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 100 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, World War I, 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 resulted in a major upgrade of the school’s facilities. The school has been through a number of upgrades ranging back to 1983.
Over the years the school experienced 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 followed by ten more classrooms and a Learning Gallery. In 2008 the historic building that is the ‘bike shed’ was renovated through a state grant and a new perimeter fence installed through a federal grant. All these facilities modernised the school setting and improved the school facilities.
A Western English Language School (WELS) outpost was installed onsite at Werribee Primary School 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 the 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 the students, as well as provision of a facility for future community use. The completion of the gymnasium facility resulted in providing the school with a blend of historic and modern facilities.
During 2009 the oval was redeveloped with a synthetic surface and fitness stations installed around the perimeter in 2010. Extensive work to the 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 & Friends building (the building now used for Before & After School Care).
Due to the increasing enrolment pressure from the local community, the Western English Language School (WELS) was relocated to Manor Lakes College at the end of 2017. The exisiting portables which housed WELS were returned to Werribee Primary School and refurbished in 2018 and again in 2019 to provide four more classrooms increasing the school's enrolment capacity to house 625 students.
Since 2013 the maintenance of the buildings and facilities have focused on the main administration building and the restoration of many of the external features such a windows, doors, brickwork and the general appearnance of the external look of the building.
In 2019 the school received two State Government grants to replace the roof on the main administration building and to upgrade the staff toilets along with the students' toilets attached to the main building. These works are expected to commence at the end of 2020 and continue into 2021.
Werribee Primary School Principals
1855 Miss. E. Armstrong
1857 Mrs. M. Beamish
1858-1884 Mr. J. Baker
1884 Mr. J. DeRavin
1885-1889 Mr. C. Reid
1889-1892 Mr. O’Donoghue
1892-1905 Mr. H. Barbour
1906 Mr. Lethybridge
1907-1912 Mr. C. McAcilee
1913-1915 Mr. Horsfall
1916-1918 Mr. Webster
1918 Mr. Parsons
1923-1925 Mr. Radford
1926-1927 Mr. J. Clough
1928-1931 Mr. T. Bell
1932-1934 Mr. E. Crellen
1935-1941 Mr. W. Ruth
1941-1947 Mr. Mayson
1948-1952 Mr. McIntyre
1952-1956 Mr. J. Godfrey
1956-1960 Mr. P. Arthur
1961-1962 Mr. J. Gow
1963-1965 Mr. J. Riggall
1966-1971 Mr. R. Cooper
1972-1973 Mr. N. Smyth
1974 Mr. J. Payne
1975-1977 Mr. M. Myers
1978-1980 Mr. T. Hill
1981-1987 Miss V. Hegarty
1988-1996 Mr. M. Blair
1996-1997 Mrs. H. Nicholson
1997-1999 Mrs. B. Young (Acting Principal)
1999-2001 Mrs. B. Young
2002-2013 Mrs. L. Tout
2013-2013 Mrs. S. Osborne (Acting Principal)
2013-Present Mr. D. Quinn