ESTABLISHMENT OF GRAFTON HIGH SCHOOL (GHS)
Prior to 1911 there was no formal structured system of public secondary education in New South Wales. Indeed there was little community or political support for it. In broad terms there was a potpourri of public schools that provided education beyond primary level. There was no prescribed secondary curriculum, fees were charged for post primary education and attendance was largely voluntary.
A proclamation on 11 January 1911 by the Minister for Public Instruction, Mr G Beeby, saw the establishment of the forerunner of public secondary education in NSW as we know it today. The curriculum had been issued in the previous October. It appears that along with this proclamation there was a decision to establish a high school in the north of the state which lead to intense lobbying of the government from parents and citizens in Grafton and surrounding district and local members of parliament for the school to be established in Grafton.
These representations were successful with Grafton being proclaimed a high school as from 1 January 1912, the second year of the new system. Orange and Wagga Wagga were established at the same time joining company with Sydney Boys & Girls, Fort St Boys & Girls and three high schools in Newcastle.
GHS also had the special honour of being the first high school north or northwest of Newcastle. The first high school classes were held at the District (primary) School with the Headmaster of that school, James McKay, also the Headmaster of the High School. Classes started early in 1912 and according to the 1912 annual report of the Department of Public Instruction average high school attendance was 89 with a staff of 3 men and 2 women. Students from the Tweed in the north, to Kempsey in the south and Ebor to the east were boarding in Grafton while attending GHS. There were fascinating reports in the two papers of the day of the first swimming carnival held on 3rd April 1912.
The school was formally opened on the afternoon 1st July 19 12 at a ceremony at the primary school. The Minister for Justice Hon David R Hall represented the Minister for Public Instruction who was not able to attend. With increasing primary and secondary enrolments accommodation was a problem at the primary and 80 high school students were moved into 4 rooms in the Grammar School building next to the present site in April 1914. It was obvious that more permanent accommodation was urgently needed. After some protracted negotiations land was purchased, tenders for the new building let and the foundation stone laid by Governor Strickland on 6 May 1914. First classes in the new building were held on 17 May 1915. Enrolments were almost 200 and staff had increased to 9.
A celebration of the centenary of GHS was held on 7th & 8th April 2012.