Tree Tops Nursery School was founded in 1932 by Maud Hindson, daughter of a North Coast farmer. In 1934 the school moved into a small wood and iron cottage at 107 Essenwood Road and although the cottage had to be demolished in 1946, Tree Tops grew from this site. In 1939 Joyce Ilsley joined the staff and became committed to Miss Hindson’s educational methods and vision for the school. Unfortunately, failing health necessitated Maud Hindson travelling overseas. Prior to her departure she sought to make arrangements for the continuance of Tree Tops, by creating a Management Committee. Maud Hindson died in England in 1940 and Tree Tops went through some uncertain times, until Mr L.S. ‘Steve’ Emery became involved on the Committee. In 1945 he became Chairman and motivated the registration of Tree Tops as a Section 21 Company (An Association Not For Gain). In 2013 the Articles of Association were updated to form a Memorandum of Incorporation and Tree Tops became a Non-Profit Company with a Board of Directors.
Steve Emery was also responsible for introducing the school’s emblem (a stylised flat-crown tree) and the motto –
‘As the bough is bent - so grows the tree’
In 1946 Joyce Ilsley (later to marry and become Joyce Broadhead) went to the UK to train at Darlington College of Education in Durham, graduating in 1948. She returned to Tree Tops in the same year and was appointed Principal – a post she held for 30 years (during which time she became the almost legendary “Aunty Joyce”).
Tree Tops changed its registration from a nursery school to a pre-primary school and continued to grow over the years. When Carolyn Robinson was appointed Principal, in 1983, the school had an enrolment of 120 pupils. In 1984 Tree Tops adopted an 'Open Admissions' Policy and, in 1995, isiZulu was introduced as an additional language. Over the years Tree Tops has gone from strength to strength - due largely to Mrs Robinson's vision and leadership, the work of committed and talented staff and the support and guidance of successive Governing Bodies.
In 1998 a large house on a half-acre property in Bellevue Road was purchased and, after extensive renovations, Tree Tops ‘specialist campus’ for 3 year olds opened its doors in 2000.
In 2004, driven by a commitment to co-educational 'Foundation Phase' education, a desire to give parents further educational options for their children, and cognisant of the imperatives of the White Paper on Early Childhood Development (which stated that by 2015 Grade R pupils should feed directly into Grade 1 classes at the same school), Tree Tops established its first Grade 1. The 'roll up' was completed in 2006, with the establishment of a Grade 3 class and, in 2007, the first 'graduates' moved to Grade 4 classes at various well known schools on the Berea.
At the end of 2007, the school purchased a property at 63 Windmill Road, which, after some delays with ‘special consent’, underwent extensive renovation and was opened in August 2009 as a specialist Junior Primary campus. It currently houses the Grade 2 & 3 classes, and facilities include a Technology and Science Room, an Art Room and a Resource Room. There is also a swimming pool on site, which is used to teach beginner swimmers – and for ‘social swimming’ during break-time on Fridays during the summer months (a very popular activity!)
Tree Tops continues to make use of nearby sports’ facilities and has collegial arrangements with D.H.S. (Durban High School) and Berea Primary School.
(We use the ‘corner’ field’ at DHS for ball sports – it is directly opposite the Windmill property – and the full-length JP swimming pool and netball courts at Berea Primary)