An Act to incorporate the Board of Commissioners for National Education, 1848 (11 Victoria, Act No. 48) appointed John Hubert Plunkett, Charles Nicholson and William Sharpe Macleay as the first National Board of Education. (1) The purpose of the Board was the regulation of schools established and managed under Lord Stanley's System of education.(2) Incorporation allowed the Board to stratify and regulate its internal structure and gave it control over the expenditure of public money.
Much of the initial work of the National Board was occupied by administrative concerns: books had to be ordered from Ireland, plans drawn up for a Model School, and regulations drafted (3). At the end of its first year the Board was responsible for only four schools. (4) On 28th May, 1849, the Board appointed two agents to advertise the National system throughout the Colony, assist in the establishment of schools, and exercise some of the functions of inspector.
The agents were instructed to make every effort to establish new schools (5)
The Board carried out the following functions:
(a) Granting aid to assist the establishment of schools under the Act This assistance was to finance the erection and fitting out of school premises and the acquisition of schoolbooks and other supplies. (6) Aid was normally only given to schools with a minimum of thirty pupils, however, although pro rata grant was sometimes given to smaller schools. (7)
(b) Appointing teachers (8)
(c) Teacher Training which was achieved by the establishment of model schools and the institution of the pupil-teacher system (9) and the introduction of a classification of teachers (10)
(d) The Development of the Inspectoral System (11)
A school timetable for all pupils was approved by the commissioners (12) but special religious instruction was given by 'approved religious teachers' of the various denominations only to children whose parents wished them to receive it. (13)
A system of local patrons was established to supervise schools on the local level. Responsibilities included ensuring premises were adequately maintained, that adequate provisions were available, that teachers performed the required duties and that appropriate records were kept. The Committees reported to the Board with whom they also corresponded in regard to all matters relating to the school.
The Board of National Education and the Denominational School Boards functioned concurrently until the Public Schools Act, 1866 (30 Vic. no.22) replaced them with the Council of Education. (14) .
(1) National Education Board Act, 1848 s.1
(3) Archives Authority of New South Wales., "The Administration of Education under two Boards, 1848 - 66: A Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Board of National Education and the Denominational School Board". The Archives Authority of New South Wales, Sydney. 1966. p.13.
(3) Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Council, 1850. "General Instructions for the Agents in Establishing National Schools, 23rd June, 1849. Second Report of the Board of National Education".
(4) Linz, C.C. The Establishment of a National System of Education, p. 47
(5) General Instructions for the Agents in Establishing National Schools, 23 June, 1849, in Second Annual report of the Board of National Education. Votes and Proceedings, NSW Legislative Council, 1850.
(6) Board of National Education Regulations, 1848 I,9
(7) Austin, A.G. Australian Education, 1788 - 1900, p. 110
(8) Ibid III,2
(9) Board of National Education. Annual report 1853, p. 3
(10) Board of National Education Annual Report, 1855 p. 2
(11) Board of National Education. Fair Minutes 10 July, 1849
(12) Board of National Education Regulations Appendix F
(13) Ibid. D.2
(14) Public Schools Act, 1866 s. 2
(4) op.cit., Archives Authority, pp.16 - 24.
(1) "Concise Guide", 2nd Edition "A - Cl ", "Board of National Education " p.29.
Archives Authority of New South Wales. The Administration of Education Under Two Boards: a preliminary inventory of the records of the Board of National Education and the Denominational School Board. (Record Groups NBNE and NDSB. Sydney, The Authority, 1966.
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