While Saint James' Primary School opened in 1997, Catholic Education and the Sisters of Mercy have a long history on the Lower Clarence. 

The original school operated from 1900- 1964 in Clarence Street, Yamba. In 1964 the school closed, and the buildings were removed in 1969.

The Dougherty family donated the land to Saint Mary's Parish to provide a Catholic education for the children of Yamba and surrounding villages. In 1997, the school opened in Carr's Drive with 87 children and eight staff.  The founding Principal was Mr Paul Edgar.

Father Dacey officially opened the school on November 2 that year, and a time capsule was placed in the ground to represent the school community on that day. Every ten years on this anniversary, the time capsule has been opened and another added to represent the new community. 

In 2020, the community of Saint James began a new tradition of celebrating the foundation of the school with a Saint James Day which included the 'Camino de Yamba' which is a walk reflecting on who Saint James the Greater; one of the first disciples.