STATUS QUO MCMLIX
This publication presents the schools of the Ballina Inspectorate at this time - Education Week, 1959 - and their origins.
This is a Fourth Class school which caters for the needs of district children from the Kindergarten stage to Sixth Grade. The present single room structure was erected in 1909 to replace the original building which had been in existence since the incidence of education in this area dating back to the 1860s. The grounds, which occupy approximately two acres, were resumed in 1904 from property then held by Mr. J Noble, and now owned by Mr. H A Burnett. The school is situated in an elevated position overlooking the Pacific Ocean and about seven miles west of the popular seaside resort at Lennox Head. In September this school will commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of its existence with a Jubilee celebration.
The first teacher-in-charge at the present building was Mr. J Mankey who was succeeded in chronological order by Messrs J Lock (1913-17), H, Neal (1918), D J Martin (1919-20), A M Wyllie (1921-22), D J Donnelly (1923-24), C Jones (1925-33), J Harbourne (1934-40), C Richards (1940-45), J R Allen (1946-47), B D Lennon (1948-52) and D O Harris (1953- ).
Extra accommodation was provided by the addition of an extension of 12 feet to the eastern end of the building about 1919. Some years after the First World War the enrolment increased to upwards of 60. During this period the verandah attached to the northern side of the classroom was utilized to provide space for extra classes. Thereafter the school population declined, particularly during the latter stages of World War II and the immediate post-war period. Subsidised teachers were engaged at this stage and closure appeared imminent when at one time the enrolment dropped to nine. Steady increases since have brought the current numbers of pupils enrolled to 36.
A weather shed, a long needed amenity, materials for which are being provided by the NSW Department of Education, is now being erected by members of the Fernleigh Parents and Citizens' Association.
Children attend from a radius of approximately two and one half miles ranging to the margins of the neighbouring district of Brooklet, Booyong, Teven and Tintenbar.
Fernleigh is essentially a rural district of approximately six square miles in extent, in which the school is roughly centrally positioned. District population is slightly less than 150 comprised of about 31 families.
Originally portion of the Far North Coast's "Big Scrub Country", which, apart from a couple of small pockets, has been completely cleared, the major portion of the land was in the early days devoted to sugar raising. This product was processed at a refinery known as Toohey's Mill (now not in existence) about one mile from the site of the present school. This has given way to dairy farming today the principal industry. Local cream is processed at Byron Bay in Norco's butter factory, reputed to be the Southern Hemisphere's largest such enterprise. The subtropical climate lends itself well to agricultural pursuits. Foremost is the culture of pineapples, peanuts, and a wide variety of vegetable crops.
The School and the Public Hall are the principal centers of community activity in this district. Social functions, church services and Sunday school classes are organized at the local hall. A telephone exchange is conducted by Mrs. L Timms, but as no business center exists, shopping, etc., is conducted art the nearby urban areas of Lismore, Ballina and Bangalow.
This is not a complex community and district residents have ever been mindful of the importance of the school within it. Therefore a strong and active Parents and Citizens' Association exists, of which the current president is Mr. W E Sackley, who has held the position for the past sixteen years. This association is not merely a fund-raising body for the provision of essential materials and equipment within the school, but is constantly effecting improvements to the grounds, and assisting in the organization of outside activities such as sports meeting, socials, swimming classes, etc. Such assistance is of immeasurable value to the school.
The majority of pupils passing through the school to take up secondary courses on completion of sixth grade are now being enrolled at the newly established Richmond River High School at North Lismore. Daily bus services passing through the area provide transport for these students. With the present upward trend in enrolments the future of this school would appear to be assured.
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