Throughout colonial Australia the first schools were partnered with the first churches. Mount Street school, the first in Pyrmont, was an offshoot of the Presbyterian Church, sharing its few assets and its many problems. Teachers were hard to recruit and harder to retain; the rented wooden house was frail and leaked; the toilets were inadequate and there was no play area; books were tattered and furniture shoddy. The school struggled to retain its status as a National School, recognised by the government.
Surprisingly, attendance built up to over 200 by the 1870s, but children and parents were relieved in 1876 when the opening of Murray Street Public School made it possible to close ramshackle Mount Street. The Inspectors’ report for 1875 paints a shocking picture of the physical conditions – see inset.