Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Raising School-Leaving Age.

asked the Minister for Education if he will make a statement as to the success or otherwise of the experiment in raising the school-leaving age to 16 years, and if the results warrant the final acceptance of the scheme; and what would be the cost in a full year if the scheme were universally applied.

As the answer to this question is rather lengthy, I propose to circulate it in the Official Report.

The reply is as follows:—

(1) The results to date of the application of Part V of the Vocational Education Act to the area of the County Borough of Cork are quite satisfactory on the whole.

(2) Practically all the boys and girls between the ages of 14 and 16 years resident in the county borough area are now attending either whole-time or part-time schools, approximately 2,000 being in the former and 1,000 in the latter. Last session the attendance at the part-time schools was well maintained and averaged 82 per cent. for the session. Forty-nine per cent. of the male and 27 per cent. of the female students attending the part-time schools were in employment, and I am glad to learn that their employers facilitated them in every way to attend.

(3) The instruction provided by the City of Cork Committee was efficient and well adapted to the requirements of the students. Particular reference should be made to the instruction in household management, including the preparation of suitable meals for working-class homes.

(4) Those who attend the part-time schools follow a prescribed course of 180 hours per session, but the City of Cork Committee has associated with the prescribed course various useful activities which the students are not required to attend but which make a very considerable appeal to them. These activities include instruction in choral singing, drama, physical training, illustrated lectures and visits to exhibitions and places of interest in the neighbourhood.

(5) The general impression in my Department is that the scheme is being well conducted in the county borough area, but it would be necessary to have two further sessions' experience of its working before coming to any general conclusion. Furthermore, the circumstances under which the scheme is being conducted must be regarded as being very favourable. Suitable accommodation is easy to obtain and the services of experienced teachers are readily available. At some convenient time it is my intention to have experiments conducted in one or two other centres where the conditions are not so favourable.

(6) I may say that I have had special representations from the juvenile advisory committee and other organisations in the county borough of Limerick to apply the provisions of Part V of the Act to their area, and it is my intention to seek the authority of the Dáil to make provision in the Estimates for this purpose.

(7) On the question of the final acceptance of the scheme I should prefer to make no statement until further experience is available.

(8) On the basis of the expense of conducting the scheme in the County Borough of Cork, the cost in a full year of the general application of Part V of the Act would be £250,000.