History of Sandown Park Primary School

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A Community with a Vision

The First Government Primary School with a Canteen

The Springvale Rise Primary School, formerly, Springvale Heights and originally Sandown Park had a unique beginning.

The boundaries of its catchment area were Springvale Road, Princes Highway, Sandown Racecourse and the Mile Creek.  The whole area was owned by the Victorian Amateur Turf Club (VATC) who, in the late 1950s, sold off 800 house blocks to pay for the development of the racecourse.  The planned development included land reserved for a maternal and child welfare centre, a kindergarten and a school.

Interestingly Melbourne’s first group of display homes was built in Wareham Street.

By 1964 the school had not been built.  The children were attending Springvale North Primary School which was on the other side of Princes Highway.  An accident involving one of the children who was crossing the highway galvanised the community into action.  Submissions were written, meetings were organised and regular personal contact was made with relevant people within the Education Department in Melbourne and the District Inspector in Dandenong, Mr.Croft Stocks.

Mr Norm Billing, the State member at the time, arranged a meeting in the Old Treasury Buildings for a group of parents to meet relevant Education Department staff.  Those attending included Max Floyd, Jacques Rosenberg, Joan Scriven, Joan Borrow and Merle Mitchell.  They were told the Department didn’t build schools to solve traffic problems!

The Minister, John Rossiter, was invited to visit the site.  Most of the roads at this time were unmade.  He came in the winter when there had been a lot of rain.  His driver refused to drive on the unmade road.  One of the parents, Joan Scriven, offered to drive him in her 1955 Ford Customline.  She took him down Amiel Street where the car slid on the muddy wet surface but there was plenty of time then to convince the Minister of the need for the school!

Eventually a decision was made to build the school.  The need to raise funds for equipment quickly became apparent.  A committee was formed and numerous fund raising activities were planned.  But this was a group with vision.  They wanted a canteen to be built with the school.  But this had not been allowed for in the Department’s budget.  A library was to be included in the plan but there was nothing in the budget for books.

So the group decided it had better get a loan to build the canteen and equip the library.  But it had no collateral.  So it approached three people – a Springvale councillor, a relative of one of the parents and a parent.  These three agreed to go guarantors for a $5,000.  The loan was to be paid off by funds raised through the canteen sales and other money raising efforts.

There was enormous support.  There were no waste collection services in those days so every month a bottle and newspaper drive was organised.  Every house in the area was doorknocked.  Some parents did the doorknocking, others minded the children.  The bottles and papers collected were all stored at the Reinhold’s house in Garnsworthy Street.  Huge amounts of money were raised.

Regular street stalls were held.  Women who could sew made dozens of sets of pyjamas and other children’s clothing.  The material was always supplied, bought at Ball’s store in Richmond.  Cracked eggs were bought cheaply from the egg farms and made into cakes.  The record was 19 sponges made in one day by the one woman!

On 19th June, 1965 Sandown Park Racecourse was officially opened.  They hosted a luncheon to raise funds.  Informal lunches were held in some parents homes.

The school opened on 1st June, 1967.  It was the first government primary school in Victoria to open with a canteen and a fully stocked library.  This from a community of young families on quite low incomes – but families prepared to work collectively for the benefit of their children.

And then came another first

Schools at this time had a School Council, who made all the decisions, and a Mother’s Club, which raised all the money but had no say in how it would be spent.  This structure caused a lot of tensions in some schools.  At Sandown Park the Sandown Park Parents Association was formed to fulfil both roles.

Just prior to the opening the District Inspector, Croft Stocks, said, ‘This school has the potential to be the most outstanding Primary School in Victoria.’

And the loan?  It was paid off twelve months after the school opened but the group continued – there was much more to be done – including the financing of an arts centre.

Merle Mitchell AM

The Age article

November 2011

Sandown Park State School, Grade 2, 1968
Sandown Park Primary School, Grade Prep C, 1971
Sandown Park State School, Grade 6, 1967