Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Verco, David James Armour (1913–1972)

by Don Spearritt

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

David James Armour Verco (1913-1972), educationist, was born on 22 December 1913 at Dulwich Hill, Sydney, son of Australian-born parents Clement Armour Verco, medical practitioner, and his wife Isabel Scott, née Hunter. David was educated at Stanmore Public and Fort Street Boys' High schools, at Teachers College and at the University of Sydney (B.A., 1934; Dip.Ed., 1935; M.A., 1937). In 1935 he was seconded for two years from the Department of Education to the Australian Council for Educational Research (founded 1930), based in Melbourne. Next year he played a significant role in developing and standardizing group-intelligence tests on a large representative sample of students from Australian state schools and in collecting information on the training of teachers in Australia.

On his return to Sydney in 1937, Verco was sent to Fort Street Boys' High School to undertake counselling and teaching duties. After a few months he was seconded as assistant to the research officer (Sir) Harold Wyndham in the Department of Education. At Canterbury, Melbourne, on 29 March 1938 Verco married Marjory Irene Gordon Hare with the forms of the Churches of Christ. He was promoted acting research officer in 1943 and principal research and guidance officer in 1947. Assistant (from 1953) to Wyndham, the new director-general of education, he was appointed director of teacher training (1958), deputy director-general of education (1963), associate director-general (1968) and director-general (1969).

A committed and far-sighted reformer, Verco exerted considerable influence on the school system in New South Wales through his liberal views on the function of education. He expanded the system of educational guidance that Wyndham had brought to public schools and introduced procedures for the formal training of school counsellors. His high ideals for teachers were revealed in his chapter on the profession in The Foundations of Education (1962). He oversaw the extension of pre-service training and the establishment of in-service courses for teachers. The broadly based Education Advisory Commission of New South Wales was established in 1970, and curriculum development was enhanced with the establishment of a directorate of studies in 1971.

Verco served a four-year term on the Australian Council for Educational Research and established two educational research centres within the Department of Education. In 1970 he was appointed to the Commonwealth government's newly established Australian Advisory Committee on Research and Development in Education. An accomplished public speaker, he published several significant articles, including 'Psychological Services in Education Departments' (Australian Journal of Psychology, 1958). He lectured part time (1960-72) in the department of education at the University of Sydney, and was a member (from 1966) of the board of governors of the New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music, a fellow (1969-72) of the senate of the University of Sydney and a councillor (1969-72) of Macquarie University.

At a national level, Verco received many requests for his services. Travel grants enabled him to study educational administration and the training and accreditation of teachers in North America and Britain in 1958 and 1963. He reviewed educational services in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea in 1966 for the Commonwealth government, and represented Australia at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's conference (1958) and its International Conference on Educational Planning (1968), both held in Paris.

Verco enjoyed golf, tennis and walking, and had an absorbing interest in music. He was an active churchgoer, an elder and organist at the North Turramurra Church of Christ. Suffering from coronary arteriosclerosis, he retired early in 1972, but continued to work on governing bodies involved in research and higher education. He died on 18 August that year at his Mosman home and was cremated; his wife, and their two daughters and two sons survived him. Progressive and constructive in his educational views, and courteous and dignified in manner, Verco was highly respected among Australian educationists for his intellect and his administrative ability. (Sir) Charles Cutler, the State's minister for education, praised his 'capacity for precise analysis and decision, and his respect for opposing points of view'.

Select Bibliography

  • W. M. O'Neil, A Century of Psychology in Australia (Syd, 1987)
  • Fortian, 1972, p 10
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 8 Jan 1969, 6 Aug 1971, 6 Jan, 3, 19 Aug 1972
  • W. L. J. O'Reilly, A Study of the Development of Guidance in New South Wales State Schools (M.Ed. thesis, University of Sydney, 1964)
  • J. Lewis, A History of the Development of the Division of Guidance and Special Education, in the Education Department in New South Wales (M.Ed. long essay, University of Sydney, 1978)
  • staff records (New South Wales Department of Education, Sydney)
  • private information and personal knowledge.

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Citation details

Don Spearritt, 'Verco, David James Armour (1913–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/verco-david-james-armour-11921/text21357, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 19 October 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

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