North Adelaide Primary School is a South Australian Government school providing quality education for Reception to Year 6 children [usually 5-12 years old]. Opened in 1877, it is one of this state’s oldest public schools


1877 - 1920

The population of Adelaide City in 1895 was 140,000 with North Adelaide Primary School having approximately 1,200 enrolments. Class sizes were suggested to be restricted to 50 for males and 40 for females but this was not possible in most cases.

The School was divided into two departments, one side was for boys and the other for girls. These departments were kept strictly separate. There was no separate infant school at this stage. School desks etc were hard to get.

Teachers were assisted by monitors and pupil teachers. With the great enrolments, a lot of time was spent getting children in and out of classrooms. Discipline needed to be rigid. North Adelaide was established as a Suburban Model School, equivalent to the City Model Schools. It was built in 1877 to provide education for quite a high percentage of Adelaide children. The timetable included Reading, Spelling, Writing, Arithmetic, English, Geography, History, Poetry, Drill and Needlework (girls) Manual work (boys). There was emphasis on physical fitness. Book borrowing from the classroom libraries were on a ‘bring one take one’ basis.

Teaching was considered a very low occupation, attracting very indifferent talent. The main source of teachers was pupil teacher cadetship. Inspectors had control over teachers and visits would happen about twice a year. One of these visits consisted of the Result Examination which both children and teachers faced with great anxiety. Until 1915, children were not compelled to go to school and probably many did not.

Children were investigated for cleanliness and clean hair, and teeth were bad. Earth closets (toilets) served for lavatories and hygiene had to be carefully kept up. The classrooms were very hot in summer and the smell of unwashed children was to be noticed at a distance from the school. Diphtheria and Meningitis were constant threats (pencil sucking was said to spread Diphtheria). The great Influenza epidemic of 1919 closed many schools.

Children sat on heavy wooden benches and were taught to carry their bags on the right shoulders to school, on their left shoulder going home. Stern repressive measures were used to curb left-handedness. Children had a bare month’s holiday at Christmas.

There were problems with fencing stray cattle and wandering fowls and dust storms were a problem.

Most of the early students became lamp lighters, mulesters, letter-carriers, lime burners, saddlers, sail-makers. Better off children would have gone to one of the church schools or private schools.

The Children’s Patriotic Fund occurred during the war and included self-denial boxes and days. Queen competitions were held to raise money although raffles or any kind of gambling was prohibited.


1920 - 1945

There was a significant drop in student enrolments during this period to about 500 in the 1920’s. A separate Infant School was established in 1920 and boys and girls still had separate yards. The school day began at 9.08am and continued through until about 4.00pm. The classrooms were reported to be very dingy with no fans and only one light in the centre of the room.

Better hygiene was reported due to regular medical and dental inspections. School dental work began in schools in 1921. Children often brought their own towels and drinking water to school. Diseases such as Diphtheria and Whooping Cough were still of concern and as a consequence, classrooms regularly needed to be fumigated.

There was a teacher from the Children’s Hospital teaching half a day at North Adelaide. Also, some children came from the Children’s Hospital to attend the school.

The Mothers Club was established in the 1920’s and was very active in organising children’s parties at Christmas etc. There were Easter Egg hunts in the play ground every year and Children’s Happy Day in August when children marched to the North Adelaide Institute for songs, games, saluting the flag etc. Students were involved with the “Thousand-Voices Choir”, (like a Festival of Music) which were held annually until the war made it necessary to suspend them. 1927 was the Jubilee year of the school and the original Headmaster was present at the age of 92. Bazaars, jumble sales, etc where done to make money and many children were given free books. Empire and pageantry was held each year on the Adelaide Oval.

Each grade had yard for half an hour each day. Children were asked to bring a book for the library. Games and Rhythm was taken each day. Children had weekly and term exams. They were sometimes stopped upon entering the school grounds at random and quizzed on what they saw on the way to school. The summers were very hot, temperatures sometimes reached 100oF or more. Teachers were often ill from nervous strain and other causes.

Specialist “Opportunity Classes” were introduced in 1927. These classes provided suitable courses of training for children who needed special individual attention. Children in the class learnt to co-operate with other children and people, which included behaviour modification. The Opportunity Class subjects were of the ordinary primary school curriculum , with special attention to arts and crafts; but each child went at his or her own pace. Physical fitness received special attention. When these children left school their names were placed on the after-care roll, and the department’s Social Worker kept in touch with them until they reach the age of eighteen

The impact of the machine age was beginning to be felt. Better textbooks were designed and better street lighting and public transport.

There was lots of truancy and problems with vandalism etc. Discipline was often given with the cane and after school detention. Children from the lower parts of North Adelaide (Melbourne Street area) were considered poorer, they often came to school with no shoes. North Adelaide was generally described as a “poor but happy school” – boys often went grape picking in season.

Cut backs in Education, teachers accepted cuts in salaries caused a difficult time for teachers in 1930’s.

War – Blackout testing, petrol rationing, not allowing children to correspond with overseas pen friends.

There was a shortage of teachers, buildings, paper, rulers, pencils and no rubbers were allowed at all. School enrolments went down to 300. Female cleaners had to chop wood for fires and teachers worked in munitions factories in vacation time.

Children collected waste paper to contribute to The Schools Patriotic Fund established by the Education Department soon after the outbreak of war,. In brief; the SPF is where boys and girls raised money by the collection and sale of waste paper, bones, rubber, non-ferrous metals etc – and by the making and selling of charming and useful things that were seen at Handicraft Rallies when they were unobtainable elsewhere owing to war-time conditions. The knitting league started at this time.

In 1939 A.R.P. evacuation practices were held. Trenches were dug along Gover Street for air raid shelters.

First aid classes were held at school. Children wore around their necks a small plastic like disc upon which their names and blood groups had been engraved. Each child was also compelled to carry their own “air raid kits”. The kits consisted of a small calico bag with a shoulder strap which carried basic first aid with pressure bandages, medical dressings and a rubber block to place in the mouth and bite on it during an air attack.

After the war there was a strong patriotic feeling. More women teachers came to teach the children.

Depression – Soup was sometimes provided. Volunteers would feed the children and bags of apples and oranges were distributed to children by clergymen. There were Egg Days where eggs were collected and distributed to the needy. Food and clothing parcels were also given to needy children. Families who had food to spare brought it to school and left it on tables so that hungry children could help themselves without being noticed. Shoes were mended at school. Teachers would do a lot to alleviate distress.

Many children left North Adelaide to go to work. Others went to Nailsworth or Adelaide High. Parents had concerns about cheap films, slang and noisy radio programmes.

More equipment was available for use in the classrooms. Teachers were no longer ashamed of their profession. There was better training for teachers and the establishment of a Teacher’s Union which brought about more freedom in education. Education gradually improved and became more relaxed.


1945 - 1970

This period was characterised by the establishment of the North Adelaide Speech and Hearing Centre in 1953 which was, at first, located in the main school building. The centre had approx 20 children and whenever possible included them in combined activities with the school. The Centre moved to a separate building to the north end of the site and comprised of three temporary classrooms, a temporary hall, a wooden building and a converted dwelling of acoustically treated rooms.

The integration of girls and boys departments occurred in 1954 and the development of a library which was opened on 8.10.54. Class sizes were in excess of 40 and sometimes up to 50 students per class. The School building was shabby in this period until it was gradually upgraded in the 1960’s and 1970’s. There was a shortage of teachers caused by the great increase in school population due to the post-war baby boom (which continued through the 60’s) though North Adelaide numbers continued to drop as the character of the area changed.

Broadcast lessons were done with the children singing from booklets supplied by the School Broadcasting Service after the War. Religious Instruction was now given. This was first introduced on a weekly basis by the Education Department in 1942 and concluded in 1972.

There were better conditions for teachers and children. Headmasters were given more control and Inspectors were now called Public Education Officers. The Curriculum gradually became broader and more child centred. Areas of study: Social Studies, square dancing introduced into Physical Education, Nature Science, Handwork, Art, Singing, Reading, Religious Instruction, Arithmetic. The Cuisenaire Method of learning arithmetic was introduced into the school in 1960. Children who had been backward in arithmetic soon reached higher standards with this method. Examinations were held at the end of each year.

The district had a good share of slums – occupations of parents – painters, cleaners, concrete makers etc mostly. The school population was constantly changing because of the proximity of migrant hostels. 35% of children in 1957 were from a foreign community. Fifty eight infant children in two grades with two teachers speaking a language other than their own. Greek children who were at school could speak no English.

The 1950’s saw a lot of social unrest which produced vandalism at school, the police were frequently visiting school to apprehend boys (mostly for stealing and shop lifting). The School was broken into and damaged regularly. The Headmaster was frequently in touch with parents regarding children’s misbehaviour (girls molested by boys in yard etc). Children were sometimes suspended for aggressive and dangerous behaviour. Trouble with Stuart House boys.

Diseases were now largely under control but there was an outbreak of Polio 1949-50. Royal visit 1954. Also 1953 Henry Kripps wrote special song for Grade 3.

Visits outside the school were made to places like the Coca-Cola factory. Students would take the tram which ran down O’Connell Street to swimming lessons at the City Baths. Children went on a trip to the Adelaide Airport to see the plane that brought the first air-mail from London to Australia. Pioneers Day had children visiting places such as the Old Gum Tree at Glenelg and Light’s Vision at North Adelaide. Arbour Day created great interest planting and watering trees and shrubs – in 1967 Arbor Day became Conservation Day. Music festivals at Piccadilly Theatre. National Flower Day each year in 1950’s.

In 1963 North Adelaide Primary along with other SA schools, was used as a pilot school to assist in ushering in and evaluating the new courses of instruction which was planned to be used by all State Primary Schools. Experiments with new techniques and methods had been conducted in all classes and many in-service training courses for teachers.

The Mothers Club was very active (became the Welfare Club). Luncheons were supplied by classes at times to raise money for School funds. The Mother’s Welfare Club attendances ranged between 17 and 30 and raised a total of 103/19/7 (pounds) to buy amenities for the school such as a Roneo 750 Duplicator, recorders, desks, bags etc.

The Sevens Club and Night Club were formed in 1963. The Sevens Club organised fundraising events, concerts, trips, fancy dress ball and the instigators of the new way of walking into school. The Night Club met on alternate Friday nights to events such as “Come in Bad Taste Night”.

North Adelaide had a school Percussion Band supplied by the Mothers’ Club and a school choir which performed well in Festivals etc. The school choir was formed in. In 1963 approx 50 children were chosen from the school to sing in a choir of three thousand for Her Majesty the Queen. A music rostrum to commemorate the services of Mr Edward P Kain was to be organised.

Sports consisted of football, cricket, soccer, basketball and court cricket for girls. Sports Day consisted of 4 teams – blue, green red and orange (orange won).

In 1962 the School Committee published it’s first year book for the school. The committee aimed at a main function for each term, with dual purposes, to raise funds, and or, to supply some additional interests, culture or outlet for school information.

1963 Electric clocks came in.


1970 to 1995

The population of North Adelaide in the early 1970’s was approx 5,000 with a capacity of 12,000 for the area. The projected figure for students to North Adelaide was for a capacity enrolment of 384 pupils. Enrolments in 1974 were Infant 26, Primary 132, Transient 30, Speech & Hearing Centre 40, a total of approx 210 with 12 school staff.

The school community still suffered from problems of identity due to the large numbers of transient, “disturbed” and disadvantaged children from single parent and migrant families, local boys home, some aboriginal children (from far northern areas in South Australia for medical attention) and kindergarten children.

Renovations in the early 1970’s had included installation of drop ceilings, improved lighting, internal repainting and addition of resource facilities.

South Australia staged its 150th anniversary of colonisation in 1986 with a year-long celebration. This was planned to be the most spectacular event in the State’s history. North Adelaide celebrated the 150 Jubilee year with a “Health, Sport and Games” theme. The year consisted of a ball in August and culminated in an “Old Fashioned” Sports Day with an “Old Fashioned” picnic basket in November.