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Bill proposed by the Commissioners. But the measure
was short-lived owing to the question of religious, but
non-sectarian, teaching which it supported. Petitions
against the Bill were presented to the House, with the
result that it was withdrawn. The influence, how-
ever, of the Report upon this question of compulsory
education was far-reaching. Such a piece of evidence
as the following, given by a clergyman before the
Commissioners, was enough to make thoughtful people
regard the education problem with seriousness: "In
districts where there is none to instigate the parents
to educate, a large number of the children remain
uneducated. One Sunday, about three months ago,
I visited three families accidentally, one having ten
children, one six, and the other five, and not one of
them could read; the parents themselves could not

There can be no doubt that public opinion in Vic
toria in favor of a secular and compulsory education
was further strengthened by the writings and state-
ments of prominent persons and organizations in
England which favored such a system. Some of

PART I. BOARD CONTROL (18351872) 63

these opinions, of which the following are fair samples,
were published by the Government of Victoria. In
the Educational Times of November, 1869, Canon
Kingsley advocated in forceful language the neces-
sity of establishing secular and compulsory educa-
tion. Referring to the inadequacy of the voluntary
system, he said: "The only way of making parents
understand that educating their children is an inde-
feasible duty is for them to be taxed by the State
itself, and for the State to say, 'There is your money's
worth in the school. We ask no more of you; but
your children shall go to school, or you shall go to
gaol.' ' In the same year, a Trades Union Congress
was held at Birmingham, when the following resolu-
tion was passed: "That this Congress believes that
nothing short of a national, unsectarian, and compul-
sory education will satisfy the people of the United
Kingdom." The press in Victoria ever the advocate
of education in the colony took up the same matter
with considerable earnestness. The majority of the
public welcomed this, for they were weary of the
denominational spirit which had so persistently
harrassed and retarded the expansion of sound and
economical education since separation from New
South Wales in 1851.

The Higinbotham Bill in 1867 had received inade-
quate support owing to the fact that it provided for
religious, but non-sectarian, teaching. When, how-
ever, on 12th September, 1872, Mr. Stephen sought
for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the law relat-
ing: to education, he gave the religious question no
place in it. He pointed out that the Cabinet was
pledged to the country to bring in a measure for
secular, compulsory, and free education. The exist-
ing Board of Education, he continued, was irrespon-
sible to Parliament. Hence, it was deemed advisable
to establish a Department of Education under a
Minister of Public Instruction. After prolonged dis-
cussions on the Bill, the measure finally passed


through all stages, and, on the 17th of December,
1872, received the Governor's assent.

The statute marked the beginning of a new era
in the educational history of Victoria. Henceforth
every child of school age in the colony became en-
titled to receive, at the hands of the State, that key
which, rightly used, unlocks whole stores of knowledge.
Had the Victorian Parliament of 1872 passed no
other statute than this Education Act, that alone
would suffice to make the year 1872 a memorable one
in the historv of our land.







Each rose to be Secretary and Permanent Head of the



FIRST PERIOD (18721901),

By C. R. Long, H.A., a Senior Inspector of Schools,

Editor of "The School Paper," the "Education

Gazette," and the "Education Department's Record

of War Service."



Summary of the "Education Act 1872." The Edu-
cation" Act 1872 came into being in obedience to the
desire of the majority of the electors of Victoria that
every child in the colony should be given the rudi-
ments of an Unglish education. In order to effect
this, it contained three main provisions provisions
that were not to be found combined at that time .in
the educational law of any other part of the British
Empire. It made education secular, compulsory, and
free. Important and far-reaching as its results would
undoubtedly be, the Act for administrative purposes
was little more than an outline, power being granted
to make regulations that would serve to provide the
machinery for giving practical effect to its objects.

Its principal sections may be thus summarized:

1. It repealed the Act of 1862 (usually referred to
as the Common Schools Act), thus abolishing the
Board of Education.

2. It provided, to take the place of the Board, for
a Minister of Public Instruction, in whom all school
properties were to be vested, and on whom the power
of appointing and dismissing officers was conferred.

3. It established a Department of Education, con-
sisting of a Secretary (the chief executive officer),
an Inspector-General, inspectors, teachers, and other

D 65


officials, and stated that teachers were to be paid a
fixed salary and remuneration by way of results.

4. It decreed that State schools might be estab-
lished, extended, and maintained in such places as
might be desirable.

5. It ordered parents to send their children to
school between the ages of six and fifteen years, the
attendance to amount to not fewer than sixty days in
each half-year. For neglect of their duty, parents
were to be liable to a fine; but the following reasons
would serve as a valid excuse for non-attendance:
Efficient education elsewhere; absence on account of
sickness, fear of infection, or any unavoidable cause;
the absence of a State school within two miles; the
possession of the certificate of being educated up to
the standard.

6. It provided that boards of advice should be
elected, and authorized them to act as guardians of
school property, to watch over the conduct of teachers,
visit and report on, and enforce attendance at, the

7. It declared that instruction should be free in
certain prescribed subjects, allowed other subjects
to be taught on the payment of small fees to be fixed
by regulation, and conceded the right to any person
to found scholarships or exhibitions in connexion
with any State school.

8. It required education to be secular, and forbade
to anyone the right to impart religious instruction
during school hours (two consecutive hours before
noon and two consecutive hours after noon), or for
a teacher to do so in any State school-building.

9. It provided that an officer employed in the
Education Department, or a teacher, should, under
certain conditions, be entitled to a retiring allowance,
as if a member of the public service.

Some of the Introducer's Statements. The framer
of the Bill (the Hon. James Wilberforce Stephen,
Attorney-General in the Francis Ministry), in the


lengthy speech he made when introducing it, was at
considerable pains to explain why the Cabinet had
made the absence of Scripture teaching by teachers,
freedom from the payment of school fees, compulsory
attendance, and administration by a responsible
Minister of the Crown vital principles of the Bill.
Some of the opinions and arguments advanced by the
"father" of the Act (as he has been frequently
called) are worth quoting.

"It appears to me," he said, "as far as I can
judge, that a large majority of the country, and of
the representatives of the people in this House, includ-
ing some members of the late Government, are in
favor of three cardinal points, namely, secular, com-
pulsory, and free education.

'" First, then, as to secular education. I think it is
a necessity in this country, and it is a settled ques-
tion. ... So far am I from thinking it desirable
that the State should undertake the teaching of
religion, if it could do so, and if we all belonged to
one particular form of religious belief, I say, speak-
ing from a deeply religious feeling, it is undesirable
that religion should be taught by the schoolmaster.
One necessary consequence of such a system is that
religion is made unpleasant to the pupils. No child
has ever any pleasing recollection of any so-called
religion taught to him at school. A still greater evil
of the system is that it satisfies the conscience of those
whose duty it is to teach religion. . . .

"The next point is that of compulsory education.
I do not altogether like the word, but I regard com-
pulsory provisions as a necessity in order to secure
the sending of children of certain classes to school. I
regard it as a means necessary to introduce at the
present time in order to teach parents, by a moderate
pressure by a moderate dose of compulsion to do
that which, when they have done it, they will find
to their own advantage. I think that, in a country
like this, we ought not to be content as long as any


children do not attend school. ... It will be seen
from the Bill that compulsory education is introduced
in a very mild and gradual form. It is a new experi-
ment in this country. I believe that it is altogether
a new experiment as regards the English race. I
hope that it will be found a successful experiment in
two particulars. In the first place, I trust it will
be admitted that it is not a tyrannical interference
with private rights any more than a police law is ; that
the people generally will recognize that it is a crime
to neglect the education of their children, just as
much as it is a crime to neglect to feed and clothe
them. In the second place, I hope that, as soon as
the law is passed, it will be obeyed ; so that when per-
sons get into the habit of obeying this law, the com-
pulsory principle, though it will continue on the
statute-book, will be a dead letter, troubling no one.

"I now come to the question of free education. That
is a point upon which I feel strongly. Once admit
that all children, whether rich or poor, ought to be
educated, and it seems to me to follow, as a matter
of course, that the State must pay for the education
of those children whose parents cannot afford to pay
for it. That is not alms-giving, but the principle of
co-operation carried out to its fullest extent. It is
altogether a mistake to suppose that, when we avail
ourselves of any ordinary convenience of a civilized
community, paid for out of the taxes to which we all
contribute, directly or indirectly, we take it as a gift.
The child of the poorest parents who is sent, without
paying any fees, to be educated by a master supported
by the State does not receive his education in the way
in which a child receives education at a charity school
in England; but he gets it as one of the advantages
derived from living in a free country where all co-
operate in supplying the common necessities."

Coming to the subject of the administration of the
law relating to education, he remarked that the Com-
mon Schools Act had failed because its administration


was left in the hands of a board having no responsi-
bility to Parliament. "The only way/' said he, "we
know of, and which we have adopted, of securing the
control by this House over the education of the
country and the expenditure for that purpose is to
constitute a department which will be called the
Department of Education, and which will be presided
over by one of the responsible Ministers of the

He assured the teachers that provision was being
made for them. They were not to be losers by the
change. "The Bill," he said, "will place the teachers
in the position of servants of the State. I believe
that is a concession which will be greatly valued.
They will be in the same position as civil servants,
and will be entitled to the same retiring allowances."

"What are we going to pay these men?" he went
on to ask. "We propose to pay them first by fixed
salary for the teaching of the elementary subjects of
reading, writing, and arithmetic, and then pay them
by results; thus the children of this country, without
any distinction whatever, will be entitled to a free
education in the subjects of reading, writing, and
arithmetic. We provide also that, in the State schools,
education shall be given in the higher and other
branches. (I say "other branches" because we in-
clude drill and gymnastics.) Instruction in higher
branches will have to be paid for by fees, which will
go to the teachers, subject to a percentage deduction,
the amount of which will afterwards be distributed
among the teachers according to the test of results."

The Bill Passes. The Bill, introduced on the 2nd
of September, passed through the House without any
material alteration, and was assented to by the
Governor (Viscount Canterbury) on the 17th of
December. Provision was made for it to come into
operation on the 1st of January, 1873.

The Men Who Commenced the Work. It was on
Thursday, the 2nd of January, 1873, when Mr.


Stephen, to whom had been entrusted the portfolio
of Minister of Public Instruction, met the professional
and clerical staffs of the old Board of Education.
These pioneers in the work of State education must
have felt something approaching dismay at the magni-
tude of the task before them: to do what the Act
required to the satisfaction of people, press, and Par-
liament, and at the same time keep the cost (which
was to be met in its entirety from the General
Revenue) within a limit that could be reasonably

They were to begin their work under two disad-
vantages poor office accommodation and new leaders.
The accommodation was unsuitable and inadequate.
It consisted of a few small rooms in a building in
Spring Street (then known as the Model School, now
as the Melbourne High School), erected by the
National Board of Education in the middle fifties to
serve as Melbourne's central school and as a normal
school, to which purposes the greater part of the build-
ing was devoted at the time. (It was early in 1878
when the Education Department moved to the Public
Offices, which had just been built.)

The Secretary of the late Board an administrator of
long experience of education under both the National
School Board and the Board of Education Mr.
Benjamin F. Kane had died nine days before the
Bill was assented to; and Mr. Richard Hale Budd,
M.A. (Cantab.), who had been an inspector under the
Denominational School Board and Inspector-General
during the whole existence of the Board of Education,
had been retired on a pension (500 a year) on the
last day of December. Both these men had been cap-
able and zealous, and those who had worked under
their direction must have felt how much they were
needed now. Those who had been selected as their
successors were, however, not unused to the duties .
that lay before them, and they lacked nothing in
diligence and capacity. Mr. Henry P. Venables, B.A.


(Oxon.), inspector working in the office as Examining
Inspector to read the district inspectors' reports and
advise the Secretary and Inspector-General as to
necessary action, was made Secretary for Public In-
struction and chief administrative head under the
Minister ; and Mr. Gilbert Wilson Brown, M. A. ( Can-
tab.), another inspector, a younger man than Mr.
Budd, was appointed Inspector-General. A few
months later, a still younger man (he had been
appointed inspector under the Board of Education
at the age of 22), a distinguished graduate in both
Arts and Law of the Melbourne University, Mr. C. A.
Topp, was brought in from the field to fill the office
vacated by Mr. Venables.

What lay before the Department. What had the
Department before it calling for immediate considera-
tion and action?

1. School-buildings would need to be enlarged, new
ones built, and numerous teachers' residences pro-
vided. As an accompaniment to the provision of addi-
tional accommodation would be the call to increase
the amount of furniture and equipment required.

2. Compulsory measures would have to be devised
and put in operation to bring into the schools those
not in attendance, and, in many cases, to cause those
already on the rolls to attend more regularly. As
the Act contemplated the active assistance of boards
of advice in this direction, regulations would have
to be drawn up for the election of these.

3. Another thing for consideration would be the
supply of teachers necessary to cope with the in-
crease in the number of school-children. The expan-
sion of the means of training teachers (if candidates
could be induced to come forward) would thus
demand attention; and, with the increase in schools
and teachers, the staff of inspectors would have to be

4. The system of classifying and paying the
teachers would demand immediate attention. What


system of payment would ensure contentment
throughout the service, and at the same time keep
the vote for education at a figure that would not
alarm Parliament and set people talking about the
excessive cost of carrying out the Education Act?
was a question which the Department (as the Minister
and his administrative officers came to be called)
would have to ponder over.

In addition to these big matters, there were a score
or more of minor importance requiring attention
then and since. How they received it and with what
results can be recorded but briefly in these pages.



The Need for School-buildings. The first delibera-
tion of the Minister and his chief officers on that 2nd
of. January, 1873, might well have had reference to
tHe measures to be taken to provide accommodation
for the children that would be seeking it in a few
days' time to be more precise, on the 13th of the
month, when the schools would open after the Christ-
mas vacation of three weeks. As there were many
thousands of children receiving no education, and
everyone between six and fifteen years of age had to
be at school for at least 60 days in every half-year,
and the fees (which, under the regulations of the
Board of Education, had ranged from sixpence to
half a crown for each child) were no longer to be
handed in on Monday mornings, it was to be antici-
pated that there would be a big increase in the

The Position Regarding School Accommodation.
A review of the position regarding school accommoda-
tion showed that there were 450 schools conducted
in buildings which had been vested in the Board and
which had became State schools under the new Act.
In addition to these, there were 590 schools which
were held in buildings the property of the religious
denominations or of private individuals. The latter



schools were entitled to support for five years, if
those who controlled them would agree to have the
same course of free instruction taught in them as
was prescribed for the State schools. Though it was
supposed that many would do so, still the work of
enlarging school-rooms and erecting or leasing build-
ings where they were needed had to be undertaken
with vigor.

An inspector (Mr. John Main) thus sketched, in
November, 1874, a realistic picture of what the build-
ing problem meant to the Department; for the posi-
tion at Queenscliff was similar to that of hundreds
of others throughout the colony: "When the present
Act came into operation, there was, as is well known,
a large increase in the numbers attending school, and
I quote the first case with which I was directed to
deal as a fair sample of the kind of work principally
required throughout the year. The Queenscliff Com-
mon School had been carried on for years in a wooden
building belonging to the Church of England. Early
in January, tfye inhabitants called the attention of the
Department to the state of matters in the district:
the building was said to be unsuitable, inadequate to
the numbers attending, and unsafe; and I was dis-
patched from Melbourne, where I was at that time
engaged, to make the necessary inquiries. I found
the numbers had largely increased, while several
parents were keeping their children at home on
account of the crowded state of the school, and
because they considered the building unsafe. Having
reported on the case and received further instruc-
tions, I engaged the only available hall in the borough,
had proper furniture made, supply of apparatus, etc.,
sent from the office, and the school removed. There-
after a site had to be chosen for the new building,
and a good deal of correspondence carried on in


reference to it. The work occupied me nearly a week
in all."

The Most Pressing Need. The most pressing need
was to provide buildings where none existed. The
places where it would be easily possible to gather
twenty children or more were numerous, as there was
in progress a rapid spread of settlement following
on the Land Act 1869. Writing in October, 1874,
the Minister (the Hon. Angus Mackay, Mr. Stephen
having been raised to the Supreme Court bench)
stated that 500 applications had been received for
new schools, mostly from localities only lately occu-
pied. To meet the need, the portable school was
designed. In 1874, a contract was let for 75 of these
make-shift buildings, each with its tiny porch and
iron fireplace and chimney, stiflingly hot in summer
and bitterly cold in winter, but still "our" school.

Expenditure. One of the strongest reasons
advanced for the abolition of the Board of Education
was that the conditions under which school-buildings
could be erected had been wasteful, whereas, under a
Minister subject to Parliamentary criticism, build-
ing would be rigidly restricted to the actual require-
ments of each school district. There would thus be
a considerable saving. The saving was not in evi-
dence; school accommodation was going to cost a
great deal of money. But Parliament was not nig-
gardly. In the first session after its passing of the
Act, it voted 153,000 for buildings.

The Department certainly was able to point to some
set-off to the increase in expenditure ; for, in its early
reports, it announced that, owing to their proximity
to other schools, many State and capitation schools
had been closed. By the end of June, there were 43
of the former and 33 of the latter so treated.


The Architect's Branch. An Architect's Branch
of the Department, the duty of which would be to
construct and repair schools, was a necessity. Mr.
H. R. Bastow was appointed to the charge of it in
March, 1873. In regard to the internal arrange-
ment of the buildings, plans approved in Europe and
America were consulted, and competitive designs for
school-buildings were, in 1873, invited from the archi-
tects of the colony. The designs remained the pro-
perty of the Government for further use ; but by far
the greater number of the schools was built from
plans prepared wholly by the officers of the Archi-
tect's Branch. In the light of present-day knowledge
concerning school architecture, it must be confessed
that, among the architects engaged in planning school-
buildings in the seventies, there was no genius, or,
if there was, he did not get the opportunity of show-
ing his ability. The long, narrow room with the win-
dows behind the pupils, the faulty means of ventila-
tion, and the inadequate provision for warming were
all in evidence. Hundreds of thousands of pounds
have been spent during the present century in re-
modelling the buildings built in the seventies, eighties,
and nineties in order to get rid to some extent of their
defects. Towards the end of the seventies, the
impression gained currency that the architectural
work of the Department could be performed more
expeditiously and economically by the Public Works
Department. When, in 1881, a Royal Commission "to
enquire into and report upon the administration,
organization, and general conditions of the existing

Online LibraryVictoria. Education DeptA history of state education in Victoria → online text (page 6 of 24)