Flashback: A life devoted to changing education

IN THE 1950s and 1960s, two former Bundaberg boys changed the face of education in Queensland.

Herbert George Watkin received only six months training as a teacher before he was appointed a pupil teacher at Bundaberg East State School in 1912 at the age of 13.

He signed up for service in the First World War and served overseas with the First AIF.

When he returned to Australia he served as head teacher at Bundaberg West and several other schools in the area.

In 1930 he went overseas again and taught in several schools under the London County Council.

When he returned to Australia he became a lecturer at the Queensland Teachers College.

He was later appointed as principal of Rockhampton High School, after which he became an inspector of education.

Later he was appointed principal of Brisbane State High School for five years and in 1952 he became Queensland's Director General of Education.

In 1953 he became Deputy Chancellor of the University of Queensland.

Mr Watkin worked closely with another former Bundaberg boy, Jack Charles Allan Pizzey, who was the Country Party Minister for Education after 1957.

Together the two of them tackled the enormous challenges to education brought about by the "baby boom" and the influx of immigrants.

The state was lucky that Mr Pizzey had the background in education to argue convincingly and with authority on educational issues while Mr Watkin gathered the department's views and worked with Mr Pizzey.

Mr Watkin later headed the 1960 Committee of Inquiry into Secondary Education in Queensland.

The committee made widespread recommendations for change which led to the 1964 Education Act.

Boards were also set up to control junior secondary studies and senior secondary studies.

Mr Watkin's long career ended when he retired in 1965.

He was later knighted for his services to education.

Sir Herbert died in 1966.

However, he almost had a high school in Bundaberg named after him.

A proposal was made at a Bundaberg City Council meeting in 1963 to name a new state high school the Herbert Watkin High School.

Construction on the new high school was expected to begin soon so it would be open in 1964.

However, the school was eventually named the Kepnock State High School.

Mr Pizzey attended Bundaberg State High School in the mid 1920s.

He became a teacher and from 1927 taught at Bundaberg South, Childers, Brisbane and Ayr.

In 1945 he was appointed a District Organiser for the Board of Adult Education, and opened adult education centres in Townsville and Maryborough.

Mr Pizzey had acquired a BA in 1942, and a Diploma of Education in 1952.

During the Second World War he served as a Captain Quartermaster with the 5th Australian Field Regiment.

He resigned from the Education Department in 1949 and became manager of the Childers Cane Growers' Co-operative and acted as its secretary.

In 1950 he was elected to parliament as the Country Party member for Isis.

He became minister for Education in 1957, minister in charge of Migration in 1960 and Police minister in 1962.

Premier Sir Francis Nicklin retired in January 1968, and Mr Pizzey became premier.

However, he only lived another seven months and died suddenly in July 1968.

Bundaberg State High School's assembly hall was named after one of its most illustrious pupils in 1970.

Dr Robert Goodman, in his book Secondary Education in Queensland 1860-1960, said Mr Pizzey's appointment as Education minister was "a fortuitous and fortunate event" for education in Queensland.

He said Mr Pizzey was well qualified educationally for the position and the education portfolio was give the No. 3 ranking in Cabinet

The major changes he and Mr Watkin made to Queensland education were described as "dramatic" in terms of attendance, finance and examination entries.