History of Simon's Town School

Simon’s Town School is built on seven different levels and offers one of the finest views in the world. Surrounded by Simon’s Bay and the Simonsberg mountains, the clean air and wide open spaces give the school a unique atmosphere. The present building was erected in the 1950’s and a school hall was built in the 1970’s.


The first attempt at establishing a school in Simon’s Town was in 1812. The school was run by Mr B. van Duren from Holland, but was closed in 1820 due to a lack of support. In 1815 an English medium fee-paying school was established to accommodate the Royal Navy. The new school was opened in 1894 and the first official headmaster was Adam George Macleod. This school was housed in the building, which can be seen in St George’s Street, Simon’s Town. In 1896 it moved to a new building – the present library, and in 1953 moved to its present site off Harrington Road. Extensive expansions followed in the 1970’s to cater for the town’s increasing population. The school opened its doors to all races and cultures in 1991 when parents voted overwhelmingly in favour of such a move and prides itself on being a truly representative South African school.

School Years
As the name of the school suggests, we are situated in a very affluent area. This is, of course, by no means a true reflection of the financial strength of the school as we draw very few learners from the town itself. Our catchment area includes learners from Kommetjie, Ocean View, Masiphumelele, Sun Valley, Fish Hoek, Muizenberg, Mitchell’s Plain, Gugulethu, Khayelitsha, Gauteng and the Eastern Cape. In light of the above, many parents qualify for a substantial reduction in school fees according to the Department of Education’s norms and standards.
We have always been involved in many welfare cases at our school. We support many learners from previously disadvantaged communities and never turn learners away who are keen to better themselves but lack the socio-economic means to do so. The generosity of a number of benefactors goes a long way to ensuring that we continue to provide quality education and, in many instances, sponsor some very needy learners with books, stationery, shoes, clothing, bus tickets and food. The school makes full use of its surrounding beauty and utilises it in both its intra- and extramural programmes. Our sport facilities include three tennis courts, two netball courts, a hockey field, two cricket fields a rugby field, a soccer field and a gymnasium. The Naval swimming pool is utilised in summer. Our junior choirs, sailing and fashion modeling help us maintain a healthy educational balance of mind, body and spirit. As we are truly committed to a balanced education, we encourage our pupils to take part in a wide variety of activities and to enjoy life to the full.

Simon’s Town School is going back to its roots. We have recently learnt a lot more about our school’s pre-history and wish to acknowledge this. In 1815 the English-speaking inhabitants of Simon’s Town decided to start a private English-speaking school because they did not want to send their children to the Dutch District School that had been established at the Residency in 1813. The school was for children of poorer families, without charge, under the administration of the Anglican Church. The school was for both white and coloured children, and was called the Simon’s Town Free School. The school was probably held in a hired room, but its exact location is not known. Then permission was obtained from the Governor, Lord Charles Somerset, for a school building to be erected on the property of the parsonage. Luckily schools were small in those days, and plots were big! The school moved into its new building – on the site where Patel Brothers is now – in 1817.

In 1826 the Free School was taken over by the Colonial Government and from then onward called the Simon’s Town Government Free School. This meant that the state was 100% responsible for the school: the teachers’ salaries; maintenance of the building, teaching equipment such as blackboards; and learning materials for the children such as slates, writing books and textbooks.

By 1861 many of the government free schools in the Cape Colony were not performing well, and were often out-performed by schools started by the inhabitants themselves and drawing only a small government subsidy. The Government appointed the Watermeyer Commission to look into the state of these schools. One of the findings of the Commission, which was also given as the chief reason for their failure, was that they had no bond of connection with the townsfolk they served; they were too liberal; and they were badly administered. This was not the case in Simon’s Town, where the school had been initiated by the community and it was functioning well under the principal, Mr Stephen Osler. But most of the others cost the state a great deal of money and did not bring an adequate return. In 1963 the Watermeyer Commission issued a report and made a series of recommendations which can be summed up as: 1. The gradual abolition of the expensive government free schools. 2. The creation of cheaper public schools that would be granted government aid on the ‘£ for £’ system.

Once this became known, there was talk in the community of Simon’s Town of converting the Free School to a public school. On the retirement of Mr Osler at the end of 1865, the school was therefore technically ‘closed as a government free school. At a public meeting on 7 January 1866 it was resolved to form a 2nd Class Public School, which went as far as the School Higher Exam (later the Junior Certificate) and which was less expensive for the state to run.

Other than that there was a new teacher, the pupils who returned to school at the beginning of the year would hardly have known the difference, as the school was still in the same venue. Their parents would have felt the pinch, though, as they now had to pay school fees. And so the school became the Simon’s Town A2 Undenominational Public School.

The school performed well and soon the community wished to have it upgraded to an A1 or High School, which went all the way to Matric. The Department of Public Education welcomed this move, because it was keen to create more High Schools in Cape Town. This meant the school needed someone who was qualified to teach up to Matric – a principal with a university education.


The school performed well and soon the community wished to have it upgraded to an A1 or High School, which went all the way to Matric. The Department of Public Education welcomed this move, because it was keen to create more High Schools in Cape Town. This meant the school needed someone who was qualified to teach up to Matric – a principal with a university education. The new man was Mr Adam MacLeod, who took over in 1894, and there is no doubt that this heralded a new chapter in the school’s life. The school was reclassified and became the Simon’s Town High School. Only 21 children enrolled at the beginning of 1894, probably because the school fees increased considerably. But the numbers grew quickly. In some sources, the school is described as having ‘opened that year, and MacLeod as ‘the first principal. Considering the status that a high school had over a public school, it is understandable that this would seem like a new school. However, it cannot be seen in the same light as a school closing its doors permanently and all its pupils being forced to go to somewhere else. In this case, the existing venue was retained and most if not all the pupil that registered would have been at the Public School the previous year. It was therefore in essence the same school.


In 1897 the school moved to new premises in the building that is now the Public Library. The school prospered greatly under Mr MacLeod. By 1901 it was described as “the premier school in the Colony’. By 1904 it was one of only 12 A1 high schools in Cape Town and the Peninsula, and the only co-educational school. The others were: Bishops; Ellerslie Girls’ High; Good Hope Seminary; Observatory Boys’ High; Rondebosch Boys’ High; Rustenburg Girls’ High; SACS; Sea Point Boys’ High; St Cyprian’s; St Mary’s Convent; Wynberg Boys’ High (founded 1841; classified as a high school +1893): Wynberg Girls’ High. Some of them, like Rustenburg Girls’ High, was classified A1 from the start; others, like Wynberg Boys’ High, were only classified A1 much later. All of them, Wynberg included, celebrate their year of establishment, not when they were classified a high school.


We would also like to site the example of Muir College in Uitenhage. It was established in 1822 as the Uitenhage Government Free School, but because of The Education Act of 1865 was forced to ‘close’ in 1873 after the principal resigned and to re-open as the Uitenhage Public School. For a long time the school used 1873 as its founding date, even though it could prove that it could trace its education back to 1822. Today Muir College has gone back to using 1822 as its date of establishment.


Like Muir and the schools cited above, Simon’s Town wants to go back to its original founding, and not to use the date when the school became a high school, as we have in the past. As from 2015 we are therefore adopting 1815 as our founding year and will be celebrating the school’s 200th year of existence this year. We believe that makes us the oldest school in the greater Cape Town area, and the oldest co-educational high school.