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Newcastle Grammar School celebrates a century of learning

by admin on 17/12/2018

Family affair: Caroline Sanderson, in beige, daughter Jasmine Arnall and granddaughters Beatrice, left, Clementine, centre, and Harriette, right. The school will host centenary production Together We Dream on September 12 and 13 and its Centenary Ball on October 26. Picture: Jonathan CarrollWHENEVER Caroline Sanderson and her fellow boarders at Newcastle Grammar hit the ocean baths on weekends, they had to wear their school uniform, hats,gloves and walk single file.
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If they wanted to go shopping, they needed a letter about what they intended to buy.

“If anyone saw you without your hat and gloves they’d call the school and dob you in!”

Ms Sanderson said.“It sounds unbelievable now and wasn’t a normal way to live.

“But we had fun – it was such a formative time and we made lifelong friends.”

Ms Sanderson is the head of three generations who have attended the historic and independent school on The Hill, which is celebrating its centenary this year.

Ms Sanderson was a student during the school’s 50th anniversary, her daughters Jasmine Arnall and the first ’s Next Top Model winner Gemma Searles were there when the school turned 75 and Ms Arnall’s daughters Harriette, 11, Beatrice, 8, and Clementine, 7, are current students. Son Frederic will start preschool in 2019.

“The school has grown with our family,” Ms Sanderson said.

“I’d been to reunions, but the centenary has been wonderful for reconnecting with people.”

Newcastle Grammar was established in 1853 as a boys school in the vestry of Christ Church Cathedral.

This was the former site ofthe Christ Church School, the new name given to the city’s first school – the Newcastle School – after it was moved from the corner of Bolton and Church streets.

A new school house was erected in 1859 opposite the cathedral, but closed in 1900 due to lack of enrolments.

A new church grammar school for boys operated nearby from 1926 to 1959.

The Church of England Grammar School for Girls opened inthe school house in1918 with 38 students.

Pittwater House Schools assumed administrative control between 1976 and 1991 and was charged with improving the school’s financial position.

It renamed the school and welcomed senior boys.

The school opened its Park Campus in Cooks Hill in 1999 for infants and established a preschool.

The school now has about 550 students in years five to 12 on The Hill and about 270 students from preschool to year four at Cooks Hill.

Ms Sanderson’s solicitor father sent her and her three older sisters from Wyong to board at NGS, amid concerns her oldest sister “would never matriculate and the next was boy crazy”.

She started in year six, at age 11, and attended from 1965 to 1969.

She was one of only 23 boarders and 100 students.

She said she remembered bringing back treats from her rare weekends at home to share as part of “midnight feasts”.

She said meals in the dining hall – where you weren’t allowed to leave until your table had finished – made her a fast eater.

She believed the boarding house resident mistress, Marion Gardner, known as The Jug, “had it in for me” and was involved in one of her two suspensions, but she adored her “fabulous” biology and form teacher, Mrs Hoffman.

“She looked after us and, being away from our parents, you could ask her anything.”

Ms Sandersonsaid there was no doubt in her mind her daughters would go to NGS.

“I wanted them to be in a loving, community environment.

“It was so important to me – I thought it would give them a better chance.”

Ms Arnallattended from 1992 to 1997, when she graduated as school captain.

“I’m so proud I went there, I think it shaped the person I’ve become,” Ms Arnall said.

“I had a great time and really enjoyed it. I was very studious but was also involved in the service adventure training unit. We saw lots of changes as the school grew.

“The girls love that I went there too – they feel they’re part of a little club.

“We want to celebrate a school that’s been good to us.”

Ms Arnall said she relished the mentor group, made up of students from all grades andled by Margaret Maitland.

“You could turn to her – she had a prickly outer layer but you knew if you needed her she would back you and fight to the hilt for you.”

While students were then still required to have a pass to visitHunter Street Mall during school hours, senior students could walk unaccompanied to classes in an unused section of James Fletcher Hospital and to use its grounds for sport and at lunchtimes.

Ms Arnall’s husband also attended the school to year 10 and it was a “no brainer” their children would follow, although they are in a different house.

“I still remember house cheers forsports and swimming carnivals – we’d spend months rehashing them and making outfits,” she said.

“Harriette has the same PE teacher I had – it’s like history repeating.”

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