In 1936, Hagley Farm School, formerly Hagley State School, after the consolidation of five one teacher schools, became one of the first area schools in Tasmania. The Tasmanian government established area schools to provide a better education to rural children. Local parents took a great interest in them so that they also became centres of the community. The schools were allowed to adapt their curriculums so that there was less emphasis on academic studies and more on the skills needed in local industries. At Hagley, this was farming.
By the 1940s, the School already had a large vegetable patch, poultry run, dairy herd, and canteen. The Headmaster, JS Maslin, was keen to develop it according to the ideas of Kingsley Fairbridge, the founder of the Fairbridge Society which sent child migrants to various parts of the British Empire. By 1940, Maslin had persuaded the state government to expand the School's farming activities and build a cottage to accommodate child evacuees from bombed cities in Britain who would remain permanently in Tasmania. According to the Burnie Advocate, the government hoped to increase the population with: 'the very best type - children of British stock. It will train them for work on the land and in the home and through this training make them self-reliant and valuable citizens'.
The state government gave the school 200 acres. It had no fencing, pasture or farm buildings. During the 1940s, under the instruction of trade teachers, one of whom was an agricultural educationist employed by the Department of Agriculture, the boys fenced three quarters of the property, created pasture that could yield 40 tons of hay a year, and built a modern dairy, cow shed, laying pens for chickens, and a building for an incubator. The School acquired a pure bred herd of Jersey cows, four sows, a flock of sheep, and more chickens.
Maslin criticised the educational methods of the time because of their competitiveness, narrow emphasis on academic studies, and physical restriction of children. In 1944, he told the Launceston Examiner that:
'We give an acre for a cow or sheep willingly...while we shut our children and our chickens up in too limited spaces, and they suffer in consequence. Schools of the future must be provided with estates where the children will be surrounded with many natural and beautiful things.'
Maslin attempted to put his words into practice. At Hagley, the children did a wide range of activities, many of them outside the classroom. They included working in the garden, dairy, kitchen, workshop, and farm. Some of the boys learned trade work, including making working drawings. Four boys managed a poultry project. The girls practised home crafts, mostly in the cottage. Boys and girls helped in the canteen making jam, preserving fruit, and baking wholemeal bread. Children also pursued academic studies with a few going on to high school. In social studies, the emphasis was on research. The children did physical education and played football, cricket, basketball, and baseball. In the infant's classroom, the teacher used 'activity methods' of teaching. There was a miniature shop and cottage to encourage imaginative play.
Hagley offered training in citizenship that included a School Parliament with a minister for every aspect of the School's life. Ministers reported regularly on their departments, including information such as the sizes of pig litters, sporting results, and breaches in school rules. In this way, all the children knew what was going on in different parts of the School. The Parliament initiated new projects and appointed special committees to report on school activities. Everyone, including the teachers, had to address the Chairman, who was one of the children.
The day began with a service followed by a record played on a gramophone. The service was in the Community Hall where reproductions of paintings were hung to widen the children's experiences. At lunch time, the staff and children sat down to a two course meal, also in the Community Hall, made with produce from the farm.
A feature of area schools was their capacity to involve the local community. Hagley Farm School was also a community centre which held courses for adults in farming methods. Local people could hold dances and other activities in its Community Hall. The community had a considerable influence on the farm's management through a Board made up of three farmers from Hagley and an officer of the state Department of Agriculture.
The cottage for child migrants included a dormitory, Matron's quarters, a sick bay, living room, kitchenette and locker room. However, in the 1940s, the Fairbridge Society could not send any children because the dangers of travelling in war time were too great. Instead, the School used the cottage to provide a residential education for up to 14 sons of Australian World War One and World War Two soldiers. They stayed at the School until they were 16 and learned farm work and domestic science. The children were selected on the basis of their 'circumstances' and 'probability of making good'. The Repatriation Department, Child Endowments, and the Department of the Army funded them.
One of the aims was to encourage the children to become farmers. The Commonwealth government wanted Australia to grow enough food to support its armed forces and civilians. In 1942, the Minister for the Army, Frank Forde, visited the School. According to the Launceston Examiner, in an address, he said:
'One of the problems confronting Australia was to grow foodstuffs for the forces and civil population and Australia would be much greater if the importance of primary products was realised. The government wanted the people to stay on the land and not flock to the cities, but many who went on the land did not know anything about it. Judging by what he had seen the boys had learned a lot about farming and were destined to become useful citizens.'
In an interview that followed the address, Forde said:
'It was pleasing to find in Northern Tasmania an institution giving wonderful service for Australian boys and girls. It was destined to grow to greater proportions. In that way the democracies were providing for the rising generations to enjoy democratic institutions. '
Even so, Maslin stressed that the children did not have to become farmers. Instead, he preferred that they find an occupation that suited their interests. In his book, Hagley : the story of a Tasmanian Area School, he wrote:
'While a considerable amount of their training is on the farm and a number have left us for farm life we do not in any way attempt to regiment them all to be farmers. The regimentation of any group of children to any particular avocation would be ignoring the aspiration, the ability and the ambitions of the individual and is completely unsound. We subscribe to the belief that it is sound for every child to have a period in his life when he is close to the soil, to nature, and to animals, and better still to the primeval bush if that is possible, but we would be circumscribing their lives and limiting their progress if we attempted to regiment them towards one avenue of employment, just as much as we do when we sit children in desks for the whole of their school hours each day of the week.'
The first migrant children were two Belgian war orphans sponsored by Geoffrey Lempriere of Lempriere Australia Pty Ltd, a company that produced fine wool. Lempriere had met the boys in Belgium and decided to pay for their passage to Australia and education at Hagley. When the boys graduated, they went to work on one of the company's farms in North-West Tasmania. In 1949, Lempriere planned to sponsor a boy from Greece selected by the Greek Red Cross.
Later the School took a total of nine British boys sent by the Fairbridge Society. The first two arrived in August 1952 and the last in 1954-5. Four of them came under the parent following scheme whereby the children came first and their parents later. The scheme made it possible for single mothers, who would otherwise not be eligible, to emigrate. The School stopped receiving these child migrants because the Fairbridge Society opened Tresca at Exeter in 1958. This enabled the Society to accommodate the children themselves.
In 2013, Hagley Farm School is Hagley Farm Primary School. It has a mixed dairy farm of 63 acres. Since 1976, it has provided day trips and camps for Tasmanian primary school children.
13 February 2019
Cite this: https://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/tas/TE00097
First published by the Find & Connect Web Resource Project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2011
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