A brief history, compiled by Neil McIntyre (ex Headmaster)


Cambridge Primary school has a long and rich history, as it has its roots in the original Cambridge Third Class Undenominational School established in 1879.  This school served the population of the area know as the German Village and gradually grew into what was called (because of enrolment) a First Class Public School.

The school started in the original Baptist church in what is today the Tindale Road Cemetery, Berea, a site which is now next door to the Christadelphian church.  The German Village was sited in present-day Vincent, adjacent to Berea.  After the sale of the Baptist church, the school reopened in the ‘Tin Town Hall’ in Cambridge proper.  A dedicated school building was erected in 1904 and currently houses the Foundation Phase Campus.  By the late 1920s, the enrolment was such that the school was bursting at the seams and work commenced on a new Junior School building.

The first classes, ranging from Sub A to Std 4, moved into the new building in Queen Street in 1929.  Mr Burdon-Martin, Headmaster of the High School, continued to act as Headmaster of the Junior School, pending the appointment of its first independent Principal.

Mr H S Warren was appointed in 1930 as the first Headmaster.  He lead a complement of female teachers, namely Miss E M Carrie (Sub A – later to become Principal of Clarendon Primary), Miss H Orsmond    (Sub B), Miss M Butler (Std 1), Mrs K Hopkins (Std 2), Miss L P Kayser (Std 3 – and artistic person, one of whose paintings still hangs in the staffroom) and Miss M Jordaan (Std 4).  Mr Warren and his six lady teachers formed a very happy staff.

One drawback was that the grounds of the new school were very small, as the present Croydon Road joined up with Church Lane (both areas have since been incorporated into the school fields).  Thus no cricket or rugby could be played on the small, oddly-shaped triangular field that was originally given to the school.  Mr Warren did a great deal of the physical labour of levelling the field himself.

Cambridge Junior was the very first school in East London to found a Parents’ Teachers’ Association, which came into being on 6 September 1938.  Canon Orford of St Mark’s  was the first chairman and became a leading light in the Association.


In the late 1930s, three additional classrooms were added to the building and they enclosed the present Memorial Quadrangle.  The two kindergarten classrooms were divided by a sliding partition and this allowed for a small hall, where assemblies were held.  School concerts were staged at the Tivoli Theatre (currently the OK Food Hall) at Ocean View.

Mr Warren was a leader in the teaching profession and served several terms as chairman of the East London Head Teachers’ Association, as well as chairing the teachers’ professional body, the South African Teachers; Association (SATA).  He was active in the life of St Mark’s Church and saw to it that the cultural life of Cambridge Primary School was vibrant.  He retired in 1950 and passed away some four years later.

In 1951, the Vice-Principal of Cambridge High School, Mr R G Reid, became the second Headmaster of the Junior School.  He took over a school about to explode in numbers, as the suburbs of Cambridge West and Chiselhurst began to expand.  Soon the enrolment escalated to over eight hundred pupils and, quite naturally, accommodation became a major problem.  Mr Reid was forced to use the Scout Hall, St Mark’s Hall, the Methodist Church Hall and even the Presbyterian Church Hall way up in Renfrew Street.  Three music teachers were appointed and their classes were held in private homes.  Eventually, the Department could no longer ignore the problem and a row of prefabricated classrooms was erected along Roseberry Avenue, where the present library and ‘new block’ have been built.

After a long campaign, the local municipality agreed to close Croydon Road and grant this land to the school.  The ‘old’ Cambridge Mothers’ Committee under the able guidance of Mrs Betty Durham worked hard to raise fund for a hall and library.  Many parents felt that a pool was even more necessary than a hall.  Pupil numbers continued to grow and eventually children were booked into the school before they turned one, as there was a long waiting list.

The musical life of the Junior School prospered under Mr Reid.  Two concerts a year were staged – one by the kindergarten and one by the children from Stds 2 to 4 (Std 5s were still taught at the High School).  These were produced in the Cambridge Town Hall.  In addition, the school produced and printed its own magazine called The Cantab.

After eight years of immense strain, MrReid retired.  He has run a huge school that was spread over the whole suburb without even the help of a single clerical assistant.  He died in Durban in 1960, while attending an educational conference.

Mr E E Sephton was appointed as Headmaster in January 1959.  He had been vice-principal at Rondebosch Boys’ Prep. in Cape Town.

As the school had grown to over nine hundred pupils and the Department has constructed a new campus for Cambridge High off lower Croydon Road, the Junior School was split in two schools.  Children from Stds 2 to 5 now comprised the Junior School, while the newly established Preparatory School, which was given the refurbished old High School buildings, catered for pupils from Sub A to Std 1.  Mrs B H Barry was appointed as the first Principal of the Preparatory School.

The first clerical assistant at the Junior School was appointed in 1959.  Special classes came into being in the period 1961-2, whilst, at the same time, music rooms and a prefabricated classroom for art were added.  By 1964, money collected by parents was sufficient on a rand-for-rand basis to build a school hall.  This new facility should have been opened by the Superintendent General of Education, Mr D J Liebenberg.  Unfortunately, very poor weather caused him to become stranded in Port Elizabeth.  However, the opening was promptly conducted in the absence by Mr David Lazarus, an old friend of the Junior School. The hall was named after the initiator of the project Mr R G Reid.

Sport and music flourished. Many notable results were achieved, especially now that concerts and operettas could be produced in the school’s own hall. The library that had initially been built and funded by parents was extended and by 1978 it was operating the Dewey system.

The name of the school magazine was changed to The Cambrian and given to professional publishers for printing. Extra land was added to the school grounds:  firstly, half a morgen behind the Scout Hall and then both the old lane running behind the Town Hall, as well as Church Lane.

Yet overcrowding continued to be a problem.  Pupil numbers were kept at about 520 and representations were made often to the Department for additions.  Plans were submitted to Cape Town on a number of occasions, only to be shelved twice. But a man of Mr Sephton’s stature was not to be deterred.  Eventually building commenced in 1981 to the obvious joy of the school community.

Mr Sephton retired at the end of 1981, after a career which cemented his place as one of the top educationists of the area. Although he was the man to ensure that the building of the major new extensions was well on track, yet he decided step aside and not to accept all the glory for his very hard work.

In January 1982, Mr N M McIntyre (your scribe) took over the reigns as only the fourth Headmaster in the history of the school.  He had previously taught Std 5 classes at Cambridge frim 1972 to 1975, before moving away to teach at other East London schools.  He returned after being Principal at Thorn Park Primary for three and half years.

Pupils numbers reached 550.  The new buildings comprised six extra classroom, a modern library, an art room and a woodwork room. In addition, four toilet blocks, a staffroom (with kitchen), offices, ‘sick’ rooms and toilets for cleaners and the caretaker, as well as much needed storerooms were erected.  These additions were officially opened by the Regional Chief Inspector of Education, Dr Cerff, on 13 May 1984.  These fine facilities were further enhanced by a new intercom system and burglar alarms, as well as various furnishings paid for by the School Committee.  In recognition of the exceptional work done by Mr Sephton over a period of more than twenty years, the up-to-date media centre was named the EE Sephton Media Centre.  It had been this great educationist’s dream to establish a media centre as the very heart of all that happens in daily teaching.  Miss B Gravett was appointed as the first full-time librarian – a post she filled with distinction. Later she resigned to marry Mr Sephton.

At this time, numbers coming up from the old Preparatory School dropped, but the teachers rejoiced in the ideal teaching conditions of only 25 to 28 pupils per class.

The School continued to enjoy great success on the sportsfields and especially at swimming.  In some years, as many as 85 Border representatives in more than twelve sporting codes were recorded.  Concerts flourished and ‘whole school productions with the High and Preparatory Schools were undertaken with great success at the Guild Theatre.

The country was about to undergo major changes.  These winds of change blew as hard in the corridors and offices of the school as they did all over the country.  More autonomy was granted to schools when they adopted Model C status and considerable development of facilities, funded by the Governing Body (formerly the School Committee), was undertaken,  Among the projects completed were the were the conversion of the main quadrangle into a beautiful and functional Memorial Quadrangle, the addition of a hockey and rugby field behind the swimming pool, the building of state-of-the-art cricket nets, the enclosure and heating of the swimming pool, the conversion and extension of the old kitchen into a tuck shop called the Horseshoe Arms, the completion of the computer training centre, the total upgrading of the library, the changing of the woodwork room into a D and T centre and the conversion of the traditional music rooms into a more modern complex with a band room.

More significantly, the political transformation into a true democracy brought radical changes in the functioning of schools and in the racial composition of the body.  In 1990, the Junior School parents voted to open the school to children of all races and religions.  Initially change was slow, but pupil numbers soon reached the six hundred mark.  As this meant that all classes and facilities were full, the Governing Body decided that this would be the maximum capacity of the school.  Since then, numbers have fluctuated constantly between 600 and 620. The demand for space remains at a premium and consequently there is a waiting list available to parents.

The school magazine changes its name once more and became known as The Junior Times.  Initially it was published quarterly, but costs have now made that impossible.  The powers of the Governing Body have increased and Cambridge Primary is now a fully functioning Section 21 school (ex-Model C).  This implies that parents pay fees that are much higher than before, so that the school can finance all facilities, products and services.  Among the latter is the hiring of additional teachers and office staff.  The Department pays for only fifteen teachers (32 in 1983), a cleaner and full time clerical assistant, while the Governing Body pays the salaries of 23 personnel in various part-time and full-time posts.  Moves were made to amalgamate the old Prep and Junior Schools and eventually in  20  the two were joined under the name of Cambridge Primary School. The school was better placed to survive to financial demands and to grow its facilities. Mr Neil Mc Intyre continued as Headmaster of a school of 1 200 children, scores of teachers and learnership students, cleaning staff and support staff.

Cambridge Primary has remained a family school for obvious reasons: the children taught are from families of the immediate surroundings, parents support the school well, the teaching staff remains very stable and Cambridge Primary School forms a staunch family of its own.  It is a school with a happy past, yet it is a progressive environment in which to teach and learn.


Update (Compiled by Owen Cronje)

Mr McIntyre retired in March 2011, this after 29 years of dedicated service to the school.  In all situations he managed to keep calm and work through any situation, always relying on God’s guidance.  The good name of Cambridge Primary School is due to the values and morals of this true Cantabrigian.  2011 was all about tearing up the old fields and planting grass on the new!  Without the financial assistance from Lotto and some aggressive fund-raising, we would never have been able to upgrade our fields and netball courts.   The new hockey fields are named after Mr Neil McIntyre for his dedicated and loving service to the school during his tenure as Headmaster from 1982 – 2012.   Maintenance had been done in and around the two campuses with some classrooms and exterior walls given a long overdue fresh coat of paint.

Mr Owen Cronje took over as Acting Headmaster.  On the 01st July 2012  Mr Cronje was appointed Headmaster.  Under his leadership this year focus

was on upgrading smaller areas that required attention.  At the Intermediate Phase Campus we needed to be more wheel chair friendly. With this in mind

five ramps were built and stainless steel hand rails were fitted to all staircases.

Our school is fully CAPS (Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement) compliant.  Our school writes the Annual National Assessment papers (ANA).  This year saw the introduction of the first music class in Grade 7 and we trust that these children will continue to develop their talent at High School.  The computer lab was upgraded and fitted with a “thin client” computer system.  Wi-Fi has been installed at both campuses.

We provide remedial assistance to pupils with specific academic needs as we have two staff member fully dedicated to remedial classes.  Our SBST (School Based Support Team) meet weekly to discuss support structures to assist pupils experiencing learning difficulties.  We are fortunate to have a  qualified psychologist on premises.  She offers confidential support and encouragement to pupils experiencing personnel and emotional challenges.

The need to build more classrooms and to “grow” our school is fast reaching a critical stage.  Currently our admissions stand at 1178 learners of which 630 are Black, 108 Coloured,  32 Indian, 401 White and 7 Other.  Our staffing consists of 34 state paid educators; 30 SGB paid educators and 34 SGB paid support staff members.