WHEN your parents relay stories of how they got to school as a child, they often involve walking through snow or travelling kilometre after kilometre.
But even before then, before cars and buses, children in the Clarence Valley were making their way to school on foot or by horseback, hardly ever wearing shoes.
When you consider the lack of transport available in the early stages of government schools in NSW in the 19th and 20th centuries, it begins to make sense why there were hundreds of schools in the Clarence Valley in places you'd never think they'd be
From Lavadia, where the new jail will be built, to Strontian Park on the Great Marlow Rd and the former gold mining settlement of Solferino, there was a need for schools in many places across the Clarence Valley.
With so many schools operating in such small towns, a lot of them were half-time with other schools, meaning children often didn't get a full education.
The government school system began in NSW in 1848, but it wasn't until 1880 that mandatory attendance was introduced. Children between six and 14 years were required to attend no less than 70 days in half a year.
However, there were exceptions for students who lived more than two miles from the nearest school, was under regular instruction, incapacitated through sickness or other unavoidable causes, or was already educated to the required standard.
The last school to close in the Clarence Valley was Woodford Dale in 2012.
The first school in Coaldale was on Lankey Creek Rd, before the progress association president, Mr Casson, wrote to the district inspector and said the 21 children attending the school did not have enough room to sit, and the school was likely to fall down.
Mr Roley Smith donated the land for the new school on "Bellona" and it was built on the corner of Lankey Creek Rd.
The school's name was changed to Coalcroft after a teacher who was supposed to go to Coaldale, near Wollongong, turned up accidentally.
When the Grafton to Casino railway line was constructed, there were only 50 students on the roll.
The school originally opened in 1901 as Miller's Waterholes School, which was operated in a cottage across the road from what became Trenayr School, near the Grafton Experiment Farm.
Fern Glen (Stockyard Crk)
In 1882, a temporary school was opened with 40 children. Operating until 1935, it was a half-time school, sharing the teacher with other schools in the area like Gorum Borum and Upper Smiths Creek.
A new school was built in 1919 and used until 1935.
The first school at Jackadgery was held in Reeves barn, with the provisional school opening on October 10, 1913.
In 2004 it was reported the building still stood but no longer used as a classroom.
The school was half-time with Heifer Station until 1940 when it closed and Jackadgery became a full- time school. When the Gwydir Hwy was constructed, enrolments rose and in 1948 a larger classroom built.
SWAN CREEK STUDENTS SPAN THE GENERATIONS
IT WAS all about community at Swan Creek Public School.
For 16 years, Leon Grace was the teacher in charge at the small school until 1992, two years before it closed.
When he took over in 1976 when Mr Grace was appointed the teacher in charge (now known as a principal), there were 11 kids and it was set to close down at the end of the year.
"I was initially appointed to South Grafton Primary and I was there less than a week," he said.
"(The district inspector) said 'go out to Swan Creek, there are 11 children, it will probably close by the end of term one'."
The school needed 12 to stay open, and by the end of the term, another child arrived.
"We never looked back, in fact we got to two teachers at one stage where we had 31 or 32 students," Mr Grace said.
At the time, the Clarence Valley had a large number of small schools, and Mr Grace said the families from all the schools would often get together.
"We had some great programs, probably the most outstanding one was our annual outdoor camp...you would have Swan Creek, Nymboida, Coutts Crossing, Woodford Dale, and Jackadgery all go off somewhere for a combined small schools camp," he said.
"All the parents of all those schools would also attend... and they would bring the preschoolers and the babies, the whole family would go along. It was terrific."
Mr Grace said the Swan Creek families were wonderful.
"Most of the families were second and third generation families... and many of whom has been through Swan Creek school as students," he said.
"Added to that, the parents, it was their school - that is rule number one, when you go into these small schools, it is a community school.
"And you are part of that community and they would bend over backwards to provide the school with important items, whether it be a photocopier or a whole set of new readers, they would raise the money and get them into the school.
"That was typical of just about all those schools in the Clarence area. You might find that you've had a P&C president who'd been the president for 15 or 20 years," Mr Grace said.
HISTORIC SCHOOLHOUSE RESTORED IN CARRS CREEK
FOR her entire life, Deborah Claassens wanted to own a historical building, and when the Carrs Creek schoolhouse and teachers' residence came onto her radar, her dreams came true.
"When I came here the school was in average condition and it had many elements of the 70s in here, so when our renter left we decided to refurbish the school, and when we finished we thought it looked better than we imagined," she said.
Now, the old schoolhouse is a short-stay accommodation.
Mrs Claassens has refurbished the schoolhouse to be as close to the original building as possible, adding replica finials, replacing the old school bell and including a lot of Carrs Creek history in the restoration.
"I feel that people are used to staying in motels and hotels, and although they might be nice places, they don't have that feeling that you are entering into a new little world," she said.
"That's what I've tried to give people here, a little sense of the past."
Mrs Claassens has put a lot of time into ensuring the details of the house are true to the history.
"Kerry Adams who owned the house before me, she did a lot of work in the house and she recreated everything with the best materials and the best tradesmen and I feel like I have to carry that on," she said.
Mrs Claassens said without the help and guidance of the local people, she wouldn't have been able to restore the school. With their help she found the right people with the right knowledge to help restore it.
Half-time schools refers to when two schools shared a teacher.
Provisional schools first emerged in 1867. They had at least 15 children but fewer than the 25 required for a public school.
Public schools were the basic elementary school in NSW. They were known as national schools from 1843-66 and as public schools since 1867. Originally the attendance of 30 children was required for the establishment of a school, but this was reduced to 25 in 1867 and 20 in 1880. In 1957, the minimum figure was reduced to nine.
- Alumy Creek 1972-1969
- Angourie 1895-1899
- Aradin 1914-1932
- Ashby 1890-1925
- Barretts Ck 1892-1911
- Braunstone 1885-1948 (Bunbdarigo to 1936)
- Brushgrove 1867-1873
- Bushy Park 1937-1947
- Billys Creek 1946-1963
- Blaxlands Flat 1885-1931 (Blaxland 1889-1925)
- Blaxlands Flat 1908-1911
- Blicks River 1910-1913
- Burnagan 1879-1946 (Towallum to 1943)
- Baryulgil Aboriginal School 1930-1947
- Buccarumbi 1877-1920
- Brickella 1888-1947 (Riley to 1922)
- Cangai 1896-1913
- Cangai number 2 1908-1942 (Cangi Copper Mine to 1913)
- Calamia 1896-1904
- Calliope 1890-1983
- Caringa SSP 1963- 1988 (Clarence Valley from 1978)
- Carrs Creek 1877-1964
- Cheviot 1890-1910
- Clarenza 1908-1914
- Clouds Creek 1943-1964
- Clifden 1876-1886
- Coalcroft 1875-1971 (Coaldale)
- Coldstream Lower 1873-1966
- Coldstream Upper 1867-1925 (Coldstream to 1873)
- Cowper Evening 1906 only
- Chambigne 1894-1931
- Corindi Creek 1909-1915
- Corindi Upper 1920-1962
- Coutts Water 1903-1941
- Cowendooey 1893-1916
- Camira Creek (Rly Station) 1910-1969 (Camira Creek Rly Station to 1913)
- Collard Gate 1913-1916
- Dilkoon 1908-1933 (Beenleigh to 1911)
- Dondymun 1885-1912
- Dundoo 1896-1904
- Dundoo Ck 1910-1932
- Dalmorton 1879-1931
- Dirrenmirra 1885-1894 (Middle Creek to 1886)
- Eatonsville 1881-1961
- Esk 1896 only
- Ewingar 1909-1916
- Fine Flower 1913-1924
- Fine Flower Upper 1936-1942
- Gerrymberrym 1881-1914
- Gilletts Ridge 1901-1971
- Glenugie 1894-1915
- Glenferneigh 1949-1967
- Gorumborum 1899-1905
- Grafton Common Aboriginal 1893-1924
- Grafton Evening 1880-1897
- Goldsborough 1913-1914
- Halfway Creek 1896-1966
- Heifer Station 1934-1941
- Henry's River 1903-1914
- Jackadgery 1913-2003
- Kungala 1926-1977
- Lavadia 1844-1913
- Lawrence Cross Roads 1910-1917
- Lawrence Lower 1883-1955
- Lionville 1877-1914
- Micalo Island 1888-1988
- Mororo 1886-1939
- Morrisville 1908-1909
- Murrayville 1895-1905
- Myrtle Creek Lower 1908-1922
- Myrtle Creek Upper 1908-1915
- Moggs Swamp 1911-1969
- Newton Boyd 1896-1974
- Nagegai 1891-1899
- Nanabah 1894-1913
- Nymboida Aboriginal 1908-1916
- O.B.X. Creek 1883-1922
- Pulganbar 1911-1924
- Pulganbar Creek 1887-1893 (Usually Pulginbar Creek)
- Palmers Channel 1869-1975
- Palmers Island Evening 1902-1903
- Palmers Island Lower 1887-1919
- Pillar Valley 1893-1944
- Rushford 1882-1908
- Ramornie 1871-1927
- Seelands 1889-1967
- Shark Creek 1877-1971
- Smalls Forest 1885-1971
- Smiths Creek Upper 1885-1971
- South Arm 1871-1967
- Southgate 1967-1975
- Southgate Lower 1870-1947
- Stockyard Creek 1882-1935 (Fern Glen to 1934)
- Strontian Park 1859-1902
- Swan Creek 1870-1994
- Shannon Creek 1910-1911
- Solferino 1874-1883
- Ten Mile 1892-1904
- Trenayr 1901-1970 (Millers Waterholes to 1912)
- Tuckyville 1908-1909
- Toothill 1889-1911
- Tullymorgan 1886-1971 (Cormicks Creek to 1911)
- Tyndale 1868-1975 (Tynedale to 1890)
- Urara 1879-1890
- Ulmarra East 1891-1904 (Ulmarra to 1895)
- Ulmarra Lower 1882-1895
- Ulgundahi Island Aboriginal 1908-1951
- Yulgilbar 1902-1911
- Whiporie 1892-1971 (Camira to 1912)
- Whitemans Creek 1882-1949
- Winegrove 1883-1932
- Wombah 1872-1932
- Woodford Dale 1867-2012
- Woodford Leigh 1869-1956
- Woodford Park 1867-1878
Thank you to the Clarence River Historical Society for their help in reasrching this historical article. In particular, I would like to thank Nita Child, who spent hours with me showing me photos, finding me infromation and helping bring this story together.