The Public Instruction Act, 1880 (43 Vic. No.23  repealed the Public Schools Act of 1866, (1) dissolved the Council of Education and transferred its responsibilities to the Minister for Public Instruction. (2) The new Act provided for the establishment of (i) Public Schools (ii) Superior Public Schools (which included some high school education) (iii) evening public schools (for adults who had not had the opportunity of school education) (iv) high schools for boys, which prepared them for University entrance (v) high schools for girls. (3) Provisional schools (4) and the appointment or itinerant teachers (5) brought education to sparsely-populated areas. Education was to be secular (6) with at least four hours secular education per day, although denomination-specific religious education could be given by a clergyman. (7) Education was compulsory for children between the ages of six and fourteen years. (8) Fees were set at 3d per child with a maximum of 1/- per family. (9) The Colony was divided into Public School Districts each with a board of up to seven persons, whose authority included inspecting and reporting upon the schools under their supervision, if necessary suspending teachers, endeavouring to induce parents to send children regularly to school and reporting those who refused or failed to educate their children. (10) The Act provided for the cessation of all aid to Denominational Schools from 31 December 1882 although it was possible that these schools could become certified as public schools if the required quantity of secular education was given, (11) or their premises could acquired by the Department of Public Instruction for the creation of public schools. (12) A system of teacher training commenced. (13)
The first Minister for Public Instruction took office from 1 May 1880. (14) Regulations under the Act were proclaimed on 4 May (15) and 17 June 1880. (16)
Technical Education Branch Established
On 15 November 1889 technical education was transferred to the control of the Minister for Public Instruction, where it was administered through the Technical Education Branch of the Department. (17)
Free Public Education Commences
School Fees for primary and superior public schools were abolished by the Free Education Act, 1906 (Act No.12, 1906). (18)
Department of Education
During the year 1915 (most likely in September) the name of the Department was officially altered to the Department of Education. (19) Mid-way through the same year the department moved into new premises in Sydney. (20)
The Public Instruction (Amendment) Act, 1916
The Public Instruction (Amendment) Act, 1916 (Act No.51, 1916) reinforced compulsory attendance, (21) required that a 'Register of Attendance' be kept (22) and provided for the detention of truants in institutions. (23) The new Act set a procedure for the registration of schools other than state schools. (24)
Public Instruction and University Act, 1936
The Public Instruction and University (Amendment) Act, 1936 (Act No.21, 1936) discontinued the system of Public School Districts and Boards. (25) These were replaced by District Councils in proclaimed areas. Each Council consisted of two representatives of each Parents and Citizens' Association within the area. The functions of the District Council were to
advise the Minister on matters relating to state schools in the area
raise funds for scholarships for pupils attending state schools in the area
assist in conveying the children to school
establish Central libraries to service the State Schools in the area. (26)
The Act also authorised the establishment of Parents' and Citizens' Associations in any state school to promote the interests of the schools and to assist in providing equipment, recreation and welfare facilities. (27)
In addition the Act created the Advisory Council on Education to consist of
(a) The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney
(b) the members of the Board of Secondary School Studies
(c) one representative of each Technical Education Advisory Council
(d) the President of the NSW Public School Teachers' Federation
(e) the Director of the NSW State Conservatorium of Music
(f) the Apprenticeship Commissioner
(g) ten members appointed by the Governor.
The functions of the Council were to report on matters referred to it by the Minister; to advise the Minister on matters connected with public education in the state and to report annually to parliament. (28)
A Board of Secondary School Studies was established by the Public Instruction and University (Amendment) Act, 1936. The Board consisted of:
(a) Five members nominated by the Senate of the University of Sydney
(b) Five officers of the Department of Public Instruction including the Director of Education, the Chief Inspector of Schools, and the Superintendent of Technical Education.
(c) A principal teacher a secondary school (other than Roman Catholic) registered under the Bursary Act, 1912
(d) A person to represent Roman Catholic Schools registered under the Bursary Act, 1912
(e) One headmaster and one headmistress of State Secondary Schools.
The functions of the Board were to:
(a) make recommendations to the Minister in matters relating to the Leaving Certificate and Higher Leaving Certificate
(b) to make arrangements for the conduct of the Leaving Certificate and High Leaving Certificate Examinations
(c) to determine curricula for secondary schools
(d) to appoint Committees for each subject of the school curriculum for the purpose of recommending content. (29)
The Board of Secondary School Studies was appointed on 16 August 1937 and met for the first time on 14 September 1937. (30)
Separate Department of Technical Education established
Under the Technical Education and New South Wales University of Technology Act, 1949, a separate Department of Technical Education administered by a Director under the control of the Minister for Education was established. (31)
Homes that the Government provided for either for orphaned or neglected children or for disciplinary purposes appeared to have been the responsibility of the Department until 21 March 1956 when this transferred to the Child Welfare Department.
'Public Instruction' becomes 'Education'
The Public Instruction (Amendment) Act, 1957 (Act No.45, 1957) altered all existing legislative references to the Minister for Public Instruction or the Department for Public Instruction to the Minister or Department of Education respectively (32) thus making official a practice which had been adopted in 1915. The same Act changed the designation of 'Public Evening Schools' to 'evening colleges'. (33)
Education Act, 1961 and the Wyndham Scheme of Secondary Education
The Education Act, 1961 (Act No.47, 1961) amended the Public Instruction Act, 1880. The new act established the following types of schools:
(a) Primary Schools
(b) Secondary Schools
(c) Composite Schools (which gave both primary and secondary education)
(d) Evening Colleges for the provision of non-vocational education for youths and adults. (34)
The major purpose of the Act was to introduce a new system of secondary education culminating in the award of the School Certificate after four years' of secondary education and the High School Certificates following two additional years' tuition. (35) The Secondary Schools Board and the Board of Senior Studies were established. (36)
The Secondary Schools Board made recommendations and arrangements for the School Certificate and comprised 20 members. The role of the Board was to:
make recommendations to the Minister regarding the conduct of the School Certificate examination
arrange and manage School Certificate examinations
recommend suitable courses for study having regard to the goal to provide a sound general education and range of aptitudes and abilities of the students
appoint a special committee for each subject to determine the course content. (37)
The Board of Senior School Studies made arrangements and recommendations for the High School Certificate, and consisted of 19 members whose responsibilities were to:
make recommendations to the Minister regarding the conduct of the Higher School Certificate examination
arrange and manage Higher School Certificate examinations
recommend suitable courses for study having regard to the goal to provide a sound general education and range of aptitudes and abilities of the students
appoint a special committee for each subject to determine the course content. (38)
University Scholarships Transferred to the Commonwealth
On 1 January 1968 the Commonwealth Department of Education and Science took over all the Department's functions concerned with Commonwealth University Scholarships which had been managed by the Department since the Bursary Endowment Act, 1912.
The Education and Public Instruction Act, 1987
The Education and Public Instruction Act, 1987 (Act No.62, 1987) consolidated existing legislation on school education reinforcing the principles of compulsory, free and secular education. Parents were responsible for their children between the ages of six and 15 attending school (39) ) unless a certificate of exemption was obtained. (40) Principal teachers were required to maintain registers of enrolment and attendance (41) The types of schools established under the Act were:
(a) primary schools
(b) secondary schools
(c) composite schools. (42)
Every State School was to set a maximum of one hour per week for religious education specific to the faith of the children attending. (43) A system for the registration of schools was established (44) The Board of Secondary Education, comprising 20 - 21 members was established. The Director - General of Education was ex-officio a member of the Board as was the Director-General of Technical and Further Education or his nominee. The other members were appointed and included representatives of government and private schools, school teachers' industrial groups and parent organisations. (45) The functions of the Board were to:
determine courses of study in secondary schools and to grant school certificates and higher school certificates;
make arrangements for the conduct of examinations and other methods of assessment;
evaluate qualifications obtained outside NSW;
provide advice to students, employers and the public regarding the content of secondary school courses;
advise and make recommendations to the Minister regarding secondary school examinations, courses components,
monitor the application of its policies in schools.
The Board was entitled to appoint committees to assist with the content of courses or in any other area of its responsibilities. (46) Parents and Citizens Associations and District Councils were continued by the Act (47) The Education and Public Instruction Act, 1987 commenced on 17 August, 1987 (48) and on the same day the members of the Secondary School Board commenced their term of office. (49)
Department of School Education
The name of the Department was changed to the Department of School Education on 15 December 1989. (50)
Education Reform Act, 1990
The Education Reform Act , 1990 (Act No 8, 1990) defined the key elements of primary (51) and secondary (52) education. The Act defined the responsibilities of the Minister (which were carried out by the Department) as follows:
(a) to exercise functions in connection with the school curriculum;
(b) to establish and supervise the operation of government schools;
(c) to exercise functions in connection with the registration of schools;
(d) to determine (with advice from the Board) the general method of assessment of candidates for the recognised certificates;
(e) to determine (on the advice of the Board) the nature of information appearing on the recognised certificates or records of achievement issued by the Board;
(f) to carry out educational audits and program reviews to assess and improve the quality of education for school children in NSW. (53)
The Minister was responsible for the establishment, name change, relocation, amalgamation and closure of government schools. (54) School closures were to be announced by 15 June of the year proceeding the closure. The Minister was to establish a School Closures review Committee for each proposed closure. The Committee was to investigate the validity of the closure. (55)
The types of schools which could be established under the act were:
schools in which education for specific age groups is offered
schools for children with disabilities
schools with boarding facilities. (56)
These additional types of secondary schools could be established:
senior secondary schools which offer years 11 and 12 only
selective secondary schools for children with special abilities
specialist secondary schools such as agricultural or technology high schools
separate boys and girls schools. (57)
A major departmental responsibility was the registration of non-governmental schools (58) and the registration of children for home schooling. (59) The Act abolished the Board of Secondary Education and constituted in its place the Board of Studies, consisting of a President, three ex-officio and 19 appointed members. (60) The Board of Studies was responsible for curriculum development for all stages of Primary and Secondary Education, and assumed the Department's responsibility for the registration of private schools and the supervision of home study. (61) A Schools Appeals Tribunal was established to hear appeals against decisions of the Department related to the registration and accreditation of non-government schools and the authorisation of home schooling. (62) Parents and Citizens, District Councils and kindred associations were continued. (63)
Department of School Education Abolished
On 3 December 1997, the Department of School Education was abolished under the Public Sector Management (Department of Education and Training) Order, 1997. Its branches were amalgamated with those of the former Department of Education and Training Coordination to form the new Department of Education and Training. (64)
For a searchable database of schools controlled by the Department see Government Schools of New South Wales from 1848.
1. Public Instruction Act, 1880 s. 1.
3. Ibid. s. 6.
4. Ibid. s. 22.
5. Ibid. s. 23.
6. Ibid. s. 7.
7. Ibid. s. 17.
8. Ibid. s. 20.
9. Ibid. s. 11.
10. Ibid. s. 19
11. Ibid. s. 28.
12. Ibid. s. 32.
13. Ibid. s. 24.
14. NSW Parliamentary Record Parkes Ministry - No,. 19. Cumulated (loose-leaf) version p. 248.
15. NSW Government Gazette, 12 May, 1880, p.2243.
16. NSW Government Gazette, 19 June,1880, p.2993.
17. NSW Government Gazette, 15 November, 1889, p.8141.
18. Free Education Act, 1906 s. 2.
19. Inferred from the names of the annual reports for 1914 and 1915. There appears to be no reference in the NSW Government Gazette. The Public Instruction Gazette was re-named the Education Gazette from 1 September 1915 and incoming correspondence was stamped 'Department of Education' from mid September 1915. There is some inconsistency in the use of the Department name and the Ministerial designation that continued for many years. The Ministerial title was not formally changed to 'Minister for Education' until 1959.
20. Department of Education Annual report for the year 1915 p. 9 in NSW Parliamentary Papers, 1916, Volume 1, p.471.
21. Public Instruction (Amendment) Act, 1916 s. 4.
22. Ibid. s. 5.
23. Ibid. s. 8.
24. Ibid. s.10.
25. Public Instruction and University (Amendment) Act, 1936 s. 3(c).
26. Ibid. s. 3(e) - incorporated into the principal act as section 18A.
27. Ibid. s. 3 (e) - incorporated into the principal act as section 18B.
28. Ibid. s 3 (e) - incorporated into the principal act as section 18C.
29. Ibid. s. 6 (1) - incorporated into the principal act as section 32A.
30. Department of Public Instruction, Annual Report for the year 1937, in NSW Parliamentary Papers 1938-1939-1940 , Vol. 1, p.1156.
31. Technical Education and New South Wales University of Technology Act, 1949 s. 5, NSW Government Gazette, 1 July 1949, p.1844.
32. Public Instruction (Amendment) Act, 1957 s. 2.
33. Ibid. s. 3.
34. Education Act, 1961 s. 4.
35. Ibid. s. 5.
36. Ibid. s. 6.
37. Ibid. s. 8.
38. Ibid. s. 10.
39. Education and Public Instruction Act, 1987 s. 4(1).
40. Ibid. s. 6.
41. Ibid. s. 5
42. Ibid. s. 7.
43. Ibid. s. 11.
44. Ibid. Part 4.
45. Ibid. s. 29.
46. Ibid. s. 30.
47. Ibid. ss. 36-38.
48. NSW Government Gazette, 31 July 1987, p.4254.
49. NSW Government Gazette, 14 August 1987, p.4484.
50) NSW Government Gazette, 15 December 1989, p.10769.
51. Education Reform Act, 1990 s. 7.
52. Ibid. s. 9.
53. Ibid. s. 19.
54. Ibid. ss. 27-28.
55. Ibid. s. 28.
56. Ibid. s. 29(1).
57. Ibid. s. 29(2).
58. Ibid. ss. 37-69.
59. Ibid. ss. 70-74.
60. Ibid. s. 100.
61. Ibid. s. 102.
62. Ibid. s. 108.
63. Ibid. ss. 114-115.
64. New South Wales Government Gazette No.134, 3 December 1997, p.9749.