Toodyay State School 1887 - 1953

A Special Rural Observation School

Thursday, 24 June, 2021 - 16:22

In May 1887 the first purpose built school opened in the new township of Newcastle (known as Toodyay from 1910). Although originally described as a boys school, by 1890 both boys and girls were attending. The original building comprised two classrooms and a cloak room. By 1899 the school was overcrowded. More land was acquired and the school was extended. In 1918 the Toodyay State School on Duke Street was classified as a Special Rural Observation School by the WA Director of Education. New teaching methods had been introduced at the school over the previous four years. The students were encouraged to teach themselves through observation. In 1920 the school was declared Western Australia’s first consolidated school, taking students from smaller schools in outlying areas. Such consolidation provided more efficient teaching than multiple smaller schools. By 1925 three motor buses and one horse-drawn bus were doing the school bus runs. Horse-power was phased out by 1929.

Experimental agricultural plots were established near the school and within a few years additional buildings were installed, two serving as a Manual Training Room and a Cookery School.

By 1949 the Toodyay State School had one principal and three teachers conducting classes from Infants to Grade 9. With increasing student numbers it had become apparent a new school was required. 1953 was the last year the Toodyay State School operated. There were 203 students enrolled, 112 boys and 91 girls. The following year the new Toodyay District High School opened at another site and the Duke Street School closed. In 1955 the Cookery School building was moved further uphill along Duke Street to be re-used as a Police Charge room. The Manual Training Room was purchased by the St John Ambulance Association. Over the next few years the main brick school building was leased to local groups such as the Toodyay Repertory Club and the Toodyay Basketball Association.

In 1959 the Repertory Club purchased the brick building and in 1964 it was sold on to the Methodist Churches Trust. The Toodyay Methodist Church had recently been demolished to make way for the new standard gauge railway. In 1977 the building became known as the Uniting Church after Methodists merged with Presbyterians and Congregationalists to form the Uniting Church in Australia. In 1993 a fire destroyed most of the Toodyay District High School and the Duke Street building was again used as a school while the high school was rebuilt.

In 2007 the property was sold once more and it was converted for use as a private residence. Acknowledgements: This article incorporates research & text by Robyn Taylor available under the CC BY SA 2.5 AU licence - per the Shire of Toodyay's Toodyaypedia Wikipedia article 'Old Newcastle School'