School History

The First Matamata Primary School

In 1900 a small hall was brought from the ‘Towers’ and sited on the corner of Broadway and Burwood Road. In this building Miss Jane opened the first school in Matamata with a roll of 17 pupils.

The Story of the First School Continues

In 1906 the first school in Matamata was burnt down, but Mr Weitmeyer, who lived in a house near where the present public library stands, made available a room for the school which was now in the charge of Miss Edmondson.

The First Headmaster for Matamata

After the fire in 1905, a new school was built, consisting of one room and a porch, on the current Matamata Primary School site. It was opened as a sole charge school with Mr Moore-Jones as the first headmaster, who established a fine tradition of service in guiding and inspiring the youth of the district. As a teacher he was strict and a stickler for punctuality. He would not tolerate disobedience and would spend long hours to ensure his pupils did learn. He remained in the position until 1925, with a break when he served at the front in World War 1.

School Teachers During World War One Period

When Mr Moore-Jones left for the war in 1915 he was succeeded by Mr Basil Beeson, a fine footballer and local Rugby rep, who also left for the war in 1916, and met his death there in 1918. The next headmaster, Mr Sydney Malcolm, died in Te Awamutu while helping to combat the influenza epidemic of 1918. Mr Carnachan followed Mr Malcolm, and remained there until Mr Moore-Jones returned from war in February 1918. Miss Battersby joined the staff in 1918 and apart from a short break remained until 1932. She married during her time and was then known as Mrs Stockdale.

Interesting Aspects of School in the Early Days

A great number of pupils rode considerable distances to school, leaving their horses in the paddock where Rooms 1 – 5 block now stands. The annual school picnic was the great event of year and was held in a paddock on Mr Pohlen’s farm in Mangawhero Road. In later years these were held on Mr Barugh’s Tower Road property opposite the ‘Towers’.

Learning in the Early 1900’s at Matamata

The Three R’s were the rule with Reading, Writing and ‘Rithmatic’ taking up the main part of the school day. Lessons were often taught by rote and for years children chanted their tables to a well-known rhythm. Subjects like nature study, drawing, history, singing and geography were not so important and were often taught in the afternoons.

Travelling to School a Century Ago

Children either walked to school or rode ponies, sometimes after they had been up early to hand milk the family’s cows. The provision of a horse paddock and a saddle shed was necessary, though some children had no more than a bridle and a sack to put into the shed. At Matamata the horse paddock was where Rooms 1- 5 stands and later it was shifted to where the Scout Hall stands in Centennial Drive.

Classrooms in 1909

classroomHere is a photo of the school in 1909 shortly after the second building had been added. The porch had been extended between the two buildings and a second shelter shed was built too.

Can you see the chimney stacks in the roof? The furniture provided for the school included twenty desks, four forms, two book presses, three free-standing blackboards, easels and a teachers table. The children used slates and sat in double desks with a shelf underneath the desktop and with seats attached. You can see these in the school at Firth Tower Museum.


School Uniform in the Early 1900’s

Here are school photos with the children outside the classroom in 1909. The Headmaster, Mr HJ Moore-Jones is standing with a group of boys, many of them dressed in knickerbockers, Norfolk jackets and caps. In the other stands the two female assistant teachers with a group of girls, wearing starched white pinafores and many of them are holding tennis racquets.

High School Students Attended School on Broadway Site

In 1917 the technical department was built at the end of the horse paddock facing on to Meura Street, and opened under the control of Miss Austin and Mr H Thomas. Before he left the school in 1918 Mr Malcolm canvassed the district for High School pupils. His efforts were successful and a secondary class came into existence in the new technical school, raising the status of the school to that of a District High School. The class was until then housed in a room near the main building.

Matamata School Grows

In 1922 it was decided that more accommodation was needed as 73 pupils from both Standards One and Two were housed in one room!! Due to a rapidly increasing population, in 1924 a new District High School (now Matamata College) was opened which became a Junior High School in 1926. This new type of school aimed at withdrawing children from a number of country primary schools at the end of their Standard 4 year, and placing them in a large central school for two or three years where a richer curriculum would provide more specialised work.

Buses Bring Children to Matamata School

Mr AF McMurtrie was appointed headmaster to both the primary and the new Junior High School as it was then called. It was arranged that buses should convey the country children, and that Standard 5 and 6 from the contributing schools should occupy the two new rooms added to the three High School rooms already built. Country children attending the Primary School were also permitted to travel on these buses.

Matamata Primary Traditions Extend Back Many Years

Mr JF Wells became headmaster in 1926 and a number of the traditional school events had their origins during his time at this school. The first athletics sports meeting was held in 1926, and the first Calf Club meeting in 1930.

Roll Of Honour from First World War

The Roll of Honour, donated by Mr Pohlen, was unveiled on December 21 1922 and invitations, donated by Mr Simpson, were sent to all parents of the pupils whose names were inscribed on it.

The Depression Years

Progress was halted during this time but the population of the district continued to increase, and the success of the school and the improvement in the roads brought pupils in from even further afield. Representation was made to the Education Department in 1928 to have the school demolished and a new and up-to-date building erected instead, but this was refused. This building remained in place until 2008. In 1929 electric light was installed in two rooms but only one light to a room.