– CPS Archives, National Library of Victoria; Just Portraits
Camberwell Common School opened on 19 August, 1867 in a temporary 40 foot by 12 foot building, on the land opposite the present school site. This was due to the fact that insufficient funds had been raised for building work to commence. There were 34 children in attendance.
On 6 May, 1868, the new school building was opened on its present site (the original building includes Rooms 7 and 8). It was to provide schooling for up to 150 students.
The Education Act came into effect in 1872, which meant that schooling became compulsory and free. Camberwell Common School grew to 186 students. The School leased Forrester’s Hall, a 38 foot by 14 foot building, across the road.
The Victorian Junior Cadet Corps was established. Schools with a minimum of twenty boys, who were 12 years or older and at least 4ft 6in in height, could form a Cadet Squad under the guidance of a teacher who was a trained Militia Officer. Camberwell Common School’s Cadets were under the instruction of Major Maloney.
In 1886, the first additions to the building were to accommodate another 140 students (Rooms 9 and 10). These two rooms (36 feet by 25 feet) were not attached to the original building.
By 1889, the average attendance was 334 children, and the school had to rent the Church of England Hall to have sufficient classroom space.
The second additions to the building were made in 1891: an office, passageways, Room 11, a locker room and two staff rooms. These renovations joined the two buildings together.
Student numbers approached one thousand, making it necessary to lease buildings opposite the school to provide additional classrooms.
The third addition was the Infant School. The total cost for this large building was just under four thousand pounds. It was a separate building from the former buildings. At a special ceremony in February 1909, the Borough of Camberwell, London presented a Union Jack flag to Camberwell State School 888 in a decorated oak case.
The school now had 1065 children. Electricity, on a limited scale, was installed.
Camberwell State School was elevated to secondary status with Forms 1 and 2, and central heating was installed.
In 1930, the school was re-modelled to include additional rooms, including a staff room and an improved science room at a cost of over nine thousand pounds. Room 6 filled in the space between the original building and the Infant School, and Rooms 12, 13, 14 and 15 and the boiler house completed the western side of the quadrangle. The belfry tower over Room 10 was removed and a small pipe hole in the middle of the ceiling is the only evidence that it existed. The original roof was removed and lowered and concertina screen walls were installed as a partition in Rooms 7 and 8. Part of one classroom became the ladies’ staff room and another room was divided into a locker room and an additional staff room. The school now had 509 primary children and 144 secondary children.
Camberwell City presented the school with a bell it had received from one of the bombed Camberwell Borough schools in London (Scarborough Road). The bell was a token of appreciation for food parcels sent during the war. Camberwell Primary School’s emblem was derived from this gift of friendship.
In 1958, a door and porch were built for Room 2, as the 1930 remodelling had bricked up the exit near the bell tower, and it was considered a fire hazard to only have one long pathway through the hall to the exit.
Camberwell Central School celebrated its centenary with an Open Day and every student received a centenary medal. Central School Teacher, Linda Cuthill wrote ‘A Short History of Camberwell Central School No. 888.’
Camberwell Primary School Teacher, Ruth Akie wrote ‘Birth and Growing Pains of State School 888.’
The School Bell was found at Heidelberg tip, after being stolen from the school yard more than 18 months earlier.
Camberwell Primary School commenced its bilingual program in Foundation (Prep). It was Victoria’s first English/French bilingual school.
The school incorporated the Camberwell Bowling Club building, which it continues to use as an art room, and the additional room is presently used for out of school hours care. The bowling green became a synthetic court used for the children’s sport and games.
The bilingual program was fully implemented across the school. Students from Foundation (Prep) to Grade Six spent 50% of their day listening and working in a French language environment.
In 2011, a multi–purpose gymnasium was built with six classrooms on its upper level, replacing existing portables.
Camberwell Primary School was awarded the LabelFrancEducation Seal (one of only two Australian schools).
A lease was signed for Our Lady of Victories School grounds, providing a Junior Campus for Foundation (Prep) and Grade One students.
The school celebrated its 150th anniversary with an open day and the Spring Soiree. The year 2000 time capsule was unveiled and the 2017 time capsule was sealed (to be opened in 2042). An Alumni Association was created. The school has 648 students.
In 2018, a new building, adjacent to the School Gymnasium opened, accommodating additional classrooms, a library and Performing Arts room. Two additional play spaces were completed, including a log fort and rope climbing equipment on the Synthi Court and the adventure playground in the Secret Garden.