Northern Districts Education Centre

Northern Districts Education Centre [1]

In 1973 a report by Peter Karmel (Schools in Australia: report of the interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission) recommended that one area that was needed to improve schooling was to improve teacher development. This could be done by establishing places where local teachers (both primary and secondary) could gather to discuss trends in education and undertake inservice courses. In response a meeting was convened by Dr Rex Meyer, Director of the Centre for the Advancement of Teaching, Macquarie University to discuss the establishment of an Education Centre to achieve the outcomes set out in this report. A committee was established following this meeting and in November 1974 the Northern Districts Education Centre was established. Four centres were to be funded in New South Wales – at Wagga, Dubbo, inner Sydney and Northern districts.

Initially housed at Macquarie University the disused Congregational Church building at Beecroft was located as a suitable site for purchase. It was on a main road, walking distance to a train station, near a major secondary school and a university and had off-street parking. Finally the area contained a high proportion of teachers and “this stretch of Beecroft Road was known locally as ‘headmasters half mile’ [2]

The innovation of school based curriculum development and discovery (as distinct from fact based) learning meant that the first tasks for this centre were to provide the means and the training to develop teaching aids and to provide a library that would aid in the development of new materials.

As time progressed the projects changed to cover topics like enrichment activities for the gifted child; the effectiveness of teaching a second language at primary school, and the use of computers in schools to provide just some examples.

In 1986 the Federal Labor Government stopped funding the centre with the result that it was solely reliant upon self funded projects. This was linked with a significant cut in State funding for inservice training courses for teachers. The two endeavours that were already provided, and so continued, were software production and high grade printing. Commercial expansion of these areas failed and sales to the educational sector did not meet sufficient costs to justify continuing. In December 1989 the building was put up for sale and was purchased by Hornsby Shire Council for hall space at the southern end of the Shire – especially for use by the Hornsby Concert band.

In winding up the Centre gifted the remaining funds held to the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust to fund Churchill Travelling Fellowships for NSW residents to study an aspect of education. 

[1]      The information for this article comes from P Hull Northern Districts Education Centre (Sydney): A brief history 1973-1993 (Northern Districts Education Centre North Ryde, 1993)

[2]      p.5