There has been a Fanning school in Malpeque since 1794. The residents of Malpeque started to build a framed schoolhouse when the log schoolhouse which John Craig from Scotland built in 1771, proved inadequate. The people named the school "Fanning" in honor of Edmund Fanning, the Lt. Governor of Prince Edward Island from 1787 to 1805. He spent his summers with Donald Montgomery at Fox Point, Malpeque, and was interested in the advancement of education.
In 1815, the "Presbyterian", a newspaper of Charlottetown, reported children from as far away as Charlottetown were sent to attend Fanning School.
The school acquired an excellent reputation from the beginning. Much of the fame was due to the leadership provided by Rev. John Keir of Malpeque. In 1822 Rev. John Keir drew up rules and regulations governing Fanning school, and appointed a board of trustees, to be elected annually.
Legislation passed rules and laws for the Prince Edward Island schools in 1825 and named this school "Fanning Grammar School". Two other Grammar Schools and a Board of Education were established in 1830 and an Act was passed in 1837 for the Government inspection of schools.
Maria M. Fanning donated two eight acre lots to the school trustees in 1850 for a school master's residence.
There was uniformity of test books for the first time in Island schools in 1876. This was the year the upper classroom was added in the "Institute" (Malpeque Hall) during the restoration period.
Another daughter, Lady Cumberland, proved to be a philanthropist. She sent from England 450 pounds Stirling to be invested by special "Cumberland Trustees" to provide interest to be awarded to pupils of Fanning School as a special Scholarship and prizes. She also leased a piece of land in Charlottetown to the Gas Company, now Maritime Electric, in 1884 and the rent from this land was to go to the Cumberland Trustees. The first prizes were awarded in March 1885. Records of the Scholarship winners have been kept since 1891 to the present day. They are still awarded to Malpeque students.
In the history of Fanning School one of the most illustrious teachers was Sir Andrew MacPhail. In a letter to his friend Tom MacNutt, he wrote about his experiences in Malpeque. One experience he enjoyed was meeting a flow of visitors from Harvard and other American Universities during the summer. They would visit Fanning School and incite scholars and teachers alike to greater effort. They looked upon the teachers as friends.
In 1888 reports stated Fanning School was the only school that was endowed. In 1961 Grades 7-10 went to Kensington High School. In 1969 Grades 1-6 went to the Indian River School and Fanning School was closed. 1976 saw consolidation for all schools in the area. Grades 1-6 went to Queen Elizabeth Elementary in Kensington.
The Women's Institute of Malpeque bought the school from the Government, hoping to restore and keep it as a testimonial of all it stood for through the years. As time passed, it was not feasible to keep up both the school and the community hall. In 1976, the building and lot were sold to Mr. Sharp of Toronto, an artist/photographer, but ill health forced Mr. Sharp to sell it again.
The building and lot were sold to Valerie Ellwood of Kent, England. After a few years of bad luck she was unable to maintain the building and Mrs. Ellwood was informed the building would be demolished if she didn't do something. With a deep love for the old Fanning School Mrs. Ellwood appealed to the Community of Malpeque for help to save it. A group of people influenced by Bill Auld, a descendant of Rev. John Keir, organized under the name "Save Fanning School Inc." to assist in this appeal. They made an agreement with the Provincial Government of PEI to lease a piece of land in Cabot Beach Park for the school. In March of 1993 the school was moved to this its present location at Cabot Provincial Park, Malpeque.
The next phase for the much loved Fanning School saw a new influx of visitors to its doors as it was used in the series "Emily", a Cinar/Salter Street Television Series. The 13 one-hour episodes, based on the Emily books by Island author Lucy Maud Montgomery, began production in September /96.
Marlene Matthews, Advertising Producer, said "I found an unexpected set already constructed and waiting for me at Cabot Park". "It's authentic and will be used as the school house that Emily will go to".
Today, visitors can see the school as it once was, and children can use the rooms to play summer indoor games and activities when visiting the park.