Irene village is named after Irene Nellmapius, whose father owned the Irene Estate.
Irene Primary School was officially opened on 17 May 1901 during the Anglo Boer War. Irene was at that time a concentration camp for Boer women and children. The camp commander saw the need for a school for the children in the camp and so he started Irene Camp School, with two hundred and sixty learners and six educators. The first principal was Mr Liebbrandt.
None of the original school buildings are still in existence. The oldest existing part of the school consists of classrooms 15, 16 and 17, which were built in 1922. In 1948, the wood and iron building was added to the school. This building was called the Policeman’s Cottage. In 1954 it was moved to its present site and in 1978 it was declared a national monument. This building was used as the library for many years.
Irene Primary School started out as a dual-medium school. This means that classes were conducted in both English and Afrikaans. In 1977 the school said farewell to its Afrikaans-speaking learners when Laerskool Doringkloof was opened.
Over the years Irene Primary has had many dedicated principals and educators. Mr R E Schormann, who became principal in 1927, remained at the school for thirty-six years. Mr G P Pretorius was the principal at Irene when Laerskool Doringkloof was established. Mr Pretorius retired due to ill health at the end of 1977. Mr T de Wet, who had been vice-principal at Irene from 1974, was appointed principal at the beginning of 1978. After twenty very successful years, Mr de Wet retired and Mr Davis was appointed the principal in 1999. He served as principal from 1999 to 2017.
From Irene’s humble beginnings, it has grown into a school with a proud tradition and heritage. Many new buildings have been added over the years – the school hall, the new administration block, the new media centre and science laboratory. The Chapel of St. Francis was built in 1994 from donations received from learners, parents, past learners and present and past members of staff, as well as friends of the school. As far as possible, the planners have tried to keep the buildings looking the same. The only buildings in a different style are the tuck shop, the chapel and pavilion at the tennis courts – these are built out of Irene stone.