Milkwood Primary School is an English medium school situated at the Point in Mossel Bay, overlooking the sea. They serve a cross section of the local community and are one of the most culturally diverse schools in the region.
In 1992 numerous concerns resulted in the drawing up of a petition to start an English Language Primary School. It happened quickly, aided by the fast growing numbers caused by the development of Mossgass.
The first principal, Bill Innes, arrived full of enthusiasm in April 1993, with his surfboard and motorbike, to be followed later by his beautiful wife and two freckle-faced sons. Plenty of preparation was needed before the migration from Park Primary on the first day of the 3rd term and with the beckoning waves visible from his office.
Bill had to keep his nose to the grindstone.
In July 1993, the school opened its doors to the arrival of 262 eager English Language learners, who walked down from Park Primary School along with educators, Elizabeth Pienaar, Sharon Pringle, Bets Meyer and Denise Pretorius who were moving over from Park Primary. New staff members were also employed to help birth the infant, Milkwood Primary.
January 1994 saw the first intake of new Grade One’s and also, Richard Second, the new art and history teacher who very quickly made his mark on the sports field and stage before taking over the helm as principal in 1997. When Richard moved on, Charné Claassen kept the seat warm for a year until the current principal, Van Wyk Dames arrived in 2005.
With the remarkable enthusiasm of the educators and many parents, this school has become one of the top achieving primary schools in the area. Where else do young learners have the chance to hear the lighthouse boom through the fog, walk down to the beach and watch whales from the top of the stairs before starting school in the morning.
Memories of Milkwood Primary School
Written by Mr Bill Innes (Principal: April 1993 – December 1996)
In 1993 I was blessed with the opportunity to play a part in the founding of a new school in Mossel Bay. This is a privilege that few educators have the opportunity to enjoy. For me personally it was a pivotal experience in my life and a time that I look back on with gratitude and many, many special memories.
I remember well the thrill of receiving Mr Cliff Barnes, Chairman of the founding Governing Body’s phone call offering me the position of Headmaster of the new Primary School in Mossel Bay. Exhilaration and fear make for a strange mix but I knew that I was joining a group of visionary parents who were looking for something special for their children and I couldn’t wait to get started.
My arrival in Mossel Bay set the tone for the rest of my tenure in this beautiful coastal town – I was greeted with warmth, support and friendship by all. A special memory for me was my first visit to the office of Mr Emil Scheepers, Principal of Laërskool Park. From him I would inherit the first cohort of English-speaking students who would form the nucleus of Milkwood Primary School. Emil Scheepers was a man of integrity and great experience who accepted me with open arms and was always generous with his time and advice.
Arriving during the Easter holidays of 1993, we had one term in which to coordinate everything before the official opening on the 20th July. It seemed a daunting challenge – we had the beautiful old building but it was empty and required quite a bit of renovation. We also had to equip the school, requisitioning school furniture, books, equipment for a Science laboratory, Woodwork room, the Administration’s offices and a complete library… the list just seemed to go on and on. Added to this we had to create a school uniform, design a school badge and motto, compose a school song, develop a behaviour management policy and an administration system and appoint a number of teachers to the staff. All of this would have been impossible without the support, time and effort of the Founding Governing Body, (Cliff Barnes, John Robertson, Peter Sims, Val Hesketh, Father Ted Schurr and Nicky Broodryk) Equally committed and deeply involved was a group of committed parents and the core of staff who joined us from Laërskool Park. (Denise Pretorius, Glynis Symons, Sharon Pringle, Elizabeth Pienaar, Bets Meyer, and Louise Nel who joined us shortly thereafter.)
By God’s grace we managed to have everything ready in good time and on the 20th July 2003, Mossel Bay was treated to the official parade from Laërskool Park down to the waiting, gracious old buildings at the Point. Having spent a term in the echoing emptiness of the school building, I still remember well the thrill of hearing the voices of hundreds of children filling the quadrangle and passages for the first time – it was beautiful!
Perhaps one of the most significant aspects of Milkwood’s inception was the development of its Values System – a behaviour management system developed in partnership with the founding students of the school. Rather than being based upon the “do’s and don’ts” of traditional schooling, the system was founded upon a set of jointly agreed upon Values that everyone in the school community was encouraged to aim for. I have been blessed to be able to implement and refine this system in various guises in each of the three schools that I have been involved with since, and I am so pleased that all these many years later the Values system continues to form the foundation of life at Milkwood.
Milkwood Primary School and Mossel Bay were extremely good to my family and me. We were truly blessed to enjoy a rich season there and I know for a fact that, upon leaving to take up a new position in the beautiful Lowveld, I left a part of my heart there.
Today I am living in Perth, Western Australia where I am principal of Thornlie Christian College, a school of 670 students from kindergarten to Year 12. As I look back on the years since my arrival in Mossel Bay and I look at the journey that my family and I have enjoyed since then, I am convinced that our Heavenly Father really does have a plan for all of our lives and that all things do work for the good for those who believe in Him. It is my prayer that Milkwood Primary School will be richly blessed in its future and as it continues to Grow in the Light of Knowledge.
Memories of Milkwood Primary School
Written by Mr Richard Second (Principal: January 1997 – December 2003)
The quaint sandstone building situated on the Point in Mossel Bay will always have a special place in my heart. It was the starting point, (excuse the pun), for my career in management. I took up the position of Head of Department (second in command), and had the opportunity to grow as a deputy of a new school where South Africa was in the throes of incredible changes. Wow, what a challenge, and with a fantastic team of educators, we forged ahead with wonderful new ideas.
These are the best memories of Milkwood. A new school, new ideas and the go ahead and confidence to implement them. Team teaching, cooperative learning, a discipline structure built on values and not fear, transformation and a new multi-cultural school society, are but a few of these wonderful memories that I wish to mention. In looking back however, I think that the aspect of Milkwood Primary School that made the most impression on my career, and has helped me as the Headmaster of my present school, Queen’s College in Queenstown, was the incredible teamwork. I learnt to appreciate people and their worth. Milkwood was founded on values; be proud, be friendly, be considerate, be responsible, be polite and be honest. If, as any part of a school, you have this ethos with staff and learners, the sky’s the limit!
At present, my sons, John-Alex and Rudi, are studying at university and Magriet, my good wife, is teaching at a school in Queenstown.
Memories of Milkwood Primary School
Written by Ms Charné Claassen (Acting Principal: January 2004 – December 2004)
In a nutshell, 2004 was a character building year in Milkwood Primary School’s history. It was, as I experienced it, the best relationship building time in all my years in education.
Although the year started off with a some uncertainty, I can honestly say that the dedicated staff of Milkwood Primary rose to the occasion, and grew from strength to strength, making 2004 the highlight of my career! The commitment, love and support of the staff members was exceptional, leading to a staff morale any principal could only dream of. Furthermore, we were blessed with a governing body who had the staff and school’s best interest at heart, resulting in an amazing year for all!
I think back to 2004 with fondness and admiration, and I thank God for having blessed our school so richly during that time of change!