A History of Inspection in Victorian Colonial/State Government Schools: 1852 - 2012

Barry Archibald

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    For 132 years inspectors had been the eyes and ears of the Victorian Department of Education. Inspectors, collectively known as the inspectorate, were the surveillance mechanism by which the central education bureaucracy could know and regulate what was actually happening in schools under their financial jurisdiction until it was discontinued after 1984. The inspectorate was a safekeeping mechanism, monitoring school performance and the implementation of Department policies and had been the means by which the Department had kept schools operationally accountable. The inspectorial system had been secure, familiar and reliable in that it had been accepted and kept intact over time.

    The objective of the thesis is to analyse and interrogate the development of the inspectorate in government schools in Victoria from 1852 until inspection ended in 1984 and to identify the causes and effects that shaped the work of the inspectorate during this period. Systemic monitoring strategies that have been tried and/or implemented by successive state governments post-inspection (1984-2012) are scrutinised. Post 1984 the Victorian experience resulted in a move to a decentralised system of schools and introduced new accountability in the way schooling was managed and reported.

    The emphasis underlying the research centres on the requirement of education administrators to maintain effective accountability performance procedures. This study investigates the theme of accountability in the administration of education in Victoria and begins by defining the difficulties that arose from querulous church/state mind sets to establish public schooling. The thesis provides a detailed insight into the emergence of the inspectorial system in Victoria and explores the roles played by a diverse range of groups and individuals including teachers, inspectors, Department of Education officials, politicians and evidence and recommendations from three royal commissions on education between 1866 and 1901. The critical narrative used throughout provides a perspective not previously untaken on decision making and policy formation during the period covered by the research.

    That inspection survived for so long said a great deal about reluctance on the part of the Department, even an inability, to change its accountability process to meet changing times. Eventually, change occurred in response to systemic growth and the diversity of community expectations of schooling. Using critical narrative methodology drawing upon the philosophy and methodologies of narrative historians, the thesis explores the interconnection between the Victorian Education Department and its inspectorate and the necessary role inspection played in the scrutiny of Department policy and regulations across schools.

    The research is not a comparative universal examination of inspection but traces the evolution of the inspectorate in Victoria and its ultimate demise as a consequence of a decentralised system of schools post-inspection. The abolition of the regulatory inspectorial system was replaced by a network of self-managing schools. The effectiveness or otherwise of systemic accountability is reviewed in the Conclusion with a forecast for the future direction of decentralisation in schooling.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Charles Sturt University
    • Carroll, Mary, Principal Supervisor
    • Rushbrook, Peter , Co-Supervisor, External person
    Publication statusPublished - 20 Sept 2018


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