HomeHistoryBundaberg South State School to celebrate 130 years

Bundaberg South State School to celebrate 130 years

2021 Bundaberg South State School captains with Principal Narelle Clarke and mascot Bluey.

Bundaberg South State School will be celebrating 130 years in the region this month, with a special event planned to mark the anniversary with students and staff.

Principal Narelle Clarke said the school was currently made up of 176 students who were gaining an education in many different ways and through a range of technologies, a far cry from how the curriculum was shaped in the 1800s.

“Back in 1891, the focus was on keeping the school open and the three Rs (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic),” she said.

“Although these remain a focal point in our classes today, the way that teachers deliver these key curriculum areas are varied with the use of interactive whiteboards, textbooks, computers as well as the traditional talk and chalk.

“What an amazing journey it would be to travel back to 1891 and witness how the first teachers of Bundaberg South State School taught multiple year levels and multiple subjects.

Bundaberg South State School
Bundaberg South State School students, Grade IVa, 1939, Fleming, Kevin, donor, Kevin Fleming collection, Picture Bundaberg, bun02933

“I am sure that they would be amazed at how we cater for students’ learning abilities and subject areas now.”

Ms Clarke said the 130th event would be celebrated on Wednesday, 26 May on the school grounds with students and staff.

“We will be holding a special parade with a cake cutting as well as a playgroup where students will be participating in activities throughout the decades and students will also be learning about the vast history and traditions of BSSS” she said.

“Staff and students will be invited to dress up as well in clothes throughout any of the decades.”

History of Bundaberg South State School

Bundaberg South State School
Bundaberg South State School, Bundaberg Genealogical Society collection, Picture Bundaberg, bun01714

To celebrate its 125th anniversary, the school put together a detailed history of the educational facility.

The South-East Bundaberg State School opened on 11 May, 1891 under the direction of head teacher William Ernest Benbow.

The original staff consisted of Mr John Benstead (later the first principal of the Primary Correspondence School), Miss Lucy Haig, Miss Elsie Gordon, Mr Thomas Garland and Miss Elizabeth Griffith.

The official name was changed in 1894 to Bundaberg South but to many older residents it remained the “South-East School”.

1914 saw the outbreak of the Great War and few families and communities were not touched in some way by the greatest conflict the world had seen to that time.

The shadow of war fell on South too.

Two hundred and sixty-five past students served and thirty-eight gave their lives.

“There is an Honour Board recognising all of these brave souls in the current staff room,” Ms Clarke said.

In 1940 South came under the direction of its longest serving Head Teacher Mr Bruce Cunningham.

Mr Cunningham, who had been a pupil of South from 1897 and later the pupil- teacher, served a record term of 18 years retiring in 1958.

“The school recognises Mr Cunningham along with Mrs Nita Cunningham (Mayor of Bundaberg from 1991 – 1998 and State Parliament Member from 1998-2006) who attended Bundaberg South State School during Mr Cunningham’s Principalship with an annual Cunningham Medal,” Ms Clarke said.

“This medal is presented to an outstanding graduating student who has stood out, excelled in everything asked of them.

“A student who has been reliable, honest and fair, has mixed well into the school community and an all-round role model who has set the example for others to follow.

The years from Mr Cunningham's leadership saw South gradually assume something close to the shape it has today with provision of sewerage in 1944, major classrooms additions in 1948 and the completion of the swimming pool in 1957.