first performed in 1995.  They were part of a National Heart Foundation advertising campaign and they performed at many national and state events.  In 1998 they won the first of 11 State Skipping Championships.  Mrs Crebbin was the founding coach, she remains an extremely successful skipping coach who guides her team through countless practise sessions and many performances across the state.

By the 1990s the school plantation had began to cause problems; it was some distance from the school so it was not easy to visit, the trees had not grown well after the last harvesting and it proved impossible to locate a saw-miller who would cut and mill what trees were there.  The plantation had also become home to a number of feral pest and to some noxious weeds.  The proper maintenance of this plantation became impossible and in 1996-97 it was deeded back to the state government to be included as part of the Mount Macedon State Park.

In 1993 the school’s Annual Magazine was first published.  This magazine was later named “The Mulberries” after a wonderful tree in the “Quiet Garden”.  The children prepared and published articles, stories or reports on the activities of the year, these were collated and published by the Gr 5/6 children; every family was given a copy on the morning of the last day of school.  Each year the Gr 6 students were allowed one-page to present their thoughts, memories and favourite moments of their years at the school.  Over the years the magazine became a much more professional publication as the children’s writing and presentation skills improved and the school was able to purchase better computer hardware and software, digital cameras, scanners, colour printers and photocopying technology.  On the last morning of each year, just before the class parties, quite a competition developed as the children counted to see which child was in the most photos in the magazine.

The Annual School Concert was revitalised, first at the Kerrie Hall in December (1992 - 1997 in the last week of the school year) and then at the Romsey Mechanics Hall in September (1998 onwards on the last Thursday of term 3).  During term three the individual classes and the school as a whole, worked very hard to learn and practice their acts.  The opening and closing acts included every child in the school and often involved very complicated routines.  As usual with these concerts, all the Preps had to do was walk onto the stage to get the greatest applause of the night.  From 2005 onwards the concert was filmed and Video Cassettes and later DVDs were available to be bought.  The concert, with a different theme each year, is a highlight of every school year.  

At the end of 2008 the school was informed that Hesket had been added to the list of small schools on the Rural Schools Replacement program.  The funding from the federal government’s economic stimulus program saw Hesket move rapidly up the list and by early 2009 it looked as if a new school would be started before September of that year.  However there were many problems and the new school building was not begun in 2009.

2010 -         Mr Cliff Palmer was appointed as principal.



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Hesket Primary School