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Background to Establishment of the Denominational School Board and the Board of National Education
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.
The Denominational School Board was appointed in January 1848 "for the temporal regulation and inspection of the respective Denominational schools of the Colony within the district of Port Phillip" and was directed "to draw up a code of regulations for the conduct and inspection of schools of the different denominations, the appointment and remuneration of school masters,... the system and extent of degree of education to be taught in the schools and the terms on which the children of paupers will be admitted - in fact all that relates to the fiscal and temporal part of education." (Colonial Secretary to Denominational School Board, 4 January 1848. Archives Office New South Wales).
The Board 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. On 11 February 1848 a Denominational School Board for the Port Phillip District was appointed. For a short period, following separation and prior to the establishment of the Board of National Education for the Colony of Victoria (also known as the National School Board) on 30 December 1851, the Denominational School Board was appointed to conduct business relating to National Schools.
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.
Cessation of the Denominational School Board
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 (VA 919) and all property previously vested in that Board was vested in the Board of Education. The Denominational School Board was dissolved, land and school buildings were to continue to be vested in the trustees who were also empowered to transfer them to the Board of Education or sell them and apply the proceeds to educational purposes. The personal property of the Denominational School Board was to be vested in the Board of Education.
Location of Records
See list below and List of Holdings 1985, section 3.8.3.