Over coming columns, I thought I would share with you a few stories about the early days of the Armidale Teachers’ and New England University Colleges with a focus on people and life.
The Armidale Teachers’ College was founded in 1928, the University College in 1938. That’s not all that long ago and yet it was a totally different world.
The establishment of the Armidale Teachers’ College (ATC) was due to a confluence of political circumstances made possible because the small city was already an educational centre.
Armidale had five boarding schools, a boarding hostel and one state high school when the ATC was established in 1928. While many boarders came from northern NSW, the boarding catchment extended from Far North Queensland to Sydney and beyond.
The pupils were drawn to Armidale because of the city’s and schools’ reputations, because the city’s cold climate was seen as healthy. Boarding conditions were spartan, austere, unacceptable by today’s standards.
The schools set part of the pattern of Armidale life, busy during term time, deserted during holidays.
The departure of the boarding school trains, the end-term mail trains south and north, were a scene of bustle.
Queensland country boarders in particular had long journeys. They had to change at Wallangarra, in Brisbane, and then perhaps again later for the appropriate country line train. It might be more than 30 hours before the train disgorged the now tired and grubby student into the arms of its parents.
Mind you, these long trips were not necessarily seen as a hardship. They were often fun.
Our attitudes towards education and age have also changed. Most students left school at the Intermediate Certificate, Year 10 in today’s money, some much earlier. The proportion going on to the Leaving Certificate (Year 11) was relatively small, the proportion going to teachers’ college or university smaller still.
The average starting age at college or university was 17, some were still 16. The normal teachers’ college course was two years for primary school teachers, the basic BA or BSc three years, four if you did honours or a Diploma of Education.
The college graduate would be in the class room as early as 18, more normally 19 or 20. The university student would be at work or in postgraduate study at 21, in some cases as early as 20.
It was a different world, but these were not the only differences.
Jim Belshaw’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs at newenglandaustralia.blogspot.com.au and newenglandhistory.blogspot.com.au