Time of change for schooling
THE history of the "opportunity school" from 1923 until 1976 shows the first "opportunity classes" in Ipswich commenced in July 2, 1923, and was attached to the Ipswich Central Boys' State School in Milford St.
Headteacher Ms Agnes McKenna was a member of the McKenna family who made their mark in those early days of new innovations to the curriculum.
Housed in two rooms at Boys' Central, these classes were among the first classes of their kind to be opened in Queensland.
Inspector of schools Mr W.F. Bevington was responsible for establishing what was termed "backward classes".
His method was to visit schools with the teacher in charge and ask the head teachers to refer children with problems.
They then visited the homes of the children where parents were interviewed, and children considered suitable were admitted to special classes at Boys' Central School.
These were known as "classes for backward children". This name blighted the situation for many years and caused parents to be reluctant to send their children for education. In 1926, the name was changed to "opportunity classes".
The children who attended fitted into the social functions of Central School and shared in the concerts, school balls and eisteddfod work with great success.
In 1926, the enrolment at the classes was 80 with a staff of three teachers.
After the first teacher, Ms McKenna left for Brisbane in 1934. Ms Angela Mulcare (later Mrs Walker) took charge. Her assistants at different times were Ms Monica Christopherson (Mrs Wallace) Ms Boulter (Mrs Finimore) and Ms Martin.
CLOSED DURING WAR YEARS
Ms Mulcare resigned in 1939 and Ms Doris Horrigan took charge during 1942. A wartime manpower shortage compelled the classes to be suspended and it wasn't until March 10, 1945, that classes resumed with Ms Horrigan and Mrs Lofthouse in control.
By 1948, Mrs Walker returned and remained until 1956 when she was seconded to speech work.
Ms E.M. Outridge, as a senior guidance officer, was to play an extremely important role in the ensuing years and a report published in July 1952 recommended Ipswich Opportunity School be established as a separate unit. This change of policy ensured that, in 1954, six children were enrolled in what was to become the Claremont Training Centre under the control of the Queensland Subnormal Children's Welfare Association.
Geoffrey Swan took charge of the opportunity structure in 1956 along with Ms Beth McConnell. Mr Swan later moved to Rockhampton Opportunity School, became a Principal in 1959, and subsequently became the first Inspector of Special Schools in Queensland in 1973.
In January 1958, the classes were detached and became a separate school. The Ipswich State Opportunity School had an enrolment of 40 pupils.
The original school was situated on the site of the present school at West Ipswich. There were two classrooms and Mr W.E. Henderson was the first headteacher.
GIRLS CENTRAL USED
The old Central Girls' School was renovated and it opened in January 1964 with a capacity of 100 children. Manual training and the craft facilities were provided at this time.
TRANSFERRED TO HIGH SCHOOL
Later on, two decisions of the Queensland Government revised the Opportunity School System. In 1964, Year 8 pupils were transferred to the high school and in 1965 school-leaving age was raised to 15 years.
Further extension to the school took place in May 1968 and because of an extensive waiting list for admission, a second opportunity school was opened at Ipswich West in January 1973.
For several years, the children fielded teams in primary school competitions consisting of swimming, athletics, cricket, soccer and netball with varying degrees of success.
During the years 1969/1976, the school won three awards in the Ipswich Beautification Council School Grounds Competitions including an encouragement award.
At the 1976 Ipswich Show, the children won 12 awards for craft in open competition and secured 39 awards in the craft section of the 1976 Ipswich Junior Eisteddfod.
This school with its trained and dedicated staff fulfilled a positive role in our community.
Other teachers to have been involved with the school during the latter part of the school's existence were Mr L. Murphy, Mrs L. Platz and Mr B. Briese.
A new school complex at West Ipswich was officially opened by Minister for Health and Member for Ipswich Dr L.R. Edwards, on October 30, 1976.
The complex today is known as the Ipswich West State School and is still situated in West Ipswich.