Common Schools Act, 1865

In response to public agitation and a concerted campaign in the press by British Colonist editor Amor de Cosmos, the Legislative Assembly passed the colony's first school act on 15 May 1865.
Entitled An Act Respecting Common Schools, it provided for free, non-sectarian public schools.

The act authorized the governor to appoint schoolmasters, a Superintendent of Education, and a General Board of Education. It also allowed the governor to appoint local school boards, which were to serve in an advisory capacity. The General Board of Education was empowered to establish school districts, to examine and appoint school teachers, to set curricula, and to prescribe textbooks. The Superintendent of Education - who served as the Board's chief administrative officer and ex officio secretary - was responsible for visiting and inspecting all schools which came under the jurisdiction of the act.

The first colonial Superintendent of Education was Alfred Waddington, a Victoria merchant and entrepreneur, who held the position until September 1867. By that time, two common schools (the Colonial school and Central school) were open in Victoria. Publically-funded schools were also operating at Craigflower, Cedar Hill, Esquimalt, Lake District, South Saanich, Cowichan, Nanaimo, and Saltspring Island.

This enlightened piece of legislation was repealed by the Common School Ordinance of 1869, after the colony of Vancouver Island was annexed by the mainland colony of British Columbia.