Fellows of Senate

Peter Board CMG

An early graduate of the Univerity of Sydney (BA 1889, MA 1891), Peter Board was a Fellow of Senate from 1913 to 1924.


MA Sydney
Fellow of Senate 1913 - 1924

His early days

Peter Board was born on 27 March 1858 at Wingham, New South Wales, son of William Board and his first wife Margaret, née Cameron. William had migrated from Scotland in 1842 and farmed on the Manning River but he became a teacher soon after Peter's birth.

Educated at his father's schools, Peter was able and studious. His uncle Rev Archibald Cameron, a Scots graduate appointed to the Manning at the instigation of Rev John Dunmore Lang, influenced him strongly in his youth, helping to determine his intellectual interests and his less than orthodox Presbyterianism.

After two years at Fort Street Model School, Sydney, in 1873 Board passed the university junior examination, and when he turned 15 became a pupil-teacher at Glebe.

Following a year on a scholarship at Fort Street Training College he was appointed as a trained teacher in 1877.

His student days at the University of Sydney

In 1885 Board was one of the first group of evening students to enrol at the University of Sydney.

He graduated BA in 1889 with second-class honours in mathematics and, in that subject, was second in his year.

He graduated MA in 1891.

His career

At 26 Board was headmaster of the large metropolitan Macdonaldtown (Erskineville) Public School.

On 1 July 1893 he became inspector of schools at Lismore, inspector in the Albury and Newcastle districts.

By 1903 educational reform had become a political issue, and in that year his report on Primary Education was published. Appointed to a committee to draw up a syllabus for primary schools, he was so influential that it became known as 'Board's syllabus'.

Peter Board in 1905

Peter Board in 1905, photo from the Australian Town and Country Journal, 8 February 1905.

The government adopted the strong recommendation of the Commissioners on Certain Parts of Primary Education to appoint a director of education by making Board both under-secretary of the Department of Public Instruction and director on 8 February 1905. One of his signal contributions was the manner in which he established both the procedures and the traditions of this dual office, maintained by his successors until reorganization in 1975.

Above all he came to see the necessity of changing the pupil-teacher system as soon as possible, and replacing it by full-time pre-service preparation.

In 1905-06 he established the Teachers' College, Sydney, at Blackfriars School as an interim provision until he could find better means of achieving a closer association between teacher preparation and university training. In 1906 Alexander Mackie was appointed principal of the college and a relationship of mutual respect and trust quickly developed between the two men. As soon as he could muster resources, Board facilitated advances in teacher education, leaving Mackie remarkably free to develop its internal program. In 1910 Mackie was also appointed professor of education at the university. By 1912 the phasing out of the pupil-teacher system was completed. In 1919 the first wing of the Teachers' College building was erected on a site in the university grounds set aside by legislation in 1911.

Board submitted draft regulations to govern the conduct of (public) secondary schools under the Act: they defined the scope of secondary and, thus, primary education for the first time, though in terms of examinations.

The Labor minister of public instruction directed Board to prepare a first draft of a bill to achieve the government's intention of reforming the university, 'and such other matters as may suggest themselves to him'. The University Amendment Act 1912 reconstituted its senate, provided for the establishment of evening tutorial classes open to unmatriculated students, and instituted a scheme of exhibitions. Board prepared these provisions in accordance with government policy and on the basis of his own convictions. The Act opened the way for his membership in 1913-24 of the senate, where he increasingly won the respect of the chancellor and fellows.

In 1912 Board devoted his annual report to a systematic outline of necessary developments in technical education, which set the pattern for growth in that field for the next decade.

He was appointed CMG in 1916.

Peter Board in 1923

Peter Board in 1923, photo from the Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW, Digital order number: gpo1_17173.

When he retired, he had realized a considerable part of his intentions in teacher-training and other ideals. From all sides came tributes to the man and to his services to education.

Board died on 12 February 1945.

From the Australian Dictionary of Biography

His membership of Senate

Board was a Fellow of Senate from 1913 to 1924.