Sunday 26th June 2022

Telling My Story. Chapter Two. 1954-67 Schooling. 2018.26.

Telling My Story. Chapter Two. 1954-67. 2018.26.


Photo of Me on my 67th Birthday 30.11.2016.

The day before I was diagnosed with upper gum cancer I published ‘the first’ of a fore-shadowed series of posts about Telling My Story.

The response to the post of 16 May 2017 was well-received and I am glad I made a start. Here it is. I have included, from that post of almost a year ago, the introduction:

Recently I decided to begin Telling My Story.

Initially it was school-career based in a memoir genre. Then I wanted to tell what had happened in my life once I’d reached 60 and what I had learned. Where I am at now it a mix of all of this! I am going to start here: the beginning of my life, and interspersed with my career will be aspects of my life and how I have grown and changed…over and over!

I hope you will find something of interest. I know essentially I am doing this for me as it helps. However, as a blogger, I would like to think it has enough appeal for you to enjoy too.

I admit it was a pretty full-on time from 17th May 2017 and my mind was in quite a few places where blogging took a lesser priority but I knew I wanted to keep on doing this story of my life. I am finally ready to dive deep and remember where I was and what I want to say next!

Fast Forward: 2015 I returned to my old H.S. and presented at my last ever teacher professional meeting. I was retired in full after this!

Primary School Years. 1954-1961.

I began Kindergarten in September 1954, the term of my 5th Birthday. I loved school from day one and as it was in the same street as our house, I soon walked to school independently. I had to do a transition year (common then & in 1956 (the year of the Melbourne Olympics) I was a student in Year One. Mum and Dad asked my teacher if my left-hand writing should be changed and she said no. Thank you! I did well in school – the classes were large and there was some serious competition between me and two others for placement in the year. At the end of 1959 our lives would change. We sold our house in Wollongong and my brother and I started at our new school in Balgowlah Heights and got to know both a new area and new schools. This time there were many more kids in my grade and I settled into somewhere around the midlife. It was a big deal for my parents to move away from friends and family but Dad’s promotion was the prize and we settled into the almost-water side suburb and got on with new friends, sports and so on.  It was in 1960 in Mr Duffy’s 5th class that I knew I would like to be a teacher. I am so grateful too that he encouraged my skills of organisation as I became the head library prefect in Year 6. We had a Year 6 Formal/Dance and I wore my first pair of stockings and small heels. The sophistication! Then I, along with all my HS starting peers for 1962 were being sent headlong into the “new” Wyndham Scheme – Higher School Certificate after 6 years at school!

High School Years. 1962-1967.

I was part of the cohort of N.S.W. students to enter high school in 1962 and become ‘the guinea pigs’ for the introduction of the Wyndham Scheme where it was decided that breaking the high school years up into 2 sections was the best plan. The first was Forms (years) 1 to 4 with an external School Certificate examination and then Forms 5 & 6 with an external Higher School Certificate.

The previous system which had been around for decades had students doing an Intermediate Certificate at the end of 3rd Year (and could leave school for work or a trade) and those who wanted to train, for example, as teachers or go to University went to do the Leaving Certificate at the end of 5th Year.

I was in a public primary school at Balgowlah Heights on the Northern Beaches in Sydney and the ‘feeder’ High School for my area was Manly Girls High School. It was located quite a way from home & not in Manly but a bus took us from a street near home to school and then the same in the afternoon. Manly Girls High was only pretty new too. So, when we arrived, there were students doing the five years and us, the newbies. There were at least 5 classes of 35+ students in this cohort of mine and I was placed in 1A. . This was, apparently, based on ability from primary school testing. In 2nd Form 2A meant I was studying the compulsory English, Maths, Science & History  along with my chosen subjects of French and German. We also had P.E., music lessons too. I admit I was not a swot but enjoyed the social aspect of school. I have written about that before here!

In the photo we are in Winter uniform (tunic, long sleeved shirts, tie, blazer). I am 3rd row, 2nd from left.

The school uniforms were traditional even though we were essentially a new school. The  main colour was brown, with green too. Who picks that, I ask? There were summer and winter uniforms and prefects checked length of uniforms (visually) as we walked into school and also…if our socks were turned down correctly. If we were seen in public (for example, my bus went through Manly and if I needed to go to the dentist or elsewhere, I would get off the bus there) and we had to ensure we had hat and gloves on. Even in Summer. I am not making this up.


First Day of High School. Gloves must be in my pocket! Summer Uniform was beige. Hats were made of straw…and flung around on the bus ( oh, not for a while!)

Our headmistress (no principal title for her!) was very English private school in her policies and we even sang British anthems at Assemblies: Jerusalem being one. (mind you I actually still like it!). To officially open the school we had the daughter of the Governor General of Australia do the honours. As in all things with government the official opening came way after the actual opening – I was in my 3rd year of H.S. but then – but we all got our photo taken to mark the occasion.



With our group being the first  to have two senior years we got the chance to have (and help design) a senior uniform. By now, the old headmistress had been replaced by a more reasonable head…but a deputy head who was dragon-like in her insistence on petty rules also arrived. Sigh. We also had the choices in subjects and could take 6 subjects in Form 5 and then drop one if we wished into the Higher School Certificate Year. I immediately dropped Science! No good at science ever. So my subjects ended up as compulsory: English and Maths, Modern History, French and German.


On Being The First Group To Complete Six Years at High School.

Last year it was the 50th anniversary of the first students to complete the 6 years of high school with the Higher School Certificate examination at its end. In the many years since we did it in 1967 there have been changes, such as making English the only mandatory subject and allowing many more ‘mini but specialised’ subjects into the list. The purpose as was foreshadowed by the Wyndham School of the additional year at school was to add maturity and experience in completing more complex subjects to enable most of those sitting the H.S.C. to go to University or, as in my case, Teachers’ College as they were known then.

The formal end of compulsory schooling was via the external examination called the School Certificate. It was rigorous and we sat for it in a similar way to the H.S.C. After this examination was passed (or not) students could decide to:

  • by passing, they could continue their education into the last 2 years of school at senior level
  • by passing, they could choose to leave and enter into the workforce or get a traineeship or apprenticeship and many did
  • by failing (awful word) repeat the year OR if they were 15 and over, could leave school without the qualification and enter the workforce.

There was nothing like the services of centrelink or similar. In fact, it was true that most people did get work or trained for a career. Some professions like nursing took entrants in with a School Certificate (or the H.S.C.) and they did hospital-based training as well as work in the hospitals. They were paid as they did so. They often lived-in and would have to pay board etc.

For those wanting to attend University in the time of my school leaving, there were paid Commonwealth Scholarships for University for those who wanted to do a degree (say B.A. or B.Sc) and then a Dip. Ed. to become a High School Teacher. These scholarships, earned via the quality of the final examination results,  indentured the student to work in a particular place/area of Australia for an agreed time. For me, as a new-to-be teacher in a N.S.W. Public School I secured a teachers’ scholarship which paid me an allowance to study and as I was living at home I did not need board and food allowances as my husband did when he went to teachers’ college away from home. We were both ‘bonded’ to the N.S.W. Department of Education for the first 3 years of our teaching and could be sent anywhere in N.S.W. or forfeit the bond and not have work from this employer. Neither of us did that..and if we had, we never would have met! That’s a whole chapter in the future!

This is actually still a provision of accepting a role of permanence in N.S.W. Department of Education : whilst in our employ you can and may be instructed to teach anywhere in N.S.W. When I was teaching Masters of Teaching students in 2013 and 2014 I told them of this and many were in disbelief. Unfortunately there is much less of the pioneer spirit had by those of us who graduated in the 1950s and 1960s which is a shame as there is so much to learn by moving away from your home and comfort zone.

The Social Aspects of My Teens 1962-1967. This will be the next chapter!!

What was high school like for you?

What kind of uniform did you have?

Did you go to High School to learn or to play?

I will be looking forward to reading your responses!





  1. How beautiful are your pictures. I went to 2 high schools and hated one..loved the other. Never really fussed over the uniform.

  2. I went to two high schools. Private Catholic all girls which…how do I put this… Did not suit me? 🙂

    Then for senior (11 & 12) I swapped to a good public school. The public school also offered twice the amount of senior subjects and religion was not compulsory.

    The sports uniform at my first high school was a short brown skirt. The school refused to let students wear tracksuit pants or any kind of alternative from a short skirt, even in winter. Apparnelty it didn’t fit the image they wanted for young ladies. I say {bleep} the image and don’t let people have cold legs but again, that is just one of many many reasons why I was not suited to that school 🙂

    I was always a good student (if I was interested in the class) but did not tolerate irrelevant (eg non safety) rules so I clashed a lot with the teachers, vice principals, principal….

    • Oh yes, the ‘rules’ about appearance and ‘the school’s name’ are still there. Even as recent as this weekend when a NSW Catholic Girls School Principal was criticised for having a uniform which included shorts or pants. Some critics saw it as the girls being encouraged to be ‘gender-neutral.’

      I can see that is exactly the student you would be (and continue to be!) …committed and interested but forget it if it’s boring or irrelevant.

      I tell you, I am very very glad I no longer have to deal with ‘some’ parents and their children!! It was bad enough even before social media.

      Denyse x

  3. These pictures and your story are enthralling.
    I hated my high school! I was forced to go there because my older siblings had been there but the school did not suit me at all. I still have a bit of resentment at the folks for making me endure the 1.5 hour each-way trip to the school. I left after year 11 and won a place at RMIT to study year 12 there. Best thing I ever did because it was the start of so many good things like further study and career etc.

    • That is very very difficult to have happen to you. Gosh, I cannot even fathom that distance for school when you disliked it so much.

      Good on you then to win a place at RMIT and finally have your chance to SHINE!!

      Wonderful, I say. Schools do not suit everyone at all.

      Denyse x

  4. Wow, that’s such a blast from the past. That photo of you from the official opening of the school is so lovely! You’ve got a beautiful smile.
    So my primary school uniform colours were brown and yellow. Who puts those two colours together? Honestly. Our winter uniform was my most hated – brown tights, this dark brown tunic, light brown long-sleeved shirt and one of those elastic-necked ties. Gross!
    I studied French for a year in High School but only remember two words. I’m highly impressed with my boyfriend, who studied it for a few years in high school and has a great handle on it. How did you go with French and German? Was it confusing to be learning two languages?

    • Brown and yellow …urgh. I agree. What was it with brown?? I do not wear it at all now and it’s a colour that has been hated by many I reckon! In terms of French and German, I still can recognise words and probably say them in both languages, but German (being of the Germans!) is very straightforward and sensible so was ‘easier’ to learn. It was in a Year 12 German class that I was sent from the room (talking of course) by the young German teacher probably about 4 years older. She saw me on Queenscliff Beach the weekend before the German HSC and wanted to know why I wasn’t at home studying…I did well and in fact she sent me a congrats card after the results.
      You know why I am a good teacher? I had me as a not good example of a student…don’t interest me, I will play up. LOL.
      Denyse x

  5. Thank you for sharing this. So fascinating. Your photos are fab.

    I went to a special high school that is entrance exam based- harder to get into than Harvard and drew from all over New York City. It was a great education in many ways, but being a small fish in an elite pond is quite hard especially when you lean more towards creative fields than your cohorts who are headed for greatness in math, science, politics etc. this is when my perfectionism began thanks to comparison and pressure. No uniforms at least- very free and full of debate and mind broadening activities. That aspect I will always be grateful for.

    • Thank you so much Deb.

      I hear you on how it is to be a small fish in a big pond.
      ‘Exactly that happened to me from a small regional primary school to a large metropolitan school for Years 5 & 6.

      Your story is familiar to many I am sure. You excelled at the subjects you love even under your own pressure and of course the ‘main subjects’ were for those already going down particular traditional career paths.

      You are to be congratulated for sticking with it though because look at what you got from it that cannot be taught formally!

      Denyse x

  6. Love this post and seeing all of your photos. I went to public high school in Victoria but didn’t really like where I was attending, especially when I got to the senior years and the subject selection was minimal due to the small size of the school and not being overly suitable to me – a lot of maths of science but not many humanities subjects were available. I looked into changing schools but decided to stay where I was with my friends. I was always a dedicated and organised students so took the subjects I found most interesting at the time – my favourites being English and psychology. I still ended up studying journalism at university so it all ended well 🙂 #teamIBOT

    • Oh the dilemma of subjects available vs friendships at that age. I have a granddaughter who would agree that the senior years of HS are tough for many reasons. In fact she has left school for a myriad of reasons and is looking for find other areas of interest and study. These are tough times for some!

      I like that you found the best of what the school offered and ran with that and ended up where you wanted to be!

      Thanks for sharing.

      Denyse x

  7. I’m so pleased you picked up your story again Denyse. I went to North Sydney Girls High School and did 6th Form in 1975. I matriculated and could have gone to university – I wanted to be a teacher. Unfortunately, in those days parents couldn’t see the value of a girl continuing education so I entered into my other love and continued the Ballet Studio I had started in high school. Our uniforms looked much the same as yours and yes we had the Hat and Gloves as well. I actually think looking back we all looked quite smart even though at the time we probably didn’t want to conform to hats etc. I’m looking forward to reading more of your life. Thanks for supporting and linking up to #MLSTL and have a fabulous week.

    • Thanks Sue, I liked reading your story too. In fact, North Sydney is a selective HS now (the boys and the girls) so I wondered was it like that then too?

      I have a friend who is now in the country as a teacher and she taught what we would call Home Ec there but way after your time!

      I think that as we were mostly girls from the Northern Beaches at our school we went for the casual look when we could! I remember Mum asking me if I wanted to go to one of the north shore private schools some of my friends were going to and I said ‘no thanks’ and I seem to have been an advocate for public education even from that age of 12!

      Thanks for enjoying the read. I will catch up with some more of the posts into the year.

      I like having another group of readers/bloggers from #MLSTL so will be linking up whenever I can. Thank you for having the link up with Leanne.

      Denyse x

  8. This is all fascinating. It’s social history and I believe things like this need to be recorded not only for our grandchildren but for prosterity as the world is changing so so fast. Loved the photos of you growing up, and the school uniforms – oh that brought back my green uniform at my first high school which I hated! We always used to see how high a hem line we could get away with. I went to 9 schools in all – not sure I can remember much about them all.

    • Oh my, that IS a lot of schools. I am sure there is no-one who remembers their school uniform with affection. Yet, when my daughter first started at her new high school it was a no-uniform school which was actually more troublesome because of ‘competition’ between kids and labels…so over time, the community of the school designed a uniform which had lots of options.

      Yes, I guess my blog is a kind of social history and that makes me feel good about some of the writing I do. I am printing out some of my blog posts for a record and I often send a set down to my Dad to read.

      Denyse x

  9. I can’t believe that it’s 40 years since I was at high school Denyse (and longer for you) It seems like yesterday sometimes, and a million years ago at other times. I loved it for the friendships and the fact that it encompassed such a important stage of my life (and it’s where I discovered boys!) I have very fond memories of that time, but I’d never want to go back to being a teenager again.
    Thanks for linking up with us at #MLSTL and I’ve shared this on my SM xx

    • Life IS funny like that. Waiting a day for news seems interminable and then remembering back to high school feels like a few minutes. I don’t think I want to go back but while I can remember what to write and have some interest in it, I shall be continuing!

      Denyse x

  10. Love the pics and reading about your school days. I went to boarding school with a really strict and ugly uniform – I will never forget the 4 gore flared grey skirt, blue shirt and tie. The white knee high socks and frumpy lace up shoes were my least favourite part though. I think the teachers had spies around town because they always found out about any off site uniform infringements!

    • Thanks Sammie. Boarding school. Wow. I did not know that about you. Oh yes, school colours and school uniforms no matter where we went to school seem to be both ‘daggy’ and colours we may think of never wearing again. Your colours are the same I had in Primary School now I remember. I was a slightly naughty girl at high school…and more shall be revealed when I write Chapter 2!

      Denyse x

  11. It’s great to read your stories Denyse and I’m glad you have continued to record them in your blog. Beautiful photos too. I enjoyed my high school and have fond memories of that time of my life. Hoping all is going well with you #mlstl

    • Thank you Debbie, I am so glad you liked reading this. It was good for me to do it as well. My high school memories were so good I became a teacher!! In the photo from 2015 I did a presentation to a group of teachers back at my old High School and I decided that night was the fitting end to my more formal involvement in education spanning 1968-2015!

      Denyse x

  12. What I remember most about high school were the cliques and the haves and have-nots. We didn’t wear uniforms and clothing and shoes were big deals as to if you fit in or not. It was a hard time for many.

    • I do get that too. Each high school has that happen because it is a societal group and it’s not just about the learning. I am saddened but also understanding that your high school years were memorable for different reasons to mine and I am pleased you shared that.

      Your perspective was an important one for me to remember too.

      Denyse x

  13. What a fascinating recount of your high school years!

    I loved high school and was quite studious!


    • Thanks Ingrid! Glad you enjoyed it AND High School.

      I am going to have to dig deep when I do the chapter on the social times of those years!

      Denyse x

  14. Hi, Denyse – Thank you for sharing this at Midlife Share the Love Link Party. I am enjoying getting to know you and your writing more. I have shared this on my Social Media.

  15. I’ve enjoyed reading about your high school years Denyse. I only went to the one high school – an all girls catholic college. I didn’t really like high school and left half way through year 12 and got a job. I was much happier then. I went to three different primary schools as Dad was transferred around a bit. Two were in country regions of Queensland and the other was in Brisbane. We settled back in Brisbane during the latter stages of Year 6 for me. Love your photographs! 🙂 #TeamLovinLife

    • It is good to read your honest recount of what school was for you. The moving around and making (or trying to) friends is one of the bigger challenges for many.

      Interesting too, that you left in Year 12 before the end. I have a granddaughter who has done exactly that.

      Denyse x

  16. Fascinating read of your trailblazing journey through school and beyond, Denyse.

    I agree, the ‘pioneering spirit’ isn’t as strong as what it used to be for many professions. When my parents migrated, it was quite a big adventure working wherever the government placed them. Life seems more complicated and committed now so it’s harder I think for people especially those with partners and or families to take that leap of faith and move wherever jobs may take them,

    SSG xxx

    • Yes! In ‘our day’ we were prepared to move around and teach where we were needed and I am sure it helps ground us all more.

      I was so disappointed with some Masters of Teaching students I taught and they were planning to ‘only teach in the places they went to school and they already knew.’

      It is, however, more understandable these days with housing and security of tenure not being as ‘certain’ as it was.

      Denyse x

  17. I hated high school. I went to 3 different ones – starting in a brand new town in year 7 (Bombala), moving midway through year 9 (to Springwood) – where 2 of the subjects I was studying for the school certificate weren’t offered – I had to do these by correspondence. Then I started a new school (in Sydney) in the 1st week of Year 12 – ie January. Again I had to teach myself some subjects as they’d covered different parts of the HSC syllabus between schools. It certainly taught me to be self-reliant, to not care about fitting in (I was always the new girl) & how to work alone & in isolation. The worst part was never forming that tribe that you do in year 11 & 12.

    • I am thinking that this requires you to ‘sue Dad’……but of course like many banking, teaching and police kids you (and our daughter) were taken to the next town/job placement.

      I am sorry this was so disruptive but like you say, you take from this the resilience you have now.

      My second granddaughter has left school before Year 11 ended for a number of health-related reasons and she does stay in touch with some of her peers (from Kinder onwards….) I know she has no tribe as such but then school as it was for her then had no relevance. She is a bright young woman and will, over time, find her feet in life.

      Denyse x

  18. I went to high school in Victoria in the late 1960s and wore an ugly green checked uniform, similar in style to yours and yes we had the length checked continuously. I remember we would hitch the length of our skirts up by tucking it up with our belts. We also had a straw boater hat buy I never had to wear gloves thank goodness. How times have changed! Thanks for this insight into your high school education. #TeamLovinLife

    • Oh yes, the checking of uniforms. Honestly. I know it still happens these days and it has even been talked about all over social media at times.

      Instead of concentrating on making sure the learning is individualised (in theory!) in practice it is often as ‘uniform’ as the school clothes.

      Thanks for sharing your experience!

      Denyse x

  19. I’m enjoying reading about your life and I particularly love the photos.

  20. I love this Denyse and I particularly love the pic of you in ’64!

    For me high school was mixed. It was fine for the most part but my final two years were fraught with…. ‘stuff’. I think of myself as pretty average before that, but I was really a pretty good student, athlete and had great friends.

    Becoming anorexic at 15-16 changed everything for me and simultaneously amplified the good and bad for me. As a result the years are murky. And I’ve got a strong sense of lost potential… even though I probably took more chances than the pre-anorexia me would have taken. x

    • Thanks Deb. I just find it so hard to read of the suffering for you and I know that you have done and continue to do what you can with life as is now. I see some of the mental health issues come out in people I know at the late years of HS and it is a rotten life thing.
      Still, look at what you have managed to not only achieve and continue to power on. I do hope the trip is much needed break with the family and seeing some new scenes will be amazing!
      Denyse x

  21. Hi Denyse. Great school memories. Once again very similar to mine. I think I started high school in 1961 and also took French and German. Wish I HAD taken science now that I am researching cancer treatments. I was also bonded to teach but we had a choice of where to go.

    Before my time, young teachers in NZ could choose “country service” and gain some benefit for it. Maybe that was only for primary school teachers but I always thought it was a good idea.

    • Thank you for reading AND commenting! I love that.

      Interesting for me was when I was teaching pre-service teachers a few years back NONE of them would consider a school anywhere outside their local and familiar area. I always said “you don’t know what you are missing”.

      I understand that researching cancer and treatments would indeed be helped by a science background but don’t underestimate your English background and the ways in which you have helped many to express themselves in writing and speaking.

      Warm wishes and appreciation for you coming here and reading then commenting.

      Denyse x

  22. Great memories – very similar to mine. French and German, being bonded. Dropping science. New schools for baby boomers, petty uniform rules, fun and friendship.

    I might have posted this twice:)

  23. Hi Denyse
    only just seen you blog ..very interesting reading. I too went to Manly Girls High 1964 -1968. always in awe of the year 5 & 6 Girls when we started. I lived near the Manly oval in those days and remember what a hike it was to walk home if I missed the bus.Passed my HSC and went onto nursing
    Thank you for the trip down memory Lane
    Carol Hill (nee Larcombe )

    • Oh hi Carol, and yes such memories! I drove down from the Central Coast yesterday to see Dad who is now living in an independent retirement place at Dee Why. On my way home I detoured via Manly and then to our old house in Balgowlah Heights. The hills! Carrying the school bag. I would get off the bus and walk up quite a few slopes and then steps and up our hill. I was tired out too. Yes we did have fun times and it was good being the first. I have now re-connected via Facebook with some people from my year. Loved seeing your comment. Thanks so much and keep on reading…yesterday I wrote about what I thought was my best decade- the 1960s! Denyse x