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Bevington, William Faulkner (1871–1944)

by Geoffrey Swan

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

William Faulkner Bevington (1871-1944), school inspector and promoter of special education, was born on 10 June 1871 in Brisbane, eldest son of William Joseph Bevington, a compositor from England, and his Dublin-born wife Jane Mary Margaret, née Faulkner. Bevington senior entered the Queensland teaching service in May 1875; Jane Bevington also taught as an untrained, unclassified assistant to her husband, at Glamorgan Vale in 1875 and at Hemmant in 1879.

Aged 12, young Bevington became a pupil-teacher under his father at Sandgate State School on 15 February 1884 and remained there until he became a classified teacher in 1890. He had to repeat the first and second years—he was younger than most pupil-teachers—but his final assessment described him as 'a moderate student and a fairly successful teacher during his pupilage'.

On 14 November 1891 at the bride's mother's residence, Sandgate, Bevington married Mary Hudson Macfarlane with Presbyterian forms. Next year he commenced on the promotion trail, first in one-teacher schools at Alfred (1892) and Fernvale (1894) and then Mulgrave (1911), Goodna (1913) and Wooloowin (1914-20), where he was responsible for the introduction of domestic science classes and began a long professional and personal association with Kathleen Eileen Sheehy (1892-1981). Inspectors' reports on Bevington while at Wooloowin described his organizing power as excellent. He was appointed acting district inspector of schools in March 1920 and in August district inspector.

Bevington was as assiduous in his inspecting duties as he was in his teaching and administration. Initially he relieved inspectors on leave. He was then responsible for the districts of Northern, Western and Southern Downs, with Toowoomba as his base, and eventually South-East Moreton which included all schools south of the Brisbane River to the State border. Using rail travel where it existed, a hired car if available and sometimes horse and buggy or just a horse, Bevington always covered his assigned area.

In 1922 with two colleagues he represented Queensland at the Australasian Conference of Inspectors of Schools in Melbourne. En route and during the conference, at the behest of the minister 'Honest John' Huxham, Bevington investigated the provision of education for the 'mentally defective' in other States and consulted innovators such as Lorna Hodgkinson in Sydney. The minister readily accepted his report and gave him the task of organizing the classes. In addition to his inspector's duties, Bevington tested and selected children for the special classes, one of the earliest extensive uses of the 1916 Stanford-Binet test of intelligence. He was assisted in this by Miss Sheehy but failed to acknowledge her contribution.

During 1923 Bevington organized classes at South Brisbane, New Farm and Fortitude Valley and at Ipswich, Rockampton, Townsville and Toowoomba. The 'Backward Classes' became the 'Opportunity Classes' in 1926 at the suggestion of Sheehy. Next year further classes were established at Petrie Terrace and two for boys described by the minister as 'subnormal in mental power' and by Bevington as having an IQ below 50. He closely supervised the classes, found and supported suitable teachers and provided detailed annual reports. In 1933 he was appointed chief inspector and the work of organizing was left to local inspectors. Following Bevington's retirement in December 1937, the outbreak of World War II in 1939 and staff shortages, the classes lost their well-defined identity and became the repository for severely handicapped children. Some classes disappeared.

While chief inspector, Bevington had chaired a syllabus committee and with a group of teachers produced three resource books: Our Birds (1932),Our Plants (1933) and Our Insects (1934). After retiring, under a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York he became education liaison officer at the Queensland Museum. Pleasant and avuncular, he was quick to establish rapport with children. His wife died in 1936. Survived by his daughter and son, Bevington died on 10 January 1944 at the Mater Misericordiae Hospital, South Brisbane, and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • Department of Public Instruction (Queensland), Annual Report, in Parliamentary Papers (Queensland), 1923-37
  • G. Swan, ‘Pioneers in Education, William Faulkner Bevington’, Educational Historian, no 2, 1988
  • G. Swan, ‘Pioneers in Education, Kathleen Sheehy’, Educational Historian, no 1, 1995
  • G. Swan, Opportunity Classes--Alternatives (M.Ed. thesis, University of Queensland, 1978)
  • G. Swan, From Segregation to Integration, the Development of Special Education in Queensland (Ph.D. thesis, University of Queensland, 1996)
  • Bevington personal file (Queensland State Archives)
  • Department of Public Instruction (Queensland) files, A/16032, A/16033, A/16035 (Queensland State Archives).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Geoffrey Swan, 'Bevington, William Faulkner (1871–1944)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/bevington-william-faulkner-12796/text23091, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 18 October 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

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