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The development of a centralised educational administration in New South Wales 1848-1880.


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Ely, Margaret Jean (1973) The development of a centralised educational administration in New South Wales 1848-1880. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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The principal theme of this work is the development of
a centralised educational bureaucracy in New South Wales between
1848 and 1880. It is a study, not of an enterprise, but of a
pattern. This is not to say that the men within the organisation
did not hold ideals and seek to realise them. They did. But they
also, fundamentally, saw themselves as carrying out functions and
performing roles within the organisation. Understanding changing
configurations in the relationships between the different members
of the organisation is the main task of this study.
The setting is New South Wales in the period when colonial
legislators attempted to establish, promote, and control a National
education system which would ensure that every child was offered the
opportunity to acquire basic literary, arithmetic and social skills.
From 1800 to 1848, first the centralised Anglican monopoly, and then
the Denominational system, had both been funded by the Public
Treasury. In 1844 however, more than half the children of the colony
remained destitute of any opportunity for schooling. In 1848, in
response to this situation, the National Board was set up. Its
function was to make available non-sectarian education to the children
of the colony.
This study traces the change from the largely decentralised,
loosely stratified educational organisation which operated in the
years 1848 to 1854, to the considerably more centralised and hierarchical
organisation which emerged in the 1860's and which operated
under ministerial control from 1880. The years 1854, 1866 and 1880
were points of particularly extensive change.
In 1854 members of the Board of National Education were faced with the possibility of having to close the seventy or so
National schools which they had subsidised with public money since
1848. During these years they relied extensively upon the generosity,
goodwill, and competence of voluntary local boards; by 1854 it was
clear that most of these were unable to fulfil their responsibilities.
There was further, a breakdown between the two parties directly
involved in the schools, the teachers and the local patrons. Numerous
disagreements broke out between the salaried and the voluntary men in
the field.
The National Board's temporary inspector, William Wilkins,
in 1854 informed the National Board in confidential reports of the
plight of their schools. In 1855 his observations and recommendations
on National and Denominational schools were published and tabled in
Parliament in the Report of the School Commissioners. The National
Board accepted the advice of their temporary inspector, which was to
assume the responsibilities and centralised powers to which they were
legally entitled in their 1848 Regulations.
In the years 1855 to 1866, Wilkins became the key man in the
educational organisation. He became the Board's acknowledged educational
expert. He shouldered much of the responsibility for organising the
work performed in both the central organisation and work in the field.
By 1857 he was the Board's indispensable man. By 1863 he had delegated
some of his duties but retained the decision making powers of Secretary,
Chief Inspector and Treasurer. Wilkins was, however, and remained
fundamentally, an employee of the Board. The chairman, and the other
members of the Board, always held the final decision making powers. In
the early days of the struggling organisation however, the indispensable and trusted expert was allowed scope to define both his own role, and
that of his subordinates. During the whole of his period as Secretary,
Wilkins' administrative procedure involved two levels of relationship
with his subordinates: an official, impersonal and impartial
relationship, defined by himself, and a personal relationship. As
the superior officer in an expanding organisation he was regarded by
subordinates as a patron. He valued impersonal and impartial rewards
for services rendered, and he recommended officers for promotion.
Wilkins regarded himself as a patron of a particular kind, a public
service patron.
As Wilkins and his employers faced the problems presented
by an expanding network of schools, by a legislature which required
evidence of an efficient and economic organisation, and by meagre
financial resources, they attempted to regularise and strengthen what
they regarded as the weak links in the system. Poorly trained and
incompetent teachers were given some training and specific instructions
on what to teach and how to teach it. Their role in the organisation
was specifically defined in a series of circulars. Their relationship
with both their employers and the local administrators was regularised.
Above all, they were obliged to be politically and religiously neutral.
Local patrons were still required to fulfil supervisory and maintenance
responsibilities. The supervision of the internal management of schools
was delegated to the middle ranks of officials, the members of the
inspectorate. When local patrons failed to fulfil their responsibilities
or when their internal squabbles or attacks upon teachers threatened
the survival of a National school, inspectors were empowered to replace
them and completely supervise the schools themselves.
By 1866 the educational administration built up by the
supporters of the National education system conformed closely to the
"ideal type" of nineteenth century bureaucracy described by the
German sociologist, Max Weber. His description of such a bureaucracy
provides a useful model for the analysis of the emerging patterns of
relationships between the different officials within the educational
hierarchy in the years 1858 to 1866. By 1866 the organisation had
developed many of the hallmarks of a modern bureaucracy: legality,
rules and regulations, the precise definition of roles within a
hierarchical structure, the centralisation of decision making,
professional employees and advisers who fulfilled certain educational
requirements, and who were able to function efficiently, impersonally,
and, if need be, discreetly.
The alternative educational organisation, the Denominational
Board, did not succeed in centralising their administration to quite
the same extent as did the national Board. They met opposition from
the ecclesiastical heads of the major Church bureaucracies who mostly
wished to retain their own powers of control. Nevertheless, the
Denominational Board, under pressure from its teachers and from the
Legislature, was also taking steps towards greater centralisation of
control in its own hands. However, it was the more efficiently
centralised organisation of the National Board which the Legislature
chose in 1866 to assume control of both National and Denominational
The main decision making powers in the newly constituted
Council of Education were vested in the President rather than the
Council members or the Secretary. The first President was in fact the man who framed the legislation, Henry Parkes. He was succeeded by
other politicians, G. Wigram Allen, J. Smith, and J. Robertson.
The work of the officers employed by the Council in the years
1866 to 1880 was even more strictly regularised. Their functions and
roles were even more carefully defined than in the years of the
National Board. Even Wilkins' role was more specifically delineated
by the 1867 Regulations. His work load was increased rather than
lessened, and he was allowed considerably less latitude by his masters
in the Council than he had enjoyed under the Board. In Hook's
terminology, he became an eventful rather than an event making man.
With the bureaucratic organisation inherited from the
National Board, complete with its hierarchy of fully employed and
regularised officials, the Council of Education generally was able to
fulfil the expectations of its political masters. In their drive to
expand, to economise, and to give evidence of efficient organisation,
the Council was sometimes embarrassed by the unintended consequences
of its increasing regularisation of the administrative machinery. New
tensions arose between the Council and the Inspectors, the inspectors
and the teachers, the teachers and the Council, and the Council and
local patrons of schools under their supervision. There were instances
in these years of open Council-teacher and Council-local patron conflict.
Generally, the Council of Education received not only the
financial and administrative support of the Legislature, but also
protection from detractors. As the financial vote for education
continued to increase in size, however, the colonial Legislature
demanded more direct control over the educational machinery. The men who held the final decision making powers were thus the elected
representatives of "the people". In 1880 the educational administration
was placed under the control of a Minister responsible to

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: School management and organization
Copyright Holders: The Author
Additional Information:

Bibliography: p. 343-353. Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tasmania, 1974

Date Deposited: 08 Dec 2014 23:54
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2016 05:56
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