A special assembly on the front lawn of Corowa High School last Thursday marked an important milestone – 50 years since the school started operating at its current location.
Prior to 1968, high school aged students in Corowa attended a composite K-12 school at a different site.
Helen Reynoldson, Year 12 student in 1968, was invited to the assembly to speak about her time at Corowa High School and the changes she has seen.
“Fifty years ago I was part of the student body, which formed a guard of honour for dignitaries who had come to celebrate the opening of the Corowa High School,” she told the assembly.
“It was a special time for the school community.
“We were moving from a very old school which was no longer considered safe into a new modern building which at the time consisted of Blocks A and B and the canteen area.
“Teachers, parents and students ferried equipment from the school to the new, a new uniform was introduced for senior students; senior students were given a study room and the number of teachers in the school increased.
“If one was starting high school in 1968 one went into 1st form and not year 7, if one was finishing, one was in 6th form high school and not year 12.
“Students completing 4th form received a school certificate and many students finished school at this time finding employment in the local area.
“When I started high school there were 80 students in 1st form but only 18 of us continued through to complete 6th form, thirteen students receiving tertiary scholarships.
“To receive a higher school certificate, one needed to complete 6th form.
“Most of my class were eighteen when we finished school.
“As a result, we had teachers who were only a couple of years older than us.
“While the students loved it, it was often difficult for the teachers.
“Students had a habit of trying to engage teachers in the subject of fashion and football rather than the particular subject area to be studied.
“Assemblies were held in the area in front of the canteen.
“We had a six period day with mid-morning break and a one-hour lunch break.
“The year was divided into three terms rather than the four as it is today.
“While we had homework, we did not have assessment tasks to complete by a set date and became part of our overall assessment.
“We had exams mid-year and at the end of the year.
“You can imagine a lot of us left study until the last minute which meant late nights of swotting and bleary eyes the next day.
“For the first time we had a canteen.
“We could purchase our lunch without having to pre-order.
“Lots of students went home for lunch and there wasn’t a lunch pass required.
“Many students rode bikes to school as there were no town buses.
“Buses only transported students who lived well out of the town boundaries.
“I can’t remember teachers marking a roll in my days, but I suppose they did but not for each lesson.
“I remember this well because when my brother and I were running late for school we would hang in Tower Street until the morning assembly had finished and moved off into classrooms and then we would go and wait in the canteen area until the bell went for period two and join in the day then.
“No teacher ever quizzed us as to why we had missed the first lesson.
“Class lessons always started with a good morning.
“At the end of each lesson the class waited to be dismissed.
“Stencils that we may have received were often hand written by the teacher.
“There were no school TV’s, whiteboards, smartboards, computers, calculators or mobile phones.
“Subjects such as woodwork were for boys only and needlework and cooking, girls only.
“Some subjects you have today were not in existence in 1968.
“Sport was a big part of our school life with inter school visits with North Albury and Finley; events at swimming and athletic carnivals actively challenged and town sporting teams well represented by students from Corowa High.
“Shorts and long pants were not considered suitable for young ladies to wear to school.
“Instead we wore unflattering pleated dresses in summer and tunics in winter.
“Boys’ uniforms were always a lot smarter.
“Blazers and ties were part of the school uniform.
“We needed to change into sports uniform for PE we were in big trouble if we didn’t have matching knickers.
“My only punishment during high school or the only one I am admitting to was being sent out of the library for talking.
“Students were kept in at the beginning of lunch rather than having a detention during lunch.
“While corporal punishment was still part of the discipline plan, I can’t remember anyone being caned.
“In 1968 the school community wasn’t as diversified as it is today but we were lucky enough to share cultures with some Italian and Polish families.
“The celebration of 50 years of the Corowa High School will have special meaning to lots of people: students who completed their secondary studies here; teachers who have taught at Corowa High.
“For me I was in the first 6th form at Corowa High.
“Lots of you will be here to celebrate Corowa High School’s next milestone and each of you will have contributed to part of the school history.
Corowa High School student Gabby Pirnag followed with a speech highlighting the fantastic resources and facilities students have access to at Corowa High School in 2018.
“On behalf of our present staff and students, thank you Mrs Reynoldson for your insight into the early days of Corowa High on this site,” Gabby said at the assembly.
“There have certainly been many changes since this school opened 50 years ago.
“The changes in the physical environment are certainly obvious to all, we are lucky that we have so much space, that some of the old trees remain.
“That we have groundsman to maintain the oval, that trees have been planted, seating is continually being upgraded, seniors have their own areas, umbrellas, shade sails and the outdoor blue shelters - which all are additions to our school in recent times.
“Our vineyard is a unique aspect of our school and we were one of the first to have a liquor licence, to allow us to produce and sell wine in NSW.
“Some of the senior students may remember when the sheep weren’t ‘penned up’ but had run of the school - the neighbours certainly will because they were often found wandering in King Street eating their rose bushes.
“The refurbished labs, the industrial quality new kitchen and ‘the shed’, are all additions to our learning environment over recent years.
“We are keenly awaiting for the pizza oven to fire up!
“In the classrooms our methods of learning, much of it due to technology, have also changed.
“Our lessons are more student based.
“Less ‘chalk and talk’ - perhaps!
“Does anyone except maths even have chalk?
“In some ways the school may seem ‘stricter’ for example, students used to be able to go home for lunch and then come back; they could walk down to sport on a Wednesday via the main street to visit the cafe on the way.
“However, the changes represent the overall change in the way society operates and the fact that the school has a ‘duty of care’ for us.
“Our school has not always been lucky enough to have a careers advisor; there was no work experience, no in-school traineeships and no help with getting a job.
“Little advice about tertiary education and how to navigate the world after school - how fortunate that we have these programs.
“Looking at the recipients of the Carpe Diem award over the last few years.
“A scientist, a well-known AFL coach, an Olympian, a decorated soldier and more.
“It is obvious that Corowa High School has over many years offered a wide variety of opportunities to many students.
“Although the education system is constantly evolving, it is the teachers and students that are the most important elements of any school and I think we are all lucky to be Corowa High students in 2018.”
The school’s reunion festivities will continue with a 50-year anniversary celebration on Saturday, September 22 where the public are invited to take a tour of the school, enjoy a barbecue lunch and then a dinner and entertainment is planned at the Corowa RSL Club.