The story began in 1853 with the first mention of a licensed school at Watervale in lists published by the Central Board of Education in the Government Gazette in October of that year. The teacher, Mrs Matilda Warner, with an enrolment of 12 boys and 10 girls, including some of her own children, attended a make-shift school, not at the present school’s location.
In 1858, records agree that Joseph Cole, ex-Auburn school teacher with his appetite whetted by a few months of teaching at Pulteney Grammar School in Adelaide, returned and opened a school of his own in the Bible Christian Chapel, now the Sunday School Hall of the Uniting Church, opposite the present school’s location. Numbers of intending students were so great that a large proportion had to be turned away. Here, Mr Cole taught for some time while plans and monies were raised to help meet a supplement grant from the Local Council of Upper Wakefield, to build a new school. A group of notable members of the community purchased Lot 24 for £20. These men became the Trustees of the Watervale School. One would imagine this took some time, when consideration is given to the time required to erect such a building, as it stands today. Records agree that the school was in operation by the end of 1861. Confusion still lies over its actual completion and occupation by the high number of students.
In 1858, the minute book of the Upper Wakefield District Council records the raising of monies to establish a public school at Watervale, which according to these records was apparently not built until 1860 and opened in 1861. Mr Cole was headmaster of the school until 1878 when he relinquished the post and he continued to be the owner and headmaster of the Stanley Grammar School, a private boarding school he had established next door to the school. Around 1884, the school was transferred from the Trustees to the Education Department, from then, it became a Public School instead of a community school.
In 1913, Sir J J Duncan, Minister of Education, advised the school that Allotment 12 and 13 had been bought for a playground and a school garden.
In 1917, A Roll of Honour (World War 1) for the school, was prepared. This board is currently in the front office of the school along with the Roll of Honour for World War 11. The World War 11 Roll of Honour was made in the school’s woodworking shed by the students in 1946.
For many decades, the older boys were taught pruning by local vignerons. They were allowed to enter the local pruning competitions. In 1930, a school brass band was formed. This band won many competitions over the coming years. The cups won by the band are still on display in the school.
In 1933, the head teacher informed the School Committee that he was prepared to take his wireless set into the classroom, provided they purchase an extension cord, for various educational talks. A telephone was installed in the residence in 1935. The School Committee to pay for the installation and rental and the schoolteacher to pay for all calls. The school participated in the state’s one hundred year celebration in 1936. The school received a centenary grant and the well was rebored for the cost of £25.17.6d. The schoolyard was asphalted in 1938 for the first time.
Watervale celebrated its centenary, with a “Back to School” in November 1947. The students of the Morella School started at Watervale in 1951 when their school was closed because of a lack of numbers. In 1951, a request was made to the Education Department to supply another classroom because of numbers. This room did not arrive until 1955. 1961 saw the celebrations of the school’s centenary. On the significant date of 21 July 1969, the children were “farmed out” to all the homes in Watervale that had television so the children could watch the first man walk on the moon.
The school’s residence was declared unsafe and it was considered too costly to repair. The Principal was offered accommodation in Clare. He refused this offer. The following year, 1980, the new Principal started the process of a major upgrade of the school. The teacher’s residence was converted to offices, staffroom and library. School was conducted in the local hall during these renovations.
1986 saw the celebrations of the 125th Anniversary of the school. This was a very well attended event by people who had been or were involved in the school. The school’s first computer was purchased in 1986 amidst much controversy. Today each classroom has computers and tablets that are networked and all students have internet access.
Numbers were increasing greatly and in 1990 a new classroom arrived. It was placed on an area where the wood working shed had been in the past. This had been removed in 1982. By the end of 1990 the Education Department had supplied the school with a bore, concrete tank, pumps and watering system.
The first administration computer was purchased in 1991.
The playground underwent major development in 1994, and extensive plantings occurred around the grounds.
The administration was moved within the main building and in 1995 it experienced another move to its current location. The numbers of the school were still increasing and in 1995 a new resource centre arrived. The sleeper retaining wall in front of the stone building, was replaced with a natural stone wall. A sun shelter was built outside the newest classroom in 1998. Four park bench and table sets were purchased in 2000.
By 2001, the metal classroom became the senior classroom and the stone building housed the junior class. The Resource Centre was upgraded in 2002 and the old classroom was removed from the school grounds.
In 2003, much work led to the installation of a new toilet block close to Commercial Road. This was linked to a reed bed, purposely built to process grey water which would in turn be used instead of bore water to irrigate the grassed areas, as a sub-surface system. Extensive landscaping and paving around the toilet block area followed in 2004.
New equipment was added to the playground, with the flying fox having been removed in 2001, and a cubby was built by local high school students. The sports shed was built on the old toilet block site in 2005.
In 2006, a formal leadership project was trialled, where two Co-Principals shared the role for the year. The stone building was refurbished in 2007, which included the installation of the school’s first interactive whiteboard. A soundfield system, to help with hearing disorders, was installed in the senior classroom in 2008.
By 2009, federal funding enabled the upgrading of the outdoor area. The old lunch shed and northern sleeper wall were removed and a landscaped paved terrace added. A new sandpit was built, pine logs edging the playground were replaced with recycled plastic panels, and the asphalt resurfaced.
Development work continued in 2010 when the metal transportable was removed and a new double classroom was installed adjacent the Resource Centre. This was to be used as the senior classroom and a whole school Activity Room, and was officially opened during the weekend of the school’s 150th celebrations in October 2011.
The school extended the sun shelter to create a large free-standing outdoor learning area, abutted by native gardens watered by collected rainwater. A substantial access road and staff car parking area were created adjacent to and at the rear of the toilet block.
Solar panels were installed on the Resource Centre roof, and energy and water saving devices were added throughout the school.
Increasing enrolments and ongoing consultation led to the planning for a new classroom to be purchased and installed. Meanwhile the senior class was conducted at either end and eventually entirely within the Resource Centre. The senior students were proud to move into their new classroom and withdrawal space, attached to the newest double building, by Term 4, 2014.
Community need led to the establishment of an Out of School Hours (OSHC) service, providing access for up to 15 children after school, as of the beginning of the 2014 school year.
Throughout 2014 – 2020, there were multiple updates and changes made to the school grounds and classrooms to create positive learning and play spaces. These are continually being developed to support the needs of our current learners and are completed in consultation with staff, learners, families and governing council.
In 2021, there was a particular focus on the updating of facilities with the State Government $30,000 funding to engage local tradespeople to deliver priority maintenance work at the site. Watervale Primary put the money to updating the office area, painting classrooms, adding cupboards to the OSHC and Art space and outdoor upgrades including line marking and basketball ring upgrades. The school also received a $5000 grant from the Department for Education to make safe and welcoming environments. This money was put towards mural painting in the school toilets and the values being displayed on the fence line. These upgrades uplifted the space and allowed children to feel valued in this space. The school was also successful in receiving $7.800 from Landscape SA to improve garden areas through a project called “Bring Them In.”
In 2022, the OSHC service branched out and developed an outreach service at Auburn Primary. The re-establishment of the before school care has allowed for families to have more access to OSHC in 2022 and there has been the addition of Vacation Care. Through this, local families have greater access to care for their children close to home. In 2022, improvement areas include the addition of an outdoor classroom and deck space, the development of a native garden space to “bring them in” and further engagement with parents to deepen their knowledge of literacy processes in our site.