School attendance was not compulsory until 1880 and in Ipswich’s early years education was deemed not as necessary as learning how to keep house or working to make money. Schooling at this time was either for the wealthy in private homes or church funded denominational schools. In 1847 a school in Bell Street was established but shut after the school master quit two months in. There were no free schools and the cost of sending your child to school was far too expensive for the ordinary working man.
The Ipswich Council voted on and passed the proposal for a National School in 1850. The National Education Board stated that they would pay two thirds of the cost of a National School, this being the land and building, school supplies and teacher as long as the town/parents contributed a third of the total building cost and guaranteed attendance of at least 30 pupils. A building fund was set up and soon one hundred pounds had been collected from the town, so a request for a grant was sent to the government at the time in New South Wales. In June 1851 a reply came granting one acre of land situated on the east side of Gordon Street, bounded by Limestone and Brisbane Streets.
At a public meeting held on the evening of Wednesday 27th March 1861, the necessity of a National School for the town was brought up once again. It had been nearly 10 years since the grant of land had been awarded to the town. Members of the Council were reminded that a means of education for the town and district was needed, especially for the parent who could not afford to pay to send their child to school. The Council had been neglectful in not seeing that the public works of a national school were carried out for which money had been set aside in 1851. Establishing a primary school was the means of educating many children whom it would be impossible to educate at the present rate of schooling.
In 1861, the first National School in Ipswich was established. Until a school building was erected on the land in Gordon Street, classes were held in a small cottage on the laneway leading off Nicholas Street to the railway goods yards. There were six children in attendance and the teacher was John Scott. The number of students expanded to 150 within two months.
The new school building was opened in 1862 on the Gordon Street land granted by National Education Board. The building was a two storey brick building capable of accommodating three hundred children. The girls and infants were taught on the top floor, while the boys classes were held on the ground floor. The school split into separate boys and girls schools as numbers grew and moved to several different locations before evolving into Ipswich Central State School, Griffiths Road, Ipswich. Other National Schools in the Ipswich area soon followed at Little Ipswich (West Ipswich) and North Ipswich.
Information taken from – “Ipswich National Primary School” ( Ipswich Herald & General Advertiser 29-03-1861); “Heritage Education Kit”; “The History of Ipswich Grammar School 1863-2013” (Book); “Ipswich: Our Heritage in Focus” (book); “The First One Hundred Years” (Book); “Ipswich Central State School 125 years 1861-1986” (Book); “Ipswich Municipal Centenary” (Book); “Penal colony to Board of General Education 1826-1860” (website)