John Salby

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Frank E. Jones


This thesis examines the changes which have occurred in the relationship between the Ontario Department of Education and the local school boards in the province since the second world war. At the beginning of the period under study the relationship was highly centralized with a great deal of direct involvement of tho Department of Education in the everyday affairs of the school boards. Within this system of centralized control, a few larger boards were granted greater degree or autonomy.

During the period under study, there were a number of moves to amalgamate the smaller rural school boards. Some of these moves were voluntary, but mostly they resulted from pressure from Departmental of officials and ultimately from legislation. These amalgamations were justified in largely economic terms and the thesis examines the demographic and economic factors which tended to make the small school board inefficient as administrative units.

At the same time as it pressed tor amalgamation of the small rural school boards, tho Department was also encouraging tho growth of local control over the curriculum and the development of a curriculum which allowed for more freedom of choice for the pupil. Furthermore, the internal structure of the Department was reorganised to reflect the growth in local autonomy and the shift in functions of the Department away from direct supervision and control towards research and development.

This thesis interprets these changes as changes in the nature of the relationship between the Department and the local school boards. It is argued that amalgamation of the rural school boards increased the resources at their disposal and hence their capacity for independent action and weakened the control which the Department could exert over them directly. Officials in the Department developed alternate means of control over the educational process which aided in the creation of a consensus about educational objectives. Most importantly, in addition to the Departmental publications which were clearly designed to influence opinion, the Hall-Dennis Report and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education were used to mould the ideas of opinion-makers at tho local level. It is demonstrated that a new uniformity in Ontario education haw been created in spite of the growth in local autonomy in that there has developed a consensus about educational objectives which has been nurtured by officials in tho Department of Education. Thus, though their ability to exert direct control over the process of education has been weakened, the necessity for such direct control has been reduced by the newly developed consensus.

Recent moves by the Department or Education to exert direct financial control over the school boards, though apparently contradicting the main argument of the thesis, seem to support it in that, it is argued, there has been a major increase in the share of the costs of education born by tho Department and hence an increase in the extent to which the school boards are dependent on the Department for resources. Though it is too early to be sure whether recent changes mark a reversal of the previous trend, it would certainly be consistent with the underlying theory for this to have occurred, given the shift in the balance of resources.

From an examination of the literature in the field of inter-organizational relationships, two models of interaction between organizations are developed. Relationships between a "principal" organization and its "agents" are marked by a high degree of central control, whereas relationships between "central" organizations and those at the "periphery" are marked by an ideological consensus nurtured by the centre. These two models are placed on a continuum of various models of interaction between and within organizations which are derived from a number of sources. The final chapter of the thesis attempts to specify the conditions under which one type of relationship might prevail as opposed to another and makes general propositions about the relationships between organizations.

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