Rich history of Simon’s Town School

A picture of pupils in front of the old school. Picture: Simon’s Town Museum

Simon’s Town School, founded in 1815, is the fifth-oldest school in the Western Cape and the oldest in the Cape Peninsula, according to South African History Online.

The school, which is home to 1 080 pupils, is built on seven levels at the foot of the Simonsberg mountains, overlooking False Bay.

The current school building dates back to the 1950s and the hall was built in the 1970s, according to acting principal Lucresia Harrison.

In 1915, English-speaking residents in Simon’s Town decided to start a private English-speaking school because they did not want to send their children to the Dutch District School that had been established in 1813 at the Residency, now home to the Simon’s Town Museum.

The school was for children of poorer families, without charge, and under the administration of the Anglican Church, it accommodated both white and coloured children and was called the Simon’s Town Free School.

Its exact location is not known, but in 1817, Governor Lord Charles Somerset gave permission for a school building to be erected on the property of the parsonage, which later became home to the municipality, Juta’s Chemist and then the Patel Brothers Superette.

The school was taken over by the colonial government in 1826 and was then called the Simon’s Town Government Free School.

In 1865, the school was closed as a government free school and became known as the Simon’s Town A2 Undenominational Public School.

In 1894, Adam Macleod took over and the school was reclassified and became Simon’s Town High School, making Mr MacLeod the first principal of the school.

In 1896, the school moved to a new building, now home to the Simon’s Town library, and in 1953 it moved to its present site off Harrington Road.

Extensive expansions followed in the 1970s to cater to the town’s increasing population, and the school opened to all races and cultures in 1991.

“The school prides itself in being a truly representative South African school,” Ms Harrison said.

The school has pupils from Kommetjie, Ocean View, Masiphumelele, Sun Valley, Fish Hoek, Muizenberg, Mitchell’s Plain, Gugulethu, and Khayelitsha.

“We have always been involved in many welfare cases at our school. We support many pupils from previously disadvantaged communities and never turn learners away who are keen to better themselves but lack the socio-economic means to do so,” Ms Harrison said.

In 1995, the old cable-laying ship, Cable Restorer, was put to use when the high school began a new course in maritime subjects for its pupils.

Simon’s Town School became the first school in South Africa to introduce a maritime studies department through the Lawhill Maritime Centre.

Ms Harrison said that by providing students aged 15 to 17 with specialised knowledge and skills in their last three years of secondary schooling (Grades 10 to 12), the Lawhill Maritime Centre at Simon’s Town School had made it possible for hundreds of young South Africans to embark on successful careers in the maritime and other industries.

Ms Harrison said she was grateful to the staff, who, she said, played a vital role and contributed to pupils’ success.

“This is all due to teachers fostering a positive school culture to support those most at risk,” she said.

Simon’s Town School looks out over the False Bay coastline.