As a very new suburb, the history of schooling in Manor Lakes would also appear to be relatively recent. However, in its past as a rural farming area, education was still a concern for those who worked the land and had children of school age. Schooling in the district followed a similar pattern to many other rural towns in Australia.
In the nineteenth-century, some children would have been schooled in their own, or a neighbours’, home; while wealthier families may have sent their children to boarding school in England or Geelong. But, in the township of Wyndham (today’s Werribee) education facilities for were established relatively early.
The first was a non-denominational school, established in 1855 in a prefabricated tin building on the grounds of the local inn by the Ellen Armstrong, daughter of the publican. A National schools inspector reported positively on the school and its teacher, stating that she had good discipline and the support of the parents.
Rapid growth over the next few years, encouraged by the establishment of the railway line between Melbourne and Geelong, led to the need for a larger school, which opened in late 1858, which had forty students by 1860. Originally a National School, it became Wyndham Common School after the Common Schools Act of 1862.
Just as at other schools in the growing colony of Victoria, there was regularly “the urgent need for increased School accommodation”, (Bacchus Marsh Express, 2 January 1869, 3) and the school was extended several times over the next sixty years. Unlike in other locations, such as Collingwood and Warrnambool, the 1872 Education Act did not lead to the construction of a new grand school building; although it received a new name following the Act – Wyndham State School No. 649, in 1885 renamed Werribee State School No. 649. Other schools were also established in the surrounding districts, including Cocoroc South, Tarneit and Truganina.
Following World War I, an increase in the number of families due to the Soldier Settlement Scheme, meant that new facilities were again needed. In 1919, a purpose built state school opened, located on the site of the present Werribee State primary school.
Two years later, secondary education was instigated in the town with the inauguration of the Werribee Higher Elementary School. Both schools benefitted from the endowment of George Chirnside, owner of Werribee Park. The school remained in use until 1956, when a new High School was opened, in order to relieve what The Argus called “the State school accommodation crush” (28 December 1955, 6) driven by rising student numbers as a result of postwar immigration and Baby Boom.
During the late twentieth century, population increases as the result of the growth of Werribee and the development of new housing estates on former farmland in the surrounding region, saw the need for new schools. These included denominational schools such as MacKillop Catholic Regional College (1970) and Corpus Christi Primary School (1985) in Werribee. In the 1990s to 2010s, the further growth of planned communities surrounding the town, led to the establishment of both state and private primary and secondary schools in Wyndham Vale and Manor Lakes.
References & Further Reading
Avoca & District Historical Society ‘Schools‘
J.S. Bloomfield, Werribee High School: the story of Werribee High School and of early state education in Werribee. Written to commemorate the official opening of Werribee Hign School by the Hon. J.S. Bloomfield, Minister of Education, 18 March 1961 (Victoria, n.p: n.p., 1961?)
Corpus Christi Primary School Website
Ken James & Lance Pritchard, Werribee: the first one hundred years (Werribee, Vic.: Werribee District Historical Society Inc., 2008)
Mackillop College Website
Manor Lakes College Website
Esther Murray, The plains of Iramoo (Werribee, Vic.: E. Murray, 1974)
Our Lady of Southern Cross Website
Werribee Primary School Website
Werribee Secondary College Website
Wyndham City Council, Wyndham: Our Story (2013)