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

posted on 2023-05-27, 00:10 authored by Ely, Margaret Jean
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 schools. 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 Parliament."


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

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