Private Notice Question: - Bus Strike Effect on Examinations.

asked the Minister for Education if in view of the bus strike announced for next Friday he will make arrangements to postpone Intermediate and Leaving Certificate Examinations due to take place on that day in order to avoid a situation where pupils wishing to sit for these examinations will be unable to get to the centres because of lack of public transport.

I would refer the Deputy to the notice issued on behalf of my Department on the 14th of this month. I am satisfied that all candidates will be able to make arrangements to ensure timely attendance at the examination centres.

Conscious of the fact that the intermediate certificate examinations and particularly the leaving certificate examination is vital to the future of those pupils, is the Minister aware that in many areas, particularly rural areas, perhaps as a result of free education, there are many pupils who cannot provide their own transport and rely mainly, if not entirely, on public transport to get to those centres in time? Is the Minister fully satisfied that they are not running the risk of not being there in time? If as a result of the lack of public transport those pupils do not get to their centres in time their whole future may be jeopardised.

I am satisfied that no candidate resides so far from a centre that he would not be able to reach it in time. I feel that putting back the examination would disrupt the whole schedule and would cause very much more confusion than allowing the matter to proceed as it is. I was satisfied when I issued the statement that the best attitude to adopt in relation to this was to remind the parents of the fact that there was the possibility of one day bus strikes and to ask them to watch the news media so that they would know when these bus strikes were likely to take place and arrange to provide other transport. I considered this very carefully and I feel that I would create confusion by intervening at this stage.

How can the Minister be fully satisfied when he does not know individual family circumstances? Can he tell us what inconvenience would be caused or what extra cost would be involved if Friday's examination were postponed to another day or could it be held later that day?

If I were to interfere at this stage I would create great confusion. I am satisfied that no candidate resides so far from his centre that he will not be able to reach it in time. We have a general knowledge of the situation throughout the country. If we postponed it there is no guarantee that there would not be a strike on the day we proposed next week too so it is a very difficult situation.

Could the Minister arrange for Friday's examination to take place an hour later to facilitate those who will have to walk? Would that not have been an answer, not doing it at this stage but deciding on it a week ago when he was informed that a bus strike would take place?

I issued a statement which appeared in yesterday's newspapers in relation to this matter.

Would the Minister given an assurance that if any pupil can reasonably show that he was deprived of the opportunity to sit for this examination due to a lack of public transport he will be afforded an opportunity to sit again for that subject?

That would be a very difficult thing to do.

May I ask the Minister what time the examination starts on Friday morning?

They usually start I think at around 10 o'clock but I am not certain.

The Minister is not certain. How can he be fully satisfied about this if he does not even know the time the examination starts on Friday?

What is the maximum distance?

Would the Minister give an assurance that if pupils are late because of the strike they can be given extra time at the end of the examination to continue on for the appropriate period?

The Deputy is perfectly well aware of the dangers that could evolve from that situation.