Miss Edith Roseby Ball
Miss Edith Roseby Ball was Danebank’s Founding Headmistress. She was born into a family whose women were educational leaders in a number of Sydney schools. During the years 1911–1945, Miss Roseby Ball’s cousins were founders, Principals and co-Principals of a number of independent schools of the times, including Ascham, Kambala, and Redlands. Miss Ball continued the family tradition of educational leadership when she established Danebank School in 1933.
At first, Miss Roseby Ball was the sole teacher of five pupils. She set up the school temporarily in a backyard studio that belonged to a private family, in The Avenue Hurstville. But, within two weeks, the sixth student was enrolled and, within two years, a property at 86 Park Road Hurstville was purchased to be the school’s first home. By then, the school population was 21 and a process of development and expansion was underway.
Miss Ball was described at this time as ‘firm but fair’ with the children. She was modest and self-effacing and a great role model.
Miss Roseby Ball believed that the ideal of service is fundamental to living a Christian life and that Christian service is a practical ideal. She chose ‘Ut Prosim’, meaning “That I May Serve”, as the school’s motto. ‘Ut Prosim’ symbolises the school’s Christian foundations and intention, that every student shall be introduced to the Christian faith through the practical experience of Christian care. Miss Roseby Ball’s tireless work in establishing and developing Danebank over 17 years, and working tirelessly to serve the needs of the children in her care and their families, enabled her young pupils to thrive. This is a striking example of service.
The ‘new education’
Miss Ball introduced the latest educational model to Danebank and had positive ideas about how children learnt. She had become acquainted with the latest educational trends while a probationary teacher working at SCEGGS Redlands. She wrote:
Redlands was the first school in Sydney to have a modern practising kindergarten. The methods used here were so exciting and different from the old humdrum of teaching young children – it caught my imagination immediately… I discovered my life’s calling, which was kindergarten and preparatory education with young children.
The curriculum, called ‘the new education’, was based on the premise that children must learn to do by experience rather than from an overemphasis on formal academic lessons.
The new education has shifted the emphasis from the school to the child, from mere learning to understanding, thinking and doing. (written in 1937)
Gradually, as enrolments increased, Miss Ball was able to support this ‘new education’ by employing additional teachers. By 1937 she had a full-time assistant teacher and had enhanced the curriculum by including visiting teachers who taught a range of specialist subjects such as Art, Music, French and Elocution.
The War Years
In 1939 Australia entered World War Two. Miss Ball responded to the crisis by establishing Danebank’s first boarding Program. Some of the new children were as young as three years old and were from families whose fathers were away at war and whose mothers needed to work. Security measures were introduced on the site including the building of a large air-raid shelter and the digging of trenches in the school grounds.
Miss Knox, Miss Roseby Ball’s first assistant teacher, described Miss Roseby Ball during these years as an excellent Kindergarten teacher.
She was a lovely lady, tall and strong and very clear in what she wanted to do. She seemed to know what the children were thinking. She knew everything. She wanted the children to be happy all the time they were at school.
A heart of compassion
Parents were an integral part of the school and Miss Roseby Ball, intent upon assisting parents to understand their children better, initiated a parents’ university tutorial class in Child Psychology. The class was well-attended and was later extended to a second course by popular request. The classes also attracted outside interest from a woman whose son suffered from ‘spastic paralysis’. The boy had been (incorrectly) labelled as ‘mentally retarded’ and was refused entry to conventional schooling. His mother undertook courses in Speech Therapy in order to help her son to speak and physical therapy to help him become mobile.
Miss Roseby Ball met the mother at the Psychology course. She sympathised with the family’s dilemma and offered that the boy could attend Danebank. He remained under Miss Ball’s care for eight years. Remarkably, the young man was able to continue his education when he left Danebank and he also found employment. The following accolades were written about Miss Ball by the boy’s mother, Mrs Duncan.
How noble she was, how understanding, how patient to this spastic pupil. While society offered a child such as mine no escape from a life of boredom and illiteracy, Miss Ball with her innate goodness and faith, defied convention, and taught this child to concentrate, absorb and learn.. She was as determined to impart knowledge to this little handicapped lad and care for his cultural and intellectual role in life, as I was to develop his muscles and co-ordinate his brain with movements… His two brothers are prominent in the medical profession… but their achievements are not comparable with that of their younger brother whose courage, determination and fortitude hall-mark him as one of Miss Ball’s greatest achievements in her teaching career.
After 1945, difficulties regarding accommodation at the school were highlighted, particularly for the older students. More than 100 students were enrolled whose ages ranged from three to 14 years. Solutions were costly and Miss Roseby Ball did not have the means to support further expansion. She also had her personal ‘difficulty’ in that her mother was almost ninety and needing care. She decided, therefore to leave Danebank at the end of 1949. Before leaving, however, Miss Ball ensured that the future stewardship of the school was established. She arranged for Danebank to become one of a number of schools which operated under the auspices of the Anglican Diocese.
Miss Roseby Ball’s legacy
Miss Edith Roseby Ball lived her life as testimony to the ideal of Christian service. She wrote:
School is a preparation for life. The complete life is one of service. How can we then lead, follow and serve without knowledge and understanding, thinking and doing?
Miss Roseby Ball established the school’s most enduring traditions:
- A Christian school where students are educated to be useful, achieving citizens;
- A school whose students achieve their best academic outcomes;
- A school where less able students are accepted;
- A school whose learning environment supports innovative academic programmes;
- A school where development of facilities is constant in order to meet changing educational needs.
We celebrate Danebank’s traditions each year on Founders Day which is held on the anniversary of Miss Roseby Ball’s birthday, 7th March. On that occasion two special awards are presented. The Edith Roseby Ball Award for Compassion recognises Miss Ball’s compassionate inclusion of all students, including some with disabilities. The Valerie Crakanthorp Award for Philanthropy recognises Mrs Crakanthorp’s generous financial support when Danebank was established. These annual awards are presented to current or ex-students who have given outstanding compassionate or philanthropic service to the wider community.
Danebank’s establishment and growth by 1950 bears testimony to the keen mind and faithful heart of this remarkable woman. Today, Danebank’s ethos remains true to Miss Ball’s vision. Danebank is described as “a school with a heart”, where students uphold each other and where they are upheld by staff to achieve their best academically (develop keen minds) and to be fine, contributing young women (maintain their faithful hearts).
A film titled ‘Danebank Begins’ can be viewed below: