The Heart of the Town: Ross State School

Ross State School was the longest running school in the Ross district, from about 1847 to 1999. The people of Ross first petitioned Governor Franklin for a public school in 1843. From 1847 the Anglican Church ran a day-school, and then the Board of Education took it over in about 1853. In the early days, the school was intended for everyone who could not afford a ‘private’ education: the children of convicts, farm-workers, shopkeepers and tradesmen. Most children in the district would have gone to Ross State School, with some also attending ‘Mona Vale’ and ‘Auburn’ Schools. At a time when many adults could not read or write, an education at a state school gave children opportunities their parents never had.

The teachers worked to benefit the whole community. In the 1860s headmaster Malcolm Duncanson also ran a Working Man’s Club and offered meetings on savings banks and life insurance. He established many familiar traditions, like prizes, school concerts and celebrations for the school break-up.

By the 20th century the wool-growers’ children might learn alongside the town children in primary school. Secondary school marked the point of greatest change. Until Campbell Town developed their area school in 1947, secondary education was out of the reach of most children in Ross and the school leaving age was fourteen.

By the 1980s the population of Ross was in decline. School enrolments had dropped from 106 in 1859 to 24 in 1999. Despite a decade long fight, Ross Primary School closed in 1999.