West Northam Primary School opened in 1906 as a two room school at a site in Wellington Street, adjacent to the Railway Marshalling yards. The buildings were of brick and asbestos. Two portable buildings were later brought to the site in 1921. One of these was later used by the soccer club and then the scouts. This building was dismantled, stored and erected on the new school site in 2006 (officially opened in 2007).
During World War II air raid shelters were built at the school (still at the Wellington Street site) and daily drills were held on how to use the shelters. Children had to wear a disk around their neck which had their names and blood groups written on. The school was located near the train lines, and the students waved “Goodbye” to many trains full of departing troops. Students recollect seeing Italian prisoner of wars arriving on the steam trains in Northam, in amongst the smoke and noise.
Around this time many of the children’s parents were railway employees. After World War II many displaced European families arrived in Northam. Children lived in the Holden Immigration Camp and then in barracks. Half of the class were migrants – speaking no English and eating different foods, however they soon were all one. The school consisted of three classrooms and a washroom (which often ended up getting as a classroom) and two pavilion rooms with two lunch sheds.
The “new” West Northam Primary School was built in Habgood Street in 1962. There were five teachers and much activity was undertaken to get the school looking established for the official opening in November. On Wednesday the 3rd of October the school was FORTUNATELY closed for a school holiday. A “cock-eyed bob” hit the school building and the roof of the administration block blew off and lay in broken sections across the quadrangle. Luckily there were no students at school and no one was hurt.
During the year of 1984 a major project was undertaken by the school. After many months of planning and hard toil, and amphitheatre was built on the south side of the school grounds. Donated machinery and time by Northam’s earthworks enabled the amphitheatre to be shaped. Volunteer parents worked tirelessly during school and on weekends to build and reinforce tiers. The opening was a musical “Midnight” performed by teachers, parents, students and members of the Northam Theatre group.
In 1999 the Mother of All Sheds (MOASH) building was built on the school grounds. This was the first of many similar buildings built across Western Australia by the Community Development Foundation. Barry Cable and Jenny Day helped organise the building to be brought to the school, and as a result the school got it for the bargain price of one dollar! The carpet and paint for the building was donated by local suppliers. The MOASH is used to help families become more actively involved in their child’s school life. Over the years the building has given the students a location for a uniform shop, cooking activities, breakfast club, homework classes, language classes, community meetings and offices for school support personnel.
In 2006 the school held its 100th anniversary. Many former teachers, students and parents came to celebrate our history and reminisce on memories of their time at West Northam. During this year the old school building was transported from Victoria oval to the current site. The P&C raised the funds necessary for the repairs and relocation of this heritage building. The building is now being used as a LOTE room.
A Building the Educational Revolution (BER) grant allowed our school to build a new library along with a music/art building. These were ready for use just in time for the start of 2011. However the new buildings were not used first by West Northam students … a massive dust storm destroyed sections of the nearby Avonvale Primary School just before the start of the school year, so West Northam temporarily hosted our fellow school in our new buildings until their school was repaired.
In 2013 our school started our one-to-one laptop program for the two senior classes. This program, funded by Focus Schools Project has allowed our school to greatly enhance student engagement, easily access a range of research opportunities and become very technologically literate. In addition our junior classes have access to trolleys of iPads which allows them to enhance lessons, particularly through the use of interactive literacy and numeracy resources.