Severe overcrowding at the nearby schools Spotswood, Yarraville West and particularly Kingsville led to Wembley Primary school opening in 1958.
One of the first initiatives for this venture occurred in 1955 when Mr. Ross Carruthers, was approached by his principal and the district inspector, Mr E. Mathieson to give suggestions for a future primary school site. Together they decided on a barren, rock strewn and snake infested area on the West Side of Stony Creek used for sheep grazing, bounded by the future St Leonards Avenue, Hawkhurst Street and Wembley Avenue. The land was owned by Sir William Angliss, J. R. Schutt, H. T. Lyon and the Miller family and bought by the Education Department later that year. House blocks on the new estate were available from £400. Work on the 3.9 acre site commenced late in 1957 with the erection of the first stage – an unfenced six-classroom block with an office, staffroom, toilets and store.
When the school first opened its doors on February 5, 1958 the founding Head Teacher, Mr. E. C. Howell, Infant Mistress Miss Veronica Fitzpatrick and six other teachers welcomed the 265 pupils. 99 of whom had transferred from Kingsville, 59 from Yarraville West and 47 from Spotswood. An additional 60 new locals (mainly preps) completed the enrolments. The first pupil officially enrolled, Paver Lorenc, who transferred from Spotswood PS, inaugurated the opening of the school by planting the first tree on the site, near the St Leonards Ave boundary. (In 2010, this ash tree is still a living part of the playgrounds on this boundary).
A School Committee was convened on April 9 with Mr. Ross Carruthers elected President, Mr. D. G. Gunston as Secretary, and Mr. T. H. Doran, Treasurer. Other members were Messrs. Crisp, Doran and Matthews and Mrs. Bedson. With the formation of a Mothers’ Club on May 1, Mrs. K. Chitty was installed President and Mrs. M. Marshall as Secretary.
A further two classrooms were added to the existing building in 1959 but not in time for the commencement of the school year which saw the enrolment increase to 300. Two shelter sheds, a flagpole, piano, and movie projector had been provided by the Department, parents had raised £434 for a subsidy on library books and other teaching aids and the Head teacher had requested a subsidy to purchase a Fordigraph spirit duplicator for £39-12-0.
The 1960s - years of rapid growth
1961 – the main building block is extended to 10 classrooms, the grounds are fenced and boundary trees planted.
1962 – an asphalt assembly area and basketball court are provided
1966 – additional asphalting on the east-side and cricket pitches formed
1967 - first portable classroom erected
1968 - two more permanent classrooms & G R Evans Memorial Library in use
By 1965 the enrolment had stabilized at 381 and a classroom was converted to accommodate the new ABC television programs designed to replace the long existing radio broadcasts. Half the cost of an Astor TV set (£116-10-0) was paid by the school and the Mothers’ Club purchased room blinds to darken the room.
Overcrowding came to the fore again at the commencement of 1966 when the enrolments soared to 426 and the Head requested a further two permanent classrooms for the expected continued expansion. The 11 teachers had classes ranging from 29 (Comp. 3/6) to 47 (Gr. 1). With the sudden death of George Evans in June, the senior male assistant, Mr. Jeremiah Riordan assumed the role of Acting Head Teacher for the remainder of the year.
The replacement Head Teacher for the commencement of the 1967 school year was Mr. A. O. Bird. A portable classroom was used to cater for the extra pupils, taking the school population to a record 444. Large classes of 31-47 continued. The first stated aims of Wembley Primary School were compiled during the year:
1. To organize the children, staff and parents into a well-knit, useful and pleasant educational institution, with particular attention to the individuals concerned.
2. To make the children proficient in all subjects.
3. To encourage initiative, independence and co-operation amongst teachers.
4. To gain the full assistance and co-operation from the parents.
The portable classroom was removed as the two new rooms and the G. R. Evans Memorial Library were ready for use before the New Year. The library was financed under a Government subsidy whereby locally raised funds of $2000 were put towards the total cost of $10,000. It was officially opened by the Minister of Education, Mr. Lindsay Thompson on November 10, 1967.
A full-time librarian joined the 12 other generalist teachers at the commencement of 1968. This year the largest classes were in Gr. 3&4 – 40, 41 and 43 respectively.
Enrolment in 1969 reached 447 and with the current accommodation `fully taxed’ a request was made to the Department for an extra room.
The 1970s - a multicultural school
1970 - Migrant English classes commence
1974 - school-based curriculum development
1975 – Art & Craft Centre opened (destroyed by fire two years later)
1978 - Rebound wall erected
1979 - Boys shelter shed converted to two withdrawal rooms with covered way
With the growing number of children from non-English speaking backgrounds (mainly from Greece and Yugoslavia) a part-time Migrant English teacher was appointed in June 1970. Because of an acute shortage of space these classes were held in the sick bay in the early stages, before moving to the refurbished shelter shed. Eric Miller, the newly appointed Principal, encouraged the staff to cater for `individual differences’ to enable the children to `reach their maximum capacity’. Teachers were also inspired to introduce the newly released Primary Science curriculum. 1970 was the year that the enrolment finally peaked at 451 and then began a gradual descent.
By 1974 the school population had declined to 375, relieving to some extent the pressures on classroom numbers and an overcrowded playground. With the Migrant English classes now in the main building, the shelter shed was converted again, this time into a canteen, which became a vital source of school funds. About this time the Department’s policy on curriculum changed from `centralised’ to `school-based’ courses. The then principal, Bruce Burns, seized on this initiative and Wembley teachers began to develop their own Language and Mathematics courses, more suited to the needs of the local community.
A new Principal, Mr. Dick Murdoch was appointed for 1976, but was unable to commence because of an International Teaching Fellowship in Colorado, U.S.A. Relieving Principal, Mr. Brian Hyland filled the role for the year. On his return Dick Murdoch soon set in motion a complete revision of school policy and curriculum statements.
The 1980s - consolidation
1980 – Two adjoining rooms converted into a General Purpose Room
1981 - International Committee formed for social and fundraising purposes
1982 – A further two rooms converted into a new Art & Craft Centre
1983 - $260,000 upgrade of the administration area and a fitness course constructed. 25th Anniversary Celebrations held.
1985 – School Improvement Plan funding to revise English Language Program
1986 – Shelter shed converted into a Community Room, a sprinkler system installed, and an arboretum commenced
Largely because of its high migrant population, Wembley was declared a Disadvantaged School in 1980 enabling the employment of three `Special Needs’ teachers for the Child Migrant Education and P.E. programs. In addition a visiting children’s author was funded to conduct a `Young Writers’ Workshop’ for Gr. 3&4 students one day a week. With the school enrolment down to 303 two classrooms were able to be used for music/ general purpose. The 11 classrooms now had more manageable numbers ranging from 20 preps to 33 in Gr.6 .
A $260,000 `Administration Upgrade’ in 1983 reorganized the main building to provide an enlarged school office and staffroom, a Vice Principal’s office, general purpose room, withdrawal room, staff resource room, first aid room, security store, handicapped persons’ toilet and shower, and new staff toilets. In addition a fitness course and climbing equipment were erected from Supplementary Grants funds. A part-time Community Language (Macedonian) teacher was appointed and a locally selected district schools Community Education Officer commenced a `Safety House’ program.
By 1985 two-thirds of the school population of 280 were from Non-English speaking backgrounds. Approximately 17 nationalities were represented, with the largest groups from Yugoslavia (Macedonian) and Greece. Wembley P.S. was awarded $2230 from S.I.P. (School Improvement Plan) funds to develop a school English Language policy and program, with an emphasis on `Children’s Writing’.
In the `Annual Report’ for 1986, compiled by the Principal and School Council, Wembley students occupied 11 classrooms which included composite classes in Gr.1/2/3, Gr.1/2, Gr. 2/3, and Gr.4/5/6. Specialist classes operated in P.E., Art & Craft, Library, Macedonian, and E.S.L. In addition there were 4 Teacher aides - in Macedonian, Vietnamese, English Language and Literature, and in Integration (for the recently admitted physically and intellectually handicapped children).
1987 saw a new addition to the Health course in the newly compiled `Protective Behaviours’ program. School Camps were held at Allendale Gr.1-4 and a North Eastern Victoria Tour for Gr. 5&6. D.S.P. funds of $20,339 were used to fund nine school programs, which this year included Computers for the first time. This helped to replace the school’s early Commodore 64s with several of the latest Apple II Es, bringing the total number to nine. Fund raising by the school community reached $20,107.
Over the years considerable effort was put into improving and maintaining the school grounds. Under the leadership of Mr. Gage, the school cleaner, a number of parents, teachers and students helped Wembley become runner-up in the 1988 Footscray Municipality Beautification Competition for schools. The Rigby Moving into Math’s program was formally adopted and the school’s `Integrated Approach’ to curriculum reduced the number of themes for the year to four ~Yesterday Today & Tomorrow, Food, Olympic Games, and The Arts. The run of District Premierships continued with trophies in Athletics, Netball, Soccer and T-Ball again, and the Volleyball team reached the State Finals.
The 1990s - ‘striving for success’
1990 – After Hours School Program initiated. New school canteen completed
1993 - Italian replaces Macedonian as the L.O.T.E. component
1994 – `Friendship School’ relationship established with Koriyama Elementary School, Japan.
1995 - $250,000 major maintenance and administration/ staffroom upgrade. Wembley becomes a `School of the Future’.
1996 - New School Hall opened
1997 - Triennial Review
1998 - 40th Anniversary Celebrations
Wembley’s successful `Integrated Studies’ program continued into the 1990s. Themes for 1990 developed by staff were – The Environment, “Splash” (Water), Living Things, and International Culture (especially designed to recognize the school’s variety of ethnic groups). Gr.5&6 children entered a National Maths Problem Solving Competition organized by the University of N.S.W., with two finishing in the top 3% in Victoria and a further 5 in the top 10%.
Parents featured strongly in the 1991 Annual Report and their involvement in classroom and sporting programs, D.S.P. and curriculum project teams was recognized. The Parents’ Association (formerly Mothers’ Club) raised over $8,000 through the canteen and other activities. The Gala fair raised a further $5,000. Three Apple computers were supplied through the collection of Coles supermarket dockets in the `Apples for Schools’ promotion. A former pupil of the school, Mr. Jeff Barger, was `locally selected’ as Vice Principal and commenced at the beginning of 1992 .
A parent survey indicated the wish for Italian to replace Macedonian as the L.O.T.E. for all children and a part-time Italian teacher was employed. Koriyama Elementary School in Japan was chosen as a Friendship School and students and teachers began to exchange greetings and other cultural pursuits. A Japanese teacher spent six months at the school the following year, further enhancing this exchange.
Wembley opted to become a `School of the Future’ in 1994 and in its `School Charter’, selected the following School Priorities for attention over the next three years:
1. To improve the English standard of all children from Prep to 6
2. To improve the performance and the degree of understanding of all students in Math’s
3. To improve students’ fitness and skill level through the provision of a high quality physical and sport education program.
The recent closure of Brooklyn and Yarraville Primary Schools contributed to the steady enrolment increase to 348 in 1995. The 11 classrooms ranged from two Prep grades of 23 to a maximum of 31 in Gr. 5. Government staffing cuts began to affect the specialist programs offered – Library (.5), Art & Craft (.6) Integration Tr. (.6), Music (.5), P.E. (.6), and L.O.T.E. (.4). Two part-time Integration Aides and a Vietnamese Teacher Aide completed the complement. Senior students performed creditably in National competitions - Math’s (7 awards) and English (4 awards). The After School Hours Program held in a refurbished shelter-shed, not well patronised in the first few years, had finally began to flourish with 94 children registered and average attendances of 20-25.
In the 1995-6 school years two major buildings projects were carried out which had long been advocated by the school community. Firstly a $250,000 Major Maintenance program resulted in a further up-grade of the administration and staff areas, a new roof for the main building, interior and exterior painting, new carpets and conversion from oil to gas heating. Designed by architect Ian Macdonald, the $300,000 School Hall opened in 1996 and was the culmination of many years of planning and fund-raising. Built to both implement and improve the P.E. and Sports programs, the hall would also contribute to the school’s proud record in the Performing Arts.
Sporting achievements in 1996 proved `the most successful in the school’s history’. The District Athletics were won for the fourteenth successive year, along with premierships in Netball, Basketball (Boys & Girls), Cricket, Bat Tennis, and Softball. In T-Ball both the Boys and Girls teams won the State Finals. School Principal John McConville retired in August after a record thirteen and a half years in that position. He was presented with a School Service Award for his `outstanding contribution to School Sport’. Mrs. Faye Taylor had received the same award the previous year for her services as a sports’ coach also.
For the first time the School Council was involved in the selection of the new Principal. Mr. Stephen Lyon was chosen for the position and commenced at the beginning of Term 2, 1997. The huge task of preparing for the school’s Triennial Review was soon under way, co-ordinated by the Principal and School Council President, Mr. Anthony Smith, and contained a detailed report of the school’s progress over the last three years. The enrolment in 1997 was 300 students.
Mention was made of the success of the new Computer Laboratory with eight networked sets (one of which had access to the Internet) which complemented the Apple Macintoshes already in the classrooms. During the Term 3 holidays in 1998 an extensive computer network was installed throughout the school which had an initial 32 computers installed complemented by a digital camera, scanner and CD stacker.
A Reading Recovery program commenced in 1996 was highly valued, and a `Wheelathon’ had reduced the cost of swimming lessons for participating students.
As the celebrations of Wembley’s 40th Anniversary continued during 1998 the community took part in many activities including tree planting, school parties on the oval and special art works.
Wembley Primary School continued to go from strength to strength in its provision of a balanced curriculum for all students in 1998 & 1999. The new Charter which at the time was very innovative explored the teaching and learning theories of De Bono, Gardiner and Blooms. A common understanding of how children learn was being developed by the staff and the academic results reflected the growth in staff expertise.
The school continued to experience success in many areas including the sporting field which saw Wembley take out the 1999 district championship in Athletics, T Ball, Football, Netball, Basketball Girls, Volleyball and Cricket. Regional finalist in Athletics and Cross Country and State Finalist in T Ball and Netball.
Wembley was honored by its selection as an Early Numeracy Research Program (ENRP) school which commenced in 1999. This was a three year program involving all infant staff in an intensive teaching strategy and data rich experience. As one of 28 schools state wide selected for the project the school had a major influence in the subsequent publishing of the ENRP for all schools in Victoria.
As enrolments continued to grow (354 in 1999) School Council gained a grant of $100,000 for a Library Upgrade. Council decided to commit an additional amount of $250,000 to facilitate an even greater development of the Library / Resource Center as well raising the LTC corridor roof to enhance the main building. This was a major improvement with many positive comments coming from the Wembley community and visitors to the school.
The Year 2000 - 2009 – ‘The changing face of Wembley’
2000 – Library / Corridor extensions completed
2001 – Triennial Review
2001 – Completion of Early Numeracy Research Program
2002 – Before School Care Program commences
Wembley’s population growth continued to a point of 420 children in 2002. This necessitated the further installation of portable classrooms with the school organized into 18 grades in 2002. The specialist programs of Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Physical Education and LOTE (Italian) continued to operate within the school and were highly regarded by the parent community.
The school continued its domination in district sports with many championships being won in 2000 and 2001. Of particular note was the winning of the District Athletics in 2002 which completed 20 years of successive wins.
Following the promotion of Jeff Barger, long standing Assistant Principal, to a principal position, the school selected Stephen Warner as the new Assistant Principal, starting in 2000, a position he occupied until Term 2, 2002. He was promoted to a principal position.
The changing face of the community saw an increasingly involved parental group offering outstanding support and also taking an active role in policy and program direction.
The school established a Before School Care Program starting in 2002. This was a funded 15 place program which complements the very successful 45 place After School Care Program.
In relation to Information Communication Technology the school funded a massive network installation and hardware configuration. In 2002 the school has over 100 data points around the rooms as well 70+ networked computers. 2002 also saw the development of the computer laboratory in the new Library / Resource center. The school had purchased digital cameras, scanners, video cameras and CD burners to support the program. In 2001 an intranet was utilized by the children as one of the mediums for publishing their work as well as a search base for internet and email usage.
The Building and Grounds Committee had been diligently developing a new Master Plan in conjunction with architects to determine the next major building project. The plan was completed in 2001 showing a new classroom wing running between the current main building and the gymnasium as well as the relocation of the administration area, construction of new toilets and canteen facility.
The Master Plan was given funding in the 2002 State Budget and work began in 2003 and was completed at the beginning of 2005. As a result a new classroom complex of 5 classrooms, student toilets and canteen was built, and the school’s administration area and staffroom were relocated and renovated along with two classrooms in the main building.
In 2004, the principal, Steve Lyon was appointed to a liaison role between the Department of Education and Delfin in a major housing project at Caroline Springs. Steve was then made a Senior Education Officer to the Western Region. The school was led during this period by Matt Coughlan as the acting principal. The principal position was advertised in 2005 and the successful applicant was Steve Warner who had been the principal of Sunshine PS.
During 2006 and 2007, significant changes occurred to the grounds at Wembley with an artificial grass soccer field installed, large sandpit / long jump areas constructed, and the outside basketball courts covered with an artificial grass/carpet. Classrooms were upgraded with interactive whiteboards installed in all and significant purchases of laptops.
The year 2007 saw an influx of graduate teachers. To assist in the development of these teachers, and the literacy teaching expertise of all staff, Jim Kinniburgh was introduced to the school. Jim volunteered his services after many years as a teacher, principal, regional leader and his last paid position was as a consultant to the City of New York’s education department. Jim’s work over the next few years developed outstanding literacy teachers.
In 2008, the school celebrated its 50th year of operation. New entrance gates were built at the main entrance in St Leonards Ave and at the school crossing entrance in Wembley Ave.
2009 saw the Global Financial Crisis and Wembley was a first round recipient of Building the Education Revolution funds to the tune of a $2.5 million dollar building. After negotiation and dispute, the school’s choice of building a multipurpose Performing Arts and classroom precinct was refused and a classroom template building substituted.
The school grew dramatically in this period from 461 in 2005, to 526 students in 2009. In 2012 Wembley Primary School has 619 students enrolled.
1958 - 1961 E C Howell
1962 - 1966 R G Evans
1967 - 1969 A O Bird
1970 - 1972 E J W Miller
1973 - 1975 B L Burns
1976 - 1982 G J Murdoch
1983 - 1996 J M McConville
1997 - 2005 S W Lyon
2006 - 2011 S R Warner
2011 - T Lawless
School Council Presidents
1958 - 1964 R R Carruthers
1964 - 1965 K J Hatt
1965 - 1970 D J Kent
1970 - 1980 A Boyd
1980 - 1984 R A D MacDonald
1984 - 1985 B D Charlton
1985 - 1989 B J Jones
1990 J A Regan
1991 J Gardener
1992 - 1997 M Webb
1997 - 2001 A N Smith
2001 - 2003 R Glenn- Smith
2004 - 2010 P Morgan
2011 - 2014 Scott Walker
2015 - Janet Condy