Camperdown High School has a long and honorable tradition as a source of education for tens of thousands of Jamaican children over its seventy-five years of existence. The school started in February 1930 as a private preparatory school with six students, and gained grant-aided status in 1958 as a high school with 300 students. It now has an annual enrollment of over 1,400 students.
Now bursting at the seams, Camperdown continues to turn out young men and women of character, many of whom have excelled in academic and sporting fields.,
A proposed new two-story, six classroom building will ease the strain, and more comfortably accommodate the students who attend Camperdown in two shifts each day.
The school which exists today has gone through many changes in its seventy-five year history.
Camperdown was founded during a period of Jamaican history which saw social upheaval across the island. Its founder was Ivy Grant, who remained as Principal throughout the years which saw the school move from from Preparatory to Secondary; from a girls’ school to a co-educational school; and from a private, to a grant aided school under the auspices of the United Church of Jamaica and Grand Cayman. Mrs. Grant retired in 1968.
Writing in 1981, the then President of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association, E. A. Nugent said: “…. To the children of the black masses, Camperdown emerged on the horizon of the early thirties like a small oasis in a veritable desert of educational opportunities, especially at a post primary level. It is rather gratifying to note that in its comparatively brief existence, Camperdown has expanded into a giant oasis capable of accommodating over fifteen hundred students”.
And in the words of the founder Mrs... Ivy Grant: “The vibrant, vigorous Camperdown you see today is the substance of a dream which took its form and shape in the last five decades. From its inception, Camperdown was sought after and came into being to satisfy a need. Parents considered the development of their children’s character as a basic need as physical and mental growth and for this reason; Camperdown was sought out, was preferred, and was chosen”
Camperdown opened as a Preparatory School in February 1930, catering to boys and girls up to the age of twelve, and Mrs. Grant recalled that each succeeding term saw a four-fold increase in the number of students until, in September 1930, a building programme was necessary.
The school later became a private secondary high school for girls and, by the mid-fifties, was facing the problem of trying to accommodate some 300 students in five classrooms on a quarter of an acre of land.
This crying need for expansion led to the decision that Camperdown must become a grant aided institution. To this end, ownership was transferred to a Governing Body comprising members appointed by the United Church of Jamaica and Grand Cayman (then the Presbyterian Church)
The Church provided funding to purchase the largest suitable site in the community – two and three quarter acres of land with a large timber house at 6B Camperdown Road. After refurbishing of the building, the school reopened on this site as a coeducational institution of 290 students.
Grant-aided status was extended in September 1958, by which time the number of students had grown to 301.
The school continued to grow with the erection – by the Ministry of Education of a new building on the premises, which was declared open in January 1962. After that development, the number of students rose to 380 – 125 boys and 255 girls.
Negotiations were then begun to purchase several adjoining properties so as to improve the physical amenities of the school; and in the years up to 1981, seven adjoining properties embracing Camperdown, Portland and Windward Roads were purchased and new buildings erected.
With a shift system in operation since 1978, Camperdown has been accommodating over 1,400 students on a daily basis.
Throughout its fifty five years, Camperdown has made great strides, making its name in football, cricket and track and field – taking particular in naming Don Quarrie as its most famous graduate. Other Camperdown alumni have made their names in the arts, the media, business, law and other areas of endeavor.
For them, during their school days and beyond, their school’s motto has been a guide: Solum Optima Petenda Sunt – Only the best is good enough.