The first school for Little Bendigo, now known as Nerrina, was established in 1857 by the Roman Catholic Church.
It was run in a rented house and had an average attendance of 29 students over the period of four months.
The Roman Catholic Church decided to move its school to Soldiers Hill in 1878, after the Anglican church established its own school in Little Bendigo, whose enrolments soon outgrew the first school.
The first official school building at Little Bendigo, in the Shire of Bungaree, was opened on January 11, 1858 by the Anglican School Committee of the Church of England, under the leadership of Rev. John Potter.
The first school building was a rather narrow, timber schoolroom which stood about 30 feet long by 14 feet wide and cost the princely sum of 105/19/0 pounds. This schoolroom, to which the additions of a fireplace and chimney, a school bell, and calico lined walls were added over the years, served until 1865.
In 1865, this building was blown down and wrecked during a violent storm. After this, school was held in a wooden hall attached to the St. James Church of England on the Church of England reserve south of the present school site.
After the sweeping changes of the Education Act of 1872, which stopped funding to denominational schools, the Church decided to lease the hall, furniture and outbuildings to the State Government and the new Little Bendigo State School no. 374 opening its doors in January 1874.
The land on which the current school stands was purchased by the Education Department in 1875 and 1877.
In April 1878, tenders were called to build a “presentable” school building measuring 40 feet by 20 feet. Five tenders applied, but the contract was given to Messrs. Llewellyn and Edwards of Dytes Parade, Ballarat East, for 555 pounds.
They were to build a Swiss-Gothic style brick school building, on a bluestone foundation, with Welsh slate roofing, fitted with the usual gallery and tiered floor in one large room with an entrance porch. In all, 763 pounds were spent on the purchase of lands and the building of the new school.
The new school was opened on 9 September 1878, but the old premises at St James Church were continued to be rented to cater for all students enrolled at the time. The new building was intended to accommodate 80 students, but the average attendance increased from 56 students in April to 120 students in September, with the net enrolment of 138 children ranging in age from 2 to 15.
By the end of the school’s first 12 months, there were 153 students enrolled and 6 staff members. Two church halls had to be leased to hold the classes.
The school was guided through its boom era by head teacher Mr. Peter Eva, who held the position from October 1880 to September 1890.
During this time the population of Little Bendigo reached a peak of about 3000. As the gold dwindled away, and with the closure of the Temperance Mine, the Band of Hope Quartz Mining Company, the Hero Monte Christo, Dymocks, the Red White and Blue, the Victory, the Woah Hawp, the Kong Meng, the Welcome, and others, the population started to steadily decrease.
The first library was introduced to the school about April 25, 1906. A small collection of 17 volumes was established, paid for by the the K. L. Organisation. By October 22, 1906 it was up to 19 volumes.
A recommendation for the school’s closure was made on 3rd December 13, 1916 by a Mr. Rob Stephenson. It was his recommendation that Brown Hill No. 35 and Ballarat East No. 1998 would provide ample room for the relocated students. The head teacher at the time, Henry J. Bull, proceeded to draw up a map detailing where each current student lived in relation to the school and the other surrounding schools. The records do not state what prevented the school from being closed at this time, but Mr. Bull’s map couldn’t have hurt!
The records that have survived from just after the turn of the century are rather basic. It appears that most went into the old Nerrina tip in the early 1980s after a major clean up.
On March 15, 1948, the school was recommended for closure for the second time, this time by a Mr. McHutchinson. At the time, there were 8 pupils ranging in age from 11.3 years to 5.4 years old. On April 23, 1948, D.H. Wheeler wrote Little Bendigo a letter stating that it has been reluctantly decided to close Little Bendigo School due to low numbers and close proximity to other schools.
The letter got the community into action and a petition was signed by 66 residents of Nerrina on May 6, 1948 asking that the school stay open. As a result, on August 11, 1948, a letter was received by the school stating that the Department of Education had decided to continue Little Bendigo Primary School on a full time basis.
Electricity was first installed in the school in early February 1951.
In 1968 the school’s enrolment reached the all-time low of 7 students.
In 1971, an additional block of Crown land was added and became the sports field. It was developed at a cost of almost $6000.
In 1983, the first portable classroom was added. Others followed through the years as needed, the last being in 1998.
The Kevin Ratcliff Memorial Shedatorium was built in 1985 and honoured Kevin Ratcliff who served as head teacher from 1983 to 1986.
A pergola was built during October – November 1986. This pergola was then removed in early 1998 to make way for a portable administration building and classroom.
The tennis court was built in late 1986.
In 1992, the community had to band together for the third time to keep the school from closing. Once again, the school stayed open and has grown steadily since.
Sewerage connection was made linking the school to the city system in late 1992.
The school was hooked to the city’s natural gas system in 1998.
At the start of the year 2000, 122 years after being built, the original building went unused as a classroom for the first time. That year, it became the Library and Computer Centre.
The current Library and Administration building was officially opened in 2012. It was built using combined State and Federal funding.