Elliott Armstrong, Innkeeper, is a name that is woven into much of the very early history of our town. As one of the few buildings suitable for public meetings and situated at the river crossing, the inn was the focal point of the town in the early 1850's.
The inn, on the site of the present Racecourse Hotel, became host to the first non-denominational school in 1855. This school was held in a "zinc house" supplied and erected by Armstrong in the inn grounds and staffed by Armstrong's daughter, Ellen. The enrolment was expected to be about nineteen children.
In December of 1858, a meeting was held with the purpose of establishing a school. At this meeting it was resolved to apply to the Commissioners of the Board of National Education for a teacher. Armstrong offered his "zinc house" until suitable buildings could be erected. On December 18, 1858, Mr. John Baker was appointed to open a school immediately, his salary to be £215 per annum. By 1861 an unlined weatherboard structure with a slate roof was completed. One desk able to seat ten children was provided for the twenty pupils enrolled.
By 1869 the population of the district had grown and extensions to the original building were required. Councillor Kelly applied on behalf of the school committee to obtain stone for building purposes from the shire quarry. Permission was granted and an extra bluestone room was added; a second bluestone room was added in 1874 to cater for a school population in excess of one hundred children.
The passing of the 1872 Education Act meant that the school became known as Wyndham State School No. 649. In 1885, following moves within the Shire Council, the school became known as Werribee State School No. 649. At about the turn of the century facilities at the school began to fall into disrepair. By 1906, after much public discussion and debate the school buildings were condemned by the Health Officer. In 1907 new brick rooms were added, the two bluestone rooms were renovated and the original timber school building was demolished.
After the Great War much of the Werribee area was opened up for Soldier settlement and the influx of families led to greater pressures upon the school. With the subdivision of land and the establishment of the business district around the Watton Street area the township was expanding. In 1917, Mr. G. T. Chirnside donated five acres of land for the establishment of another school. This land, bounded by Werribee, Pyke, Wedge and Deutgam Streets is the current school site.
The first buildings on this site were opened by G. T. Chirnside on September 12, 1919. The first classes held in the school were on August 17, 1919. Secondary classes began in 1921 and were housed in buildings donated by G. T. Chirnside. These buildings were opened by Sir Alexander Peacock on May 23, 1923. The buildings on the first site were demolished and the bluestone used to build the present Catholic Hall in Greaves Street. The site is still owned by the Education Department.
The school now known as Werribee Higher Elementary School continued until September 8, 1959, when the new High School in Duncan's Road opened. Conditions at the school again became very poor. During the post World War II period extra classrooms had been provided. These portable classrooms fell into disrepair, the toilet amenities were almost beyond description and the school was suffering from years of bureaucratic neglect.
Constant pressure applied by school committees and the community over the years have resulted in a major upgrade of the school’s facilities. The school has been through a number of upgrades ranging back to 1983. Within the last six years we have seen a vibrant change to the classrooms and school grounds. The first building upgrade resulted in six new classrooms near the Deutgam and Werribee Street corner for our Prep and Year One/Two levels. Three years ago, ten more classrooms and a senior school learning gallery were completed. These house our Year Three/Four and Five/Six classes. In 2008 the historic building that is our ‘bike shed’ was renovated through a state grant and we had a new perimeter fence installed through a federal grant. All these facilities have modernised our school setting and improved our school facilities. A WELS (Western English Language School) was installed at Werribee PS in 2006 in response to increased enrolments of children from Language Backgrounds Other Than English. This facility was upgraded in 2008 to provide modern classroom facilities and in 2010 this was relocated towards Wedge Street to accommodate further school amenities improvements. In 2010-2011 our school gymnasium complex was constructed through a Federal BER (Building the Education Revolution) grant. This new facility comprises a full size gymnasium, a music room/stage area, a kitchen, a professional development room and bathroom facilities. This project was completed in term 2, 2011 and has greatly enhanced the teaching and learning opportunities for our students, as well as provision of a facility for future community use. The completion of the gymnasium facility concludes Werribee Primary School’s major building projects, giving us a wonderful blend of historic and modern facilities. Future upgrades of our buildings will involve internal works within the main administration building.
During 2009 we also redeveloped our oval with a synthetic surface and fitness stations were installed around the perimeter in 2010. Extensive work to our school playgrounds was undertaken in conjunction with the BER gymnasium building project in 2011. This included installation of:
- An undercover eating/passive learning area,
- A dome climbing frame next to the undercover area,
- A senior adventure playground adjacent to the WELS facility,
- Synthetic turf in the areas surrounding or approaching the gymnasium,
- Garden beds and pavement between the administration building and gym complex,
- Raised vegetable garden beds on the Deutgam Street side,
- Entrance gates along the Deutgam Street perimeter,
- A sandpit adjacent to the parents and friends building.