History in focus

YOUNG, uniformed kids crowded around the prime minister; happy, smiling children doing handstands with legs dangling in the air and students using their colourful, painted hands to create an Indigenous artwork.

These are just some of the images featured in Queanbeyan Public School's 'Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow' exhibition - a display of the school's history throughout the ages.

The exhibition will be opened at the school hall today to mark the start of the school's 150th anniversary celebrations.

Exhibition curator and parent Annette Davis said she hoped the visual aspect of the exhibition would appeal to students.

"It's really designed to draw the kids into the history of the school. We say that it's turning 150 but until they start to see different people and names and faces then they make that connection," she said.

The photo wall shows many of the highlights of the school's history including the changes in architecture over the years.

Mrs Davis said integral to the curating process was long-time school volunteer John Cope who has previously written a comprehensive history on the Queanbeyan Public School titled If Only These Stones Could Speak.

Mr Cope's book was a base for the exhibition and he has covered more than 130 years of the school's history in it.

"The school's stone building was opened in 1877 and it's easy to think that's when the school started, but it didn't," Mr Cope said.

"It started many years earlier down in the town. A lady called Mrs Francis was running a private school in a house in Rutledge Street. There were 33 kids.

"Two of the leading citizens of the town - John Gale and Doctor Andrew Morton visited and said 'Mrs Francis, what do you think of the idea we convert your school into one of these national schools? You would have government resources and be paid seven pounds a month'. She said 'yes' and so it began."

From just 33 pupils to now more than 700 kids at Queanbeyan Public School, it's been quite the journey.

Queanbeyan Public School is a place that is dear to Mr Cope's heart and one that has been part of his life since 1992. He first arrived at the school as a chaplain and workplace counsellor.

"There aren't many schools around that can boast 150 years," Mr Cope said.

"The thing I particularly like is that ... I wouldn't be here as a volunteer if it wasn't a good school.

"Over the years that I've been involved in the school community there are quite a number of teachers still here.

"I've watched these people, they just keep moving with the times. That's the thing that excites me about this school, it's moving forward."

The 'Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow' exhibition curated by Annette Davis will be officially opened at the Queanbeyan Public School Hall today at 5.30pm.

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