In 1953 the Minister for Education set up a committee to examine secondary education in N.S.W. Its terms of reference were:
- To survey and report upon the provision of full time day education for adolescents in New South Wales.
- In particular, to examine the objectives, organisation and content of the courses provided for adolescent pupils in the public schools of the State, regard being had to the requirements of a good general education and to the desirability of providing a variety of curriculum adequate to mete the varying aptitudes and abilities of the pupils concerned."
The Committee was especially concerned with the wastage of pupils, specially those of undoubted ability whose failure to complete at least three years of high school is a loss to the community. 1952 is a fairly typical year. In that year of each 100 who entered first year 82.8% went into 2nd year, 51.5% into 3rd year, 49% sat for the Intermediate, 42% passed, 15% went into 4th year, 11.6% into fifth year, 11.5% sat for the Leaving, 9.7% passed and 7.5% matriculated.
The magnitude of the task facing the Committee can be gauged from the fact that enrolments in Departmental and private schools multiplied tenfold. In 1957, 178,500 pupils were enrolled in secondary schools in N.S.W. BY 1965 this number is expected to reach a quarter of a million.
The Committee recommends that admission to secondary schools will be on the Completion of Primary school and without examination at about the age of 12. During the first year all pupils will follow the same course of studies. It will be a year of settling down and of exploratory work in fields of special interest.
For the majority of pupils the course will be a four year one at the end of which a School Certificate will be issued following an external examination.
In this four year course there will be two strands. Firstly, a core of subjects in which the adolescent should have some experience. These will be English, Social Studies, Science, Mathematics, Music, Art, Crafts, Physical Education and Religious Education. Secondly, the electives from which pupils will choose up to a maximum of three during 2nd, 3rd and 4th years in accordance with their special abilities and interests and which they will study to the highest level possible for them.
No certificate will be issued before the completion of the 4 year course. This will mean the abolishing of the present Intermediate Certificate.
Beyond the School Certificate there will be provision for a further two years study for the minority of pupils wishing to proceed to the University or other forms of tertiary education. This period will be largely one of specialisation in the fields required for their later education. At the completion of this 6 years course a High School Certificate will be issued.