The growth of provisional schools, 1876-1908
During the next three decades, the Government gave priority to the development of industries and railways, and funds to assist local settlers establish schools in the more sparsely populated areas were limited. The depression and drought of the 1890s also hampered the development of these schools.
In the Department regulations of 1892, the Department made a concession whereby under certain circumstances, it would take responsibility for providing up to one-half of the costs of the building and furniture of a provisional school. To safeguard this public expenditure it was stipulated that the buildings should be placed on Crown land, or if on private land, a right of way should be secured and the land leased to the Minister for a nominal rent, the Minister having the right to remove the building before, or at the expiration of, the term. Furthermore, the building and the furniture had to conform to certain listed specifications.
The 1897 regulations allowed for a building to be provided by local promoters but allowed a further concession that the Minister might contribute up to four-fifths of the total cost of a provisional school building, site and furniture if that building were placed on Crown land or land vested in the Minister.
Photograph: Line drawing of Georgetown Provisional School completed by a District Inspector.
While these regulations provided some relief to the settlers in sparsely populated areas, the number of sub-standard provisional school buildings in the State increased. The better provisional schools built to Public Works specifications were almost up to State school building standards.
However, where local promoters were having difficulty in raising the requisite local contributions, many provisional schools were conducted in tents, bush huts, railway huts, rooms and verandas of private homes, deserted hotels, and farm sheds.
The existence of such schools conducted by poorly qualified teachers was a liability to any political party and, by now, an embarrassment to the Department. By 1908, there were 640 provisional schools and 461 State schools.