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Most of the information below comes from theprow.org.nz. Sources are cited on that website. Additional information comes from the U3A Marlborough History Group and from John Finnie's Blenheim School Jubilee handbook published in 1984.

History

Marlborough's early schools faced a tough beginning. The first school in Blenheim — the school that we now know as Blenheim School, in Blenheim's central business district — was established in 1859 by settlers from Nelson. Teachers were paid about £100 a year (a very low wage) and few possessed any kind of qualification. Funding was so limited that families had to pay for their children to attend school.

Blenheim's first teacher, James White, was appointed by the Nelson Education Council. In July 1860, Marlborough province's new superintendant,
Mr W. Adams set up a special committee of school management. The new Marlborough Provincial Council provided a grant of £300 for a teacher's salary, schoolbooks and to improve the school building, which was considerably smaller than today's building. The original building housed the teacher's residence as well as classrooms. To access their classroom, the students had to walk through the teacher's living room. Alterations made in 1861 changed the layout so that the dwelling and classrooms were separated.
The classrooms were heated by a woodstove, and the communal desks  — up to 18 feet long — were made of kahikatea.

 

In 1861 the school's roll was 47 students. Blenheim School was the largest in the province. Other schools included Picton (32 students), Upper Spring Creek (7), Renwick (6) and Wairau Valley (18). The Education Act of 1877  saw the establishment of a national Education Department and a system of free, compulsory education for everybody. The financial hardship experienced by Blenheim School and the practice of farm children staying home to assist with chores both became a thing of the past.

 

Blenheim School's earliest building was sold in 1879 and removed from the site. The new building, complete with kauri floors and totara beams, burned down the following year. Only the rifles used by the school's cadet unit were saved. The girls moved into the Wesleyan Hall and the boys moved into the Earps (Temperance) Hall. Earps Hall burned down just 12 days later and the boys again relocated, this time to the Nativity Church Hall.

 

A brick schoolhouse was opened in 1889 and remained in use until the present school building opened in 1937. A Technical School (dressmaking, woodwork, etc) was built on the Alfred St side of the property in 1906, and Blenheim's first dental clinic opened on site a few years later.

 

Today's School Hall began life in Peketa, south af Kaikoura. It was used as a Community Centre during the construction of the South Island Main Trunk Railway. It was moved to its current location in 1945, placed on a foundation of rimu joists and concrete piles, and carpeted with second-hand carpet from the Grosvenor Hotel. Students of the Wairau Pa School occupied this building for a time, as their own school was undergoing repairs after flood damage. The pool, located next to the Hall, was added in 1959.

 

High School students were taught at Blenheim School until 1900. After the war years, Blenheim School's roll hit a high of 669 students. Redwoodtown, Whitney Street and Mayfield Schools were built in the next decade to ease the strain. Today, Blenheim School's roll sits at around 100 students from New Entrants to Year 6.