Shirley School Golden Jubilee Celebrations 1966

“The school, built on the perimeter of what was a new and fast growing suburb on the outskirts of the city, was the latest in design and a model of its kind at the time. The present good state of the buildings reflect the basic soundness of the plan and construction of the school and also the care with which succeeding committees and staff have maintained it.”

“…the school continued to provide uninterrupted service to the children of the district for the half century to the present day, in spite of periods of overcrowding caused by delay in building during the war years and the change in educational policy which introduced the Intermediate schools.”

“Approximately halfway through its fifty years the school was decapitated – in other words the Forms I and II  (Standards 5 and 6) children no longer went to our school but to the Shirley Intermediate School. Our school then became known as the Shirley Contributing School and more recently as the Shirley Primary School.”

The number of pupils attending the school at any one time has varied greatly. The peak roll is understood to have been 1225. At present the roll is between 350 and 400.”

A History of the Shirley School

“Fifty years ago Shirley School came into being. It was needed to serve the rising school-age population of a residential area, but the handsome brick school was not in the midst of a residential district as it is today; rather it was on the perimeter, with paddocks to the north. Most of the first pupils came from the St Albans part of the district.”

“Children of all ages and from all classes came from Richmond, St Albans, the Church School at St Stephen’s and the upper girls from the St Saviour’s Home.”

“Opening Chaos: Right from the start there was pressure on school pace. No sooner was an addition made than it proved too small. Similarly there was a great need for playground space and it was with considerable relief that the school and the committee in 1922 obtained settlement on the purchase of the land across Shirley Road as a playground.
It cost £1900, being met by £600 from the Education Board, £1000 from the Education Department and £300 from the School Committee, with £150 being paid for an additional strip on the east side. Mr Hills, whose name was given to Hills Road, and owned the land, also helped.”

“New Rooms: About this time Mr C S Thompson managed to persuade the Minister of Education that the four new rooms should be added to the present building. The department had been determined to build them on the new ground opposite, and was only deterred when told that £300 of the cost of the playground had been raised by parents.”

“This, the 1922 to 1924 period, was a time of great expansion, both in roll numbers and in buildings. The infants at the time were housed in a two-roomed temporary building near the Slater Street boundary. Mr W J Cartwright remembers teaching a Standard 3 class of 93 pupils in the ‘old tin shed’ in 1922, but in the same time they were moved into a new brick room attached to the main building.
The boys had their Rugby grounds, but the girls also wanted a basketball court, so this was out to the west of the school.”

“Park Equipment: In 1924 the parents and the children were called on to help to provide equipment for the children’s playground at St Albans Park. There were egg days, bottle days and an afternoon fair. The St Albans School was also assisting, and held a concert to raise money.”

“The district was growing, the roll was growing and swimming baths appeared to be a necessity for the school, but how to raise the money was the question. Approximately £900 was needed.”

“Next in importance came the opening of a dental clinic in 1927. This was shared with the St Albans School, and it was in the infancy of the School Dental Service which today has become accepted as a normal part of school life.”

“Finally, on 7th November, 1929 the baths were opened, and at the same time it was reported that the school roll of 720 was a record. It was to increase.”

“Changes were coming in education. An intermediate school was proposed in 1933. St Albans opposed it, but Shirley, Marshland and Burwood committees approved. The Minister of Education gave an assurance that there would be additional accommodation for the primary school, and the school committee decided that it wanted it built forthwith.”

“No Big Boys: The opening of the intermediate school posed some problems for Shirley, then a contributing school. There were no longer enough big boys at the school to do maintenance work and the men from the No. 5 relief scheme had been removed. It was also reported that there were not enough big boys to mow the lawns.”

“Six year olds were being excluded from School as an economy measure, and the committee expressed its concern to the Government over this.

The depression was really hitting the school in 1935, and the committee had a report that 59 pairs of boots and shoes had been distributed.

In the next year the dental clinic at the school became an established clinic, having been a sub-base of St Albans from the year before.

The first steps towards pedestrian crossings for the children were taken late in 1938.

By this time a library was functioning and the school was also an ambulance centre, with first-aid instruction being given the children.”

“Also in 1939 there was the first mention of the school choir and the children taking part in a music festival.

The apples in school scheme was introduced early in 1941.

With the Second World War in progress, the school was called on to have air raid shelters done; but in 1943 there was a more serious occurrence – an outbreak of poliomyelitis forced the closing of the school for a while.

Shirley School then got a school song, composed by Mr Schnack and soon being sung with vigour by the children.

In the post-war years there was a shortage of teaching staff and a shortage of room, so that at the beginning of 1946 some five year olds had to be refused admission.

The committee noted the growing housing development in the area, and in drawing the attention of the Education Board to the building of 500 State houses nearby asked for two new classrooms to be built immediately.

There were increased demands on the school and discussions were held on fixing boundaries from which pupils would be taken.”

“New Schools: All connected with the school were becoming perturbed at the possibility of rooms being built on the playground area across the road, and there was welcome news that new schools were planned for Quinns road and Mahars road. But at the same time the school had to accept that new rooms would be placed on a corner of the playing area.

By 1953, when the roll stood at 1127, the third pre-fabricated classroom had been opened on Shirley road.

With the new schools and a change in the age grouping of the area surrounding the school, the roll began to drop and in 1957 it was down to 509.”