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Dates of existence
The Elementary Education Act of 1871 abolished the General Board of Education and replaced it with a body known as the Central Board of Education. The Board consisted of the Colonial Secretary (who acted as chairman) and four laymen appointed by the government for three year terms. To preclude sectarianism, no two appointees could be of the same religious denomination. The Central Board was responsible for secular instruction in all schools receiving government aid. To this end, the Board was empowered to make by-laws and regulations, to distribute funds and endowments, to establish curricula and prescribe textbooks, and to set teachers' salaries and pupils' fees.
The 1871 Act defined two classes of schools: non-denominational "Government Schools" and "Assisted Schools". The latter, which were Roman Catholic foundations, were eligible to receive roughly half the grant applicable to Government schools. Despite opposition from the Roman Catholic hierarchy, grants-in-aid to Assisted schools were discontinued in 1895. The Elementary Education Act authorized the formation of district school boards, which were subordinate to the Central Board of Education. The district boards consisted of five members elected by local rate-payers for three year terms. District boards were responsible for the general supervision of all schools within their districts, for the appointment of teachers, and for the attendance of school-age children. However, enforcement of attendance proved difficult, as did the system of appointing staff at the local level, and in 1894 these duties were transferred to the central authority. Thereafter, the power of the district boards declined steadily. In 1922 they were replaced by Parents' and Citizens' Associations - fund-raising bodies which did not have any significant administrative responsibilities.
The advent of responsible government in 1890, coupled with the discovery of gold and the dramatic growth in population, imposed considerable demands on the educational structure of the colony - demands which were not easily met by the amateur, part-time Central Board of Education. The Forrest government was also committed to a highly centralized education system. Accordingly, by an amendment to the Act in 1893, the Board was abolished and a Minister for Education appointed, having all the powers and duties previously vested in the Board. With the creation of this portfolio, the Education Department came into being.
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Mandates/sources of authority
Abolition: Elementary Education Act Amendment Act 1893, 57 Vict. No 16