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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 30 Oct 1962

Vol. 197 No. 1

Vocational Education (Amendment) Bill, 1962—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The primary purpose of this Bill is to provide additional money for vocational education throughout the country.

A fundamental characteristic of the vocational education system in this country is its local basis. It is administered by committees who are appointed by the local rating authorities and a fair share of the money for vocational education comes from the local rates. On the whole, this local aspect of the system is very satisfactory. I think that Deputies on all sides of this House recognise, as the Irish people generally recognise, that achievements of vocational education committees throughout the country in meeting the educational needs of the people, have been very great. Each year for the past thirty years, Ministers for Education have been coming before the Dáil and, in introducing the estimates for the Department, have given an account of continual expansion in vocational education—increases in the number of schools and the number of pupils, a growing variety of courses and classes and strengthening links between vocational education and the cultural, social and economic life of the people. I do not think it necessary for me, at this stage, to quote statistics to illustrate these developments although I have plenty of figures if Deputies wish to hear them.

Although the work which has been done already or which is at present being done in the vocational schools is very considerable, substantial demands will be made on the schools in the future in support of the great effort we must make to develop all the intellectual talents of our people and to perfect our artistic ability and manual skill. On this great effort, and on the manner in which we make it, depends the success and prosperity of the nation. All our resources in every sphere of the national life must be harnessed to achieve the maximum possible results.

In particular, we must rely to a very great extent on educational development. This country is not very rich in raw material for industry and, therefore, we must utilise to the full and in the most fruitful manner the best material any country could have, i.e., the intellect and skill of its people. The work of the schools, particularly that of the vocational schools, will need to be improved and extended to achieve this and this cannot be done without expending more money.

Therefore, as I have already said, the Chief purpose of this Bill is to increase the financial provision for vocational education.

As the law stands at present, the income which vocational education committees may receive from the local rates can not exceed in the great majority of cases, the income from a rate of 15d. in the £1; a maximum rate of 18d. in the £1 is permissible, however, for a small number of committees. It is now necessary that more money should be available to vocational education committees from the rates, because of the expansion of vocational education since these limits of rate income were fixed nine years ago and because of the great increase in costs, especially in salaries of teachers and other officers. Many committees have reached the maximum limit already and some of those committees are to some extent in debt. Therefore, Section 2 of the Bill provides for a maximum rate of twenty four pence for each vocational education committee.

It should not be thought, of course, that it is proposed in this Bill to authorise Committees to get an immediate increase of ninepence or sixpence in the pound. As the law stands at present, a vocational education committee can demand in respect of any year an increase of one penny on the rate which they received in the previous year and the rating authority is obliged to accede to such demand. No change is proposed in that respect: that is to say, there is no provision in the Bill which would compel a rating authority to grant an increase exceeding one penny in the pound in the rate for vocational educational from one year to the next.

However, existing legislation permits a rating authority to grant of its own accord, and subject to an application from a committee, an increase in the rate for vocational education in any year of more than one penny but not more than twopence in the pound over the rate paid in the previous year. Provision is made in Section 3 of this Bill to enable a rating authority to grant an increase in the rate for vocational education in any year not exceeding threepence in the pound over the rate paid in the previous year. I should like to emphasise that no rating authority is being compelled to grant an increase in excess of one penny per annum in the rate for vocational education, but where a committee seeks an increase of more than one penny, but not exceeding threepence, the rating authority will be permitted to grant such increase subject to a specific resolution being passed.

I also wish to offer an explanation of Section 4. In the principal Act—the Vocational Education Act, 1930—it is stated (in Section 2)—

the expression "rateable value" means the annual rateable value under the Valuation Acts".

For the past thirty years, this has been interpreted as meaning that a rate of one penny in the pound (in so far as vocational education was concerned) was equivalent to the income which a penny in every pound of the gross valuation of a rateable area would produce. For example, if the schedule of valuation gave a figure of £100,000 for a particular area in a particular year, the vocational education committee would get 100,000 pennies in respect of each penny rate available for vocational education. Certain rating authorities have recently challenged this interpretation and have claimed that the value of the penny rate should be calculated on the figure of valuation on which rates are collectable. I understand that the question could not be determined except by submitting it to the courts, or alternatively, by clarifying the law. It appeared to me that the occasion of submitting a Vocational Education Bill to the Oireachtas was an opportune time to remove all possible doubts in this matter. As I have said, every Government and every rating authority were satisfied for thirty years that no doubt existed as to the meaning of the value of a penny rate, but since certain rating authorities have now cast doubts on that meaning, it is opportune and desirable that the doubt should be resolved.

As regards Section 5, this merely provides that the provisions governing the payment of travelling and maintenance expenses to members of county vocational education committees shall be on the same basis as provisions in other legislation concerning similar payments to members of County Councils, members of joint mental hospital boards and members of county Committees of Agriculture.

I ask the agreement of the Dáil to this Bill. It will, of course, result in an increase in the grants paid by the State to vocational education committees because these grants are determined in relation to committees' income from local rates. I am aware from what Deputies on all sides of the House said during the debate on the Department's estimates earlier in the year, that the Dáil recognises that more money must be spent on education. It pleases me that the Dáil should hold this view because I myself firmly believe that money spent on education is a gilt-edged investment.

This Bill can be divided into three sections. The first section provides for an increased contribution from local authority vocational education committees and the second part—Section 4—clarifies the position so far as rateable value is concerned. The third part of the Bill permits vocational education members to receive increased travelling and subsistence allowances.

We in Fine Gael welcome the expenditure of more moneys on vocational education but it is contrary to the policy of Fine Gael to ask the ratepayers to make this extra contribution. Fine Gael have already announced their policy. We are anxious to reduce and to stabilise the rates. We think we have reached the limit of taxation so far as rates are concerned. In my county, we pay over 52s. in the £ poor rates. If we are to add another 9d., we shall increase the burden on the ratepayer and on the small farmer.

It should be the aim and the duty of all members of this House to reduce local rates. That is the declared policy of Fine Gael. At the same time, we want to see more money spent on vocational education but we think it should come from central funds.

It is a long time since the old Cumann na nGaedheal Government in 1930 introduced what is described in this Bill as the Principal Act. It was the Act on which vocational education was founded. We have gone a long way since then in advances in vocational education. In those days, the principal idea of vocational education was to train girls in domestic economy. From that, we developed commercial classes, carpentry classes and now we have gone a long way in other technical classes.

Vocational education is one of the primary methods of education which we should push forward but we are no longer catering for employment in local areas. The education which is now given by vocational schools will benefit the country as a whole. Many technical subjects are taught in our vocational schools. The recipients of this knowledge will not be employed in the local authority area in which they receive their education. Their education, their know-how, will be of benefit to the nation as a whole. The nation as a whole should, therefore, contribute any increases which are necessary to provide schools, teachers and others to promote vocational or technical education.

I know that the Minister will possibly say that central funds are contributed but why should the contribution of central funds depend on the amount contributed by the local authority? That is wrong and it is something which we deplore. We agree with the Minister that more vocational schools are required. I think that, in the new era which we anticipate if we enter the Common Market, the technical school and the university will play a very prominent part because technicians will be essential in any industry, be it agriculture or any other industry on which the State may depend.

I should like to see some of our technical schools devoted to the promotion of the fishing industry. In the old days of the Congested Districts Board in this country, we had net factories, marine engineering classes, navigation classes. Many similar and kindred subjects were also taught by the old Congested Districts Board. One, in particular, was the trade of cooper, something which is now no longer taught in any of our technical schools, and apprenticeship to the coopers' union is a closed shop. The ordinary individual living on the seaboard who is anxious to become apprenticed to the cooper trade or occupation no longer has a chance to acquire the preliminary knowledge necessary to become an apprentice. If the Minister could concentrate, in conjunction with his colleague, the Minister for Fisheries, on promoting technical knowledge which would be of assistance in expanding the fishing industry, he would be doing a very good thing.

A school was recently set up in Galway. That was highly desirable but we should not be satisfied with one such school. One of the premier fishing ports in this country is Killybegs and I should like to see set up there a technical school wherein prospective fishermen would be taught the art of net making and net mending, marine engineering and elementary navigation, with particular reference to modern amenities such as radar and the other facilities.

I should like to see coopering taught in such a school. The building is procurable in Killybegs in a location which is ideal; the personnel are there; the potential pupils are there; the fishing fleet is there. I would therefore appeal to the Minister to meet the wishes of the Donegal Vocational Education Committee for the benefit of fishermen and those generally engaged in the industry, not only in Donegal, but in Mayo, Sligo and other western counties.

While I agree that the school in Galway is ideally situated, unfortunately it is too remote from the real fishing centres. I understand that in the very near future representations will be made to the Minister to have more money made available to the Donegal Vocational Education Committee for the purpose of establishing a technical school on the lines I have suggested in Killybegs and I sincerely hope he will see his way to accede to that request.

With regard to Part II of the Bill, the Minister is endeavouring to define rateable valuation. I was unaware of the fact that some local authorities dispute what has been accepted down through the years as the fund from which they would make their local contributions of so much in the £, whatever it might be. Rateable valuation, I thought, was something clearly defined in many Acts of Parliament. On the gross rateable valuation of the local authority, it was a percentage in the £ of the actual rate collected, but if the Minister felt there was any doubt about the matter, I think he was quite justified in clarifying it in this Part of the Bill.

Part III deals with travelling expenses of those members of subcommittees who reside less than five miles from the locus of the particular meeting of a committee. I think it is but right that if a man or a woman is willing to spend his or her time on committees such as those dealing with vocational education, they should be paid reasonable out of pocket expenses and I welcome that section of the Bill which increases the amount to which such committee members are entitled.

Vocational education is something we have treated very lightly in the past. When it comes to primary education, the State provides 100 per cent, of the salaries of teaching staffs. When it comes to the erection of primary schools, the States provide practically 75 per cent. of the outlay —in some cases, as high as 95 per cent. In the erection of secondary schools. the State in certain areas gives substantial grants towards the work and contributes very largely indeed towards the salaries of the staffs in these schools. But when we come to this most important branch of education, vocational training, the State demands from the local authority a very big contribution. They say to the local authority : "Look; we are giving you as much, proportionately, as you must provide." That is very unfair, particularly in the case of poor counties such as Donegal, Kerry and others on the western seaboard where the rates exceed £2 or £2 10s. in the £.

It is unfair to hold the gun to the heads of such local authorities and say : "The amount of the State grant is proportionate to what you will put up yourselves." The Minister should reconsider that and he and his colleagues in the Government should have another look at this most important branch of our educational system and decide to make a higher proportionate grant from State funds for the advancement of vocational education.

We in the Labour Party welcome this Bill as we do any measure which improves our educational facilities, which increases the amount of our investment in education. This Bill increases the amount which local authorities may spend on vocational education to 24 pence in the £. In previous measures of this kind, there was a certain discretion allowed to local authorities in respect of the amount in the £ they were allowed to spend on vocational education. We note that in this Bill it is a flat amount of 24 pence in the £. I should like to know from the Minister if, as it appears to us, this will give to some counties more money for vocational education and will mean less to others.

Will it mean that if there is a higher valuation in one county, there will be a greater amount of money available there for vocational education? There is no denying the demand throughout the country for more vocational schools and for a wider range of subjects in existing and new schools. The demand is increasing daily with the expansion of industry and the development of new types of industry. At the moment we have to provide people in these schools not only to fill the jobs that exist already, but to fill the jobs that will crop up in the future. When we consider the percentage of our children between 15 and 19 years of age who get any form of education, and when we consider that it is far below that of other countries, we realise the amount of work which must be done before we can satisfy ourselves that the need is met. Also, with the coming of the new Apprenticeship Act bottlenecks will arise in vocational schools. I hope the Minister will take steps to provide more schools in towns and villages throughout the country to give each young boy and girl, whether living in a remote country place or a large town, an equal opportunity of being apprenticed to some trade.

We in the Labour Party also welcome Section 5 which gives certain allowances to members of committees who live within a five mile radius of a meeting. We believe that no public representative, or no person who goes to those committee meetings, should be at a financial loss by reason of doing so. If people suffer a financial loss because of attending such meetings, we will find ourselves deprived of the views of people who cannot afford such a loss, in setting out the policies of the various committees. We also welcome that provision. I should like again to congratulate the Minister. Even if it is a small measure, it is definitely a step in the right direction.

Níl sé ar intinn agam mórán a rá. Ar an gcéad dul síos, is mian liom comhgáirdeachas a dhéan-amh leis an Aire as ucht an misneach atá aige tuille airgid a chaitheamh ar chúrsaí oideachais. Is é mo bharúil féin go bhfuil sé fíor ar fad a rá gur ceart an rud é níos mó airgid a chur ar fáil le h-aghaidh oideachais mar is dóigh liom go raghaidh sé go mór chun socair na ndaoine sa deire agus go mbeidh an náisiún agus muintir na tíre níos saidhbhre dá bhárr.

I have listened to Deputy O'Donnell speaking about transferring the extra cost to the Central Fund. I have heard that argument put forward on on a few occasions. I do not think it would be a very feasible method of approach because it would mean that the man with the large family of, say, ten, would have to pay ten times as much as the wealthy bachelor living on a big farm of land, to provide money for education. The fact that vocational education is not freely available to all our citizens means that the local rates have some contribution to make. The majority of the vocational education committees I know are composed of reasonable people. Naturally they fight as hard as they can to get plenty from the Central Fund but we all know that the extra money for that fund comes from extra taxation.

I should like the Minister to say if the grants are uniform in all counties. In my county, we feel that Deputy O'Donnell's constituency gets a bigger percentage of grants than we get in Cavan. We are in no way jealous as there may be various reasons for that, but it takes from the arguments he has put forward that the money should come from the Central Fund because, so far as I know, they are getting a fairly good slice already up there and the Central Fund is no fairy godmother who can provide money by waving a wand.

Money spent on education is a very sound investment for any nation. This matter of vocational education is something new. It has been in existence over a span of 30 years only. During that time, it has made colossal strides, despite the fact that people had to be more or less educated to what it meant and, secondly, because there was no system of compulsion to compel people to attend vocational schools. It is all voluntary on their part and the results are very creditable indeed.

It is, indeed, encouraging to any Government and any local authority, to spend money on vocational education when they see that the demand is there. It is the duty of the vocational committee and the Government to give those people who would try to attend if it were at all possible a chance of attending a vocational school. It would be grand if we were in such a healthy financial position that we could provide free education up to the top out of the Central Fund for everyone, but we must be reasonable and sensible and use our limited resources to the best of our ability.

Vocational education has proved its worth and it is only in its infancy. I should like to see—and the Minister may have it in mind—a system under which there would be a smooth change over from the national school to the vocational school or the secondary school, and right on to the top without any overlap. By virtue of the fact that the national schools are under the managerial system and the vocational and secondary schools are under other bodies, it is not easy to handle this problem, much as one might like to. If it were possible to do anything in that line, it would be an advance.

I am in favour of this Bill. It provides extra money and it will help, I hope, to induce vocational committees to try to cope in some way with the problem of bringing vocational education to all parts of the nation. I know it is a difficult job. If money were handed out ad lib. schools might be built where they were not required, but by continuing this method some consideration might be given to having a central school in each county in which people who have finished two or three years at the vocational school can go further. One of the factors that has more or less hampered a real advance in vocational education for quite a number of years is the fact that there did not seem to be any proper outlet for those who had vocational education. That has been remedied and we can congratulate ourselves, the vocational committees, the teachers in general, and all others who have worked in this great effort at raising the standard of education of the ordinary people of the country. I welcome the Bill.

I want to appeal to the Minister to reconsider the financial aspects of this Bill. Everyone agrees that vocational education is essential and must be provided. Everyone also agrees that it is now an accepted principle in Northern Ireland and in Britain that the Central Fund is responsible for the greatest portion of education. The Minister and the Government made a great deal of ballyhoo about the reduction in the rates by an increase in the grants a short time ago. It was very welcome and it was evidence that the Government were convinced that the burden of the rates then was excessive on the agricultural community, but with the next move, what has been given will be taken back. In Northern Ireland, there is complete derating of agricultural land so that even if vocational education were a 50 per cent. charge on the rates, the farmers would not have to pay anything. The same thing applies in Britain, but we have no such thing here. As Deputy O'Donnell has pointed out in relation to Donegal, which is beside the Six Counties, there is complete derating of agricultural land at Strabane and at Lifford the rate is 52/- in the £, less the agricultural grant.

The Government say we must face up to the situation created by the Common Market, that we have this and we have that to do. That is true. There must be technical training and the necessary education must be provided. However, I submit that in these circumstances that is a national charge and that the Government, if they intend to retain the present levy on the rates, should stabilise it at that and that whatever increase is necessary should be a charge on central funds.

Vocational education is an essential service. It serves a great need and is of material benefit. It is of material benefit through the ordinary classes for domestic economy, woodwork and so on. Before I became a blacksmith, I served two years in a vocational school training as a carpenter. I suppose I would make a bad carpenter but at least I am able to put a pane of glass in a window. Such a class gives the boy who attends it a skill in his hand and that is very important, no matter what part he plays in life afterwards.

There is one other comment I should like to make. I am very much afraid of this rule relating to expenses, that a person must be outside the five-mile limit in order to get his expenses. As sure as there are little apples, half the committees of the country will be appointed from outside the five-mile limit and fit and proper people within the five-mile limit will be excluded. I suggest to the Minister he should simply say that expenses will be paid and that if a person who is resident in the town or within the five-mile limit claims expenses, he will not be denied them. They will be small, of course. This idea of the five-mile limit is not a sound principle because the unfortunate situation will arise that everybody from the town in which the committee is being held, whether it is a priest, a person or some other townsman, will be excluded and somebody who will be making something out of it will be appointed. I regret to say that is the temptation and I believe it should be avoided. We should not put a premium on this type of work.

In Longford, a penny in the £ brings in approximately £600 or £700—hardly as much as that. It is a very serious matter when it is considered that 9d. today is one-fifth of the total rate in 1932, that in 1932 our rates in Longford were 3/4d. in the £ and that we are now without any hesitation bringing in a further increase of 9d. on a rate of 44/- or 45/- in the £. I would suggest to the Minister that he should reconsider the whole financial structure of the Bill. I agree that vocational education is necessary but the State should undertake the financial responsibility for whatever increases are necessary for schools, teachers and everything else.

I welcome this proposal to increase the grants to vocational schools. The aspect I do not welcome is the snag of increasing the demand on local authority. I would appeal for greater consideration from the Minister. The vocational school plays an important role in the economy of this State and the Minister should consider on its merits the question of increasing the grants still further.

There is a continual demand for courses in technology in the city of Galway vocational school. With the coming of the Common Market, such courses are very important in order to gear ourselves for whatever repercussions there may be. I am a member of that vocational school committee and we find ourselves in a very peculiar position. We provide classes for children from outside the town. On several occasions, we appealed to the county council to meet the extra costs due to the attendance of an increased number of children. There is a greater case now for a larger contribution from central funds. We also provide classes for fishing trainees, being the only school in Ireland to do so. These trainees come from all over the country. Over the past two years, we have sent out a great number of personnel to take charge of the fishing fleets that are playing an important part in the economy of our country. Were we to close down tomorrow morning, the Minister would find himself running around the country looking for another place. I do not hold with Deputy O'Donnell who says it is too remote from his area. It may be a bit remote but it is centrally situated between Donegal and Kerry. The Minister should appreciate the part they are playing and consider giving increased grants.

Another matter which we should bear in mind on this question of vocational education is that hand in hand with it goes the great need for guidance in careers. It is a very important aspect which would prevent, if I may say so, the square plug being put in the round hole and it is a matter to which the Department should give their immediate attention. I should like to take the opportunity of complimenting Independent Newspapers Ltd. on the very important series of articles on careers which they are presenting at the moment. I hope they will consider putting the series in book form as they will be very important for future reference by parents. Possibly the Department might take it as a text book in conjunction with some steps they may take in that respect. The Minister should take up this aspect of the matter right away because we have too many square plugs in round holes, or friends of friends getting into jobs they are not fitted for. Because of their pull, we have to some degree the position that men are not fitted for the position they hold.

Ba mhaith liom cúpla focal a rá ar an mBille seo. Money spent on education is money well spent and the vocational continuation of education is for the majority of our children. Not all of them go to secondary schools and for those who do not go to secondary schools, it is necessary to have continuation education in the vocational schools. As many as possible of those schools should be in every county in this part of the country. It is very necessary, for, after all, under the Apprenticeship Act which will come into force on 1st April next year, it will be necessary for any boy being apprenticed to have the group certificate of the vocational school or the Intermediate Certificate. As far as that goes, the group certificate for the boy being apprenticed to a trade is more important.

In regard to the matter of raising money for the schools, the Government provides in the proportion of two to one. I do not think that any vocational education committee, any county council, or borough council, would object to paying money to give boys and girls of their own area an opportunity to have some training in a skill which is very necessary. Prior to 1922 and for a few years afterwards, there were very few technical schools and the result was that unless a person lived in a city or near a city, he had no chance of getting a technical training. The position has improved considerably and I hope it will improve more in the future in order that our boys, particularly, will be equipped with some skill and will be an advantage to their country and enabled to build up their country. If it is necessary for them to emigrate, they will have some skill and not always be carrying the hod as they have done and as our people have done for the past 100 years, building up other countries under poor circumstances without any skill whatever. Our pupils are as bright and as able as the pupils of any other country and I do not see why we would not give them the opportunity to learn. As I say, money spent on education is money well spent.

Another matter I should like to mention is rating. We had a difficulty with the Dublin Corporation. The manager said that the amount should be levied on the net collected rather than the gross. On making inquiries, I found that quite a number of properties have a set valuation but not the full amount is collected from those properties. Nevertheless, the Corporation is asked to pay on the full amount of the valuation as if they collected all the money, which means that if there is a rate of 1/6 in the £, the Corporation must put on another 1d or 2d in order to have the full amount to be given to the vocational education committee.

It might be well if some arrangement were made whereby the Corporation would know the exact amount they are asked to pay. If they are asked to pay 1/6d., let it be 1/6d.; if they are asked to pay 1/9d., let it be 1/9d. Something should be done in that matter. A Deputy referred to the college in Galway and he is looking for a higher subvention. Here in Dublin we have four or five colleges of technology. We have Bolton Street, which has just been completed and we have Kevin Street, which will be built in the course of the next few years. They have started on it already. We have the School of Commerce in Rathmines and we have the college in Cathal Brugha Street where domestic science teachers are trained. We have also Parnell Square and we have a school in Ringsend where teachers are trained by the Department at present.

And you have Clogher Road.

Clogher Road, Emmet Road and Crumlin are regional schools, the schools which give the continuation education in order to obtain the group certificate. I am referring to the colleges of technology which are to be built. We hope that in the near future we will have a college of commerce to replace the one in Rathmines. I appeal to the Minister that in such cases we should get a higher subvention towards the capital cost of those colleges. Not alone have we students from the city but we also have students from the country areas. ESB apprentices and others from different parts of the country get their education in these colleges. It is only fair therefore to ask for a higher subvention from the Government, particularly to meet capital costs. I would ask the Minister therefore to consider that matter seriously because it would be unfair to saddle the ratepayers of Dublin with the full amount.

In conclusion, I should like to say something on the use of vocational schools. In several parts of the country, there are no secondary schools and bright children in those areas find themselves unable to take up positions. Until such time as secondary schools are provided in those areas, it should be possible to use the vocational schools as secondary schools also, so that if these children did not want to go to the vocational school, they could have a secondary education.

I should like to congratulate the Minister on the Bill and to pay a tribute to the teaching staffs of the vocational schools in Dublin on the manner in which they carry out their duties. They are dedicated people, providing a wonderful education for many of our citizens. I should like to join with the previous speaker in appealing to the Minister for Local Government to have a second look at the position of vocational education in Dublin. The Bill, as it stands, makes it permissive for a local authority to spend up to 2/- in the £ in the rates for vocational education. Dublin Corporation expenditure is at approximately that level at present, and with the commitments ahead of the Dublin City Vocational Committee, the figure is bound to be exceeded in the near future. There is vast capital expenditure and a consequent expenditure on providing equipment and staff to meet the demand for this service, particularly from the expanding outlying areas. I know the Minister is sympathetic to this appeal and I feel sure that in his reply he will try to meet the point. In a sense, Dublin city is at a disadvantage because it has reached the maximum and will exceed it in the future.

Is soléir ón méid adúirt an tAire gurb é príomh cuspóir an Bhille seo níos mó airgid a sholáthair le haghaidh gairm oideachais agus chun scoileanna a bhunú in áiteanna sa tír nach bhfuil siad cheana féin. Brathann sin ar an méid airgid atá ar fáil ag an gcoiste. Más amhlaidh go bhfuil siad ag brath ar an méid a bheidh le fáil óna húdaráis áitiúla, ní dóigh liom go mbeidh an leathnú sin comh mór agus a bhfuil an tAire ag súil leis. Tá súil agam go bhféachfaidh sé isteach san taobh sin den cheist.

The object of the Bill is to provide for the future growth of vocational education. There is an aspect of education I referred to here previously on the Minister's main Estimate. There will be a continuing necessity here for many years to come for expansion of opportunity for the young people to obtain vocational education, particularly in the context in which we now find ourselves here where we face the probability of entering into the European Community. Therefore it is more than ever necessary that in regard to education we should take cognisance of the allimportant part vocational education will have to play in the lives of the people in the future.

As far as primary education is concerned, it fits the children of the nation to avail of the further education which is to be available to them. We are not so far able to provide for the community the necessary university education for the number of people who could avail of it. Speaking here previously on the Vote for the Department of Education, I mentioned that I thought it was necessary—and I still hold the view strongly—that quite a large number of our secondary pupils, having done the Leaving Certificate, should then move on to vocational education and particularly to the higher technical aspects of education. In the rural areas, this would be dependent, in the main, on the provision of vocational schools.

Speaking for my own constituency, I am well aware of the efforts which the vocational committee are making to meet the demand for schools in various parts of the county. Of course, their efforts in that respect are hampered by the amount of money at their disposal. Reading this Bill, one aspect strikes one very forcibly. The section of the Bill which obliges a rating authority to provide a certain rate for education is, I think, the kernel of the whole situation. Everybody may be well disposed to the provision of education, but I think the stage was reached this year when it was found necessary by this House to make extra provision to relieve the local authorities from some of the burden. When the demands of vocational education are made in the future, will the rating authorities be disposed to provide the money so necessary to provide this important type of education?

Although it is an established principle that every child in the nation is entitled to equality in regard to education, we find that in the local areas that does not pertain. It is a practical difficulty that has to be got over because of the lack of schools. This lack depends on the amount of money at the disposal of the local committees and I suggest that if we are to proceed at the pace at which we should proceed to meet the challenge of the present and the coming time, we should be prepared to invest capital in providing these schools.

If as the Minister rightly said tonight, substantial demands will be made on schools in the future in support of the great effort which we must make and also if it is true that the best materials any country has are the intellect and skill of its people, I suggest to him that the present generation, or even the school-going generation after this, will still be denied the opportunity they are entitled to because schools will not be available for them. It is in that context that I suggest there is a greater need for the provision of funds from the central authority. I do not doubt the local authority would provide these over a period of years but it is because of the urgent necessity to meet the needs of the times in which we live that we should go ahead and provide hand-in-hand with the expanded programme in regard to primary schools, more vocational schools at convenient centres in the country.

Taking the rate of a penny in the £, so far as my constituency is concerned, I believe—I speak subject to correction—its produce would be approximately £2,000 on the valuation. Even if we were to multiply that by three, it would mean that even an increase of threepence in the £ would not provide the price of one extra vocational school in the country in any one year. The Minister has a great amount of goodwill in regard to education and from that point of view, I suggest most earnestly to him that in assisting vocational committees in the future and bearing in mind the fact that the local community through the rates cannot afford to speed up the development and provision of schools as quickly as it is necessary, the Minister should again look at this matter, with a view towards providing what Deputy Barron referred to, the capital cost of the buildings involved in making available this necessary type of education.

This State is young in the matter of vocational education and has not been able to provide itself with all the schools necessary, but it is apparent, through the growth of education, that our people are eager to avail of the opportunities provided. The increased numbers in primary and secondary schools and in universities bear witness to the growing appreciation of education. Our universities have been benefiting the world at large through the efforts of their graduates abroad. In vocational education, we are about to face the challenge of Europe and it is in that respect that the people now growing up will need adequate training, if they are to use their skills to the best advantage of the nation.

I plead with the Minister to urge the Government to provide money outside and beyond what can be raised from the rates. What can be raised from the rates will be necessary for the payment of teachers if we are to achieve an increased tempo in vocational education but in the case of the capital sums necessary to provide schools, if we are to wait on subventions available from rates plus grants from normal sources, I am afraid the rate of progress will not be quick enough to measure up to the kind of effort so necessary in this age.

We are very glad that this Bill enables vocational committees to advance more quickly with their school building programmes.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted, and 20 Members being present,

We are certainly reminded that the holidays are over. This Bill will enable the committees to proceed faster with the erection of schools and the provision of more and more varied classes. On the question of building, I, at least, find that the technical schools that are being erected, although very fine buildings and a credit to the committees and architects, are much too expensive. A greater number of schools could be built with the same amount of money. I do not think engineering rooms should be as elaborate as those provided in some vocational schools. Engineering classes are of such a character that a schoolroom should be specially designed for them and could be much cheaper than, say, rooms for commercial subjects. I feel some committees are making that and other mistakes in providing very elaborate rooms for classes which do not require such very fine work.

Our committee in Donegal have had to push the Department to provide engineering classes in some of the schools, when new schools are provided. In some cases the Department have agreed that we were right; in other cases, although we pressed for the provision of engineering classrooms, the Department would not give way. There is no vocational school being erected in any district which does not require an engineering classroom. In view of the increased use of agricultural machinery, it is necessary that even the most remote rural technical school should have an engineering classroom. I would therefore urge the Minister to ensure that such engineering classrooms will be attached to each vocational school being erected in rural Ireland. As I have said, these classrooms need not be very elaborate. Something less expensive than those which have been built up to the present would suffice.

I would also suggest to the Minister that there should be a central technical school or college in each county, or perhaps in some of the larger counties. There are many pupils who, having done a three years course at the vocational school, would like to take more advanced courses. Under the present system, they can do so only by attending the Bolton Street Technical Institute in Dublin. That is not feasible in many cases. I would press for the provision in each county of one or two advanced technical schools to cater for pupils anxious to proceed to higher education. That suggestion has been made on a number of occasions. Such higher technical education should be provided quickly, if we are to sustain the interest of young people in vocational education.

I would also suggest that instead of the usual technical school catering for subjects such as domestic economy, woodwork, commerce and so on, there should be specialised technical schools in major fishing ports such as Killybegs, to provide courses in all aspects of the fishing industry and to equip boys for a fishing career. It would be a great advantage to the boys in these ports to have specialised technical knowledge which would equip them for such careers.

There is a great development in the teaching of foreign languages in technical schools, even in rural Ireland. Vocational education committees would be acting wisely in providing increased facilities for the teaching of German and French, which will be useful and necessary languages for young people in the years ahead.

For the rural community, the most useful branch of technical education is building construction. In Donegal and other counties, we have very useful classes and very good teachers. Building construction teachers serve a very useful purpose in the community by instructing persons who want to build new farm houses or reconstruct dwelling houses or farm buildings. The difficulty is in getting sufficient teachers. More classes could be provided if more qualified teachers were available. The training of these teachers is a matter for the Department and I would suggest that the number of teachers in training and qualifying annually should be doubled. Persons wishing to carry out building work are brought to a central hall or classroom and there shown how to make doors and windows and told something about the planning of a building. Then they carry out the work under the direction of a building instructor on the site.

During the debate on the Minister's Estimate, I referred to a matter which requires review. Building construction teachers have the same conditions of service as apply to teachers whose work confines them to a classroom. They must give 400 hours per annum teaching in a classroom. That is a mistake. The hours spent on building sites laying off or helping the farmer to build the house should count as part of the 400 hours.

Under a recent Bill introduced by the Minister, county councils have been enabled to give larger sums towards scholarships. That is a very good idea. The committees have increased the numbers of university, secondary and technical school scholarships. Our committee gives about ten scholarships to vocational schools. Those who enter for these scholarships have to do the same examination as applicants for entry to secondary schools. I believe there should be a different examination for those wishing to obtain vocational scholarships. It is our experience that it is those from the bottom of the list who are taken for the vocational schools. We have about 35 scholarships to secondary schools. Those are awarded and, after that, we have to take from 35 on into the vocational schools. That situation should not obtain.

The vocational teachers throughout the country are certainly deserving of our gratitude for the dedicated way in which they do their work. Not alone do they do their normal hours of work but they do more than is required of them—I speak now with particular reference to building construction teachers, agricultural teachers, and so on—and thereby help the community considerably. They are an asset to the country and they deserve the thanks of all.

Déinim comhgáirdeachas léis an Aire as ucht an Bhille seo a thabhairt isteach, a cuireann breis airgid ar fáil do na coisdí ghairm oideachais ar fud na tíre. Beidh toradh maith ar sin sa mhéid go mbeidh na coisdí ábalta níos mó scoltacha agus rangannaí a chur ar siúl do h-aos óg na tíre. Rachaidh sé sin chun sochair na ndaoine óga agus an tír í féin.

I should like to comment on one or two matters. I should like to touch on the concluding remarks of Deputy Cunningham and the opening remarks of a few other Deputies. One Deputy opens in Irish and another finishes. I am sure that, within the next couple of years, if plans come to fruition, they will sprinkle a few words of German in between.

There would be nothing wrong in that.

Running through all the speeches here on this simple measure, there was a good deal of emphasis on the urgency of our admission to the Common Market. Surely the education of our young people should be of primary consideration, irrespective of any significance with regard to European commitments? Is it only now that the Christians in this House are wakening up to the fact that they have a responsibility to the less well-off sections of the community and to the young people of Ireland? Is it only now that their consciences are awakening to the fact that we spend less here on education services than almost any civilised country in the world? The only reason that we are spurred on now, or shaken out of our attitude of self-complacency, is the cold shiver of competition likely to be experienced if Common Market arrangements come to fruition. It is a poor comment on the outlook of members of this House that commitments in Europe should be one of the main reasons why we are embarking on a wider or more extended scheme of educational benefits for our young people.

Vocational education has been described as the poor man's university. It is poor, so far as the funds are concerned certainly. I suggest to the Minister—I shall not take very long on this because it is a waste of time talking in this House—that there is a definite bias in favour of the urban areas as against the rural areas in the giving of grants for educational purposes. One would imagine, with all the talk there is about the necessity of stablising the population in rural Ireland and giving the younger people facilities to equip themselves properly, giving them a decent education, that any bias would be in favour of the rural areas. I listened to a Dublin Deputy speaking here this evening pleading that Dublin should get bigger grants because it caters for so many from elsewhere. he is quite right to make his own case, but in the current year, according to the figures I have seen, a special grant of £60,000 was made available to the Dublin City Vocational Committee and over £42,000 to Dublin county. The two combined are greater, from what I can gather, than all the special grants made available to the rest of the country for vocational education. If that does not show a definite bias, or preference, then I do not know what it shows.

The Minister comes in here this evening charged with responsibility for vocational education. When we call to his Department, we find that vocational education is in a watertight compartment; right beside it, we find the secondary education outfit, and somewhere else we have the primary education outfit. None knows what the other is doing. There is no coordination; there is no guidance; there is no co-operation. There might as well be three separate Ministries. I urge on the Minister that he should hammer down the iron curtains inside in the Department of Education. This Government would be doing a better days work for this country in knocking down the iron curtains in education rather than talking a great deal of humbug about another Iron Curtain.

Mention has been made of the cost of building and of the fact that some vocational schools in rural areas seem to be too costly. New building techniques have been developed in the past seven or eight years and it is possible, with these new techniques, to reduce the capital cost of a first-class school by 50 per cent. I do not want the Minister to get hurt and to say that this is not a matter for him, that it is the responsibility of the Office of Public Works. Fine Gael Deputies have stated that the rates cannot afford an extra penny or twopence for educational purposes. If that is so, is there any move on the part of the major Opposition Party to force this Government to adopt new building techniques to provide good schools and at the same time, halve the building costs? Is that not one way of dealing with the problem of the burden of local rates?

It is a matter for the committee.

It is not a matter for the committee because the committee must get the sanction of the Department and the Department has been very slow to sanction any new building arrangements or techniques. I am not criticising architects. I know they are involved. I am sure trade unions are involved to a great extent, but in the long run there would be plenty of work for the architects and plenty of work for the tradesmen, if a bigger scheme of building were embarked upon. I think the Minister is aware of the developments which have taken place and which have been put to him in this House and to his predecessor in the past four or five years. I have yet to see any worthwhile programme evolved to utilise the building techniques and the types of material available.

I know that in so far as some secondary schools are concerned very successful efforts were made but departmental sanction is not necessary there because there are no State grants available for building secondary schools. Departmental sanction is necessary in the case of vocational schools. On that basis, the Minister should let us know whether there is envisaged a dynamic building programme in the vocational field. I hope that the word "dynamic" does not shock him at this stage.

Finally, I think I should refer to my own county. I feel that Roscommon is badly neglected in the matter of grants. I mentioned the figures of special grants for Dublin city and county. There are various vocational committees throughout the country which have received special grants or are about to receive special grants within the present financial year. I do not criticise those grants at all. I do not begrudge them and I think it is highly essential to give them, but I suggest that the Minister should examine the situation whereby Roscommon is one of the few counties where the only contribution from the Department for vocational education is on a £ for £ basis; in other words, for every £1 raised by the local authority, the Department will give another £1.

In several urban areas, for instance, for every £1 raised by the local authority, £4 is given by the State. In many counties, it is £2 for every £1— £2 of State grant for every £1 raised locally but in my county the contribution is £1 from the State for every £1 raised locally. I can see no justification for that. I know that in a number of counties, where a similar situation arose, as a result of strong pressure, the Minister decided to alter the position and improve the ratio. I would suggest to the Minister that he should for the coming year take another look at the financial arrangement for my county.

Let me put it to him this way. The Undeveloped Areas Act is operating in counties in the West of Ireland and in a number of other counties. Whether by coincidence or otherwise, every county that comes under the Undeveloped Areas Act, in relation to vocational education is in the £2 to £1, the £3 to £1 or the £4 to £1 bracket, with the exception of Roscommon. It is the only county that is out. If it is feasible and right that the county should be included in the Undeveloped Areas Act for special assistance as regards Government grants for industrial and other developments, is there any reason why it should be excluded when it comes to the question of getting these grants from the Department of Education? That may be a point which has not struck the Minister before. I would ask him to have that matter examined and let us know what the position is.

With regard to new types of building material and new building techniques which are in operation—I want to use the argument used by the Common Market enthusiasts—if we are serious about competing with European countries, we will have to bring in this building programme by way of a crash programme. It will have to be well under way by 1967. The Minister should be in a position to accept plans on that rather than bring in this type of Bill which allows vocational education committees to raise another penny here and there. It is not a very big step in view of the fact that very big initial steps have been taken in other fields.

I did not like to interrupt the Deputy. I wish to say that I did not look for preferential treatment for Dublin. The colleges of technology get a higher subvention. I did not look for preferential treatment for Dublin.

I have every reason to believe that, when the Minister is concluding, he will pay a tribute to the amount of work, thankless and voluntary, which has been put into the development of vocational education in recent years. There was a time when the vocational education committees were linked up with the county committees of agriculture.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted, and 20 Members being present,

There was a time during the early days of vocational education when the agricultural committees and the vocational education committees were as one, until the Vocational Education Act was passed. It established the vocational education committees. There are many members of this House who have given very long and faithful service on vocational education committees. They no doubt realise the great value and importance of vocational education. I am quite satisfied that in very recent years, particularly in the past year and in the present year, there seems to be in rural Ireland a keener interest and steadier growth in vocational education. I am sure the records of the Department will bear that out. They have applications in regard to sanction from vocational education committees, not alone in the midlands but throughout the country, for new schools, extensions to existing schools and additional buildings. This is where I want to agree very fully with Deputy Cunningham. It will eventually reach the stage when it will be impossible to staff these schools.

Most of us who are members of vocational education committees know that the big difficulty that presents itself is the staffing of our schools. with trained teachers. I would ask the Minister to take steps to double up on the output of teachers for our vocational schools. An effort should be made to bring home to the parents of those who are seeking careers that there are many openings. With the steady growth of vocational education, there should be further openings for people who are interested in the teaching profession.

I am not at all satisfied with the manner in which the Department of Education are dealing with this steady growth. There seems to be either a shortage of money or a deliberate holdup of sanction, both for extensions to existing schools and for the giving of the green light for the construction of new schools. In my constituency, we probably realise the value of vocational schools more than in any other constituency. In the county of Offaly and in the county of Laois, there are vocational education committees with a splendid record of service to the public.

Bord na Móna have been closely connected with vocational education in the training of apprentices for the various workshops and they deserve to be complimented on the manner in which they have co-operated with the staffs of vocational schools probably not alone in my constituency but in other constituencies also where Bord na Móna are carrying out activities. The same applies to the ESB. We have a number of ESB power stations in my constituency. The ESB have expressed their appreciation in no uncertain terms that their employees, in their early years, received a sound education in the technical schools. They have co-operated in the conducting of classes for apprentices and others in that regard. The same applies to the briquette factories in that constituency. Many of the key workers are the products of our vocational schools. We were disappointed we did not get the fertiliser factory which Wicklow got. I am sure we would have the very same boast in that regard.

Vocational education is an absolute necessity. Whilst we have to pause and question ourselves in regard to its financing, we have to admit, viewing all the legislation that comes from the Government, that every Bill that has been brought in has piled an additional burden on the taxpayers, either directly or indirectly. That is particularly striking when we carry our minds back to the undertakings given by the Government to relieve the taxpayer. Not alone is the taxpayer not getting any relief but every Bill brought in here piles up an additional burden of taxes.

This Bill will increase the rates as well as central taxation. There was an uproar in this country by the members of the present Government when, during the time of the old Cumann na nGaedheal Government, the rates were 3/6d. in the £ and taxation was £20 million. Today, taxation is £163 million and in many cases rates stand at 53/- in the £, as a result of the policies being implemented by the men who pledged themselves to cut down on the 3/6d. rate and the £20 million taxation. Now we see rates at 53/- in the £ in many counties and taxation standing at £163 million. However, we have to view the picture as it is here.

This House realises that vocational education is an urgent necessity. I have often wondered why the Department of Education had a ceiling on the amount for which a vocational education committee could ask its county council. If vocational education is to develop in order to meet the educational requirements of our people in the Common Market period which lies ahead, the curbing of spending on vocational education must stop.

When vocational education committees are given their allocation of money in the form of a State grant, on one hand, and a contribution from the county council, on the other, there is too much restriction by the Department on the spending of that money. I was expecting that, when this Bill was introduced, vocational education committees would be given a little more power in relation to the spending of their funds.

I want to take this opportunity of offering serious criticism to the Department for failing to sanction a proper rate of pay for caretakers of vocational schools throughout the country. I understand that, when the vocational education conference met in Athlone earlier this year, there was a full-dress debate on this matter. I am sure that when the report of that conference is submitted to him, the Minister will, for his own information, note the comments in that regard.

In towns such as Portlaoise, Portarlington, Birr and Tullamore, I fail to understand why a caretaker of a vocational school should be treated as he is being treated at present. Consider a man who is devoting all his time to that work. Even when school is not in session, there are the grounds to be kept, rooms to be looked after, machinery to be watched. The premises have to be looked after. I fail to understand why the Department insists that his rate of pay should be linked to the rate of pay of an agricultural worker in the district.

There is no comparison whatever between the duties of an agricultural worker and the duties to be performed by the caretaker of a vocational school. I think there is a circular in the Minister's Department—No. 17/51, if my memory serves me correctly— which lays down certain duties whereby the members of vocational education committees must provide for the caretakers of vocational schools. That circular is outdated and the Minister should take the necessary steps to review the position.

This has been a constant worry to the vocational education committee of which I am a member. When the committee sit down to consider the rate of pay for men giving valuable wholetime service—men who are prepared to work many hours in addition to what they would normally be called upon to work—we find that, when the committee are prepared to pay what they think is a reasonable rate, the Department threaten to surcharge the members and fail to give sanction and effect to the wishes of the committee. Vocational committees are made up of men who have a certain responsibility in the matter of the spending of ratepayers' money. they also have a sense of the value of their employees. For those reasons, the Minister would be well advised to seek closer co-operation with vocational educational committees in general.

As I said earlier, caretakers in vocational schools—there are hundreds of them in the country—are entitled to wages sufficient to ensure for them a reasonable standard of living, and if county vocational educational committees are prepared to foot the bill to provide such wages, I think the Minister should not clamp down on them. Why should such caretakers not be grouped as a separate section in the community, instead of being forced to depend on local agricultural rates of pay?

In matters of that kind, as in many others, the Department would be well advised to have periodic consultations with representatives of vocational educational committees to find out what the general pattern of feeling is in regard to what the standard rate of pay for school caretakers should be. The Minister may have difficulties in such consultations, because a congress is held once a year of representatives of vocational educational committees, but that congress has not got the same negotiating machinery as is available to the General Council of County Councils and the General Council of Committees of Agriculture, both of which come together and have resource to top level conference.

I recommend to the Minister that he should take the initiative in giving to a body formed of representatives of vocational educational committees facilities to consult with his Department on problems relating to vocational education. I had hoped this Bill would make provision for the setting up of such machinery, for the setting up of a congress of vocational educational committee members from throughout the country with facilities for top level consultation. At the moment you have the people responsible for the vocational education system completely unorganised, as one might say. If the Minister, as Deputy McQuillan suggested, is to launch a huge building scheme of vocational schools throughout the country, he must have such consultation facilities available in order to determine where such schools should be built.

There is undoubtedly a huge demand for new vocational schools— schools in which there will be facilities for the general teaching of engineering as well as many kindred subjects— throughout the length and breadth of the country. In face of this demand, it becomes obvious that there is an urgent need for the setting up of machinery whereby there can be provided machinery for consultation between the Department and representatives of vocational committees. I am not at all satisfied that the annual congress of vocational committees held in some town by the seaside for two or three days is at all effective in this matter. A representative body of those committees should be set up and should meet more frequently.

Members of vocational committees give unselfish service and I think that when the Minister is replying he should pay a tribute to those people, members of county councils and the clergy and others, who give their time so selflessly in the interests of vocational education.

Another problem the Minister should consider seriously is that of the provision of transport for pupils anxious to attend vocational schools. In most parts of the country, vocational schools are in the big towns but the time has now arrived when farmers' sons want to attend classes in engineering. Every farmer's son nowadays knows that the day has come when he must have mechanical training, when the horse is a thing of the past on the farm. He wants to know something about mending and maintaining a tractor, about how to keep and drive a combine harvester. He wants to know about replacements for mechanical implements. The sad part is that most farmers' sons now leaving national schools live at great distance from vocational schools.

As Deputy McQuillan rightly pointed out, it is in matters such as this that the need for closer co-operation between the Department and the vocational education committees is so obvious. There is this great new demand for schools in each county and it is only representatives of county committees who can give the Minister the required information about where new schools are most needed.

Reverting to the question of providing transport for pupils to vocational schools, in my constituency, committees have been set up for providing transport for such pupils. That is an idea to be commended— the idea of public-spirited citizens coming together to give children an opportunity of attending vocational classes. However, I think an effort should be made by the Department to revise their policy in this respect so that county vocational committees will be left free to make financial provision for such transport.

I fully agree with Deputy Cunningham that no vocational school should be without facilities for the teaching of engineering. It should be a condition laid down by the Department that no vocational school will be without an engineering classroom. I was also impressed by what Deputy MacEoin said but I should like to add that there is a very good opportunity for co-operation between the trade union movement and vocational committees. The same spirit of co-operation, I am glad to say, exists as far as industrialists are concerned. Some of our finest industries are to-day being managed by people who had their first grinding in vocational schools. That is a great credit to the people concerned and to the educational system. I feel, however, that it is necessary there should be more frequent conferences between the trade union movement, industrialists and the Minister because a lot more could be done in this direction if a greater spirit of friendliness and co-operation existed.

One Deputy suggested we should have better facilities in our vocational schools for the teaching of continental languages. I agree. We heard in the radio recently where in one midland area 40 people were enrolled in a French class, 40 were turned away and and an Irish course attended by six people had to be closed down. There is no doubt that in every county a great demand exists for training in continental languages. We are coming to the time when continental languages will be necessary for our people. In this connection, I would ask the Minister to make it clear whether it is a fact that if a person offers himself as a teacher of French or German. he must first have a qualification in Irish before being allowed to teach the continental language?

If that is the position, it shows a high degree of lunacy on the part of the Department and steps should be taken forthwith to end it because there is a demand for the teaching of French or, indeed any continental language. French is probably one of the most important universal languages and it is now becoming an absolute necessity for anyone who wants to do business on the Continent. French is a language we should know and it must be taught to our people in the future. That is why I think we should get more teachers, and we should cut out the condition that they should be qualified in Irish in order to teach a foreign language.

I should be glad if the Minister would refer to that when replying because I am given to understand that it is one of the reasons why there is such a shortage of teachers of foreign languages. Steps should be taken to encourage such classes and the Department should provide the teachers. We have now reached the stage at which the shopkeeper must cater for the customer. Our schools must now cater for the demands coming from li = "3" fli = "-2"those who attend them. If there is a demand in that regard, an effort should be made to meet it.

This Bill is welcome. I hope and trust that the debate which has taken place will give the Minister at least some food for thought. There is a growing realisation not only in this House but throughout the country to-day of the need for a furtherance and continuation of large-scale vocational education. I should like to express the hope that we may see the day when there will be a greater link-up between our national school education and our vocational school education. I should have liked to see a dove-tailing of one into the other in order that when children leave the national school at 14 years of age, the services of the vocational schools in which wonderful and outstanding work is being done, will be immediately available to them. The teaching staffs of our vocational schools deserve the highest possible praise for the excellent manner in which they discharge their duties.

This Bill will certainly be a help. The only thing I am afraid of is the growing protests from the ratepaying community against any further burden on local rates. Steps should be taken by the Government in an attempt to relieve the demands and pressures on the ratepayers by giving increased grants and increased financial facilities to vocational education committees to help them to carry out their valuable and important work.

Clara is an industrial town. Arrangements have been made by the Offaly Vocational Education Committee to proceed with the erection of a vocational school in Clara. For over 40 years, there has been a genuine demand from Clara—which is probably one of the most industrialised towns in the midlands—for a vocational school. Now that it is being started, I would ask the Minister to ensure that no time will be lost and that there will be no hold up on any financial commitments entered into by the committee and the Department. I would ask him to keep a special eye on the proposed vocational school for Clara to see that no time is lost in having it satisfactorily completed.

The same applies to the extension that is about to be added to the vocational school in Birr. In view of the growth of the town and the enrolment in the school this season and last season, a very good case has been made for a substantial extension. I hope the Department will be helpful and that the obstacles which very often present themselves will be reduced as far as possible.

In regard to the other county which I have the honour to represent, Laois, the Minister gave sanction in principle to the erection of a vocational school in Mountmellick. By some strange coincidence, the sanction in principle arrived ten days before the general election.

Was the railway still there?

It was, and I understand it will be there until 1st January next. I have yet to understand what is the idea behind sending down sanction in principle. Sanction in principle is a face-saver for the Minister.

It is a good principle before an election.

It is a trump card before an election.

No matter what Party or Government are in power.

Sanction in principle came down ten days before the election. It is now 13 months since the general election and not a blade of grass has been cut on the site yet. Naturally the Fianna Fáil Party arrived in Mountmellick and said on the eve of the general election: "You will have a vocational school any day at all now. The Minister has given his sanction." When the vocational education committee met after the general election, a letter had come down saying it was "sanction in principle".

It was a long principle.

No steps have since been taken. I would ask the Minister to make arrangements for the speeding up of the provision of a vocational school for Mountmellick. We have the pupils. I provided a site for the school——

They got it very cheap and the Deputy knows it and there was no auctioneers commission, either. It was one of the best sites for a vocational school that could be procured. I ask the Minister to speed up as far as possible the machinery for the erection of that school in Mountmellick.

Some years ago, a vocational school was erected in Portarlington. Grave doubts were expressed at the time as to whether the school would be a success, but, to the amazement of everyone, due probably to the fact that we have one of the best headmasters in Ireland in Portarlington, the school had to be extended. This year, there is a record-breaking enrolment. That is a tribute to the people in Portarlington, to the parents and to those who encouraged vocational education there, and it is a tribute to the teaching staff who pay such special care and attention to those who attend the school. I trust that when the Department remove all the barriers so that we can carry out the erection of the school in Mountmellick, it will be as successful as that in Portarlington.

I have a feeling Deputy Lalor is going to speak and before he does so, I should like to refer to his town of Abbeyleix. In that town, there has been a genuine demand for a vocational school for many years and I am glad to say that steps are now being taken to provide it. Again, may I say I helped with the site and may I say it was long before Deputy Lalor entered public life? However, in view of the distance between Portlaoise and Abbeyleix and in view of the fact that there were so many anxious to enrol in Abbeyleix, I would ask the Minister to take steps to reduce the delay as far as possible in providing the town of Abbeyleix with a school. I have no desire whatever to enter into a poaching campaign with Deputy Lalor. We have always been good friends and we have no desire to be anything else, but I am sure I am only expressing the Deputy's sentiments in asking the Minister to be as helpful as possible in providing the long-awaited school in that area.

May I express to the Minister my own good wishes for his success in his sphere of vocational education? It is certainly something that is very dear to me because I have seen the excellent results over the years. What we need is greater drive, less interference from the Civil Service and more understanding of the difficulties on the part of the elected representatives. With a greater degree of co-operation, I have little doubt that many of the difficulties which exist will in time be solved by mutual understanding and agreement.

It is high time there was a complete recasting of our educational policy in regard to universities, secondary schools and vocational schools, and a complete re-allocation of the cash available from State funds for all three. I am glad Deputy Flanagan realises the situation as it exists today. After all, Bord na Móna was established by this side of the House. There would be very little use in Deputy Flanagan looking for vocational schools in Abbeyleix or anywhere else, if it were not for the industrial policy of Fianna Fáil.

You do not take credit for the ESB?

When I heard the Deputy talking about promises that were made, I thought of the extension to the pier in Ballycotton.

You got the ice plant.

I remember the glowing promises the Parliamentary Secretary in charge of fisheries made on that occasion in Ballycotton.

If the county council did their job——

The Deputy was a great little man on that day but nothing was done. When the Deputy stands up here to attack the Minister about promising something in principle, he should remember Ballycotton Pier. I shall not go further than that.

Did I not give you the ice plant? They told me that if you got the ice plant, you would be satisfied.

There is very little use in talking about vocational education until you have the industries there to absorb our trained people. It must be realised that in this country today the collar and tie man is filling a secondary place as compared with the trained worker. I have seen young lads who after an ordinary national school education have done a course at the Cobh technical school and then been sent out to Holland for a year or been taken into the Rushbrooke Dockyard for a year and trained; these boys to-day are earning anything from £15 to £25 a week. At the same time, you will see an unfortunate person with a B.A. after his name in the city here wearing a pair of white gloves and wielding a baton or leading around one of these dogs that Deputy Dr. Browne is complaining about. A complete change is taking place, a change for which we must prepare. Technical training must be made available to the young people before they can be absorbed into those industries.

I entirely agree with what has been said here about Dublin because we are in the same position in regard to Cork city. There is this drive by certain industrialists for the city man or the lad trained in a city technical school as against the rural school. We are insisting in my constituency that the technical trainee acquired by industries in east Cork towns will be drawn from the local technical school as against the city school. Therefore, higher grants and better technical training are required for those in the rural areas where the young people are trained than are required in the city.

The situation that has developed has developed not on account of the Common Market programme but on account of our industrial programme here and the employment given by our industrial programme. There is an absolute necessity for having some technical training provided for the young lad who is to be absorbed in industry today.

I had to laugh at the comparison made by Deputy Flanagan between the caretaker of a vocational school and the agricultural labourer. The agricultural labourer must have three times the skill and the engineering technique required by any caretaker. There is no comparison whatever between the two. I would ask the Minister, when dealing with technical schools, to see that there is full co-operation between the head of the local industry and the local technical school so that the apprentices can be drawn from that school, wherever it is.

Will the Apprenticeship Act not do a lot for them?

I have seen the oil refinery which came to my constituency with a blare of trumpets but I would say it might as well be above in Belfast. They would not look to the Midleton Technical School for trainees or to the Cobh technical school. They did make a little stop in Cork for a few of them but I think they went to Belfast for the rest.

A Deputy

They are all Irishmen.

They are.

They are all Europeans.

It is rather funny to hear Deputy Flanagan objecting, on the one hand, to the cost to the taxpayer and, on the other, to the ceiling. I will have to read his speech to know to what he was alluding. In regard to his proposal about a vocational education general council, if he wanted that, it would be the same as the General Council of the County Committees of Agriculture. My friend, Deputy Meaney, when he started on that did not want the help of any Minister and it was done and it was a great success. There is nothing to stop the vocational committees from doing the same thing in the morning, if they want to.

Níl rá agam ach go n-aontaím lena bhfuil san mBille seo.

Since the Party I speak for regards as the most urgent educational task before the nation the development of vocational education, we enthusiastically welcome this Bill. The Bill affords the local authority an opportunity to make more money available to expand vocational education. I hope that the members of the various local authorities, who have the obligation of striking the rate for such moneys, will do so in a generous fashion. I hope they will not be mean or niggardly in the money they make available for this purpose because we regard money spent on education, and particularly on vocational education, as money well spent.

It has been said that the vocational school is the poor man's university. We on the Labour benches express the hope that there will be a dovetailing of this educational system and that we can look to the day when the boy or girl entering the vocational school, from the commencement of his or her studies, will have the opportunity of greater educational pursuit to a technological college or to a university. We look to the day when scholarships will be available to assist the student in a vocational school to attend the highest flights of education in this country.

It is true to say, as a vocational teachers' organisation stated recently, that there are 3,500 students in technical schools who could benefit by a higher education but the opportunities, seemingly, are not there for them to continue their studies. We regard it as a great waste of human talents that the vocational schools are merely turning out mainly unskilled people and, to a large extent, are sending too many boys and girls into blind-alley jobs. Many Deputies have expressed concern about the impact which this measure will have on the rates of the local authorities. I feel that industry can help to a large extent in this regard. Since it will be the function of the Minister to turn out highly skilled, highly educated and adaptable work people, fully conscious of new techniques and devices in operation in these modern times, they will to a large measure be going into industry and it is only fair that industry should finance the vocational education to some degree. Industry should acknowledge the contribution being made by the State in turning out skilled artisans, technicians and technologists for the benefit of industry. I would not thank them for financing vocational education by way of grant, or by providing appliances for the kind of student they expect to utilise in their particular firm or industry.

I should like to see vocational education being uplifted and winning new prestige. At present parents are unlikely to send, and do not usually send, their children to a vocational school as winners of a scholarship. They prefer to send them instead to the secondary school. They regard vocational education as having something less than the academic standard one associates with a secondary school. That is a bad thing because technical knowledge available under the vocational system is becoming more and more important in these times. If the Minister is not actuated by a cultural motive, or by social considerations to make more money available, it is self-evident that the economic advances with which we have to contend, particularly in the context of the Common Market, will force him to utilise vocational education to a much greater extent than heretofore.

I am pleased to see these extra moneys being made available because it should obviate the interminable delays in the Minister's Department in relation to the sanctioning of the erection of new schools, additional accommodation and equipment, from time to time. These delays in the sanctioning of money are not good. I remember, speaking of my own constituency, that it took 21 long years of unceasing effort and agitation to secure our new technical school in my native town of Clonmel. It should not take that long for teachers and pupils to be relieved of the purgatory of having to inhabit dark, dank and dilapidated buildings. The Minister will take cognisance of the fact that he has the National Apprentice Board to assist in channelling pupils into the proper trades. In our technical schools nowadays, progress should not be retarded in this regard and we should ensure that the skilled labourer is made available where he is required and obviate the possibility of certain trades being flooded with boys where they are not required.

In connection with the National Apprentice Board, which is so closely related with vocational education, I hope employers will be conscious of their responsibilities and release the apprentices for training in technical schools without any loss of pay.

By and large, we welcome this measure. We sincerely hope the local authorities will administer it in the spirit in which the Minister intends and that the 24 pence he makes provision for will, as far as possible, be spent. Previously, vocational committees were entitled to ask for an increase of one penny in the rates over the previous year and the new Bill now permits an increase of threepence. I do not think it is obligatory on local authorities to increase to the extent of threepence but they now may make such an increase by a simple majority. Is that so? The local authority can pass an increase of threepence by way of a simple majority up to 24 pence in the £?

Threepence in any one year up to a maximum of 24 pence after a certain number of years.

That is very worthwhile and should permit vocational committees to embark upon their many very desirable schemes for the furtherance of vocational education. I want to avail of this opportunity to pay tribute to the vocational committees for their sacrifice and devotion to duty and to pay particular tribute to the CEOs who are the kingpins in the programmes of the various committees. No words of mine could express the appreciation we all feel of the great work being carried out by these bodies.

I regret to say that many of the anti-progressive people on our county councils do not appreciate the intrinsic value of the work of vocational education. They are primarily concerned with opposing increases in the rates, irrespective of the consequences. They would do a great disservice to themselves and serious injustice to the nation by cheeseparing in this vital matter of providing finance for education. I hope they will be influenced by the spirit of the Bill and will give generously, where education is concerned. I look forward to the day when we have a vocational system which will give every boy and girl the opportunity of higher education to develop the latent talent he or she possesses.

I hope we shall see the establishment of more colleges of technology. The only technological colleges we have at present are those in Dublin, in Kevin Street, Bolton Street and Rathmines. That is not good enough. It is not a good thing that technological training of this kind is available only to the people of our capital city. We want to see such colleges in other industrial centres, so that our boys and girls may pursue their education, take out degrees in engineering, science and the arts and have the opportunity of receiving a university education. Until that day, we shall not be satisfied.

Leis na focail sin, guím rath Dé ar an obair.

As a member of a vocational committee, I welcome the Bill. I am glad that under it we will have authority to strike a rate of more than the penny provided under the old system and that we may, in fact, increase the rate by as much as threepence. We have been told that an increase of threepence in any one year might invoke protests by the ratepayers. I have found that no matter how conservative a county may be and no matter what organised agitation there may be in regard to rates, any such rate for vocational education or for agricultural advisory services has never brought forth any serious protests from the ratepayers. The point has been made that this threepence should be devoted to the employment of extra teachers and that the provision of capital should be a State charge —in other words, that the State should bear the full responsibility for any li = "2" fli = "-1"new school. That is a questionable policy. If the State could be got to supply 100 per cent. capital investment, there is hardly a committee that would not welcome it with open arms.

The style of school we have been erecting over the years is far too costly. We have been building on a palatial style, out of keeping with the main purpose of the schools. I have a case in mind where we had tentative proposals for a school before my own committee. I was amazed to find that the estimated cost per room was £9,000, for a three-roomed school in an average rural village.

I do not know how big they were, but that was too costly. There should be a reappraisal of the whole situation and a recasting of the Department's programme, so far as costs are concerned. I do not see why a room for carpentry or metal work should cost between £6,000 and £9,000. I believe a building more on the factory style could provide suitable accommodation. I realise fully that a new vocational school is a striking and imposing amenity for any locality but I believe we could provide the same service and amenities at a far lesser cost.

With regard to the clamour we have for the erection of schools, I want to say that you can overdo the building of schools. Before you undertake the erection of a school, you have to make a survey of the area to be served and you have to have a fair idea of what the attendances will be like in order to justify its erection. In areas where such a survey reveals that sufficient numbers might not be available to justify the erection of a school, the boys and girls there should not be left unprovided for.

A point has been made about the provision of transport. I have in mind a school in my constituency where the parents contribute by arranging to provide a bus operated by a private firm. In some instances, it is a heavy impost and very unfair to the parents who have to subscribe to this cost. I support 100 per cent. the point made by my colleague from Tipperary. He outlined the position in Dublin where we have the important finishing-off medium in the three or four centres he mentioned, the schools of technology, where the vocational school product is finished off.

Let us face the facts. Our boys in the country do their two or three years course and get the group certificate which includes woodwork and metal work but we still cannot say they have the necessary finish to enable them to go into full adult employment. They have been absorbed in centres like Shannon, Limerick and Cork but they have to go in at what may be described as half-advanced apprenticeship period. That is in itself a guarantee or a hope for the parents that if they send children to vocational schools, there is an outlet for them, but these children are still denied the opportunity of going to schools that can pick out the talent that exists in many boys and girls in rural Ireland so that they could be properly finished off. If we had one finishing centre in Limerick, Cork, Galway and the other provincial centres where boys could go with the help of scholarships, which I am sure local authorities would only be glad to give, it would greatly help to advance those boys.

From what I have heard, I am sure great strides forward are being made in the vocational schools but I fear that several brilliant boys have lost that finish, that final veneer which would fit them for life as perfectly trained technicians in the many callings and openings now existing.

I may be wrong and may get no support but I say that the Minister and Department responsible for the operation of vocational education should reexamine very carefully the school building programme and try to regulate the cost so that for the same amount of money, we could provide more schools than are at present being provided. It is ridiculous to be putting up vocational schools costing between £20,000 and £30,000 in centres where adequate buildings to give the same service could be built at lesser cost.

I should like the Minister and his officials to examine proposals or suggestions for giving aid by way of grant-in-aid where schools could be improved and attendances improved by the provision of transport in congested areas. Those proposals are well worth examination. Let every county and area speak for itself but we have nothing but the greatest appreciation for the present Minister and his officials in their administration of vocational education. I hope that it will continue to be the policy of the Minister to ensure that proposals that are submitted will be considered and sanctioned without undue delay. I have no doubt that the Minister and his officials are energetically behind the vocational education policy and programme and I wish him well.

I appeal to the Minister to try to find a way equitably to reward chief executive officers according to their responsibility as measured by the number and size of their schools, the number of pupils and teachers. It is due to their enthusiasm, initiative and great devotion to their work that vocational education has advanced in the splendid way it has advanced up to now.

I also ask the Minister to use his influence with Dublin city vocational education authority to award a limited number of agricultural scholarships. It may sound peculiar to look for agricultural scholarships for students from Dublin city but I have come across this situation more than once. We have many people in Dublin at present who have come from the country. Occasionally we meet people who have been left farms and want to settle their son on one of those farms. They may be civil servants or employed in some other capacity and may have no opportunity of giving the boy a year at an agricultural college. I have met the situation that on one side of the road, you are in the county and on the other, the city, and just because a boy is on the wrong side he is deprived of an agricultural scholarship. That is very wrong and I should be very pleased if the Minister would use his influence to induce Dublin city vocational education authority to give a limited number of agricultural scholarships.

Cuis áthais dom an méid suime seo a bheith á theasbáint ag Teachtaí i gcúrsaí gairm-oideachais. Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leo as ucht an có-chuige a bhí aca á chur síos ar an mBille seo. Is bródúil liom, freisin, a oiread san moladh á thabhairt ag na Teachtaí do na múinteoirí, na coisdí agus na daoine go léir a bhfuil baint aca le cúrsaí gairm-oideachais. Is aoibhinn liom é chloisint.

We have gone a long way from the Bill I introduced and very many of the points brought up by Deputies I have dealt with already on the Estimates this year but I shall try to deal with the Bill and some of the points which were raised.

It is clear from the debate that what I said at the beginning is true, that there is an obvious demand and a need for an extension of vocational education. I regret that some Deputy referred to the vocational education system as a poor man's system. Vocational education occupies its own rightful place, a place which cannot be filled by any other system in our post-primary system of education. I am aware that as yet there are gaps in our post-primary system of education, social gaps—we went some of the road to filling these when we introduced the scholarship scheme which will give scholarships to 5,000 or 6,000 extra students each year—and there are geographical gaps—which will be met to some extent by the provision adumbrated by the Taoiseach in a recent statement about the recommendations of the Committee on provisions for the western regions—and there are other gaps which will be filled by the vocational system itself, if given the adequate means.

As I said, this Bill is calculated to extend the means of the vocational education commitees to do what they are very well able to do and what they have proved themselves capable of doing and for which they have been praised by many Deputies.

Nobody has any doubt that we need more education and that more money should be spent on it. Some Deputies are lucky when they can consider a reduction in rates, a reduction in taxation and increased expenditure on education. One Deputy was able to manage this and refrain from laughing. We have to find the money if we are to spend the money. The main contention of most Deputies has been that this money should come from the Central Fund. There is some psychological appeal about talking of a Central Fund out of which everybody can draw and into which nobody seems to have to subscribe. That is the main reason why people want to get away from paying immediately. The fact is that whether you pay centrally or locally, you still have to pay for this extra education. The real fact is that in extending the right of a committee to raise more money locally, we are also extending the amount of money which will be paid from the Central Fund. In coming to a decision as to how it should be done, I was mainly influenced by the local character of the vocational education system in its development and the agility and adaptability of this local type of set-up.

There is nothing in this Bill to prevent the administrative act of the Minister for Education, acting with the Minister for Finance, of coming to the aid of a committee which cannot find itself solvent and provide, out of its own funds and the ordinary addition from the State, an adequate system at the same time. There is absolutely nothing in this Bill to interfere with that. It has been found up to now that the giving of £ for £ in most instances has been adequate. Some of the counties which are not quite happy with this situation are not really in a position to make a valid complaint since they have not reached the full amount of the rate strike which will get the full amount of the State grant. Other counties less well off were found to be at the full rate with its corresponding full State grant and were found to be incapable of maintaining a solvent position and these counties have had added help from the State, in the case of about eight of them, an extra ratio, a two to one ratio, or in some very small schemes which could not raise enough rate to have an adequate scheme, a four to one ratio, and as well as that, there have been excess grants. Indeed, one of the counties most benefiting from excess grants has been the most vocal in saying they are not being treated as well as the others.

Cé hé an condae sin?

I will give you one guess. At any rate the provision which has been made has appealed to me as the proper way to finance the vocational education schemes and I should like to say now that up to this the rating authorities have never been found reluctant to make provision for vocational education and, as Deputy Collins pointed out, the ratepayers have always been very happy to pay for this education.

There seems to be no dispute that we need to get more money and I think anybody responsibly dealing with it would do as I have proposed to the House. The rate of increase in the rates cannot be more than a penny a year. On demand, the rating authority may allow up to threepence but the Vocational Education Committees cannot put a burden of more than a penny in the £ each year on the rates and I do not think this is a frightening prospect, considering the very immediate and very useful returns which are got from vocational education in each rating area.

In what I have said already, I think I have answered some of the points. Somebody asked me if grants were equal throughout the country. Deputy O'Donnell, who spoke first, suggested that we should do something about the fishing industry at Killybegs. I await a proposal from the County Donegal Vocational Education Committee and if I receive a proposal, as I expect I will, from the committee about a special type of school there, it will receive every sympathetic consideration.

And, no doubt, it will be sanctioned in principle.

That does not suit you.

Now that we are on to principle, sanction in principle is all I can give because the provision of schools is a matter for the committee in the order of its own priorities and the committee of which the Deputy is a member sets its own priorities and I have no right to upset these. So they have the sanction to go ahead and all I can give them is the principle and they can set the priorities. What did strike me when the Deputy was talking was that he mentioned something about selling a site to the committee. I hope it was as an auctioneer because, if he sold it as an owner, he disqualifies himself.

I sold no site.

I thought the Deputy said he sold a site.

Not at all. I said I procured a site for the committee —in my capacity as a public-spirited citizen, not as a member of the committee, or as a Deputy, or as an auctioneer.

That makes me very happy. The question of the establishment of a General Council of Vocational Education Committees was raised. The Vocational Education Association serves the purpose of this body which the Deputy suggests but if particular committees feel that the Association should meet more frequently or should be more active, they should bring their views to the Association itself. There is hardly any need for a new association. The existing association is well able to deal with the matter.

I do not know how far I should wander after those who wandered away from the Bill. Deputy Flanagan raised a question about Continental language teachers having to know Irish. Almost all the Continental language teachers we have are part-time. The rule does not apply to them.

Every Deputy was very interested in his own county being better treated.

Clare was never mentioned.

I do not know what answer I can give except to say that all counties are being treated better now than they were some years ago. That is a reflection of the improved financial situation in the country as well as evidence of the policy of this Government of investing money in education, believing that investment is a good one.

The question of school building interests me. Someone suggested the provision of vocational schools was slow. I shall follow up that matter. The provision of schools generally has been speeded up very much in the past few years. National school buildings have doubled and, as I said during the debate on the Estimate, we are considering new methods to speed up the provision of schools even more.

I hope the House will pass this Bill. The committees have to budget at this time of the year and it is a matter of urgency that the Bill should become law without any undue delay.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Thursday, 8th November, 1962.