The history of education in Pyrmont is chequered. Establishments in the 1860s were a National School in Mount Street, the Church schools, St Bede’s Catholic and the Anglican St Bartholomew’s, a Methodist school in Harris St and private schools run from teachers’ homes. Their standards were patchy and they were poorly run.
Public education changed in 1866 when the Council of Education was formed to govern state schools. Murray Street public school opened in 1877, a grand building designed by architect G.A. Mansfield. It had a short life, however, as expanding industries dictated the future of residential and public buildings. Falling rocks from a quarry damaged its roof and the expanding railways at Darling Harbour ensured its demise in 1914.
St. Bede’s was funded through parishioners’ donations. Rivalry between church and public education was apparent in the frustrations of church leaders competing with a rapidly expanding public system whose funds were denied to them. St Bede’s school continued to expand and in 1924 through subscriptions from the parish, completely rebuilt the old school with a debt of £11,000 (the same amount spent on the state school in John Street in 1884). St Bede’s Convent School as it was known was run by Sisters of the Order of the Good Samaritan. Enrolments were consistently over 200 students during the 1920s and 1930s. The school closed in 1954.
Pyrmont Superior Public School, on the corner of John and Mount Streets was designed by the Government Architect and built to impress. Over the years it gained unusual features: a gymnasium and washrooms as well as facilities for woodwork and needlework. In 1921 the school was publicised as a unique “Copy Book School”. Nevertheless numbers dropped in the 1920s as houses made way for more wool stores and flour mills. Despite a strong delegation to keep the school open, the Government closed it in 1933, and pupils were sent to Ultimo school.