Living and working conditions in some school communities could be challenging. The reasons for this were based on local attitudes towards teaching and the local economy.
There was a widespread belief in the bush and especially in farming communities, that teaching school all day and preparing and correcting lessons at night was not 'real work'. It was felt by some that the least a teacher could do was to do up a house for himself and grub the tree stumps out of the school ground.
It was preferred and later became policy, that men sent to one teacher schools should be married. The teacher's wife was expected to provide pupils with two hours instruction per week in sewing. She did not receive any payment, her salary being taken as being part of her husband's.
Education Regulations regarding new schools indicated that patrons had to provide a plan and specification of proposed provisional school buildings and teachers' residence. The ideal was rarely realized. Once a new school was approved, the teacher largely had to fend for him/herself. Provisional school teachers were lucky to have a roof over their heads that kept out the water and dry ground underfoot.
Some provisional school teachers lived in primitive conditions owing to the fact that they lived in whatever could be provided by the local community. One teacher at a provisional school on the Darling Downs complained that his hut had been built on a swamp which meant that he and his wife had to 'walk through water continually'.
At another school, the inspector reported that:
- the 'premises consisted of a very rough slab and bark hut of one apartment which served as a residence for the teacher and the school room'
- at midday, the owner of the hut, who also slept in the sleeping section, came in, lit a fire and prepared his midday meal while the pupils continued their work close by.
Children's attendance at school varied in rural communities according to the season. At harvest time, children could be absent from school for weeks at a time to help with cotton picking or corn husking.