School education is the provision of education for children and adolescents from kindergarten to university entrance level. In the early years of settlement, all formal education was dominated by the State, although supervision was mainly exercised through the Clergy. However by the 1820s, the Churches became organised and the State withdrew to a considerable degree from educational activity until 1848 when state elementary schools were established.(1)
On 4 January 1848, Governor Fitzroy appointed the National Education Board to undertake the task of creating government schools under Lord Stanley’s National System of Education.(2) The provision of education services in New South Wales was formalised with the passing of the National Education Board Act (11 Vic. Act no.48) in June 1848. The three members of the Board were the Catholic Attorney-General J.H Plunkett (Chairman), W.S. Macleay, who was a classical scholar; and the speaker of the Legislative Council, Charles Nicholson.(3)
The local community were expected to contribute towards the costs of establishing and maintaining a school (including the teacher’s salary) in their area and to constitute a committee to manage the affairs of the school. In 1848, the Kempsey National School was the first to join the government education system.(4) Opposition to the State system from Churches led to the establishment of the Denominational School Board on 5 January 1848 to manage government subsidies to church schools.(5)
The government system expanded throughout the mid 1800s as new schools were built and former denominational schools transferred to the public system. The Public Schools Act of 1866 (30 Vic. No.22), attempted to rationalise government spending on education and to provide schools in areas being rapidly settled.(6) The Public Schools Act replaced the Board of National Education and the Denominational School Board with a single Council of Education consisting of five appointed members.(7)
The 1866 Act created two new types of schools in addition to Public Schools and reduced the number of pupils required for the establishment of a Public School from thirty to twenty-five. The new type of schools were the Provisional School, established in areas where attendance was likely to be between fifteen and twenty-five, and the Half-Time School. The Half-Time School required at least ten students and was staffed by a teacher who spent time at two schools.
As a result of a resolution of the Legislative Assembly passed on 3 December 1873, the Department of Justice and Public Instruction was created.(8) By early 1880, the number of schools in New South Wales had increased to 1,100 of which 684 were Public Schools, 317 were Provisional Schools, and 107 were Half-Time Schools.(9)
In 1880, the Public Instruction Act (43 Vic. No.23) was introduced and would remain the basis of the State system of education until 1987.(10) The Act repealed the Public Schools Act of 1866 and replaced the Council of Education with the Department of Public Instruction. Other major changes introduced by the Act included the introduction of compulsory education, provision of education to the secondary level, the withdrawal of State aid to denominational schools (from the beginning of 1883), and a reduction in the minimum number of students required to establish Public and Provisional Schools.(11)
Under the provisions of the Act, the Governor was to proclaim Public School Districts and appoint a Public School Board for each District of not more than seven persons.(12) Each Board was required to visit, inspect and report upon schools under their supervision and to suspend teachers for misconduct. The Boards endeavoured to induce parents to send children regularly to school, reporting those who refused or failed to educate their children.(13)
The Public Instruction Act of 1888 created three new types of schools: Superior Public, High, and Evening Public Schools. Superior Public Schools consisted of both primary and secondary students, High Schools for boys provided an academic course for students intending to enter university (separate High Schools for girls), and Evening Public Schools were for those with little primary education who wanted the rudiments of reading, writing, and arithmetic.(14) A variation on Half-Time Schools, House-to-House Schools (originally known as Third-Time Schools) were introduced and consisted of three or more families or groups of families residing some miles apart forming a teaching station visited by an itinerant teacher.(15) The Department also introduced the Travelling School, a teacher who travelled with a mobile classroom such as a caravan or tent, although there were only three of these schools and the last closed in 1949.(16)
In the 1880s, the Government established the first schools for Aboriginal children. The number of these schools peaked in the 1930s but after 1940 the schools merged with local Public Schools or were given Public School status.(17)
In April 1902, a Royal Commission was appointed to investigate and recommend if improvements could be made to the education system. Although there were reforms to teaching methods and school curricula, the basic school types remained the Public, Provisional, Half-Time, and House to House.(18)
In 1906, nineteen District Schools were established to provide advanced learning in country areas.
From 1911, High School fees were abolished and for the first time, a course of study was laid down for High Schools leading to an Intermediate Certificate after two years, and a Leaving Certificate after a further two years study.(19) At this time, many Superior Public Schools became known as Intermediate Schools.
From the beginning of 1913, Superior Public Schools (or continuation schools) were refashioned to provide pre-vocational courses for students who did not qualify for the academic course offered in the High, Intermediate, and District Schools. This pre-vocational system consisted of Commercial Schools, Junior Technical Schools, Domestic Science Schools, and from 1923 the District Rural School. The District Rural Schools offered courses such as agriculture, applied farm mechanics and rural economics for boys, and home science and horticulture for girls.(20)
Evening Continuation schools replaced the Evening Public Schools from 1911 and operated until the end of World War Two. These schools offered vocation subjects to those with a job who had completed primary education and who wanted to gain further knowledge related to their employment. The schools were eventually replaced with Evening Colleges focusing on adult education.
From the 1920s, secondary schools became more comprehensive, offering a wide range of academic and pre-vocational training. For example, students could study the High School course at Home Science Schools and proceed to Teachers College or University. In the early 1940s, the school leaving age was raised from fourteen to fifteen years and many pre-vocational schools were converted to High Schools.(21)
In September 1953, a committee of ten members with the Director-General of Education, H.S. Wyndham as Chairman, was appointed by the Minister for Education to investigate the objectives, organization and content of the courses offered to adolescent pupils in public schools. The committee reported in 1957, and although some of its recommendations were being implemented, new legislation was required to enact further changes. In November 1961, the Education Act was passed and provided for the establishment of the Secondary Schools Board to control courses offered in the first four years of secondary school, and the Board of Senior School Studies. This latter Board was responsible for curriculum in the fifth and sixth years of secondary education and for the content of the Higher School Certificate examination.(22) One of the major changes at this time was the extension of the full High School course from five to six years. The introduction of the Wyndham Scheme confirmed the trend towards comprehensive co-educational High Schools in New South Wales.(23)
The Education and Public Instruction Act of 1987 (No.62) brought all the major provisions covering Primary and Secondary Education under one act. Under the Act there were three types of schools: primary, secondary, and a combination of these two known as composite schools. The Act constituted the Board of Secondary Education to formulate curricula for Secondary Schools. The Board was composed of not less than twenty, and not more than twenty-one members and included the Director-General of Education, Director-General of Technical and Further Education or a nominee of that Director-General, and part-time members appointed by the Minister. (24) The Act also covered Certificates of Education, and the constituting of Parents and Citizens and Kindred Associations.
The Miscellaneous Acts (Education and Public Instruction) Repeal and Amendment Act 1987 (No.63) was enacted with the passing of the Education and Public Instruction Act of 1987. The Act repealed or amended numerous Acts with education provisions in addition to enacting savings and transitional provisions consequent on, and in connection with the enactment of the Education and Public Instruction Act of 1987.
The Department of Education changed its name to the Department of School Education on 1 January 1990.(25) The Education Reform Act of 1990 abolished the Board of Secondary Education and constituted in its place the Board of Studies. This Board was made responsible for curriculum development for all stages of Primary and Secondary Education, and assumed responsibility from the Department for the registration of private schools and the supervision of home study.(26)
Greater urbanisation and improved roads and transport since the Second World War resulted in the consolidation of government schools throughout the state. By the early 1990s, the government system, with the exception of seventeen selective High Schools and four Agricultural High Schools consisted almost entirely of comprehensive High Schools.(27) By March 1993, government schools numbered 2,220, consisting of 1,644 Public Schools, 386 High Schools, 63 Central Schools, 2 Kindergarten-Year 12 Community Schools, four Colleges, 109 Schools for Specific Purposes, and eighteen Field Studies Centres.(28)
Rationalisation of education services led to the amalgamation in December 1997 of the Department of School Education, the New South Wales TAFE Commission, and the Department of Training and Education Co-ordination to form the Department of Education and Training.(29) The new department provided “a single management structure for the provision of school education, vocational education and training including TAFE NSW courses, adult and community education, and adult migrant English service.”(30) Amalgamation was intended to improve education and training pathways, and establish stronger pathways to employment.(31)
In 1998, a new School Certificate was introduced and the year marked 150 years of public education in New South Wales. A review of the Higher School Certificate led to new curricula for students in 2000.(32) As part of the modernisation of education services, multi-campus schools were created, open learning was expanded, and joint educational campuses with other education and training organizations were established. Other changes included the introduction of part-time traineeships and apprenticeships in schools, particularly in industry areas.(33)
1. Concise Guide to the State Archives of New South Wales (Courts of Requests – G): Education.
2. NSW Government Gazette, 7 January 1848, No.4, p23.
3. Barcan, Alan. A Short History of Education in New South Wales, Martindale Press, Sydney, 1965, p83.
4. Government Schools of New South Wales 1848 to 1993, Department of School Education Library, Management Information Services Directorate, New South Wales Department of School Education, 1993, p6.
5. NSW Government Gazette 7 January 1848, p.23.
6. Government Schools of New South Wales 1848 to 1993, Department of School Education Library, Management Information Services Directorate, New South Wales Department of School Education, 1993, p8.
7. Act 30 Vic. No.22.
8. Concise Guide to the State Archives of New South Wales (Courts of Requests – G): Education.
9. Government Schools of New South Wales 1848 to 1993, Department of School Education Library, Management Information Services Directorate, New South Wales Department of School Education, 1993, p8.
10. Act 43 Vic. No.23. Assented 16 April 1880.
11. Government Schools of New South Wales 1848 to 1993, Department of School Education Library, Management Information Services Directorate, New South Wales Department of School Education, 1993, p9.
12. Act 43 Vic. No.23, Section 19.
13. Act 43 Vic. No.23, Section 19.
14. Act 43 Vic. No.23, Section 6.
15. Government Schools of New South Wales 1848 to 1993, Department of School Education Library, Management Information Services Directorate, New South Wales Department of School Education, 1993, p9. This type of school declined to a small number by 1910.
16. loc. cit.
17. ibid., p10.
18. loc. cit.
19. ibid., p11.
20. ibid., p12.
21. ibid., p13.
22. Barcan, op. cit., p285.
23. Government Schools of New South Wales 1848 to 1993, Department of School Education Library, Management Information Services Directorate, New South Wales Department of School Education, 1993, p12.
24. Public Instruction Act of 1987 (No.62), Part 5.
25. Administrative Changes Order (No.9) 1989, NSW Government Gazette, 15 December 1989, No.121, p10792.
26. Concise Guide to the State Archives of New South Wales (Courts of Requests – G): Education.
27. Government Schools of New South Wales 1848 to 1993, Department of School Education Library, Management Information Services Directorate, New South Wales Department of School Education, 1993, pp12-13.
28. ibid., p13.
29. Annual Report of the Department of Education and Training for 1998, p5.
30. loc. cit.
31. ibid., p17.
32. ibid., p2.
33. ibid., p5.