ROLL CALL: Ballina High School staff, pictured in 1963, taught many high achievers.
ROLL CALL: Ballina High School staff, pictured in 1963, taught many high achievers.

First high schools based on fee-paid students

THE history of education in New South Wales is fascinating, especially the history of secondary and higher education.

It should always be remembered when one is discussing funding for private schools that at least until 1900 the private schools had the major role in secondary education.

In fact most people considered that the state should not provide higher education at all, and the first state high schools were fee-based. Fees were abolished in 1911.

After the First World War there were many changes, especially in the provision of technical education. Some country areas, including Lismore, had a Superior Public School which allowed for post-primary subjects. Students from smaller and rural communities had to board in town to attend these classes. Ballina students would have been among these unless they attended a boarding school.

The Great Depression also had its effect on education but, by the end of the 1930s, Lismore had a high school and Ballina had an intermediate high school. If you look at the internet you will read that Ballina High School was established at the end of 1956. This should read 1953.

At the beginning of 1954 Roy Hughes became the high school's first headmaster, replacing the Ballina Intermediate High School's headmaster A.H.Williams. The school had been known as B.I.H.S. for almost 20 years prior to that.

Intermediate highs were supposed to provide education to third year (Year 10) status and then students sat for the Intermediate Certificate Examination. However, some students continued on to matriculation (Year 12). There were many successful students who attended B.I.H.S. One outstanding student was George Donald Hogg who attended from 1940-1944. He was awarded a scholarship to Armidale Teachers College/University and later returned to Ballina as English master. Others were Rex Barlow and Lindsay Aked.

Past students will no doubt be reminded of past events at Ballina High, of the teachers, of the sporting challenges against Kyogle and Mullumbimby, of the use of the cane (perhaps more frequently than needed by a few teachers), of the social events, and of the friendships made there.

There were quite a few married women teaching in those days, some war widows. Many other teachers had been in the services during the war and had undertaken training following their discharge. Quite a few had bad memories of the war and thoughtless students could prey on this, especially if the teacher was new or seemed uncertain of the subject being taught.

Sport was one way of getting the teachers and students on a level playing field, literally. One match will especially be remembered by those who attended. It was a netball match between teachers and senior girl students in the 1950s. There were not enough female teachers so several males volunteered.

The female sports mistress was an excellent sportswoman but not very diplomatic. She offended some students, especially if they were not good athletes. She was the teachers' goalie in the match and the students' defence goalie was a girl who apparently had some bad memories of past events. She barely allowed the goalie to move, let alone try to score. In her "defence” she even bit the teacher several times!

With practically the whole school watching, the match became a complete shambles - both teams ran all over the court and very few goals were made by either team. One athletic young male teacher at last got hold of the ball and simply kept it to himself - he ran swiftly from one end of the court to the other, making goals at both ends with the crowd cheering!

Prepared by Geoff & Margaret Henderson for Richmond River Historical Society, Lismore.

Telephone: 02 6621 9993. Email:

Hours: Museum - Monday-Friday 10am-4pm; Research Room - Monday & Wednesday 10am-4pm.

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