Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Leitrim Vocational School.

31.

asked the Minister for Education if he will receive a deputation from the Vocational Education Committee and members of the parents' association in connection with the leaving certificate course for pupils at Drumshanbo Vocational School, County Leitrim, where 18 pupils have been told that this course will not be continued.

At a meeting held in Drumshanbo on September 23rd, 1971, an officer of my Department explained the position fully to the parents' representatives. Officers of my Department have also explained the position in detail on various occasions to the chief executive officer and individual members of the County Leitrim Vocational Education Committee. In the circumstances I feel that no useful purpose would be served by meeting the proposed deputation. The situation in Drumshanbo is no different from that in several other centres throughout the country where leaving certificate classes have not been sanctioned.

Is the Minister aware that there are other schools with less than 400 which are not denied the right of senior cycle courses? The Minister is telling the people of Leitrim that they should be able to have the same attendance at a school in a small town like Drumshanbo as a school in an area like Ballymun or some larger town in the country. The Minister has been asked by the Vocational Education Committee to receive a deputation. He has been asked by the Parents' Association to receive a deputation. But, instead, he sent down a Department official who came, typical civil servant, very well prepared and put his case, but he only told the people things they knew too well already about Carrick-on-Shannon, Manorhamilton and Ballinamore. What those parents really want is a leaving certificate course for their children despite the fact that there are only 270 pupils attending the school.

I think this supplementary is long enough.

The staff are there already and no extra cost would be involved. While I have the greatest respect for the Chair I feel I am entitled to say this because the course has been given for the last few years, the staff are there and, even though no extra cost is involved, the people are being denied it. I would ask the Minister to reconsider the request that he receive a deputation.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

An elegantly framed question.

My responsibility is to see to it that a range of subjects is made available to the children in Drumshanbo equal to that which can be made available in any of the bigger centres mentioned by the Deputy. I must and have made my decision on that basis in relation to various other centres throughout the country as well as Drumshanbo. The Deputy has mentioned that there are some small schools with leaving certificate classes These are schools where leaving certificate classes were a tradition. But I am also looking at these cases. I am going to ensure, as long as I am Minister for Education——

A Deputy

It might not be very much longer.

It will be longer than the Deputy might think.

The Minister should not be leaking things from the party meeting.

I am going to ensure that the children of rural Ireland get an equal chance with the children of any of the larger towns and cities in the country.

Would the Minister not think that, despite the fact it might cost more, this course should be made available? This school has been 20 years getting off the ground; it is growing each year and showing every signs of progress.

The numbers available for a leaving certificate course in that school are far too small to provide the breadth of curriculum necessary to give every child an opportunity. I know better than most, as a teacher, that if we can give a child an opportunity to take the subjects that he is best suited for that he will do well; whereas if we have a school where we can only provide a limited number of subjects then the children who happen to be good at those subject will progress and the other children will be left behind. I cannot agree that we should have a situation where, if a person happens to live in a city or a big town, he will do well because he will have the opportunity of availing of the broad range of subjects necessary, but if he happens to live in a small town in rural Ireland he must do with whatever is provided.