In the few minutes I had last night I indicated, in reply to a query made by Deputy Moylan as to whether I was an educationist or not, that I did not know and that from my point of view the question, in fact, did not arise because I was not intruding my ideas or personality into anything——
Committee on Finance. - Vote 39—Office of the Minister for Education (Resumed).
I was trying to point out that I was not an educationist. I am afraid the Minister misunderstood me. There was no reference to himself.
The Deputy will appreciate my position all the more because for the purpose of discharging my office as Minister for Education I strip myself of any claims to be an educationist.
That is good.
I hope I know when I see one working. I am dealing with the position in which we find education, teachers' organisations, the various bodies and the running of them. From the point of view of being served by outside educationists, I have endeavoured to select a group to act as a centre for suggestion and discussion, out of which I hope to be able to provide an arena inside which educationists can exchange ideas and experiences and in that ordered way I hope to get the full fruit of what the educationists have to give the country.
I am not intruding any of my purely personal ideas on education into that particular class of work. I would like to have certain things understood in regard to the Council of Education and what I expect to flow therefrom. Some of the points raised yesterday in regard to the Council of Education questioned why I had not done this or done that or why I had done something else. I would like to give some idea of what the work of the Council of Education is leading to for the purpose of helping the various people who contributed to the debate yesterday in view of the spirit in which they contributed to it.
I would like to recall that when the Council of Education was set up and I asked them at their first meeting to report on what the function of the primary school was and what the curriculum in the school ought to be up to the age of 12, I had to draw attention to the fact that a certain survey of the situation had taken place and that there were certain general ideas in the atmosphere with regard to primary education and with regard to the age at which pupils' primary education was finished and that in particular a departmental committee had been set up in March, 1945, and had reported in June, 1947. As a result, certain suggestions were made, and the report had implications, coming as it did from a departmental committee of the Department of Education, it had implications that anybody examining into the situation should have in their own mind.
I pointed out in pages 14 and 15 of the publication—it has not an official number but it is a Stationery Office publication: Terms of Reference and General Regulations, with regard to the Council of Education—that:
"The implications of this report are that
(1) particularly in the small schools satisfactory primary instruction is difficult to assure to children beyond the age of 12 years;
(2) the curriculum up to 12 requires to be revised with possible differentiation in the case of girls;
(3) a completely fresh approach is required to the curriculum from 12 to 14 or 15 or 16 years of age, with a very definite differentiation here between boys and girls;
(4) special attention requires to be given to the question as to whether the post-12 instruction considered advisable can normally be given in primary schools; and
(5) if so, what steps have to be taken for the provision and/or training of teachers."
Also in the background was the Interim Report received by the Minister for Industry and Commerce from the Commission on Youth Unemployment which was presided over by His Grace The Most Reverend Dr. McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin. This report was to the effect that the commission had decided unanimously to recommend that the school leaving age should ultimately be raised to 16 years of age; that as soon as conditions permitted education up to the age of 16 years should be full-time education, in a sense later to be defined by this commission for urban and rural areas; and that immediate steps should be taken, especially in the County Borough of Dublin, to provide accommodation, equipment and teaching staff required to give effect to the foregoing recommendations. In the light of that situation I thought it desirable that the function of the primary school should be stated and that as a start the curriculum to be pursued in primary schools up to the age of 12 should be definitely examined, not with any suggestion that primary education should stop at 12, but so that at any rate up to 12 years of age we would know what was recommended in the primary schools. We have now got that, and, as indicated in my statement to the Council of Education on the 12th November last, that is being examined. It is only in order to see what they would recommend should happen in the primary schools after 12, or in any other educational institution after 12, and because people would want to know how much was being accomplished, what was being done to meet the suggestions made in this report up to 12—it is only for that reason that the council is not being asked to pursue its consideration of the position after 12. There is a separate branch of education, the secondary education arena, which may be regarded as a thing in itself, and while the council is waiting for our examination and our decision as to what would be done with regard to primary schools up to the age of 12, they could effectively and usefully examine this.
I think it would be useful for all concerned if I read what I said to the Council of Education on that point on the 12th November, 1954, because the fact that I decided to remit to the Council of Education a matter dealing with secondary education was not intended in any way to suggest that secondary education had a priority or a special privilege or was in any way a branch of education that was getting special attention and was being specially recommended by me or the Department. It is a very vital and very valuable branch of our education and when we look back and see how many of the people who helped to create this State and helped to fill the highest positions in the State as secretaries of Departments, assistant-secretaries of Departments, as the higher officers in the Gardaí, or as higher officers in the Army, derived entirely from the secondary schools of this country, we realise it has an important position in the life of the country. But the real reason that we ask the Council of Education to look into that matter now was that it was somewhat detached from the basis of this report here. I said to the Council of Education in relation to that matter on 12th November, 1954:—
"You will not expect me at this early date to be in a position to indicate to you decisions that may be taken on the numerous recommendations you have made. They cover a very wide field. They cannot be divorced from other considerations not in themselves essentially of an educational nature. Many matters, including finance, will have to be taken into consideration. I have already made arrangements for the official examination of your recommendations with a view to assessing in every detail the consequences that derive from your report. I have also submitted your report and the minority recommendations to all the bodies directly concerned with education, ranging from those concerned with our primary schools to those concerned with the universities. The examination in the Department itself will proceed apace, and those others to whom the report has been submitted have been asked to let me have the result of their examination and their recommendations not later than the 1st April, 1955."
Incidentally, I would like to say that quite a number of reports have been received, but I have been approached by certain important bodies to say that their examination of the report and the recommendations will not be completed in time to let me have the recommendations and their comments on the matter for another two months or so. I consider that it is not unreasonable, in view of all that is involved in this, that the various bodies outside would have the fullest possible time to examine them.
Surely, when a commission is set up and is sitting to hear evidence, one would expect that normally all interested bodies would avail themselves of the opportunity to give their views and that the implementation of the report would not be held up for another year.
It is one thing to give views and suggestions to a committee examining a matter so that in that examination they will have every aspect that the various interested parties wish to put in front of them. When the body has had these views presented to them, has fully examined them and has co-ordinated its own mind in regard to them and made its report, in a matter so fundamentally important as education I consider that those who are vitally interested in every process of education and its control should then have a chance of taking the report and its recommendations and sitting down over these as actual positive proposals. I think the Deputy will agree on consideration that that is a perfectly sound procedure.
After all, the committee is set up to examine every aspect of the question and gives any person properly concerned with it a chance of representing his views. When all these views have been considered and when the report is formulated fully and clearly it is desirable and prudent and it is a competent way of approaching the examination of it that when the Department has to proceed to examine the report the Minister and the Department would have the opinion of the various bodies concerned who had submitted important recommendations, and know what they thought of the report. This would ensure that in the taking of final decisions at Government level it could not be said that any opinion given either before or after the report was published had not been fully considered.
In matters that affect our educational foundations or educational practices I think that is very important and is an excellent thing to do. When proposals from the Minister, from the Department or from the Government come up then to be considered every Deputy— it has been shown how vitally interested Deputies are and how close together in mind and in spirit they are with regard to education—will have the satisfaction of knowing that anything that is proposed here has been very fully and carefully thought out. At the same time as we are waiting for these reports the examination of the matter in the Department is fully and systematically going on and there will not be any serious delay in dealing with them, when they come in, in relation to the consideration we are already giving to the matter.
I then said to the council:—
"None of you, having been concerned with the examination that has taken place prior to the formation of your recommendations and the assembly of your report, will consider that this is in any way a long-finger process. I know that you will appreciate that such a process as this is necessary if we are to get the fullest understanding and therefore the fullest support for doing in every practical way the things that you consider should be done.
Again, we cannot provide the necessary finances for additional educational services at a more rapid rate than public opinion allows, no matter how meritorious in itself the particular objective for which the expenditure is required. Nor in gathering the enthusiasm and the effort of all those engaged in education and in encouraging those who benefit by it can we afford to ignore the existence of other viewpoints when confronted with suggestions or proposals for major changes in the curricula. I am satisfied that the continuing work of the council, however, will have a strong effect on a moulding of favourable public opinion.
I mentioned to you at your first meeting that your work would in time call for a review in some detail of three main branches of education —primary, secondary and vocational, and I indicated that a corollary of the remit I then placed before you would be to invite your advice as to the courses to be pursued between 12 and 14 and up to 16, and as to the type of school in which the education should be given. You yourselves in dealing with the function of the primary school and the curriculum up to 12 felt that it was necessary to look beyond those limits to a further horizon, and you supplied in Chapter XIII a valuable contribution to the examination of the post-12 problem. You made it clear, however, that your submission in a tentative and non-committal way was intended merely to indicate that the council later on would find it necessary to deal definitely with the subject. The time for such more detailed examination has not yet arrived, since it would clearly be unfair to ask the council to proceed with the planning of the superstructure until it was aware whether the edifice was to be erected on the foundations it had recommended, or otherwise. We must, therefore, postpone the important question of the pattern of our system beyond the age of 12 until we have reached conclusions on the proposals you have already submitted to us.
There is, however, one particular area of the educational field, that of secondary education, of which it will probably be generally admitted the limits are largely predetermined irrespective of the pattern which other post-primary education may take. It is conducted entirely by private enterprise, but there is a close connection between it and the State, in that extensive grants are paid from public funds to secondary schools and teachers, and that for the purpose of earning these grants certain conditions and curricula are specified. In so far as non-grant-earning students are concerned, secondary schools are, of course, entirely free as to what they shall teach, or how they shall teach it. But in relation to grant-earning students I believe that it would be advisable to examine the existing official programme requirements with a view to ascertaining what modifications, if any, might be desirable."
In the light of those remarks, I then said:—
"I feel, therefore, that I may ask the council to advise as to whether the secondary curriculum as it stands is fully satisfactory in the world of to-day, and whether the State can give an assistance by way of regulation in this regard, while still securing for the schools and their authorities that independence in which they were born and in which they have so successfully and fruitfully worked.
I hope you will, therefore, appreciate my asking you to consider the following request:—
‘That the Council of Education would advise without prejudice to the consideration of the general pattern for primary and post-primary education as to the curriculum which should be followed in recognised secondary schools as a condition for the payment of grants from State funds to these schools.'
And I feel that you will agree that this is an examination that can usefully and effectively be carried out at the present time while waiting for the examination which must follow the presentation of your recent report."
Deputies can be assured, therefore, that the examination by the Council of Education into the curriculum of secondary schools that is taking place, is one that can properly and effectively take place while they are waiting for our examination which will be carried out in the light of the representations that have to be made on this report by all the important bodies connected with education in this country. I hope to have work on that finished by the end of this year. There are certain financial implications which will arise out of it which may not be entirely resolved by that particular time. I hope that Deputies understand that we are really proceeding on systematic and effective lines and, when recommendations come to be made with regard to any change in the curriculum or any additions to it, that body will be in a position to consider whether or not they approve of these recommendations in the light of all the facts.
On the financial side, I agree that education will require the expenditure of still further sums even if only in relation to the provision of extra teachers. That has been referred to here. In considering proposals in relation to educational changes which affect finances, if Deputies will look at the statement which is inserted as a preface to the Estimate and compare the figures for 1946-47 with the current year they will see that primary education has gone up from £4,200,000 to £8,100,000; secondary education has gone up from £691,000 to £1,748,000; technical education has gone up from £454,000 to £1,100,000. These are substantial increases and they will have to be borne out of current revenue; and those figures show clearly that there has been a considerable increase in expenditure from current revenue on educational services within the last eight years. I am quite sure that further additions will fall to be met and it is, therefore, most desirable that we should know where we are going instead of merely, as it were, blueprinting in such a way that we shall have to retrace our steps again at some future date.
In connection with secondary education, the question was raised by some Deputies yesterday as to why there were so many failures in English in relation to the pupils presenting themselves for the intermediate and leaving certificate examinations. There is a complete misunderstanding in regard to that. If Deputies take the report of the Departmen of Education for 1951-52 and look at pages 98 and 99 they will get the figures there for both boys and girls in connection with the intermediate certificate English papers. The total percentage of boys that passed in English literature was 95.3 and of girls 95.8; the total percentage that passed in the English language was, boys 100 per cent. and 99.5 per cent. of the girls. So much for English at the intermediate certificate level.
If Deputies look at the figures for the leaving certificate examination they will see that of 2,943 boys examined, a total of 1,917 passed on the honours paper. Obviously then it is the weaker people who take the pass certificate. Deputies will see there that 86.8 passed on the honours paper and 67.8 passed on the pass paper. Out of 2,358 girls examined the percentage passed was 88.1; 1,800 passed with honours. Again, therefore, it is the weaker students who take the pass paper and that explains why the percentage on the pass paper, 5.7, is so small; in fact, the percentage of failures out of a total of 2,944 examined was 13.4 in relation to boys and the percentage of failures out of a total of 2,358 girls was 11.9. As I have said, the percentage that passed on the pass paper represents the weakest of those going forward for examination.
There is another aspect of that which must be taken into consideration; that is, the number of pupils going forward every year for these examinations is increasing. It is increasing largely because of the practice that has arisen of sending forward children for examination before they have completed the proper period of preparation either for the intermediate or the leaving certificate examination. The complaint made, therefore, about the failures in English and the treatment of English in the schools arises out of a misreading of the figures shown there.
In connection with primary education, a number of Deputies raised the question of punishment in the schools. Now I am surprised at Irish journalism opening its pages so freely to the verbal expectorations in relation to certain subjects. All this agitation is deliberately and maliciously stirred up. I myself have not paid any kind of public attention to this publication that has recently been issued. I asked the Department to have a look at the stuff that was in it to see if they could identify any of the cases. It may be possible to identify some of them. When I consider the publication itself and the way in which it has been treated by the only individual who raised this matter in any kind of formal way, namely, one of our Senators, my only feeling is that it is a disgusting proceeding, deliberately and maliciously entered into by people who are not of this country or of its traditions.
There is an element behind this, an element that derives from our nextdoor neighbour where its parent has endeavoured to trample on certain educational institutions in that country. Happily we have been able to preserve the roots upon which our educational thoughts and inspirations are founded and we have preserved the fabric of the Irish schools system that has arisen as a result of that inspiration. This was just a deliberate attack on the very spirit and foundation of the Irish educational institution.
Would the Minister explain to the House what action is taken by the Department of Education on a report of the beating of children? I think that would clear up the situation.
I shall go into that. I have gone into the matter fully and Deputies will find that very fully stated but I want to say that as far as that publication is concerned it shows on its face to be an attack by people reared in an alien and in a completely un-Irish atmosphere and it is carried on here with the help of the pages of our Irish newspapers. It is an attack on the whole spirit of our educational system and it is an endeavour to attack our educational roots. I would point out to people who will not see this—to Deputies who will not see this and who do not want to see it—one sentence on page 6 of this publication, which says:—
"The dossier of complaints in this booklet, and the numerous other complaints we have received, prove without any doubt that it is the little girl—the Irish mother of to-morrow —who is bearing the brunt of our inhuman methods of instilling Christian ideals into our children of to-day."
We are asked to believe that the mind or minds who put this stuff together are concerned with Christian ideals and with the instilling of them into our children of to-day. If the Irish people had not been able to lay the roots of the Irish institutions of to-day which flourish, and the spirit of their primary schools and the spirit of our secondary schools, nobody need be worrying about the Christian ideals that were needed here in Ireland to-day. We have an educational system that fosters these completely and well, and the roots and the foundation and the spirit of which will not be shifted by any force that may come against it.
But we find a Senator taking this up and saying he will prove case No. 16 and that there are 33 cases and when that Senator is challenged by the Minister for Education to produce the facts of case No. 16, to produce the facts of the 33 cases he said he had examined, he runs away from it and goes to an Irish newspaper or Irish newspapers and asks the parents to send him in the information.
He says he has certain information and he walks into an Irish Seanad to make a charge against teachers, managers, and the Ministry on information he says he has and which he does not give. In the light of the full explanation given there by the Minister for Education as to what takes place, and in the light of a challenge to the Press that it should keep people right with regard to these complaints —that it tell the people who make the complaints to proceed in the way I have indicated—the Department of Education suggest that instead of people writing to the papers to make these charges they be told there is a way in which these things can be submitted in a reasonable kind of way, and that they should be submitted in that way first.
If parents cannot get satisfaction from either the manager or the teacher, the Department or anybody else do not want to cloak any disorders there may be or to stifle any complaints of parents in relation to children. But why the whole system should be challenged and the atmosphere of our educational life dirtied and befouled with suspicion by a crowd who want to drive out the control of our education, to take the primary schools out of the hands of our clerical managers, both Catholic and Protestant, and why the Press should not tell the people that they should proceed in a normal way instead of allowing the Press to be spattered with such expostulations I do not know.
I said in the Seanad that if the child is not properly treated in a school the normal natural thing you would expect in ordinary parish life is that the parent would first of all remonstrate with the teacher and if no satisfaction can be achieved that he would go to the manager. If complaints come to the Department of Education—and they have come from time to time but certainly not more than one a month—the procedure of the Department is to tell the parents they should first remonstrate with the teacher and if they do not get satisfaction there go to the manager. That does not mean that we in the Department wash our hands of it. The matter would be handed to our inspectors and, if a minor case, the inspector would examine it—he would discuss the matter with the manager— and if he found it was a serious matter after consultation with the manager and examination of the teacher, the matter would be inquired into in a formal way; a formal inquiry would be held.
There would not be more than two of these a year. The teacher would, in a formal way, have to answer the complaint made against him. He would have any representation in his defence he wanted and the I.N.T.O. would take a serious interest both on behalf of the teacher and in the interest of the organisation itself. But there is a systematic and clear way in which these complaints can be dealt with.
Is not a specific investigation made in the case of every complaint?
No complaint could be received that would not be investigated.
That is the idea—they are all investigated.
They are all investigated and the parents are put on the right line with regard to the manner of dealing with such complaints—remonstration with the teacher, first of all, then representation to the manager and finally to the Department if necessary.
The fact that the parents are told is a prelude to investigation?
The parent is told what the proper procedure is. On the general question of punishment I know it is necessary to go fully into this matter as far as the Department of Education is concerned but I should like to draw the attention of the Deputies to a memorandum issued in December, 1946, to all managers and all teachers with regard to the infliction of corporal punishment in national schools. It read as follows:—
"The Minister for Education desires to bring specially to the notice of managers and teachers the provisions of Rule 96 of the code——quoted below—including additions, printed in italics, recently made to Sections (1) and (3).
It has been found necessary to make these additions to the rule in view of cases which have occurred in which pupils have been punished for failure to answer questions correctly or in which punishment has been inflicted on parts of the body other than the open hand.
Teachers must remember that no member of the staff of a school, other than the principal teacher, should inflict corporal punishment, unless duly authorised by the manager to do so, and all principal teachers and teachers so authorised should constantly bear in mind, and strictly comply with, all the provisions of this rule.
Teachers are expected to try to understand the pupil's character and temperament, and to ascertain his general circumstances with a view to deciding what is the best curative action to take in a particular case of default or misconduct. They should always remember that punishment, especially corporal punishment, may have the opposite effect to that which it was intended to produce. Remarks, calculated to lessen the pupil's hope of progress and improvement, should not be made.
The Minister takes a grave view of cases in which excessive punishment, or punishment in violation of any of the provisions of this rule, is administered, and hopes that teachers by a strict adherence to the letter and spirit of the rule will obviate the necessity for official action of a disciplinary or penal character.
The principal teacher of a school, with a staff of two or more teachers, shall give this circular to the other member or members of the staff to read in order that they make themselves acquainted with its terms, and fully appreciate the requirements of the rule. The circular should then be preserved for official use with the school records.
That was issued in December, 1946, and the Rule 96 that is referred to there says:—
"(1) Corporal punishment should be administered only for grave transgression. In no circumstances should corporal punishment be administered for mere failure at lessons."
Failure at lessons is one of the two things mentioned in the circular of 1946.
"(2) Only the principal teacher, or such other member of the staff as may be duly authorised by the manager for the purpose, should inflict corporal punishment.
(3) Only a light cane or rod may be used for the purpose of corporal punishment, which should be inflicted only on the open hand."
It should be inflicted only on the open hand—that is the second thing that was in the revised circular of 1946.
"The boxing of children's ears, the pulling of their hair or similar ill-treatment is absolutely forbidden and will be visited with severe penalties.
(4) No teacher should carry about a cane or other instrument of punishment.
(5) Frequent recourse to corporal punishment will be considered by the Minister as indicating bad tone and ineffective discipline."
As I say, the two things that were specially put in at that particular time were the reference to the fact that corporal punishment should not be administered for mere failure at lessons and that corporal punishment should be inflicted only on the open hand.
Again, I want to say how all this particular class of thing could be going on without any particular member of the Seanad or any particular member of the Dáil drawing attention to any serious case, I do not know. I would ask the members of the Dáil, as I have asked members of the Seanad, if any cases come to their notice of the inordinate infliction of punishment on school children, will they encourage the parents to remonstrate with the teacher or to report the matter to the manager and, if the matter is not satisfactorily settled at that parochial level, then the Department of Education will investigate the matter fully.
But we do not accept it that we have to be pushed from outside to look after the spirit in which Irish education is administered and I would ask Deputies, as I have asked Senators, to turn in a couple of times a year to a school here or a school there and absorb the atmosphere of our Irish primary schools. They will find there something to encourage them. They will find there something even to exercise their minds of some of the complaints they have with regard to the alleged ill-treatment of children by teaching them Irish or pushing Irish down their throats. They will learn something of what truth there is in the complaint that Irish has been used as a language of instruction to the detriment of children where the children are not able to absorb that instruction.
I was particularly glad to hear how effectively and simply Deputy Cunningham dealt with that aspect of the ill-treatment of children or even the advancement of Irish, yesterday, because there are people who will pick up the suggestions and the criticism about Irish in the school and the effect of Irish in the school which are distributed by people who are somewhat akin to the people who make complaints about punishment in the schools, who pick up these things and pass on their complaints and create a kind of general feeling with regard to schools.
It is very, very important that, where there is any aspect of our school life that is affecting injuriously either education itself or the well-being and happiness of the children and the attitude of the children to their school and their school work, that any person who has any feeling like that in his mind, would pay an odd visit to a school and get the atmosphere there, get the spirit of the children, get the understanding of the way in which the children are doing their work and get the spirit of the teachers also. An odd visit to an Irish school——
Would make you wonder why new ones are not built.
It would but, on that question again, we have a legacy to make up in the building of schools in the country. We are able to hear the comments of foreigners who come to this country and who go to look at our schools, not on a conducted tour, and I am able to hear a responsible director of education from Great Britain say with regard to our national schools here: "You have the solution to our rural problem". I am able to hear an official of the Department of Education attending an international conference in Europe say that in one of these conferences, that are intended to uplift and improve the whole world, an Englishman is able to say, having been through some of our country: "If Ireland was an important country, you would be filling the headlines of the world for your schools, but, of course, you are not."
I am sure of that, judging by some of them I know, but not in the sense the Minister means.
I know that there is a school or used to be one in Kiskeam.
I know, but surely Deputy Moylan does not say that a very big effort is not being made?
I know, but the effort is not enough. Fifty-three schools in the past year are not enough.
No. I am not saying that it is.
I am glad of that. You want 100 a year for the present and for the next ten years.
That may be so but, as far as we are concerned, taking a year with a year, as you know, we will be a lot better next year, I hope, than we were last year.
If we can overtake deterioration, we may be.
We want assistance in overtaking deterioration. Facts are facts. As far the the Governments here are concerned since 1947, year after year there have been increasing grants allotted for the building of schools.
That does not mean more schools, because the costs are higher.
More money has been granted.
But more schools have not been built.
They have not been built because the machinery for building the schools has not been set in operation and I have done something within the last few months to try to improve that machinery. I have made arrangements that, if architects are available, at any rate, the Civil Service Commission and the machinery for appointing architects through the Civil Service Commission will not stand between the architects that are available and the work of building schools and that the Board of Works will be able, through its own direct machinery, to advertise for architects and to accept and appoint architects that are available.
A very considerable amount of time has been lost by going a very long way around in the appointment of architects to deal with the school side of things. On the Department of Education side of things, within the last two or three years, there has been a considerable improvement in the organisation for dealing with school matters. Unfortunately, while the desire was as great in the Office of Public Works and the money was made available there, through the Department of Finance, the architects were not got because, in one way or another, they were going the long way around for them and, having spotted a man here and telling him about nine months afterwards that he was appointed, you would be told: "I am on another job now."
Seán Ó Maoláin
An comhgar chun an chnuic.
Is school building held up by local managers?
I do not think school building is held up very much by local managers. I could show Deputies a whole army of local managers who are coming up nearly with pitchforks to try to get some of their work done. I admit that if the pitchforks had been working about ten or 12 years ago, there would not be so much necessity for pitchforks now.
Has the Minister proof of any cases that building has been held up by the managers——
I do not believe it.
——waiting for the money to come into the kitty before they start?
There may be cases in which there is neglect and there are cases in which you would like to see things done more quickly. However, when I see the amount of money which is provided from the Department of Education for the actual building and then when I see the delay that has taken place because of lack of architects I do not think I should be asked to blame any manager. While there may be managers who deserve to be blamed, we must bear in mind the fact that managers have their own responsibilities and their own difficulties. They are going through a period in which costs have risen.
I feel that, just as the State is in a difficult financial position in respect of the cost of schools and the cost of buildings and has to do a lot of work now while money is very dear, when we see the expansion that has taken place in some of our cities and the amount of money that has been put into churches and other ecclesiastical establishments, the ecclesiastical authorities are in a very difficult position in regard to money. I agree with Deputy Desmond in that I should like to see a little more local effort, a little more local cohesion and local interest. I think we can be much more effective at this stage by fostering and encouraging people to get over their difficulties than by blaming them, whether they be teachers or managers or anybody else. I appreciate the spirit in which Deputy Moylan is pushing this matter. We are all travelling in the same spirit and on the same road. I think that, gradually, it is being better appreciated what a bad school means to an area and what a good school, on the contrary, means.
Anybody absorbing the atmosphere of some of the schools I know would, indeed, be absorbing some atmosphere.
Can we not encourage the people?
What encouragement do they need? The encouragement would be the manager with a pitchfork, on the one hand, and the local contribution on the other. It might be a very good encouragement.
At any rate, the money is being provided. The problem is understood. A very considerable part of the problem has been tackled.
It seems to me to be an architectural problem and there should be some solution for it. Plans for schools have been lying in the Board of Works for years and yet they are still talking about details.
I do not know what the Deputy is getting at. The fact is that the money is being provided. Undoubtedly a very considerable amount of work remains to be done. I am not lying down under arrears. I am doing the best I can to provide machinery to enable these schools to be built and I am doing the best I can to prevent arrears arising in the way in which they have arisen in relation to allocations of previous years.
Questions have arisen with regard to the supply of teachers. Arrangements have recently been made which will provide ten additional men teachers a year and 100 additional women teachers a year. Some Deputies may regard that as a small contribution. It is. It is not as large as I should like to see it. However, it is a means of getting 100 additional women teachers per annum in the future and an additional ten men teachers per annum. Certain proposals are under consideration whereby it may be possible to add to these numbers but if anything substantial is to be done with regard to the recommendations of the Council of Education on the subject of the size of classes it will have a radical effect on the number of additional teachers that may be required every year. However, anything that may require to be done in the way of additions to the present arrangement of 100 women teachers per annum and ten men teachers per annum will have to be deferred until the end of the year when we can see what we can recommend and what we can do financially in respect of that aspect of the recommendations of the Council of Education on the subject of smaller classes.
The size of the classes in Dublin City has been a source of anxiety over a long period. Many complaints have been made to me in the matter. I looked into the question from the ministerial side. I found that, to some extent, this is a question of buildings as well as of teachers. I appreciate the difficulty in Dublin with regard to large classes and I am very anxious about it. We shall only have to see what we can do about it. Until we reach the end of the year and see where our decisions on the Report of the Council of Education are leading us, as far as the actual provision for the additional output of teachers is concerned, there is nothing I can say.
On the matter of heating and cleaning, I appreciate what Deputy Desmond had to say in this connection. Undoubtedly, there are certain things with regard to schools which can only be done locally. I have had representations from the Catholic managers: I understand some of the other managers are concerned in the matter too. However, I had a communication from the Catholic Managers' Association and the I.N.T.O. on the subject of cleaning and certain aspects of maintenance. These matters are having my attention.
I come now to the question of scholarships. I appreciate the necessity for additional scholarships which would enable brilliant pupils at primary schools to advance to secondary school education or continuation school education. That is a matter which, as it stands at present, must continue to be left to the local authority. The cost of education rests comparatively lightly on local authorities as the greater part of the cost is borne by the State. When it comes to the provision of scholarships for primary pupils to the secondary or vocational schools, it is a matter the cost of which falls on the local authorities. With the growing interest in education, I would hope that some of the county councils would show an active interest in the matter and would examine the situation, with a view to seeing whether or not they would be prepared to make a greater contribution to assisting children to advance from the primary school to post-primary education. It is a matter, however, which, I would strongly urge, must be left a local matter.
The question of Irish generally has been raised in the Council of Education report and the question of oral Irish particularly. I think everybody is agreed that, in the extension of the Irish language, in the use of it in the schools and in getting a greater grip on the language, it is the oral, language you want, and you are not going to have any highly developed appreciation of the language as a living or a developed language, unless you get the oral foundation, where the language piles itself up in the person himself, not only as a dictionary matter but as a literature, and if the language is retained to us, with the musical perfection and linguistic delight which it has, it has been preserved without books and in the out of the way places by ordinary people. It was not the look of the language in books or the stories in books that captivated the Pearses, the MacSwineys and the Ashes of the past. It was the language as spoken in the lives of people in the out of the way places, so that there is no conflict anywhere with regard to insistence on the oral language.
Deputy Desmond raised a question with regard to some girl who got 72nd place in the examination for a preparatory college, where there were 72 places, and he objected to somebody from an Irish speaking district being given a place over her. The position with regard to preparatory colleges is that those who reach the stage of 85 per cent. in their oral Irish, whether they come from the Gaeltacht or elsewhere, get a preference to this extent, that they must qualify in the general examination and then 50 per cent. of the places are given to those who have got 85 per cent. in oral Irish, and 25 per cent. of those places must go to girls coming from the Gaeltacht and 25 per cent. to those coming from elsewhere. It may happen that a girl may get 72nd place in the general order of merit, but if No. 75, having been fully qualified, gets 85 per cent. in oral Irish, whether she comes from an Irish speaking district or not, if the 50 per cent. for people with 85 per cent. oral Irish have not been used up, No. 75 is called on the qualification of oral Irish as against No. 72. There could be a comparatively small difference between the general qualifications of a person so called and the person who fails to be called, but that preference given to oral Irish, whether the people come from the Gaeltacht or not, is a preference that has, after very careful consideration, been enshrined in the procedure for filling vacancies in the preparatory colleges.
The preparatory colleges were complained of and the system under which children are brought in at an early age and undertake to be teachers, even though they are only going through their secondary education programme. I admit that there may be a certain amount of narrowing in that, but until there is some other way of giving children in the primary schools in Irish-speaking districts some chance of a secondary education, we are serving two purposes by catering for them through the preparatory colleges. We are securing that we will have a certain number of our teachers coming from the class that have retained the living Irish language, with all its speaking tradition, directly connected back with the past, on the one hand, and we are giving some of these children the chance of a secondary education, and entrance into a profession which they would not otherwise have, on the other.
If there were some other way of securing a secondary education for children in primary schools in the Irish-speaking districts, an education that would open for them the road to other professions, I would be prepared carefully to consider what the effect on the teaching profession would be of reducing the preference given in the preparatory colleges to people from the Irish-speaking districts, and I would be prepared to consider whether the objection taken to the narrowness of the society in the preparatory colleges could not be obviated in some way or another; but the fact is that, outside the secondary school in Spiddal, which caters for a small area in the West and which caters, so far as day pupils are concerned, only for the immediate neighbourhood and outside Dingle, which caters only for the Corca Dhuibhne area—with no place in the Gaeltacht in Donegal — the children from these areas are without the normal opportunity which we might expect they would be given to get a secondary school education, and I should be very grateful if, among those who normally provide secondary education in the country, there would be a move to co-operate with the Department to see that some facilities were given in the purely Irish-speaking districts.
The question of the backward child has been raised and while there are a number of institutions dealing with the special cases of defective children, of children who are defective in many ways, and while there are additions being gradually made to those institutions, it is true that no special preparation is made for the backward child. The matter was being considered a few years ago and there was a very definite difference of opinion in certain circles as to whether the backward child ought to be divorced, except in special circumstances, from the normal children with whom that child would associate at home and whether removing the backward child from contact with ordinary school life and the children of ordinary school life would not be a greater set-back to him than any special benefit that might flow from it. It is a matter, however, which, like others, is continually in the front of the minds of the authorities in the Department and the fact that nothing has been done does not mean that it is being neglected. The matter is being very carefully thought over.
There are quite a number of plans for the building of additional vocational schools throughout the country. There is a very definite capital commitment with regard to these schools and every possible care and consideration is being given to ensure that the work is allowed to go ahead in a normal and reasonable way. There is no question of there being a regulation that the Department of Finance allows only one vocational school to be built in any particular county in one year. The vocational committees are alive enough to enter into discussions at the highest levels if they feel there is any unnecessary hold-up in their work.
Is not that regulation holding up the work?
The regulation does not exist. There is no such regulation.
There is some action of the Department of Finance which prevents vocational committees from going ahead with their schools.
That is only the congenital nature of the Department of Finance.
Lack of nature. Imigh leat.
At any rate, I would be very glad to think that it was only on the side of vocational schools they had difficulty with the Department of Finance.
There is a school in Navan and other schools in County Meath, there are schools in County Limerick—Rathkeale and Newcastle West and Kilmallock and Caherconlish —and all these are being held up by some regulation or some fit of crankiness of the Department of Finance.
The Deputy can take it that way if he likes, but there is no special piece of crankiness holding up any school in County Meath.
I, as a representative of Meath, will see that it will not be held up through crankiness.
Has it not been already held up?
There is more than that in it.
There is no regulation in the Department preventing a vocational committee from going ahead with two schools—is that what the Minister says?
I hope it operates in the future. There has been a hold-up.
There has not been any hold-up by any alleged regulation of the Department of Finance, that will not allow more than one school to go ahead at any particular time in any one vocational area.
There are two going on at the present time in Meath.
All I know is that there are three planned in County Limerick and none going ahead this year—Rathkeale, Kilmallock and Caherconlish.
Suppose there are three going ahead in Limerick, would the Deputy expect them all to go ahead together?
I would expect one of them to start. Rathkeale will not be done until the next financial year.
Even if it were not——
Bhí ceist agam chuig an Aire cupla seachtain ó shoin.
On the question of individual schools, the scheme is quite open for parliamentary question in regard to any particular area. We might get rid of obscurity better by means of parliamentary question in regard to any particular area than by this kind of discussion here. I want to assure Deputies that beyond the congenital difficulty that a Minister for Education finds with the Department of Finance with regard to money for all kinds of purposes, there is no special regulation interfering with our giving sanction for proceeding with vocational schools.
That means that when the Estimate is through, the Minister must fight for every piece of it afterwards? Is that the idea?
I think we are getting away from that. I hope we will be able to get away from that particular type of irritation on the part of individual Ministers and individual Departments and the people who are depending on them. I hope we will get away from the petty supervision and interference on detailed financial matters. I am full of hope with regard to that. In the meantime, I would not like Deputies to tie themselves up in their minds and feel that either they themselves or committees throughout the country were tied up by more straps than they are tied up. The general facts of nature and of finance will delay things sufficiently, without misunderstanding and ill-feeling creating greater difficulties.
The question of the building of vocational schools, like the question of doing other things on the capital side, must be fitted in to the general capital programme. You have a general sum and you know you may not go beyond this in making an allocation for primary schools, or in making an allocation for vocational schools, and so on. It is not a hard and fast line, but certain limits have to be drawn and we have to work inside those limits. I would like to approach this on the basis that our limits were not fixed with regard to one particular year, that you have a programme extending over four or five years and you knew you were going to keep inside a certain reasonable capital programme for a limited number of years in regard to either primary or vocational schools.
I would be a lot happier and I think other people might be more satisfied if the individual cases were dealt with rather than discuss a general principle, but all I can say on general principle is that the capital allocations for vocational schools have to fit in with the capital allocation for lots of other things in the programme and there is no special tie up on vocational schools.
On the general question of capital expenditure, I know that there have been ideas for the extension of the National Library and the National Gallery. While these are of considerable importance, we have not been able to get down to seeing what should be done regarding them, having regard to the interest they represent and our general capital programme.
Might we be assured by the Minister now that no action will be taken to prevent further development? The Minister knows what I mean.
That is, in relation to the question of alienation of land or sites—there is no danger at all.
That will not happen?
That will not happen. There were some other matters raised, but perhaps Deputies feel I have covered the main points sufficiently.
The Minister says that the question of maintenance is being discussed at present. I asked a question—it may not be convenient to answer it in full—with regard to the obligation which rests on managers for the maintenance of the schools. Is he satisfied that the position is sufficiently clear and definite and that managers understand and that in the legal documents which have to be filled regarding trusteeship for new schools it is set out clearly and definitely what the obligations of managers are in regard to maintenance?
There is no intention to relieve the manager in any way of the responsibility for the maintenance of the structure.
Could the Minister say if any effort could be made to make somebody responsible for the maintenance of schools, particularly in rural districts? As I said last night, some of those built quite recently are in a shocking condition, the furniture has been badly broken, the windows smashed and the paintwork is in a disgraceful condition.
I have had no representations made to me on that particular matter. If there were any representations made, I would be very glad to go into them. But the responsibility for the maintenance of schools is a responsibility that must rest on the local manager. As I am questioned in regard to that, I should like to refer to the point that was raised about the insanitary condition of some of the schools and of water supplies to them. In every case, where it is possible to get a water supply by means of a well or a pump, the Department has arranged that a water supply will be available for the schools so that there can be flush lavatories. Where a well is not available, it has been suggested that roof water should be collected in a way that would serve for flushing purposes. There are limitations as to what roof water can do in that regard so that where you have not a supply of water effectively to deal with that problem you are only looking for worse trouble than you have at the present time.
Except, as has been pointed out, that it is extraordinary, when we have grants for farmhouses and the extension of water supplies in rural areas on such a large scale, if more cannot be done by the local authorities to help the manager. Perhaps the Minister could use his good offices with the Minister for Local Government to get the manager to assist.
I know managers who have to send a water-barrel three or four miles away to a pump every week in order to get their own drinking supplies. I know that the county council in the neighbourhood is in very serious difficulties with the Minister for Local Government, and I am sure with its bankers, with regard to the very extensive water schemes that have been planned for the whole county. Hence, there is no necessity, as far as I can see, why the Minister for Education should be flitting around to the local authorities in regard to this, in view of the fact that there are so many members of county councils actively interested in local affairs. If there is any way in which, by advice or exhortation in any particular case, the Minister for Education can assist in that particular matter, he will be glad to do it.
But, again, just like putting the complete responsibility for the maintenance of the school fabric on the manager, I think that if we put a little more complete responsibility on the local representatives and on the local bodies, and were to keep out of their way, we might get a little more done, because there is a very general desire amongst local people to see that their schools are kept in proper condition.
Can the Minister give any indication as to what he proposes to do in regard to the pre-1950 retired teachers?
The Government have given very careful consideration to the representations made in regard to the granting of further payments in respect of lump sum to teachers who retired prior to the 1st January, 1950. The principle has not been conceded, and cannot be conceded, that revisions in superannuation conditions introduced for serving teachers should be applicable to those who had already retired. In these circumstances the Government are satisfied that the provision in the National Teachers' Superannuation (Amendment) Scheme, 1953, for the payment of an ex-gratia lump sum to teachers who had retired before 1st January, 1950, must be regarded as the maximum concession which they are prepared to make. It is regretted that no further extension can, in the circumstances, be given.
When, in 1950, I succeeded in planning the present superannuation and gratuity scheme, that question necessarily arose, and it was not possible for the Government of that time to concede the principle that revisions, which were going to affect the future, could be projected into the past. The last Government was able to go a little further than that and to give a gratuity of a fair kind. The matter has been fully considered by the present Government and they are not able to concede a principle which, if it were conceded, would have to be conceded in many more cases than the present one. It might also have, with regard to precedents, repercussions that might prevent things being done for the future. At any rate when the present-day conditions were introduced that question was fully discussed as to whether the new conditions could be applied to people who had already gone on pension, and it was decided that it could not. That has been reviewed in the light of present conditions and the position is still the same.
In the course of the debate, I raised a question about a number of craftsmen who received a two years' training as special teachers of woodwork. I have no certainty of this, but I have heard that these teachers are now not to be employed. I think that would be a breach of contract and a bad thing, educationally, if they were not to be employed after they had been taken from their work as skilled craftsmen to be trained for teaching. I think there was a contract established there between the Minister and the Department and these men.
The Deputy has heard something about these men, but I have not. I explained last night that in 1953, 19 students were taken for training in Adhmadóireacht and 20 for a course of training in Fairgneolaíocht Tuaithe. They were to finish in 1955. Last year, 20 were taken on for a course in Adhmadóireacht and 20 others for a course in Fairgneolaíocht Tuaithe. It is proposed, in the current year, that 20 will be taken for a course in Adhmadóireacht to finish in 1957. There has been a very considerable lack of woodwork teachers. The Deputy, when Minister for Education, and myself continued to try and make up the deficiency that was there. There are ample demands from throughout the country for these teachers.
Am I to understand that they will be employed?
They will be employed. There will be vacancies for them under the local vocational education committees. I do not know what the circumstances are in which this canard has arisen—that we are training teachers and entering into commitments with them and not providing places for them.
I understood that one of the points made was that the course in Fairgneolaíocht Tuaithe was a shorter course, and started later, and that the people doing the woodwork course should have a prior claim for posts that were vacant.
I was worried about the students who were doing the two years' course. Am I to understand that they will be absorbed as teachers?
They will be absorbed as teachers.
I wonder could the Minister answer the question I asked last night in regard to a specific case I gave him several weeks ago where a qualified teacher was turned down because of failure in an oral examination, despite the fact that he had very high marks in five successive years? He passed the first year but was too young and during the four succeeding years he passed everything except the oral. He went to England but is prepared to return to this country if he gets employment. I asked last night if I could have a reply.
I am sorry I have not a reply. I will send the Deputy a reply but if the person the Deputy has in mind fulfilled the requirements of the Department of Education there would be no case of turning him down. How many weeks is it since the Deputy put in a question in connection with this case?
Far longer than I would like to mention. It is at least five weeks.
I cannot understand the circumstances in which that would happen. I will investigate the matter.