Agency VA 919
National School Board
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Date Range: 1851 - 1862
 
Description of this AgencyDescription of this Agency
Establishment of the National School Board

The Board of National Education for the Colony of Victoria, commonly known as the National School Board was established in late December 1851 under the provisions of An Act to incorporate the Board of Commissioners for National Education 15 Vic.,No.7, taking over the role previously carried out by the New South Wales Board of Education (VA 920) for the oversight of schools outside the ambit of the Denominational School Board (VA 703). The members of the Board were appointed by the Governor with the advice of the Executive Council.

Functions

The Board was responsible for the distribution of funds to schools, the management and government of schools, the appointment of teachers and the inspection and maintenance of schools.

Background to the Establishment of the Board of National Education and the Denominational School Board in 1848; and subsequently the National School Board in 1852

Schools in the Port Phillip District were not subject to direct Government administration until 1848 when the Government of New South Wales established the Denominational School Board (VA 703) and the Board of National Education (VA 920). Prior to that time financial assistance either in the form of masters' stipends or a subsidy in proportion to local contributions was granted to schools established by recognized religious denomination and some assistance was given to parents who could not afford to pay the school fees.

In 1844 a Select Committee of the Legislative Council was appointed "to enquire and report upon the state of education in the Colony and to devise the means of placing the education of youth upon a basis suited to the wants and wishes of the community".

The Committee was critical of the denominational system which it considered to be excessively costly and reported that it considered the present state of education in the Colony to be extremely deficient and that many children were receiving no education at all. The Committee recommended that one uniform system of education be established.

Although the Legislative Council endorsed the report by a slim majority, Governor Gipps did not sanction the necessary appropriations to implement the Committee's recommendations since he believed that without the co-operation of the Ministers of religion who were opposed to the recommendations it would not be possible to establish a useful general system of education.

By 1847 however, the church authorities were prepared to accept the establishment of dual boards and systems in return for increased state aid. On 4 January 1848, a General Education Board was formed for the regulation and inspections of schools to be conducted under Lord Stanley's System ie. the Irish National System which had been established by Lord Stanley in his capacity as Chief Secretary for Ireland. This system provided for the non-sectarian education of children at locally administered schools which were responsible to a national board.

Appointment of Denominational School Board 1848

The Denominational School Board (VA 703) was appointed on 11 February 1848 and was responsible for the distribution of funds to denominational schools from an annual Parliamentary grant and a proportion of the Church and Schools Estates Revenue. For a short period, following separation and prior to the establishment of the National School Board on 30 December 1851, the Denominational School Board was appointed to conduct business relating to National Schools.

Establishment of Board of National Education (N.S.W.) 1848

The Board of National Education (VA 920) was established under the provisions of An Act to incorporate the Board of Commissioners for National Education. (II Vic.,No.48 in 1848) which authorised the Board to acquire and hold lands and buildings. George William Reesden was appointed as Southern Agent for the Board. Under the General Instructions for the Agents in Establishing National Schools dated 23 June 1849, agents were required to encourage the establishment of new schools chiefly in those localities where education had not previously been available and were not expected to advocate the establishment of National Schools in areas where denominational schools were already in existence. The Agents were required to arrange public meetings, to provide copies of the Board's regulations, to explain the features of the National system and to assist with the selection of local patrons. They were also required to provide the Board with descriptions of proposed school sites which in settled districts were to be not less than two acres and elsewhere not less than ten acres; to report on the suitability of the proposed local patrons; to provide statistical information regarding prospective students and to provide information on the practicability of establishing industrial schools and associated boarding homes for children. The Board considered that thirty children was the minimum number of students to justify the granting of aid for the establishment of a school.

The Commissioners were prepared to grant aid towards the building and support of elementary schools and a limited number of industrial schools on the condition that at least one third of school building costs was subscribed by local residents. Under the Board's regulations of May 1848, applications for aid were to include the names of not less than three local patrons who were to be responsible to the Board. If a Crown grant of land was unobtainable, applications were to include a description of the proposed school site and the nature of its title; a conveyance of the fee simple (or lease where specifically agreed upon) was to be made to the Board of Commissioners. Upon approval of the application a plan and specification together with an estimate of expenditure was to be supplied by the local patrons.

The Commissioners were prepared to contribute part of the cost of establishing the school house and to provide school books and equipment. The Board was responsible for the appointment of teachers but was prepared to consider recommendations from local patrons.

Local patrons were responsible for the provision and maintenance of school buildings and equipment, the setting and expenditure of school fees, the inspection of school records and for monitoring and reporting on the conduct of teachers in the discharge of their duties. They were required to report annually to the Board.

To the extent that it applied to the Colony of Victoria, the 1848 Act establishing the Board of National Education was repealed with the passing of Act to incorporate the Board of Commissioners for National Education 15 Vic., No.7, 1851, following Victoria's separation from New South Wales.

Select Committee of Inquiry into Education 1851

On 8 July 1851 a Select Committee was appointed "to enquire into and report upon the present systems of instruction of youth in this Colony, receiving support from the public revenue.....and to recommend, if found requisite, a plan of education better adapted to the wants of the Community." (See Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Council, Session 1852-3). The Select Committee, whilst acknowledging the differences of opinion within the community and noting that the Denominational and the Irish National System were each supported by a large section of the community, declined to recommend that the separate systems be continued in their present form. They noted the problems caused by the rivalry and hostility around by the promoters of each of the two systems and the unnecessary costs involved in supporting a dual administration. Given the conflict of opinion, they considered that a mere amalgamation of the Boards was not feasible and recommended instead a scheme based on a plan of the Committee of Privy Council on Education be implemented.

The Committee advocated that the only requirements necessary to obtain support for a school be its efficiency in imparting sound literary and moral education and the absence of any rules requiring compulsory religious instruction. They recommended that all schools receiving assistance be known as public schools and that a single Board consisting of four laymen be appointed with responsibility for the administration of all matters connected with public instruction and the sole management of the funds allocated.

The recommendations of the Select Committee were not implemented, debate on the issue ensured for a further ten years and Victoria continued to have a dual system of publicly funded schools.

Transfer of functions from the National School Board to the Board of Education (VA 713)

The National and Denominational School Boards were amalgamated to form the Board of Education (VA 713) in 1862 under the An Act for the better Maintenance and Establishment of Common Schools in Victoria 25 Vic.,No.149. This Act repealed An Act to incorporate the Board of Commissioners for National Education which had established the National School Board and all property previously vested in that Board was vested in the Board of Education (VA 713).

Location of Records

See List of Holdings 1985, section 3.8.1.
 
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Date Range Series Title Series Number Series Location Public Access
? 1853 - ? 1853 Plan For A Model National School VPRS 4857 North Melbourne Open
? 1853 - 1862 Secretary's Outwards Letter Book VPRS 877 North Melbourne Open
? 1855 - 1862 Register of School Circulars VPRS 884 North Melbourne Open
? 1855 - 1862 Requistion Register VPRS 4821 North Melbourne Open
? 1859 - ? 1861 Register of Applications for Aid VPRS 882 North Melbourne Open
1852 - 1862 Minute Books VPRS 876 North Melbourne Open
1852 - 1862 Outwards Letter Books VPRS 878 North Melbourne Open
1852 - 1862 Registers of Inwards Correspondence VPRS 879 North Melbourne Open
1852 - 1862 Inwards Registered Correspondence VPRS 880 North Melbourne Open
1852 - 1862 Register Of Schools Returns VPRS 4823 North Melbourne Open
1857 - 1857 Rules and Regulations VPRS 56 North Melbourne Open
1858 - 1861 Special Returns VPRS 881 North Melbourne Open
1862 - 1862 Index To Inward Correspondence Registers VPRS 4820 North Melbourne Open
1862 - 1862 Statistics VPRS 14226 North Melbourne Open
By 1852 - ? 1862 Summons Register VPRS 883 North Melbourne Open
By 1856 - 1862 School Inspectors' Reports VPRS 1406 North Melbourne Open
By 1859 - ? 1860 Model School Order Book VPRS 4822 North Melbourne Open
By 1860 - ? 1870 School Inspector's Notebooks (G.W.Brown) VPRS 9684 North Melbourne Open
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1862 - 1862 Education VF 19
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1851 - 1855 Colonial Secretary VRG 16
1855 - 1862 Chief Secretary VRG 26