Until there were schools, children were taught at home or did practical learning on the job.

Schools Community Schools

– Once the population was big enough, people would get together to build a school and hire a teacher. If it had more than six pupils, the State government would pay for part of a teacher’s salary.
– If there wasn’t enough money, school would be held in a room in somebody’s home, in a church or hall, or in an empty building on a private property.
– Sometimes school was held in a farmer’s house which had been abandoned when drought drove the family from the district.
– Tiny school buildings were often built with an extra room where the teacher lived.
– At Woolshed Flat, a school was opened in 1905 in a room at the end of a row of railway cottages and the room next to the schoolroom was set aside for the teacher.
– It made sense to have the school near to where most children could reach it, and schools would move to where more families lived. For instance, Mt Brown School, between Wilmington and Quorn, moved three times.

Government Schools

– The State government built schools in the townships opened up for wheat farmers, such as Cradock and Gordon.
– These schools were made of weatherboard and to a standard government pattern.
– In its first year of operation (1882), Cradock School had an average daily attendance of 27 children. It peaked in 1895 at 51, but by 1910 had dropped to only 12 students.

Getting to school

  • Many children walked several miles each way to school each day o the lucky ones rode a horse or drove in a pony cart.
  • Teachers often walked to school or rode a bike.
  • Teacher Huppatz at Mern Merna had to travel 8 miles from his lodging to the school in the 1930s. He walked 2 miles (3km) to the railway line, and then pushed himself 6 miles (nearly 10 km) to work on a rail ‘trike’ lent to him by a ganger. After school, the trip had to be made in reverse.
Kalamazoo - 1890
Kalamazoo – 1890

State Library of South Australia B62321. This railway track inspection vehicle was described as a 5ft by 3 inch ‘Kalamazoo’ trike about 1890. Although it’s not the trike that Teacher Huppatz used, you can imagine how hard it was to push yourself along.

Conditions at school

There wasn’t much money to go around, and conditions at school could be pretty basic. For instance:
– When water was scarce, children around Hawker would have to take their own water to school in bottles.
– In December 1884 The South Australian Advertiser reported : Mr. WARD [M.P.] …called the attention of the Minister of Justice and Education to the insufficient accommodation for children attending school at Melrose. During the winter months a number of the children had to be taught in a shed outside. There was no fire, and as the weather was cold, and the children coming from a long distance usually brought their dinners with them, it was very uncomfortable for the scholars to sit in an open building all day. The Minister said he had received no correspondence about the Melrose schoolhouse. The average attendance during the past eleven months was about 45. This was the first he had beard of the matter, and he would call for a report.

Schooling in 21st century Flinders Ranges

– Schooling in the Flinders is available at the main centres. Children still have long distances to travel to school but now the trips are made more by bus than by horseback.
– Port Augusta, as a rural city, has the widest range of educational offerings.
– Hawker, Jamestown, Leigh Creek, Orroroo and Quorn all have schools which go from primary through to the end of secondary study.

  • These combined primary/secondary school are usually called Area Schools and offer fewer secondary subjects than full secondary schools.

– Those same towns also have kindergartens or preschools.
– Melrose and Wilmington have preschools and primary schools.
– Many families send their children to Port Augusta or Adelaide to board for their secondary schooling. Quorn District Schools
– The school at Saltia was one of the first to open in the Quorn-Kanyaka district (1864). o An average of 20 children attended the school daily in its first year.

  • Most of the children would have been from families of teamsters whose homes were at Saltia

– Quorn Primary School opened in 1879 with 36 children attending daily.

  • By 1881, 73 students were attending daily on average, and the numbers grew steadily.
  • By 1905, the school had 230 students. They were thought to be lucky to have as many as four teachers for all these children!

– A separate High School opened in Quorn in 1914 – the first in the northern areas. o In 1968 the Primary School moved to the High School when they merged to form an Area School.
– In 2010 the Quorn Area School had 260 students in classes from Reception to Year 12.

  • The school population is bi-cultural.
  • Aboriginal students make up 20 to 25% of the total school population.

Hawker District Schools

– In Hawker a school in rented premises opened in 1881 and had an average 22 pupils per day in its first year.
– A new government school, big enough to take 60 pupils and made of stone, took its first students in 1883.
– Attendance seems to have been irregular: o 62 students were enrolled but average daily attendance for the year was only 23.

  • Mincham points out: ‘Many children of course would have walked, ridden, or driven a horse-drawn vehicle for several miles to attend. The frequent dust storms, occasional flood, “sore eyes” and other sickness, and the need to help at home would have accounted for most of the poor attendance’ (Mincham 1980:72).
  • In 1895, average daily attendance was over 100 for the first time.

– There were 15 little schools in the Hawker district altogether, many of them in rented premises.
– As families left the land and townships declined, school attendance faded and schools were closed
– The school in Hawker is the only one left. – The Hawker Area School now caters for children from reception to year 12.

  • It teaches the Adnyamathanha language, as well as agriculture, horticulture and aquaculture.
  • The school participates in the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program and Dr Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots program.

Resources for Education

  • Department for Education and Child Development online:
  • Mincham, Hans 1980. Hawker … Hub of the Flinders. Hawker Centenary Committee. Adelaide.
  • Mincham, Hans 1983. The Story of the Flinders Ranges. (3rd ed). Adelaide, Rigby.
  • Quorn and District Centenary 1878-1978, 1978. Quorn Centenary Book Committee, Quorn.