In 1968, 14,360 students attended Queensland independent schools; 3.8 percent of all Queensland school students at the time. As a result of the commencement of direct Commonwealth funding for non-government schools and major legislative changes at the state level, the Association of Independent Secondary Schools of Queensland (AISSQ) was formed on 18 July 1968 at Brisbane Grammar School with 29 representatives from 27 schools.
Within months of forming, the Association hosted two science teaching workshops in north and south Brisbane and organised for UK expert, Dr Gordon Van Praagh, to run a professional learning event later that year at Church of England Grammar School. Dr Van Praagh was an important member of the Nuffield Science Teaching Project team which delivered British Council courses leading to major developments and best practice in science teaching for independent schools.
Pictured: Masters’ Common Room at Brisbane Grammar School, the site of AISSQ’s formation meeting in July 1968.
By the end of the foundation year, AISSQ had 50 member schools. It was in 1969 that the word ‘Secondary’ was removed from the Association’s name to become the Association of Independent Schools of Queensland (AISQ). The founding Constitution, that was later variously described by school heads as both “a model of brevity” and “amateurish”, was amended at the same time. The updated Constitution expressly identified the aims of the Association being “to promote, improve, foster and encourage secondary schools in Queensland”.
Total student numbers in Queensland had expanded by 25 percent over 10 years to reach 385,399 by 1970. Over the same period enrolments in non-government schools grew by a staggering 29 percent. The politics of school funding were also shifting and it was against this backdrop that independent school peak bodies recognised the need to speak with one voice. The Association became part of a federated system with a national body, the National Council of Independent Schools (NCIS) in 1970. Today, Independent Schools Queensland regularly collaborates on Federal advocacy issues with the national body, now named the Independent Schools Council of Australia (ISCA).
Pictured: Students at Moreton Bay College, 1970s.
AISQ contributed to a number of significant reviews leading into 1971, including the Radford Report (which abolished external Junior Public Examination) and the subsequent Scott Review into school-based assessment in secondary schools. The outcomes of these reviews heralded a major shake-up of education. The Association set up a permanent In-Service Education Committee to provide for the complex needs of ongoing teacher education, with training and events funded by AISQ grants. In the same year, the Association illustrated its dedication to improvement across the state by way of a professional learning bank, named the AISQ Resource Centre, to enable material exchanges between member schools.
Pictured: Education at St Margaret’s Anglican Girls School, 1968.
By 1975, joint funding for all sectors resulted in state-wide in-service training opportunities covering a wide-range of topics from curriculum development, coping with change and using computers, to social sciences, languages and alternative types of education.
Ongoing growth in the provision of primary education in the independent sector saw the Association’s membership expand to include primary school members. Today, Independent Schools Queensland has more than 170 member schools catering to primary school aged children.
Pictured: Primary school students at Brisbane Independent School, 1970s.
Increased professional learning events, more services and staff meant changes to the physical environment were required. In the beginning, AISQ worked out of large member schools. When the first Executive Director was appointed (part-time), premises were leased at 301 Coronation Drive, Auchenflower. In the same year, the Association assisted in establishing the Queensland Intersystemic Parents’ Committee and secured government funding for parent development projects.
Continued growth of the services provided to member schools by AISQ saw the organisation move to a second premises in Bowen Hills. The O’Connell Terrace office was initially leased for three years, but AISQ called it home for a decade before purchasing its own building in 1992.
The first Member Satisfaction Survey was circulated to gain feedback on services provided by the Association. In recent times, surveys have been conducted every three years by an independent company. Each survey has returned a response in which members have repeatedly acknowledged the Association as the respected peak body for Queensland independent schools.
Pictured: Students at Hillcrest Christian College, a member school since 1987.
The first full-time Executive Director, Mr Bradley John Smith, was appointed in 1984 serving for 11 years. As the workload increased it became imperative that the executive team were more accessible to one another in order to serve members more effectively. Seven years later, at the request of Mr Smith, a piece of cutting-edge technology – a fax machine – was installed in the private home of then Chairman, Sir William Knox.
In 1988 the Queensland Independent Schools Block Grant Authority (QIS BGA) was established as a separately incorporated company in 1988 to administer the devolved Capital Grants Program. AISQ President, Mr Cec Munns indicated that AISQ appeared to be the only Block Authority administering the Commonwealth’s Capital Grants with a representative team whose assessment of applicants were within budget.
In the same year, the first AISQ logo was introduced following 20 years of using a typeset masthead.
Pictured: Foundation classrooms at Redlands College, 1988.
In 1992, the Association purchased its own building at 122 Fortescue St, Spring Hill. AISQ House was opened by the Queensland Minister for Education the Hon Paul Braddy with a dedication by Archbishop John Bathersby the Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane.
Pictured: AISQ House, Spring Hill.
Over the course of its history, ISQ has generated extensive research on various topics and engaged in national and state public policy debate. One such debate centred on the Federal Coalition Government’s 1997 decision to abolish Labor’s New Schools Policy. This policy had placed strict requirements on the registration of new non-state schools. The Association engaged experts to examine the implications of the policy change on the sector. The resultant report contained detailed analysis of Queensland school enrolment patterns in the independent, Catholic and state school sectors between 1991 and 1996. This analysis headlined the first edition of a new publication called AISQ Research Brief, the precursor to Briefings – a well respected ISQ publication that is now in its 22nd year.
The current premises at 96 Warren Street Spring Hill was purchased in 1997 and opened by Education Minister Bob Quinn. Pastor John Vitale, President of the Lutheran Church of Australia, Queensland Synod, performed the dedication. Sound financial management meant 96 Warren Street was debt free in 2005.
In 1999, the first parent survey was circulated by the Association: Why Parents Choose Independent Schools. In their survey responses, some parents expressed regret at not making the decision to send their child to an independent school sooner. ISQ’s long-running What Parents Want Survey (every four years since 2006) shows Queensland parents have consistently identified five key factors that influenced their decision to choose an independent school. These are: how well the school prepares children to fulfil their potential in later life; good discipline; encouraging a responsible attitude to school work; high quality teachers; and the school’s teaching methods and philosophy. These reasons confirm the value parents place on the holistic approach independent schools take to supporting both the academic development and overall wellbeing of their children.
That same year, Executive Director Dr John Roulston implemented a series of AISQ Dialogues throughout the state to keep member schools informed. Current leader Mr David Robertson has continued this practice with the Executive Director’s Strategic Briefings Tour undertaken each year. Mr Robertson also provides Strategic Briefing Videos periodically throughout the year to update members on important issues: school funding; regulatory changes; political advocacy; and school data.
Fourth and current Executive Director, Mr David Robertson, was appointed in 2010 having progressed to this role after joining the Association in 2002 as Director Strategic and Government Relations. The program Teachers as Researchers, now known as ISQ’s Research in Schools program, commenced the same year; just one element in the organisation’s long-running research agenda into education practices to improve student attainment, student and staff wellbeing, and parent engagement in student learning.
In 2010, ISQ partnered with AISNSW and AISSA to fund Community attitudes towards independent schools: a nationwide survey with the results shared with all AISs.
Pictured: David Robertson speaking at ISQ State Forum: Limitless Possibilities, 2017.
In 2014, the entire fifth floor of 500 Queen Street, Brisbane was leased and transformed into a purpose-built professional learning centre which is in constant use for members. Today, ISQ offers tailored professional learning in a variety of ways including: traditional face to face; instructional videos and resources via the ISQ website; live webinars; and ISQ’s online learning management system Connect&Learn, affording members flexibility and blended learning opportunities. More than 300 events are held each year at ISQ’s Professional Learning Centre. ISQ also hosts more than 100 professional learning events in regional areas annually.
Four years ago, the Queensland Independent Schools Parents Network (QIS Parents Network) was established and has since conducted strong advocacy work on behalf of the parents of independent school children. It provides online access to a range of education and parenting advice on issues including: wellbeing; mental health; bullying; and cybersafety. QIS Parents Network also makes international and national parent engagement research available to schools to help them build productive and powerful partnerships with their parent communities.
That same year, ISQ partnered with its counterpart in Western Australia (AISWA) to commission Parent perceptions of independent schools research into the impact of independent public schools which were in operation in both states.
In 2017, ISQ became a Company Limited by Guarantee and became an approved certifying authority for Highly Accomplished or Lead Teachers (HALT) – the highest levels of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. The national certification process, which is overseen by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), recognises high performing teachers who positively impact student learning, enhance school-wide teaching practices and engage with their communities.
The Association made detailed submissions on the Education (Accreditation of Non-state Schools) Bill 2001 that had been developed to regulate the establishment and ongoing operations of non-state schools. For 15 years AISQ fought to protect the autonomy of independent schools, to remove restrictions that had constrained the sector’s growth and to limit unnecessary red tape. A key concern for the Association was that accreditation and funding approval were two separate processes resulting in a handful of non-state schools being approved to operate but not approved for funding. The Association advocated to governments from both sides of politics for more than a decade to amend this inequity and in 2017, ISQ’s efforts were rewarded when the Queensland Government incorporated its calls for a single approval and funding process in an update to the Act.
On 18 July Independent Schools Queensland celebrates 50 years since the inaugural meeting at Brisbane Grammar School. ISQ has been supporting, promoting, and developing independent schools ever since and looks forward to continuing to do so for the next 50 years.
Independent Schools Queensland was established in 1968 by a collective of respected educational leaders. To this day, the organisation remains dedicated to the needs and aspirations of the independent schooling sector, inspired by the camaraderie of its members.
We exist for our members. Independent schools are as diverse as the students they educate and the communities they serve. There is no such thing as a typical independent school, although they are all not-for-profit and seek to bring out the best in their students.
Since its inception, ISQ has developed a strong culture of engaging with, and in research. The organisation has drawn upon decades of international and national research to craft tailored programs that support quality teaching and effective school leadership and governance in member schools.
Since 1968, ISQ has provided quality, informative professional development experiences that empower teachers, improve performance and strengthen student outcomes. Today, ISQ offers tailored professional learning with flexible options for members including face-to-face and online.
Common interests best met through combined action and partnerships has given the independent schooling sector a united voice. The outcomes and advancements over the past 50 years for the independent schooling sector would not have been possible without great collaborative effort.
Providing outstanding service to members is at the heart of ISQ. A service culture ethos has been the number one priority for all staff and successive boards for fifty years and remains just as strong today. In the future, ISQ will continue to support members as they evolve along with changes in education.
The pioneering headmasters and headmistresses of Queensland independent secondary schools were the sector’s first advocates. Their activism and passion directly shaped early education, particularly secondary education, in this state and resulted in a collective voice.
Independent Schools Queensland has been unwavering in its commitment to promote, improve, foster and encourage independent schooling in Queensland. While the size and complexity of the state’s education system may have changed over the past 50 years, the issues the organisation prosecutes on behalf of member schools today are largely the same.