The Hughes Report

A design for the governance and organization of education in the Australian Capital Territory: Report of the assessment panel on the ACT education authority (The Hughes Report), 1973


The driving principle of the Report is to put as much authority as possible at the school level. By establishing school boards, it aims to create and support an active school community that is bigger than just executives and teachers. It seeks to engage parents, extended family and other interested citizens in the life of the school, and, by extension, encourage parents to be more involved in their child’s academic and personal development. The proposed ACT Education Authority is therefore conceived as a “community–professional partnership” (55) that should resist centralisation.

The Report references the Currie Report in recommending that “all schools should be both at liberty and encouraged to give education varying in educational attitude, methods and emphasis.” (64) Hughes wants to empower schools to be adaptable and flexible institutions given this “rapidly changing world” (cf. Campbell Report). Like the Campbell Report, the Hughes Report doesn’t shy away from its experimental aspirations. It argues that the proposed Authority should be responsible for laying down broad policy to facilitate school functioning; it should not try to run schools. It also proposed that the Authority actively encourage innovative and experimental teaching.


  • Hughes on the paper that preceded the establishment of the panel: “We took on board the Department of Education paper, An Education Authority for the A.C.T., but it didn’t seem to us to cover a lot of the issues. It was a fairly constricted paper. Wasn’t written with much vision. Some of the informal groups in the ACT, like the ACT Education Working Group, had a much broader concept in their minds. Teachers and parents played a very big part.” (Pioneers, 10–11)
  • The non-government schools and the Canberra Technical College were unwilling to be part of the education authority. Hughes had wanted them in, in order to build good connections between secondary and technical education (Pioneers, 11).
  • The Teacher’s Federation opposed school-driven staffing and threatened industrial action. (Pioneers, 12). [sorry no more details on that one… might be a question for Barry Price.]
  • The central recommendations of the Campbell Report (the establishment of secondary colleges) had been accepted by the time the Hughes Report was published . (38)
  • From the introductory chapter: “government must avoid at all cost burying the humanity of the teacher-child relationship in a morass of impersonal and complex bureaucratic procedures.” (2) Then there’s a nice metaphor about helping kids spread their wings, not clipping them…
  • Recommendations were conceived as being specific to Canberra, not a model for Australia, and should be considered as such. (40)
  • Research trip to New Zealand was highly influential, especially in the proposal for regional administrative services centres. The Panel was impressed by the operation of the Secondary Schools Council in Christchurch, which serviced 6–8 local schools.

Summary of key recommendations

  • Independent education authority, governed by a council composed of part-time members from government, the Teacher’s Federation, the P&C, the pre-school society, and the ACT Advisory Council (and then, from ACT local government); and, ex-officio, a full-time professional head of the Authority.
  • Members should have staggered two-year terms.
  • Report to the Federal Minister for Ed, until ACT local legislature is resolved.
  • Autonomous authority that is responsible for public education, embracing pre-school, primary, secondary, special, technical, and evening college education as well as other specialised fields.
  • Responsible for the usual policy and admin, but also for dealing with problems of disadvantage, guidance and counselling services, and the development of regional teachers’ and administrative centres.
  • School boards, composed of the principal as exec. officer (not chair) and nominees from the Authority, teaching staff, P&C and student reps (as appropriate) should be responsible for:
    • developing broad school policies
    • budgeting
    • staffing (teaching and non-teaching)
    • building maintenance and extension
    • encouragement of experimentation with the curriculum.
  • School boards should have maximum flexibility when employing teachers, within broad guidelines set out by the Authority.
  • And various other points about the transition that aren’t immediately relevant.
  • In the introduction chapter on the growth of Canberra, the possibility of freedom of school choice within certain districts is floated. For example if there were four primary schools and two high schools in Kambah that were diverse in their specialties and operations, each of them could be open to any child within the area. 

Assistance of A. Pippard 2013.