Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 31, September 1987
By C W Malcolm
Search of the files of the Education Department (in 1972) reveals this to be the earliest plan in existence of the Paeroa School - and the date is 1892..............
In 1896, additions were attached to Room "C" including a porch, head teacher's office 12ft x 8ft, and a classroom 38ft x 21ft 6 ins. In 1910 a disastrous fire destroyed Rooms A, B and C but the efforts of the Fire Brigade saved the 1896 addition, the room adjacent to Wood Street. Many years later this room, after long service as a classroom, was sold and removed to Cadman's Road, Tirohia, where it has served a farmer as a hay shed.
THE HIGH SCHOOL
- forerunner of Paeroa College:
Diligent research of the sparse records available indicate that Paeroa's original High School had no exclusive accommodation of its own until the year 1903 when the School was provided with its new Infant Room which still stands towards Primrose Hill.
In those days the High School section was known as "Standard Seven".
On 24 September 1902 Mr Frank Murphy, the headmaster, wrote to the Auckland Education Board as follows:
"New pupils are being admitted every week. The roll number of the High School Class is increasing and the difficulties under which this particular branch of the school work is being carried on are very serious indeed. I expect a considerable increase in the number of these Standard Seven pupils, not only from those who pass in our school, but also from the Convent School and possibly from other districts."
It was stated that additions to the school buildings would "provide a separate room for Standard Seven associated with Standards 5 and 6." This "separate room" was the smallest in the School, 22ft 6 ins x 20 feet - 450 square feet in area - built in 1889 adjacent to the Standard 5 and 6 room, the original built in 1877. One wonders why so small a classroom was ever built, yet it survived until the fire of 1910 and was repeated in the new brick building, erected after the fire.
The Standard 7, or High School roll, at the time of Mr Murphy's letter had "increased from 22 to 38" while the School's total roll (actually average attendance) was 284 accommodated in classroom area designed for only 205 pupils. Schools in those days, and until the 1930s, were staffed, not on number of pupils on the roll but on the average attendance. The roll was called first thing in the morning and for every absent pupil a runner was sent post haste to the home with an official note requesting a reason for absence. As the result of these urgent representations, a detached room was completed in May 1903 to become the Infant Room, and Standard Seven, the High School, the College-to-be, occupied its first permanent home.
The fire in the early morning of 10 August 1910 destroyed the High School room and two other classrooms shown in the accompanying plan. Reconstruction in brick was advocated and the Education Department procrastinated for months while most of the school suffered in the cold, gloomy, earth-floored, dust-infested, corrugated iron drill-hall next door.
The "High School" was spared the discomforts of the vast hall, being accommodated in one of the ante-rooms which Mr Murphy complained bitterly to the Education Board, was far too small and quite inadequate.
The brick building which was erected in 1911 followed some-what the plan of the destroyed wooden building, especially in its reproduction of the small, 450 square feet, room which had to accommodate the High School classes until the late 1920s.
ADDITIONAL ROOM FOR SCIENCE:
In late 1986 there still stands, not far from the original Infant Room, a room built in 1917 as a "Science Room" though much used as a regular classroom to ease overcrowding. It was on 27 September 1912 that the Auckland Education Board applied to the Department for a grant of Nine hundred pounds ($1,800) for the erection of a Science Room. Nothing happened.
On 30 September 1915, almost exactly three years later, a further application was made, this time for a grant of Six hundred and fifty five pounds ($1,310). Again no action.
Once again, on 19 October 1916 application was made for One hundred and seventy five pounds ($350). This was successful and in March 1917 a tender was accepted for the erection of an unlined room 24 feet by 12 feet. When the teaching staff of the High School was increased to two - Mr Frank Wilks BA and Miss W E Sutton BA, this additional room, as well as being used for science subjects, was of necessity employed as much for general teaching. The Sciences, Agriculture, Dairy Science, Botany and General Science were taught by itinerant specialists on weekly visits. Well remembered were a jovial Mr Stevenson, and a well-liked Mr Hudson.
The curriculum of those days was dominated by the examination system. In two years we had to face up to Public Service Entrance with which, if we were 16 years of age, we could commence a teaching career as Pupil-Teachers. Not having attained that age we remained a third year to pass matriculation (now University Entrance) at the end of our fifth form year. This was surely something of an achievement which speaks well for the standard of education in the Paeroa High School of that time for it was necessary to pass in five subjects: English, Mathematics, and a foreign language were compulsory; Mathematics in those days consisted of three separate and distinct subjects: Arithmetic, Algebra and Geometry. Of the two remaining subjects of the student's choice, one had to be a science. It was usual to take one extra subject "just in case" and a typical selection that some of us sat for, comprised English, Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, French, History, Geography, and Agriculture. We had to pass in seven of them!
In the 1930 the school in Wood Street proved inadequate to accommodate all its pupils and the two High School classes had to move to the very unsatisfactory conditions of the Methodist Centenary Hall (now the Methodist Church) on the corner of Willoughby Street and Thames Road. It was a happy relief when, in 1940, the new secondary school across the Criterion Bridge on the Te Aroha Road was opened for occupation. In 1958 this became Paeroa College and Paeroa District High School ceased to exist, the old School in Wood Street becoming Paeroa Central.