The school opened its doors in 1856 as a small independent coeducational primary school, known as St. Paul’s School. It was one of the earliest schools in the Colony of Victoria, is the oldest independent coeducational school in Victoria and was the first on the Mornington Peninsula.
The primary school was originally housed in a small wooden hall in the grounds of the Anglican Church on High Street, Frankston. It played an important part in the early days of the 19th Century Victorian Colony – providing a focus for the small, rapidly growing community.
Early settlers paid one shilling each week to have their children receive a ‘sound moral education’ to counter the effects of ‘larrikinism’ after the Gold Rush.
In 1970, the school moved to 3.5 hectares of land off Seaview Road in Frankston South. This primary campus was called Minimbah – an Aboriginal word meaning ‘place of learning’.
In the early seventies, the feasibility of establishing a secondary school was investigated. In 1975, the Senior Campus was opened on 12.5 hectares of bushland in Langwarrin South. This campus retained the name of the original farm property, “Woodleigh”. In 1989, 1997 and 2001, further land was acquired, increasing the area of the Senior Campus to 22 hectares.
An aerial view of the original ‘Woodleigh’ flower farm – circa 1973
From the beginning of 1999, the name of the combined campuses became Woodleigh School, with the Junior Campus continuing to be referred to as Minimbah. At Minimbah and Woodleigh, emphasis has been placed on maintaining and developing the native vegetation. At the Senior Campus, the original bushland has, wherever possible, been preserved. Rather than constructing large formal classroom blocks, multi-purpose classrooms are set into the bush.
The establishment of the Woodleigh Sustainability Centre and the Brian Henderson Wildlife Reserve at Senior Campus, further the School’s work to educate students in the care, preservation and conservation of our environment.
In 2015, Woodleigh School merged with Penbank School, an independent coeducational primary school in Moorooduc.
Penbank School was established in 1974 by a group of enthusiastic parents. The school was originally known as the Mornington Peninsula Community School and was located in a house in Queen Street, Mornington. The founding families were aware of a need for a school that provided a close relationship between children, teachers and parents, within an innovative and progressive educational framework.
In 1977, a new site was found to cater for the increasing population of the school, and to provide an environment that would allow exciting educational innovations to be implemented. With a substantial contribution from the Schools Commission, an open plan school was constructed during 1977 and 1978. In 1990, the school adopted the name Penbank, the former name given to the property by its Welsh settlers.
During March 2003, the Board made a decision to purchase a further 26 acres, a neighbouring farm, 'The Springs'.
In 2009, supported by the school and the Federal Government's BER Project (Building the Education Revolution), the school again refurbished the facilities creating new learning areas for older students, an addition to the library and new multi-purpose hall/gym.
In 2014, Penbank and Woodleigh School explored the possibility of a joint future. Following a thorough investigation and due diligence of this proposed merger, Penbank and Woodleigh officially became one school – 22nd December 2014.
Throughout the years, Penbank has developed a comprehensive educational program and continues to provide a supportive and caring environment where children love to learn.
The addition of a second junior campus with an enrolment of just over 200 students, means our School now cares for just over 1000 students.