Avoca Primary School was built in 1878 to provide accommodation for the growing number of children in the region. From the 1850s the growth of Avoca was greatly affected by the gold rush and the subsequent establishment of deep lead mines in the vicinity ensured a stable population for a number of years. The primary school was designed by Henry Robert Bastow, the chief architect and surveyor of the Education Department to cater for an expected enrolment of 324 pupils. Located near the original National School of 1856, it was built by Joseph Jarvis for 2,243 pounds.
Avoca Primary School is of architectural significance as one of the first school buildings to incorporate verandahs in its design, showing a sensitivity to the Australian climate. The great tent-like form of the roof was highly innovative and the Avoca school was the first to demonstrate this distinctive form of the architect, Henry Bastow, since categorised as the Horsham-Avoca model.
Like many other gold-rush towns, Avoca had a steadily growing population. State School no.4 was built for an expected enrolment of 320. Bastow created the design to meet the needs of Victorian summers. Teachers had complained about excessive heat in the classrooms. The Avoca design attempted to solve this by completely encircling the school in a verandah. Ventilation gables complemented the look of the roofline, and tall windows rose above the verandah, solving some of the interior lighting issues.
Although not wholly successful in reducing heat and increasing light, the design did demonstrate a new school look, one that was better adapted to Australian weather conditions and one that did not borrow from previous design influences. This design became known as the Horsham-Avoca model with Avoca as the most intact original concept.
The Horsham-Avoca design became a popular template for about 25 Victorian school buildings ranging from single classroom sites to those accommodating 500 students.