A Preparatory School at Bexley?
We all know that the Lindfield Preparatory School, originally established at Killara in 1957, is Newington’s only campus beyond Stanmore. In 1907, however, the College came close to founding a ‘prep school’ in the southern Sydney suburb of Bexley.
At a meeting of the College Council’s House Committee on 21 January 1907, the Headmaster, Rev Charles Prescott, suggested the desirability of opening a preparatory school on the Illawarra Line. Such suburbs as Arncliffe, Bexley and Hurstville had experienced rapid development in the preceding years and it seems that Prescott wanted to tap into this growth as a source of students. His suggestion sparked a discussion about whether such a strategy should be pursued or whether the College should make arrangements with existing schools on the Western Line, or both, ‘with a view to getting feeders for the College’. The matter was set aside for further consideration.
A month later the Headmaster reported that he had information that was favourable to the proposal and, on 18 March, the Committee declared itself ‘in favour of opening at Bexley as early as possible.’
Over the following months the detailed arrangements were made: Mr Jennings, a current teacher who had recently received a salary increase to persuade him not to accept a job offer from another school, was to be offered a salary of £60 per year, plus ‘half the fees beyond the point where expenses were covered.’ The Bexley Parish Hall was leased for 12 months, desks and other furniture were acquired, new accounts for receiving fees were opened and enquiries were made about securing a suitable playing field. The ambitious Mr Jennings was to agree not to set up a rival school within four miles for three years, should he leave Newington’s employment.
Then on 22 July the Headmaster reported that ‘the attempt to start the Prep School at Bexley had failed.’ No reasons were recorded but, happily, the financial loss was minimal. Indeed, at the Committee’s September meeting, ‘the question of attempting the same thing at Strathfield was discussed.’ This time, however, the Headmaster’s preliminary enquiries were so unfavourable that the Committee decided to abandon the proposal.