In 1855 in a tent in Franklin Rd Portsea, 9 boys and 2 girls attended a Church of England school which closed at the end of the year. The following year a National School opened on the site of the present Portsea Hotel with 15 pupils. This closed in 1861 and for 10 years there was no school in the area, a sizeable minority of the population being apathetic about education. But thanks to the efforts of many concerned parents, Common School 1090 opened on 18 September 1871. It was located halfway between Sorrento and Portsea in an existing house at 3557 Point Nepean Rd which was possibly of wattle and daub construction with a brick well at the rear.

The initial enrolment was of 30 boys and girls aged between 4 and 16 years. The first Head Teacher, Mr WR Sheppard, was replaced after two years by Mr Josiah Hiskens who remained for the next two decades. The inspector’s 1891 report praises Mr Hiskens for showing fair skills and Mrs Hiskens for rendering valuable assistance in the instruction of the younger children. It was then indeed a family school with Miss Alice Hiskens also listed as a staff member and nine Hiskens children on the roll!!

Enrolment increased so quickly that in 1890 a new school was erected beside the old one which became the teacher’s residence and where Mr Hisken’s successor, Mr John W Kemp, lived from the beginning of 1894, when he took office, until his retirement in 1911. Both of these early school buildings exist today as holiday houses, the second being at 3563 Point Nepean Rd.

Within four years the new school building proved inadequate as the closure of Portsea School 2929 led to 32 ex-pupils enrolling at the Sorrento school. The inspector’s report of 15 October 1900 states: The school is inconveniently crowded with furniture and all the classes (averaging about 85) have to be taught in one room. But it took a few more years before the pressure was relieved by extending the school building from one room to two.

Sorrento School 1930

At the end of the First World War the population had further increased and it was obvious that the school would have to be enlarged or rebuilt on another site. After much discussion it was decided that two new schools should be built – one in Portsea and one in Sorrento, both of which opened in January 1925. The majority of the pupils began the year in Sorrento School No 1090 in Kerferd Rd, Sorrento where Messrs Harry and Keith Redman had built three classrooms and an office.   

The present school has, over the years, expanded around this original building.


Sorrento School 1960

In 1952 a two-roomed prefabricated structure called a Bristol unit was erected. But by 1967 the school was again becoming overcrowded. The Education Department provided a portable classroom at the beginning of the following year and promised that it would be replaced within 12 months by two new classrooms and a staffroom. This was during the tenure of Mr AM Robertson who promoted the need for an Art and Craft Room at the school.

Sadly, he died suddenly in June 1968 but by November of that year the local community had raised the funds for their contribution towards the project and forwarded it to the Education Department. The Alexander M Robertson Memorial Room and a storeroom together with the promised two new classrooms and staffroom were completed in record time, enabling them to be occupied by March 1969.

The school celebrated its centenary in 1971 by increasing the basketball court to full size and landscaping the entrance and grounds.

Information provided by Nepean Historical Society

School Bell
As the result of a chance meeting with Terry Phippen of the Pt Nepean Men’s Shed, in 2018 the question, ‘Would anyone at the Shed know how to restore a bell? was asked.  The next day saw the men, hoisting the bell out of the school and as the saying goes…. the rest is history. The official launch of the old school bell took place on Monday 10th December, 2018. Thanks to Mitre 10, Bunnings, John Riley and Sorrento Historical Society and to the many people who shared their memories of their time at Sorrento Primary School and their involvement with our school bell. 

The bell is a bronze bell and was made by J. Hill, in Melbourne in 1878.  This makes our bell 140 years old. It was made with iron fittings for post mounting and that housing structure has been recreated in our new bell housing thanks to the fabulous work by the Point Nepean Men’s Shed.

The bell originated from Twofold Bay, Australia where it was used to alert the Eden whalers when whales were sighted in the bay.  From there the history and location of the bell, and how it came to Sorrento is unknown to us, at this moment.

Wal Bernal, former teacher and Principal at Sorrento Primary School shared the following information:

  • The bell was located at the primary school in Portsea which was situated along Back Beach Road.
  • The school was relocated to another site along the Nepean Highway.
  • Wal Bernal remembers that the bell was at our school site from 1971/1972.
  • At one stage in 1978 the bell disappeared and then suddenly mysteriously reappeared.

Charles Logan Bell, an ex student, has fond memories of his time at Sorrento Primary School

  • Charles attended our school from 1948, as a year two student, until he graduated in 1950 as a Year 8 student and also Dux of the school. Charles was also one of the many students who had the role of bell monitor. A very special memory for him.
  • Charles and his family had relocated from Surrey Hills to Sorrento. A journey that took three days by horse and cart.
  • At eight years of age Charles made the trek to school by walking the local track to the Old Melbourne Road and then finally onto Hughes Road to the crossroad of the Nepean Highway to catch a small covered in van. This van was provided by St Josephs. The return trip left from the Beach Rotunda on the foreshore.

Charles loved his time at Sorrento Primary School. His headmaster, Mr John Holman and dedicated teachers allowed him to participate in a broad curriculum such as woodwork, bird expeditions and swimming at the Sorrento Baths. His education prepared him for what has been such a rewarding life and distinguished career, across many different fields. 

The return of the bell has sparked a lot of interest from the local and broader community:

  • Lyn Renwood Oh wow. I went there from 1974 to 1980 and remember being bell monitor a few times during my years there. It was always so exciting!
  • Andy Mc I was school monitor as well... ah the memories.
  • Bruce Jones A school mate was bell monitor back in the fifties. When he pulled the rope the gonger came off and just missed his head.
  • Anthony Opitz We got yelled at for ringing it on the weekend, does that count?
  • Kaz Willoughby I was the Bell Monitor in 1976 at Sorrento Primary with Leslie Bell.
  • Bruce Jones When I went to Sorrento State School, the bell was mounted in a big Ti Tree.
  • Jenny Skelton The school bell was there in1956 the year I started and yes I remember one of the bell monitors!
  • Kim Ferguson I remember being Bell Monitor and having to ring that bell for recess and lunch! 
  • Tim Wishary When I was there, the bell was fixed on to one of the old gnarly ti trees near the shelter sheds.
  • Slly Brown I loved being bell monitor!
  • Silas O'Hara remembers the excitement of being one of the bell monitors and that it was an important part of being in Year 6.

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