The Problems in Interpreting the School Admissions Data
The Admission Registers are the only complete source for numbers in the early period (1888-1918). The Admission Registers are difficult to decipher. Parts of the register were reproduced on different occasions, changing the order of entries. Admission Registers record new admissions of each pupil upon arrival to the school. Each pupil is given an admission registry number recorded in sequential order, that is, from 1 for Earnest Rowe on 30 April 1888 to 26,124 for Jorenn Golan on 2 December 1996. The theory and usual practice was that each pupil would have a unique admission registry number, but there are some accidental variations in the sequencing. Pupil Golan is recorded as 26,124 but the spread-sheet shows that there are 35,391 records, and hence, assumingly 35,391 pupils in the 108 years from 1888 to 1996. Was there more than one entry for the same pupil made? It is evident that parts of register are repeated at least. Furthermore in a given year there are two or three pupils with the same given and surnames. It is possible that the same pupil has been recorded in the register more than once. It might be the case that the same pupil has been re-admitted in the register in different years, perhaps after a period of truancy or a transfer back from another institution.
The problem is that there is no reliable way to filter out repeat entries since it is equally possible for pupils with the same full name to be attending the school over the same or similar period of time. We can, however, make a small sample study to get a measure of repeated names in the register and be able to find a lower estimate of admission numbers if one wants to adjust for theoretical errors. This is important for the first four years of the establishment stage, from 1888 to 1891, from the founding of the Thompson Estate Provisional School to the opening of the Thompson Estate State School on its permanent site at Junction Park. In those four years the register has 1835 pupils listed. By taking out duplication of the same full name, the number listed was reduced to 1383 (452 duplications removed). There needed to be slightly more work done since the process had to consider the same name with one entry having an abbreviated form or a very slight change of spelling, for example, Wm. for William or Milly for Millie. This second part of the process was important because it also picked up the strong possibility that many pupils were the same pupil entered with two similarly spelt surnames, e.g. Ivy and Charles Garret and Ivy and Charles Garrett. Finding a long list of name suspiciously similar has convinced me that the register list is greatly over inflated for these early years. More effective administrative practices in the latter period would most likely have reduced the error rate closer to zero. However, with large numbers of pupils and very minimal resources and administrative standards in the establishment stage, the numbers are highly inflated. The final reduction of the 1888-1891 list has come down to 1265 pupils by removing another 120 names that are suspiciously indicative of the same person. Calculating the difference in the total number of records for the 1888-1891 list, and the number of duplications and names that suggest the same person (572), we find that the error rate is around 31% in this establishment stage.
Growth and Trend Graphs
The following graphs have been produced from MS Excel spreadsheets provided by the Queensland Family History Society: Register Order List of Students in the Admission Registers of Junction Park Schools. Junction Park State School 1888-1996. Queensland Family History Society. 2008.
Graph A. Admission Numbers in the Junction Park State School Register 1888-1891
Graph B. Unadjusted Admission Numbers from the Junction Park State School Register 1888-1996
Interpreting the School Admission Data
While understanding that the Admission Registers are not class attendance records, and in the absence of such records, the Admission Register can only approximate the school population at the time, and by counting only the pupils with the same full name (to adjust for double entries) it is calculated that the school had 1, 265 students across the first three years (see Graph A). In this period, admissions were taken at least weekly, if not daily during infrequent times of the year. In the three years (1888-1891) there were 285 admission days. Outside of the peak admission days, the median range in the numbers of pupils enrolling on any given regular school day was between ten and twenty. The highest admission numbers were unsurprisingly at the beginning of the school year. At the start of 1889 the annual first day admission numbers were much smaller than the same time in the previous year, ranging between 18 to 28 pupils (adjusted figure taking out suspected doubles to raw figures from entries). At the beginning of the following year (1890) the numbers dramatically surged back, 58 to76 pupils (for first days of the school year). This growth was sustained for one more year (1891) with 37 to 74 pupils.
After these earliest years, the level of annual admission numbers -- approximately 500 to 600 enrolments -- were never to be repeated in the history of the school (see Graph B). Although the accuracy of the numbers is questionable, the general pattern of annual admission numbers is enough to reveal a few further observations. There was another spike in admissions for the school just before the turn of the century, followed by a dramatic decline in admissions in the first decade of the twentieth century. For the following decades annual admission numbers fell into a ballpark figure of 300 admitted pupils, with a small spike in the mid-1920s towards 400 admissions. There were then only two short periods in the early 1950s and mid-1970s with spikes over 400 admissions. In the late 1940s admission numbers briefly fell sharply before heading to the early 1950s peak. Apart from the mid-1970s spike, the general pattern in annual admission numbers since the early 1950s has been a slow decline to below 200 admissions in the mid-1996. In the last few decades admission numbers have started to head back up.
It has to be remembered, though, that these are admission numbers and only partially reflect the school population at a given time. School enrolments are a different creature to admissions. After being admitted, a pupil can transfer out, be truant, or sadly become deceased. Unfortunately sufficient enrolment records have not survived, and we can only rely on the impressionistic picture that the data from the Admission Register provides.
The 1892 Queensland Context
In 1892, just at the end of this first growth spurt for the school, The Brisbane Courier published the Department of Public Instruction Report for 1891. Alongside the data from the school's Admission Register, the report provides a context for the first school cohort and we start to see the real significance of the challenge that the Thompson Estate Provisional School faced. The picture conveys an overloaded education system at time the Government was economising resources. Across Queensland 1891 the:
...gross enrolment was 77,137. Deducting the multiple enrolments, which amounted to 9200, leaves 67,931 as the net enrolment or number of district children who attended the schools during the year. The net enrolment shows an increase of 3868 on that of the previous year. Of the net enrolment 43,912, or 64.6 per cent, were of statute age, 10,393 (16.3 per cent) were under the statute age, and 13,526 (20.1 per cent) were above it. The average daily attendance was 45,001, being 38,771 in the State and 6233 in the provisional schools. The increase on the average for the previous year was 4103, the largest annual increase recorded. The mean of the increases in 1890 and 1891 corresponded very nearly to the average annual increase during the sixteen years during which the present Education Act has been in force. In 1891 the average attendance amounted to 66.25 per cent of the net enrolment, a result indicating a regularity of attendance greater than in any previous year, with the exception of 1888 in which the average was 66.27 per cent of the net enrolment. According to the census taken on the 5th day of April, 1891, there were in the colony at that date 53,054 children of statute age. …there remain in the colony 4841 children of statute age (about 9 per cent of the whole) who are not under instruction.
The Queensland economy was unfortunately depressed and although there was an increase of over 4000 in the number of pupils in average attendance, the number of teachers employed had been decreased by 18. The expenditure on buildings had also decreased £10,633. Economic rationalism is not a recent phenomenon for the Queensland Government and, to deflect the attention away from a problem of economic management and adequate resourcing, we get the familiar rhetoric that places fantastic demands on teachers and pupils in 1891. The quote from the report is lengthy but the detail from the General Inspector's perspective gives a rich understanding of the demands that the Thompson Estate Provisional School teachers had to face, often devoid of any relationship to the actual experience of school life:
At the end of 1890 the total number of teachers employed was 1498. At the end of 1891 it was 1480. Of classified teachers there was an increase of 12, of unclassified an increase of 15, and of pupil teachers a decrease of 95. The efforts to reduce the staffs of the larger schools have been sustained during the year, and with marked effect. With 4108 more pupils in attendance there were fewer teachers by 18 than in 1890, and the average number of pupils to each teacher in the service, old or young, skilled or unskilled, is now over 30. The reduction of staffs will go on until all the State schools are staffed in accordance with the scale laid down in clause 57 of the new regulations. When this is accomplished, it is estimated that the average number of pupils per teacher in the State schools will be about 34.8. Seeing that, out of a total of 817 State schools, as now classified under the new regulations, 116 belong to Class VII., in which the average attendance may be anything between 41 and 80 to two teachers, and that there will always be many schools of this class, an average of more than 35 pupils to each teacher in the State schools, as a whole, cannot be looked for. The general inspector referring to the subject states, “ There is no doubt that the increase in the number of pupils to a teacher is a strain on the school staffs, which can only be successfully met by the exercise of increased skill and energy of both head teachers and subordinates. Economy of school time, fine adjustment of timetable, less precision about the minute features of equality of attainments in classification ; more attention to the broader matters of organisation, which make it possible to advantageously teach together large numbers in few drafts or classes ; wider reading in the theory of school management; deeper acquaintance with the arts and artifices of a well-equipped modern schoolmaster ; utter intolerance of trifling superficialities in the presence of children craving strong and vigorous teaching; much attention to the higher requirements of good discipline, including, among other things, that the pupils shall be taught self-restraint, be imbued with the desire to learn, and shown how to study so as themselves to seek for and obtain knowledge, in addition to assimilating what is set before them ;-all this at least is needed to win anything more than a commonplace degree of success under any conditions, but is imperatively called for with reduced staffs.
Elsewhere in the report, the General Inspector stated, “Any deprivation brought about by the exercise of self denial in such circumstances will doubtless be in some measure made up to them [teachers] in the consciousness of the discharge of necessary if unpleasant duty.” One wonders if teaching in Queensland has changed that much.
 There is also the Annual Statistic Returns in the Department of Public Instruction which does provide for the first year of the Thompson Estate Provisional School (1888). The annual report for the school which has survived, however, starts in 1919. First Annual Statistical Return 1888. QSA Statistical Returns 10668 for Junction Park 1919-1967. NDB Document No. 001-003.
 Department of Public Instruction Report For 1891. The Brisbane Courier. Wednesday 22 June 1892, p. 6.