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Gosford Public School

Gosford Public School

Honour before Honours

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P & C History

Reflections on the role of Gosford Public School Parents and Citizens

A fascinating thread throughout the school's history at all three sites has been support, advocacy and indeed intense campaigning by parents and local residents for the betterment of education and conditions for students at Gosford Public School. It also shows the long connection and the active role A.I. Chapman and his wife E.H. Chapman took as President and Treasurer, respectively of the P&C in 1920s and early 1930s.

One of the earliest newspaper reports of parents involvement in the school is The Gosford Times of December 27th, 1907 reporting that the number of parents attending the school's annual prize day was so numerous they could not all be accommodated and extra seating was required.

More significant is a report from April 19th, 1917, recording the convening of a meeting at the School of Arts with the intention being to form an association of Parents' and Citizens'. There was strong support from the District Inspector for the forming of a Parent and Citizens Association and the newspaper report noted that already by 1917 the school was ‘in a bad way'. Sixty-five students were in a room only designed for forty-five, whilst another room had thirty-four students in an area that would have only accommodated eighteen. Water supply to the school was described as a ‘disgrace' with the Sanitation Inspector declaring water from the school's tank as unfit for human consumption after a decomposed snake was located in the  tank.

The degree to which the formation of the formal P&C association influenced Departmental decisions is hard to establish, but in October of the same year, the Gosford Times reports that Mr.G.Parry, Secretary of the Gosford Parents and Citizens received the following letter from the Department of Education; ‘Sir,  - In reply to your representations in relation to the necessity for providing additional accommodation at the Gosford Public School, I have the honor to inform you that the tender of Mr. E. Hewson, of Auburn, has been accepted for the proposed work'.

From 1922 to 1931, already prominent local citizens, Alfred Ingram Chapman and his wife, Ella Hope Chapman served as President and Treasurer of the P&C respectively.  His interest in the provision of public education may have been shaped by his father W.J.Chapam, who had worked as a teacher in the 1870's in the Young District, before moving to Gosford in 1881 to open his first business. As active and prominent member of the community, this must have assisted the school to raise the profile of their requests. The Gosford Times reported on the P&C annual association meeting of 1931, where A.I.Chapman retired from the Presidency, that the incoming President Mr Kemp-King described Mr and Mrs Chapman as ‘towers of strength throughout the strenuous time the association had passed through in the establishment of the High School and District Rural School'.

From 1929, onwards repeated and increasing demands were made to improve conditions at the school including replacement of a number of ‘ramshackle' buildings which had often been hastily constructed as students numbers grew.  In 1930, the Gosford Times records in a letter received from the Department of Education, that whilst concerns raised by the P&C had been considered, ‘it is regretted that funds are not available at present for the carrying out of this work'. This  summarises the Department's position throughout the Depression and World War II.

By June 1936, disquiet regarding the state of both Gosford Public School and Gosford High School lead to a ‘special committee of citizens' touring both schools. At Gosford Public, the Sydney Morning Herald wrote that due to wet rot, there were holes in the floor so large they could cause a serious injury. A motion was passed as a result of the inspections that the committee should begin lobbying the Minister for Education for immediate repairs and improvements.

What followed was a period of intense protest action by parents and community members regarding the state of Gosford Public School. In October 1936, claims were made that up to fifty children had been injured already that year alone and parents were threatening to boycott the school until improvements were made. By 1937, there was consensus with the Department of Education that action was needed but some division on whether that should be improvement to the current site on Georgiana Terrace or planning for an alternative site.

Protests escalated in 1939, when at the beginning of the school year, the President and Secretary of the P&C announced their intention to resign at the next meeting of the P&C if an announcement was not made by the Minister to confirm the establishment of a new school site. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that ‘the association was tired of fighting to a get a school…and tired of the usual promise of the department that the matter is under consideration in the light of the funds being available'.  Ultimately the P&C association disbanded in protest in 1940, vowing not to regather until the school was operational at a new site.

Incredibly, the parents ‘strike' as the Sydney Morning Herald called it, remained in place until 1951, although during this period, the Mothers Club acted as a de facto P&C in providing amenities for students. By 1951, the Mann St site was nearing completion and the then new Headmaster T.D. Colgan, called on parents and citizen to re-establish a formal association which could support the school to buy the additional amenities the Department would not be supplying for the new school site.

This call was headed and the P&C were actively involved in raising funds and community support for the new Mann St site. A letter dated February 26, 1954 to the Gosford Times illuminates role of the P&C at that time:


February 26th, 1954

For the past 20 years the people of Gosford have been agitating for better buildings in which their children might work while at school. Most of you remember the conditions under which pupils and teachers worked 20 years ago; 10 years ago, and even five years ago. These conditions gradually grew worse due to the increase in the school population. If you do not remember what those conditions were like, pay a visit to the school today and see for yourself how the children and teachers are housed at the present time. Within a few weeks, however, the most up-to-date school building in NSW will be ready for occupation.

It has been a long wait, but when you see inside that building we are sure that you will be pleased and happy to know that the children, in future, will be taught under comfortable and proper conditions. The Education Department is also supplying new furniture throughout. But good buildings and new furniture are not sufficient. It is left to the parents and citizens of this town to provide the necessary equipment and additional amenities to meet the needs of modern educational requirements. A good library, pictures for the corridors and classrooms, wireless and amplifying systems, rollermaps for primary classrooms and other modern teaching aids, and beautification of grounds are just a few, but very costly items. To be quite honest £2000 could be spent immediately.  Gosford Public School today has nearly 800 pupils enrolled and is therefore classified as a first-class school. But we want to make it first class in another respect — in its service to the children and people of this town .Any assistance you can give, or any donations you can make, large or small, will be greatly  appreciated. Contributions may be left with the Headmaster of the school or with Mr. R. A. Vaughan, Chemist , Mann Street.

Hon. secretary. Parents and Citizens' Association (Mr.J. Bitmead); Hon. secretary of the Mothers' Club (Mrs. V. McConnell).

Community donations of  books for the library were collected and the P&C donated ten loudspeakers – a pinnacle of modernity at the time.  The Gosford Times reported at the official opening ceremony of the Manns Street site, that the Headmaster noted ‘that for those of you who have worked so hard to have this school established, it must be a proud moment'.

Throughout the second half of the twentieth century, the Parents and Citizens Association continued their active involvement in the life of the school. This included a well-remembered Centenary celebration in 1965 and involvement in the disbursement of Chapman Trust funds from 1964 onwards.

In December 2010, the announcement that Gosford Public School would be relocated from the Mann Street site sparked a period of lobbying and campaigning reminiscent of the P&C in the Georgiana Terrace period from 1936 onwards. The time, energy and passion demonstrated by many parents and community members in this period was enormous and continued into negotiating  in great detail what would be provided at the new Faunce St, West Gosford site when it opened in April, 2014.




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