HISTORY

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School History

St Mary’s School began in the first church at Concord somewhere between 1850 and 1853. The school was approved by the government Denominational Schools Board, and so received some government funding. Its schoolmaster from 1853 to 1858 was Mr John Clancy, and the Catholic Directory of 1855 gives an enrolment of 41 boys and 27 girls. Three other lay schoolmasters followed. The last of these, John Lyons, was in charge for 22 years, and left the school in 1882 after the Public Instruction Act of 880 ended government funding for private schools as of December 1882.


The Sisters of Charity then agreed to staff St Mary’s School and in 1883 Sr Monica, Sr Camillus and Mother Gertrude travelled each day by train from their convent in Ashfield to teach the 130 pupils. Through a generous bequest of the parish priest, Dean Callaghan McCarthy, who died in 1894, a new school was built in 1894 and a convent in 1898. Parishioners also gave part of the funding for these buildings. Right through to the 1960s the people of Concord generously provided the funding for various new school buildings. In 1972, when some government funding was returning to the schools, the parishioners had the trying experience of seeing a number of classrooms destroyed by fire. These were rebuilt, and in 1980 four more classrooms were built above the Kindergarten block.


The composition of St Mary’s has changed several times. It began as an elementary school, but by 1919 the Sisters of Charity were also preparing girls for the Intermediate Certificate in Third Year secondary; and during the 1950’s they were offering ‘Commercial’ classes in the high school.

In the early 1960s the pressure of heavy enrolments and the need to implement the new Wyndham system caused Archdiocesan authorities to reorganise and rationalise schooling in Sydney. In 1963 St Mary’s ended its high school section and returned to being a primary school for girls to Sixth Class and for boys to Third Class. It was still a large primary school of 498 pupils in 1969. The older primary boys had for some decades attended nearby Christian Brothers’ schools.


In 1989, however, when Christian Brothers’ Junior School at Concord closed, St Mary’s became a full primary school, catering for 609 boys and girls from Kindergarten to Year 6. Lay teachers, on minimal salaries, assisted the Sisters from early times.


Notable among many was Kathleen Callaghan, who taught at St Mary’s from 1931 to 1972. Since the 1960s St Mary’s has been part of the Archdiocesan system of schools supervised by the CEO, Sydney.

As government funding increased, more lay teachers were employed, and in 1994 the Sisters of Charity ended more than a century of leadership of the school. Mrs Margaret Sargisson was appointed by the CEO as the first lay Principal.

In 2001 there was a major refurbishment of existing classes and a new library and classrooms were built and in 2007 a new Stage 3 building was completed. Today the school is a modern, well-equipped school catering for both boys and girls from Kindergarten to Year 6.


Taken from St Mary’s to St Catherine’s Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese of Sydney 1836-2006 (2nd Edition), John Luttrell & Marie Lourey




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