St James Primary School


Our History

From 1917 until 1993, St Joseph’s Primary School was the only Catholic school in the Parish of Tweed Heads.  The school was founded by the Ursuline Sisters from Armidale who came to the Tweed in 1917, at the invitation of Bishop Carroll of Lismore. Under the leadership of Sister Mary Joseph Reynolds, founding principal for the Presentation sisters at St Joseph’s Primary and Mother Angela Dalton, first Principal of St Joseph’s Primary School, Tweed Heads the Parish school provided education from Kindergarten to Year Nine until 1952 – when the Windham Scheme was introduced and the Secondary students were transferred to Mount St Patrick’s High School in Murwillumbah.

That same year (1952) the Ursuline Sisters returned to Armidale after handing over the school to the Presentation Sisters from Lismore. They continued the great apostolic work begun by the Ursulines, for the next thirty-four years. In 1987 the Presentation Sisters withdrew from the school also and the first lay Principal of St Joseph’s was appointed – Mrs Elaine Ryland. Since its foundation in 1917, St Joseph’s grew steadily and was gradually extended over the years to cater for increasing enrolments, until it became a fully two streamed primary school in 1987 –  with almost four hundred pupils on the roll!

As the population in the Tweed continued to increase, so did the demand for  Catholic education.  Under the leadership of Fr James Griffin, Parish Priest of St Joseph’s, plans for a second Parish primary school and a secondary school were put into action.  Work on both buildings commenced at Banora Point in 1992.  The following year, the children in Years Five and Six from St Joseph’s, Tweed Heads, were transferred to the new school at Banora Point – now officially known as St James!  Reliable sources indicate that the original five Staff members of St James, under the leadership of Paul Bush (Assistant Principal ) and pupils, enjoyed a very challenging yet relaxing year in their new environment.

The dream of the parishioners of St Joseph’s Parish was finally realised in March 1994, with the solemn blessing and opening of Stage One of both schools ( St James and St Joseph’s College) by Bishop John Satterthwaite, Bishop of Lismore.

Year Four children from ‘in town’ joined Years Five and Six at St James in 1994 – bringing the enrolment to 190 pupils. The Principal, Mrs Ryland relocated to St James the same year – Mrs Kelso having been appointed Principal of St Joseph’s in town. At the completion of Stage Two in 1995, children from Kindergarten to Year Three joined the family of St James at the commencement of the 1996 school year  – bringing the total enrolment to 320 pupils.  Over a relatively short period of three exciting and challenging years from its foundation, St James had now become a fully fledged, thriving Catholic school community (K – 6)- with a vision and a commitment to live “Life to the full…as One Family in Christ”.

On Mrs Ryland’s retirement in 1997, Mr Terry Cahill joined the community of St James as Principal in 1998 until 2004. From 2005 -2016 Mrs Vicki Whittaker led St James into a new era of learning for the 21st Century. In Term 3 2016, Mr Nicholas Mctaggart became the Principal Of St James Primary, he continues the vision of the Founders  – building a community of faith and learning, characterised by Christian values, attitudes and practices, in a welcoming and caring educational environment.

Since its foundation, St James has gained an enviable reputation in the wider community for participation and achievements in numerous academic, cultural, sporting and civic events.  As a faith-filled and growing community, committed to the pursuit of Gospel values and excellence in all we do, we are confident that the ‘sapling’  planted in the early 1900s at St Joseph’s, Tweed Heads, by the Ursuline Sisters will continue to bloom and grow  ‘ as one family in Christ’  in the years to come…..


Our School Houses are named after prominent people in establishing our Catholic Identity

MacKillop House

St Mary of the Cross MacKillop is Australia’s First Saint. Mary Helen MacKillop was born in Melbourne in January 1842 and was the eldest of eight children. She was a serious child with a strong love of God and a desire to do what she could for people in need. With Fr Julian Woods, Mary MacKillop started Catholic education in Penola, South Australia and founded the Sisters of St Joseph in 1866. Mary MacKillop lived a life of service to God and to his people ‘never see a need without doing something about it.’

Polding House

Sydney’s first bishop, John Bede Polding OSB, was born in Liverpool, England, on 18 October 1794. Polding arrived in Sydney on September 13, 1835. For the next 30 years Polding worked to create a truly Australian Catholic Church.. He initially adopted a hands-on approach, and often said Mass daily in different locations, heard numerous confessions and attended to the needs of the sick and dying. He also attended the spiritual needs of prisoners, giving Mass and guiding 7000 prisoners in their retreats.  Archbishop John Bede Polding died in office on the 16th of March 1877 at Sacred Heart Presbytery, Darlinghurst.

Hanley House

Father Cornelius Hanly, first diocesan Parish Priest of Tweed Heads from 1918 until 1967. Fr Hanly was an uncomplicated down-to-earth person who worked hard in the service of the people of Tweed Heads. Fr Hanly had a great love of sport, particularly Rugby League. He played as a young man but his career was short lived when he broke his leg. He became a member of Tweed Heads Seagulls club in 1918 and was its patron for 40 years. He loved the surf and each morning Fr Hanly would surf at Greenmount after saying morning mass. He was a member of Greenmount surf club for many years. Fr Hanley passed away on 14th November 1979 in Lismore. He is buried in Tweed Heads cemetery.

Ryland House

Mrs Elaine Ryland was the founding Principal of St James Primary from 1993 – 1997, having been an active member of the Tweed Heads parish and Principal of St Joseph’s Primary, Tweed Heads from 1987. In charge of both schools originally, the challenge was to be principal of both St Joseph’s primary and St James with the parish originally thinking that St James would be the primary school to the infants school of St Joseph’s. As the parish continued to grow, it was recognised that both schools, St James and St Joseph’s primary, needed to be Kinder to Year 6 schools in order to fulfill the goal of access to Catholic education in Tweed Heads. Mrs Ryland’s vision for St James was to provide an ongoing holistic education for children from kinder to Year 6 and then being able to progress across to the College in a loving family atmosphere. ‘A Family in Christ.’