Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Swift beginning for the new college

The third in my series exploring the early days of tertiary education in New England. The new Teachers' College was part of David Drummond's vision for education in the North. 
The most remarkable feature of the establishment of the Armidale Teachers’ College was speed. Four people were critical in that process.

As Minister, the college was part of David Drummond’s vision. His role was to provide top cover and to organize support in the Government and in the North to the initiative.

As Departmental Head, S H Smith saw the College as a vehicle for the implementation of his own ideas on teacher training. Smith had to oversight all the Departmental and administrative requirements necessary to bring the project to fruition.

A W Hicks as the local District Inspector of Schools knew Armidale well and was close to Drummond and Smith. His job was to identify the buildings and facilities required to allow the College to begin operation quickly pending construction of a new permanent building.

Finally, C B (Pop) Newling, the newly appointed head of the College, had to handle all the detail required to create a new institution.

Nine days after his appointment as Minister in October 1927 David Drummond had asked for an urgent report on the possible establishment of country teachers’ colleges, suggesting Wagga Wagga and Armidale as possible sites. Department Head S H Smith immediately recommended Armidale, a recommendation Drummond accepted.

The matter had to go to Cabinet. Hicks in conjunction with Smith began the process of identifying buildings that might be rented or purchased with costs. By 9 December 1927, Smith had prepared a Cabinet Minute seeking approval for the establishment of the College and the purchase or lease of the necessary buildings.

By 12 December, Cabinet had approved the proposal. On that day, C B Newling was summoned to Sydney by telegram, sworn to secrecy and offered the post of Principal. Newling, sympathetic to Smith’s views on student teaching, saw the post as a major opportunity.
Memoir: In The Long day Wanes, CB Newling reflects on his life and especially his period as Principal of the Armidale Teachers' College
Newling would prove a superb choice. While paternalistic by today’s standards, he was totally committed to the College and its students, guiding the new institution through the difficult immediate establishment phase and the equally difficult early years that followed.

News of the possible formation of the College seems to have first broken in the press on the day of Newling’s appointment when the Tenterfield Star reported a rumour that the Armidale goal site was to be used to erect a technical college or teachers’ training college “either of which would serve the northern districts and not Armidale alone.”

From this point, action to create the new College took place against a backdrop of growing criticism from the Labor opposition and the city press, from country towns elsewhere in the State who felt that they had a better claim and from prospective students and their parents reluctant to chance the new college.

Drummond and Smith were unmoved, with work continuing apace. 
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 5 April 2017. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here 2017.  

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