Increase in Autonomy of Education Boards
The major concern in the administration of the public school system during the same period was the need to devise administrative means which would reconcile the interests of the Department and the education boards. Despite shifts in the balance of responsibility since the 1877 Education Act, the fundamental difference had remained that education boards, with little financial responsibility, were concerned to get the best educational facilities possible for their districts while the Department, responsible for distributing Government grants, was committed to see that they were used economically from the point of view of the country as a whole.
The basic problem remained of finding a modus vivendi reconciling the interests of the boards and the Department. In 1955, following representations by the Education Boards' Association, the Minister of Education set up a joint committee of departmental officers and association representatives, under the chairmanship of the Director of Education, “to explore the desirability of making changes in the division of functions and powers between the various organs concerned with the administration of the primary school system …”. The unanimous recommendations of the joint committee, presented in a report to the Minister of September 1956, were endorsed by the education boards and accepted by the Minister. In consequence of the report, there followed a delegation to boards (sometimes acting in agreement with the local senior inspector of schools) in several matters which, although not singly of importance, together amounted to a substantial increase in the autonomy of education boards. The most important outcome of the committee's report was perhaps the agreement reached that the Education Boards' Association should be regarded as the spokesman of the boards on matters of national policy and that a standing committee on administration should be set up, composed of representatives of the Association and the Department, to act as a permanent link between the local and central authorities. The standing Committee has continued to operate since its establishment as the instrument through which the boards and the department can reach agreement on important administrative issues.