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Expansion of State secondary education 1957-1982

In August 1957 there were 37 State high schools, and 34 secondary departments attached to primary schools in Queensland, with a total enrolment of 15 444 (including correspondence students). After 1957, the Department further extended secondary education by liberalising the awarding of scholarships, opening many new secondary schools and instituting transport services for isolated students. By 1980 the number of State secondary schools in Queensland had almost tripled to 135 high schools and 68 secondary departments, while enrolments had increased to 105 427. In the same period, Queensland's population increased from 1 392 384 to an estimated 2 213 000.

Although this expansion was largely enabled by the more favourable economic conditions in Australia during the 1950s and 1960s, the forces which helped to bring it about and shape its course were diverse and complex. Of the many demographic, industrial and economic movements, changes in community attitudes, and new perceptions of societal needs which occurred in the period 1930-1957, the following had a particularly significantly influence on the demand for secondary education:

  • The moderate increases in the State birth rate in the 1939-1941 and the more rapid increases in 1942-1947. These increases were reflected in the numbers completing primary schooling in the period 1952-1960. Moreover, in the period 1949-1959, the retention rates in the final year of primary schooling increased from 59 to 85 per cent.
  • The relative affluence of the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s throughout the western world. These were also periods of rapid scientific and technological advancement, which led to a demand for increased numbers of workers with special skills in the sciences and technology.
  • An acceleration in the movement of the workforce from occupations in primary and secondary industries to occupations in service industries and the professions. As a result, a much larger proportion of the workforce was employed in clerical, administrative and professional positions.

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By 1960 almost 80 per cent of 14-year-olds were remaining at school of their own volition, so that it could be said that the Watkin Committee's recommendation in 1961 that the leaving age be raised to 15 sought to recognise a fait accompli. The Watkin Committee (chaired by H. G. Watkin, Director-General of Education) also recommended that this extension in the years of compulsory schooling should be coupled with a reduction in the age of transfer from primary to secondary school and the provision of new secondary curricula. These recommendations were largely implemented under the Education Act of 1964. Under this Act, secondary school curricula and examinations became the responsibility of two new administrative bodies, the Board of Junior Secondary School Studies and the Board of Senior Secondary School Studies. During the second half of the 1960s these Boards kept the Junior and Senior syllabuses and examinations under constant review, in an effort to cater for the wider range of abilities and future vocations of the students then entering the secondary school. In some cases, as in certain of the Senior science subjects, such as physics, biology and chemistry, completely new courses were introduced.

In an attempt to provide for the large proportion of secondary students who did not intend to continue on to higher studies, a range of modified Junior courses was introduced in 1965. These included courses in English Expression, general mathematics, general science, social studies and homecrafts. The Radford Committee, appointed in 1969 to review the system of public examinations for Queensland secondary school students and to make recommendations for the assessment of students' achievement, suggested in its 1970 report that public examinations be replaced by a system of internal school assessment.

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The Radford Committee's recommendations were enacted in the Education Act Amendment Act (No.2) of 1970. Consequently, the Junior and Senior examinations, first held in 1910, were held for the last time in 1970 and 1972 respectively. The Scholarship examination, first held in 1873, was held for the last time in 1962, and in 1963 Grade 8 became a part of secondary schooling. These changes meant that no Queensland school student in 1973 was required to sit for a public examination. The century long reign of the public examination was over. Freed from the constraints of public examinations, syllabuses could now be significantly revised and teachers given much more freedom in interpreting and teaching them.

Overall responsibility for implementing the Radford proposals was given to a Board of Secondary School Studies established in 1971. As it was some time before the new broad framework syllabuses could be prepared by the Board, most schools in the early 1970s continued to rely on the old, more prescriptive syllabuses. Nevertheless, between 1971 and 1978, 70 new syllabuses were written, trialled, piloted, brought into full operation and in some cases revised. The new English syllabus, for example, had been written and trialled by 1973, and was progressively introduced to Years 8-12 between 1974 and 1979. In addition to syllabuses devised by the Board, some schools have constructed their own syllabuses for what then became designated as 'school subjects'. From 1981 further changes in assessment procedures will be progressively implemented on the recommendation of the Scott Committee, which was established by the Board of Secondary School Studies in 1976. The Scott Committee recommended that a competency-based system of assessing and reporting students' achievements be implemented.

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One of the effects of the introduction of internal assessment and of broad framework syllabuses was a marked increase in the workload of teachers, with respect to curriculum development and assessment, as well as changes in the nature of the work that teachers were asked to perform. The Radford Committee anticipated these problems, as the following extract from its report indicates:

With added responsibilities for the delineation of courses and for assessment, teachers will have responsibilities broader and deeper than they have been expected to shoulder in the past in assessment of achievements and in curriculum development.

To meet these and other long-standing needs, the Department made provision (or extended existing provisions) for a large number of support services, some of which were school-based. Some of these provided professional, specialist support, while others provided non-professional support designed to free teachers from clerical and similar duties to allow them to concentrate on the professional aspects of their work with students. As described in the earlier section on primary education, these initiatives included the appointment of teacher-librarians, resource and remedial teachers, and teacher aides, as well as the extension of guidance and resource services and in-service education.

As with primary education, these developments have been accompanied by changes in secondary school architecture. In 1972 a detailed evaluation of secondary school building designs was commenced, and in 1973 Cabinet approval was granted for the planning of a new concept designed around a faculty-based campus. A new high school built to this design was opened at Craigslea in 1975, the centenary of the Department's establishment.

« Development of State secondary schools 1912-1957

Origins of technical education 1881-1902 »

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Last reviewed
4 March 2011
Last updated
4 March 2011