Vote 26: Office of the Minister for Education (Revised Estimate).

I move:

That a sum not exceeding £46,478,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 1989, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Education, for certain services administered by that office, and for payment of certain grants and grants-in-aid.

It is with pleasure that I am asking Dáil Éireann today to approve the four Votes, Nos. 26 to 29 which make up the group of Votes for which I am responsible as Minister for Education. The total gross provision in the four Votes sought for Education for the current year is £1,260.526 million which corresponds to almost 6.4 per cent of GNP. Appropriations-in-Aid will amount to £88.349 million. The net Exchequer provision is thus £1,172.177 million, corresponding to 18.4 per cent of net Exchequer expenditure. The net amount is approximately £58 million more than the provisional 1988 outturn.

Over the last two decades we have seen some significant developments in the education system in Ireland. For example, participation in second level education has doubled. The increase in the rate of participation in third level education has also been spectacular — from some 22,000 to 59,000. We have one of the highest rates of participation by young people in full-time education of the industrialised OECD countries.

However, while acknowledging the achievements of the past, we must now turn our attention to the many problems and challenges which face us today and to the corresponding opportunities which are open to us. There is already a general awareness and acceptance of these problems and challenges.

Pupil numbers at primary level have already started to fall. Numbers at second level will begin to fall by the middle of the next decade. The number of students seeking third level places will continue to increase for some time to come. We must continue to improve the quality, the relevance, the availability and the effectiveness of the programmes we offer. We must identify, and alleviate or remove, the disincentives which prevent some from benefiting as they should. Our education system must acknowledge and provide for students of different capacities from different backgrounds with different needs and aspirations. It must identify and meet the needs of our young people in a quickly changing world. It must take account of the continuing and accelerating developments in technology which now affect all our lives. It must take account of the social and economic changes that are taking place around us. All this must be done in a cost effective way.

My Department have already made considerable progress in addressing these problems. Action has already been taken on some fronts. On other fronts, a number of wide ranging reviews are currently under way with the active participation of the many interests involved in education. Many decisions will have to be taken before long which will have long lasting implications for the quality of education in Ireland well into the next century.

Although fertility rates have been falling from the beginning of the seventies, the largest number of births ever recorded since the State was founded occurred in 1980 when 74,000 children were born. In 1988, this number had fallen by approximately 20,000. The present projection is that the population in the age range 5-19, which covers most of primary and second level education, could fall from 1,032,000 in 1986 to 837,000 in 2001 — a fall of almost 200,000.

In the absence of major structural changes, enrolments in the compulsory school ages are almost entirely determined by demographic considerations and these considerations also influence enrolments in the post compulsory period. Significant changes in levels and patterns of enrolments are expected between now and the end of the century. Enrolment projections which are prepared annually in my Department suggest that, taking demographic and other factors into account, the peak of enrolments in primary education is already past and that enrolments will fall by about 20-25 per cent by the end of the century. We are already well into the planning process for these changes.

In the case of post-primary education, we believe that the levels of enrolments in the mid-nineties will be fairly close to current levels, though there will be short-term changes in the meantime.

Enrolments at third level are affected by a large number of factors, some of which can be influenced by policy and some not. I expect that within the next ten years there will be a different type of student and many more mature people seeking access to third level education. As in other countries, there will be changes in the nature and type of person wishing to enter third level.

Careful planning and rationalisation will be needed to ensure that the best use is made of resources and that falling numbers in individual schools do not create avoidable difficulties. Clearly, this will require the co-ordinated efforts of all of the partners in education and I intend to continue to ensure that a proper forum is provided for the necessary consultation and discussion.

Despite the very serious economic problems and financial difficulties which this country faces and the limited resources available for education services, I have been able, by having my Department adopt careful management strategies, to introduce a number of important initiatives. These initiatives have been taken to ensure that the Irish education system, which has served this country so well in the past, will continue to meet the needs of our young people and to prepare them to participate as active members of society well into the 21st century.

The potential of the information technologies to achieve greater administrative efficiency in the public sector and to provide improved services in the field of education is very great. I have arranged for additional funds to be available in 1989 to initiate the computerisation of the examination process in the examinations branch of my Department in Athlone.

In June 1989 I launched the first phase of the computerisation process. In the present year over 120,000 examination candidates will benefit from this initiative. The advantages accuring from this phase will include the production by computer of provisional statements of results for each candidate, certificates for candidates, computer readable data for external agencies and examination statistics.

Two significant reviews into primary education are currently under way. The Primary Curriculum Review Body are undertaking a comprehensive review of the curriculum, the first review since the "new curriculum" was introduced in 1971, they are examining the aims and objectives of the present curriculum and the extent to which they are being achieved. Specific attention is being given to the last two years of the primary school and their alignment to the post-primary curriculum. Consideration will be given to structures to ensure that the objectives of the curriculum can be evaluated as students progress through school. The review body have all existing relevant research data available to them. The second review, under the chairmanship of Dr. Thomas Murphy, former President of University College, Dublin, is taking a broader look at the primary education system. I expect to have the findings of both reviews before the end of the year. These will be presented to Government and their implementation will be a matter for decision.

There has been an increasing awareness over the past number of years of the need to take special measures to counteract the disadvantages experienced by pupils from certain socio-economic backgrounds. Particular reference to this was made in the Programme for National Recovery and in the present Government's programme, which states:

The new Government will consider in consultation with the Central Review Committee ways to recognise and assist the needs of pupils in disadvantaged areas, by providing extra teacher allocations including additional remedial teachers and the establishment of pilot projects for a schools psychological service for primary schools.

These measures will commence in September 1989. There are already a number of different schemes in place which are aimed at giving practical assistance to pupils attending schools in disadvantaged areas.

Funds are made available each year to schools to assist necessitous pupils with the purchase of school books. I am happy to say that the grant for 1989 has been increased by 18 per cent at primary level and 20 per cent at post-primary level.

A special fund was set up in 1984 to finance a series of special measures and this fund is being continued in 1989. So far, a total of £2.75 million has been provided, assisting nearly 50,000 pupils in 170 schools. I will be considering this entire area when the review of this whole matter has been completed. Extra measures for the disadvantaged in accordance with this Government's programme will be introduced and will take effect from September 1989.

The education of travellers' children is an area for which seperate provision has been made for some time. Last year, I had a survey carried out which showed that 4,000 travellers' children were being catered for in 375 national schools. One-third of these children are fully integrated into the schools they attend, one-third are partially integrated and receive special assistance and the remaining one-third is catered for in special classes. In addition, 41 pre-schools are now operating. At second level, there are 12 junior training centres for 12 to 15 year olds run by local management committees with the vocational education committees providing teachers and a grant towards overheads and class materials. There are 24 senior training centres for the 16 to 25 age group which are operated in association with FÁS and which qualify for ESF aid. Vocational education committees provide teachers and funding for these centres also.

Despite budgetary pressures, the special remedial teaching posts are being maintained. There are over 850 such posts in national schools. A special ex-quota provision for remedial teachers exists at second level. Guidelines aimed at changing the emphasis of the remedial programme from remediation to prevention have been issued to schools. Discussions have been arranged throughout the country on the aims and objectives of the guidelines.

Earlier this year, the Minister for Labour, Deputy Ahern, and myself jointly launched a new programme for early school leavers. This Youthreach programme is the first major initiative undertaken for the estimated 10 per cent of school leavers who, each year, drop out of school without gaining formal certification.

The programme has been launched in 11 VEC areas around the country which have been identified as having a relatively high number of early school leavers. It will give those young people who have dropped out of school for at least six months the opportunity of special education and training for up to two years. One thousand places have been made available and participants will receive a weekly allowance of between £20 and £25.

General studies, vocational studies and work experience will be three distinct elements of the scheme, which will essentially involve an integrated response by education, training, and community interests to the problems which motivate this group to drop out of school.

The adult literacy and community scheme was a response to the problem of illiteracy which is a major factor in inhibiting people from reaching their full potential.

The IVEA and my Department have looked at this with a view to further initiatives and a report will be presented to me within a number of weeks. In the meantime, I am very pleased to be able to increase this year's allocation to the scheme from £400,000 to £500,000, an increase of 25 per cent.

The educational opportunities scheme about which we have heard much of late and which is being run by my Department in conjunction with the Minister for Social Welfare was originally set up in Limerick and Tallaght. I am planning to extend this scheme to a further ten centres from this autumn.

Over a one year period, depending on their ability, participants follow a leaving certificate course in different subjects. During this time their social welfare benefits are discontinued, with equivalent payments being made from allowances paid through the Department of Education.

In the Tallaght scheme, there were 12 participants in 1986-87; 17 in 1987-88 and 17 in 1988-89. There have been no dropouts. It is an indication of the efficacy of the scheme that the people who went on it had such high motivation that they wanted to be in full-time education and at the same time be in receipt of their unemployment allowance. All those who have completed the course have achieved some measure of academic success varying with their abilities. None of the participants in the first year went back on the live register.

In the Limerick scheme, there were 37 participants in 1986-87; 35 in 1987-88 and 40 in 1988-89. There was only one dropout and only one of the participants went back on the live register. This proves, if proof were needed, that the longer one stays in the education system the better are one's chances in later life. I am glad to say that starting in September we will have 11 more centres for the equal opportunities scheme. Then, beginning in January with the application we have put into Europe for funding for those centres, we would be in a position within 12 months of being able to extend the scheme countrywide.

No consideration of the Irish education system would be complete without reference to the OECD report published in 1966. Officials from the OECD who were in Ireland some time ago have come back and are studying the whole Irish education scene. We expect their report some time later in the year.

The new junior certificate will mark the commencement of a phased programme of curricular development. The new curricula have been designed by a combination of the representatives of the teacher unions, the relevant subject associations, school management and the inspectorate and represents the best thinking available from the representative bodies at second level education. All are conducted under the NCCA.

The new junior certificate will replace the group and intermediate certificate examinations. Seven new syllabi will be introduced in the schools next September and examinations based on these new syllabi will commence in 1992.

A new subject, technology, will be added. This subject will be phased in gradually, starting with a cross section of second level schools in the coming school year. Some 62 schools will offer the programme from September 1989.

A substantial programme has been designed to prepare school managers and teachers for introduction of the new syllabi. In Autumn 1988, each second level school received copies of the seven new syllabi, an information brochure outlining the key issues involved in the junior certificate and a video illustrating the central developments in the new syllabi.

Representative inservice committees were established to outline a broad three-year plan for inservice provision, to identify the particular initiatives required for 1989 to prepare for the first-year section of the new syllabi.

Following two preparatory weekend seminars, over 140 teachers assisted the Department inspectorate in providing one-day courses for 14,000 teachers during last February and March. A further series of inservice courses is being planned for the next academic year.

In addition guidelines for teachers on the new syllabi are being issued to all post-primary schools as part of a programme of support for all teachers.

Full consultation with all interested groups has been a feature of the development of this programme to date and I will continue this consultative process. I personally have had a series of meetings with the various interests involved in this initiative — school authorities, teacher interests and parents — and I want to record my appreciation to all concerned for their commitment and for the welcome given to this great new development.

The Minister has less than three minutes remaining.

I want to record my appreciation to all concerned in the junior certificate and to welcome the signal that has been given by the unions that the first year of certificate will begin this September. The generosity and openness, with which the unions approached this task is proof once again, if proof were needed, that the teachers here are interested in reform, in curriculum development. I, for my part, would hope to meet their openness and generosity in a like manner.

On the subject of modern continental languages we have the Lingua programme which again is reinforced in the new programme for Government. One hundred extra schools are taking a language other than French in combination with those who have already done it and the percentage increase in the number of schools now offering two European languages linked with the European initiative beginning in January will mean that more and more schools will have teachers to teach a second European language.

In my Department I have been active in the area of gender equality. If I appear to gloss over this it is because my time is running out. I am happy to inform the House that not alone have I continued what the former Deputy Hussey commenced — I pay tribute to her for what she did in that regard — but I have been able to build on it particularly in relation to the mature students' grant vis-á-vis women.

We have increased the primary school capitation grant by 11 per cent and in the programme for Government efforts will be made to keep primary and post-primary grants in line with inflation.

There has been a number of substantial reviews commenced and carried out in the third level area. I know that Deputy Bruton when he was Minister for Finance was interested in that area in his last year in office. Some of these projects were mooted in the previous Government's time and formally set up in our programme. A number of them have been listed here and all of them have many components which are for the general good of students. We hope the net result will be that more students will be participating in third level education, particularly more students from disadvantaged areas. We have been very fortunate in our European funding, and in September many more courses will be funded at VEC and RTC level so that 90 per cent of students, regardless of background, will be in receipt of full payment of fees and the maintenance grant.

Acting Chairman

The Minister's time is up.

We are looking at the two new universities. In relation to the financial provision, the gross provision for pay and pensions is £1,027.781 million, 82 per cent of the total. It includes the cost of the second phase of the 1987 public service pay agreement aimed at special increases.

Acting Chairman

Tá an t-am istigh.

I commend the Estimates to the House. Before I conclude, I wish to pay tribute to Mr. Birmingham, who unfortunately is no longer a Member of this House, but with whom I had a particularly good working relationship when he was the main Opposition spokesman on education. I also thank the other Opposition spokespersons for their goodwill and co-operation. I particularly pay tribute to ex-Deputy Birmingham and I wish him well.

Ba mhaith liom i dtús báire comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leis an Aire ar a athcheapadh. Is é an rud is mó is cás liom sa díospóireacht seo ná an 6,000 mac léinn a fhágann ár scoileanna gan aon cháilíocht fhoirmiúil, agus go leor acu ag teacht as teaghlaigh in a bhfuil na tuismitheoirí dífhostaithe.

The main worry about education at the moment is that 6,000 people leave our schools without qualifications each year. Many of those come from homes where the parents are unemployed and many come from homes in which people have been unemployed for more than a year. The motivation to further education is obviously depressed by the fact that parents are seen to have gained very little from the educational system or from society. We have a cycle of deprivation within a family and frequently within a geographical neighbourhood.

The Minister spent quite an amount of time outlining some of the measures she proposes to take to deal with this problem, and that is commendable, but I regard the measures as quite inadequate. The Minister referred to the fact that 1,000 places are being made available in 11 VEC areas for a special training scheme for those who leave school early. That only represents a provision for one-sixth of those who leave our schools without any qualifications and it is a very inadequate response even in numerical terms. This intervention is coming far too late. Giving people training in a school setting when the school system has been a complete turn-off for them probably since the age of eight or nine is intervening too late. In some instances it might be intervening too early as it would be better to leave the person at work or at least out of the system for a couple of years before bringing them back into the educational system, from the point of view of maturity. However, the fact is that the measures proposed are not adequate.

We should try to identify the point in their school careers when most early school leavers switched off from the educational system. Articles on educational research suggest that for the first two to four years even those who will become early school leavers more or less keep up with their school fellows but at some critical point about half way through national school, they start to fall back. It would be sensible to introduce a system of testing pupils in the system so that children who are showing signs of falling behind will be identified well before leaving the national school, perhaps at the age of ten.

I know that the INTO have a justified fear of any form of external testing because of the memories of the primary certificate, cramming and all of that, but I propose this testing solely in order to identify children who might subsequently become early school leavers so that remedial teaching could be provided for them. This also involves providing data upon which intelligent choices of priority can be made in education. With falling school numbers the Minister can choose whether she can use the extra teachers being made available to make a generalised reduction in the pupil-teacher ratio to benefit all children equally or she can choose to make a lesser improvement in the general pupil-teacher ratio and provide more teachers for remedial teaching and to provide relief for teachers so that they can undertake in-service education, especially for teachers who work in schools in disadvantaged areas. They need more relief, an opportunity to leave the school for six months or a year to undertake educational renewal.

It must be recognised that teaching in a school where there is endemic disadvantage is much more psychologically wearing for a teacher than teaching in a school where there is the natural reward of dealing with at least a substantial proportion of children who respond very quickly to the teacher. Some of the money that could be used to improve the general pupil-teacher ratio should be diverted to that sort of activity and to improving contact by teachers with the homes of children who are seen to be falling behind. It has been identified in educational research that lack of interest in education by parents is at least as critical a factor in children doing badly at school, as the lack of teachers in the schools. If teachers can do anything to make greater contact with parents it would be very beneficial.

When I was parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Education in the seventies I was responsible for the Rutland Street project which was testing all these theses which I am putting forward. I would be very interested to see a report from the Minister on how effective home school contact was and, if there are lessons there, they should be applied across the board in dealing with children who are likely to become early school leavers and thus become long-term unemployed, a perpetual deprived class in our society.

Having deliberated on this radical suggestion, I suggest that the Minister for Education should be made responsible for FÁS. It is stupid that we have a separate system of training, with a very loose system of academic discipline with qualifications which are not really accepted as being qualifications, while we have an extremely rigid disciplined system of education. The disciplined system of education excludes many people who cannot accommodate themselves to it and the training system is so loose that it does not have the recognition from employers the education system has. If we could weld together the two disciplines, or perhaps have a straight compromise between the two approaches, the overall system might be more effective. The FÁS approach is much more flexible and they are much better prepared to use outside contractors for particular educational tasks. That is something our schools should be doing. Why should our schools not buy in expertise from outside if they need it for a particular purpose rather than having everything provided by the staff? I would like to see some of the flexibility in the FÁS system introduced into education.

I would also like to see some of the discipline and rigour which applies in the Department of Education applied to the activities of FÁS. After all, what is the difference between education and training? Quite frankly, I do not understand the difference. It seems to me they are the same thing. Why call them different things and why have we separate Ministers dealing with them? I suggest, to be complete about the thought, that FÁS and the training aspects of the Department of Labour should be transferred to the Minister for Education and the remaining industrial relations functions of the Department of Labour should be transferred to the Department of Industry and Commerce and we could do away with the Department of Labour entirely.

What about poor Bertie?

I think the Taoiseach has shown himself to be a good butcher already and I do not think he would need any assistance in that regard.

Victorious Bertie.

That would be very beneficial because it is the Department of Labour who have the most immediate direct contact with the consequences of educational failure. It is the Department of Labour who have to deal with the long-term unemployed. They are the people who have to provide training for the long-term unemployed. If the knowledge obtained by the Department of Labour in dealing with the consequences of educational failure could be imported into the ethos of the Department of Education, we would have a much better Department of Education and a much better organised system.

The Department of Labour could concentrate on labour legislation.

I do not know about that. I would also like to say, and I have advocated this before, that those long-term unemployed who reach the age of 25 years or over and who have left school without any educational qualifications should be offered an educational voucher to the value of, say, £2,000 to £3,000. This could be used to buy training or education from any educational institution which was prepared to compete and provide it for them. That would introduce two merits which do not exist in the present system. One, it would avoid centralised planning where bureaucrats decide what unemployed people need in terms of education. The unemployed person would have some say in choosing what training or education would benefit him. Equally, because educational institutions would be competing for his custom, they would have to look much more than they do at present, at the needs of the long-term unemployed in providing the sort of courses that would help them.

I want to make three very quick points. First, it is wrong that only 10 per cent of the marks in language certificate examinations go for oral and aural skills. If we are serious about teaching languages, the minimum should be 40 per cent. The Minister should also look at the Canadian system where teachers assess pupils' progress; this, rather than public examinations, is the measure of achievement of pupils leaving school. Why can we not introduce the Canadian system here?

The next question I would like to put is why do we need an extra five or six regional technical colleges for what is a temporary bulge that will only last until the end of the century? Why not instead make our higher educational institutions work all the year round? Why should these expensive facilities be closed during the summer? Why not hire more teachers and use the existing facilities more fully and have three semesters rather than two?

Why is promotion in primary and secondary schools solely on the basis of seniority? Surely we should have a system where promotion is on the basis of competition. We could get rid of some of the rigidities, boredom and frustration which exists among our teaching profession in doing so because they are waiting for somebody to die or retire before they can get recognition. If they could compete for posts elsewhere in the system without this stupid seniority rule we would have a much more highly motivated educational force and it would not cost a penny. I am not saying we should not spend more money on education but this is something we could do which would not cost anything.

Let me make one final point. Last year I supplied to the Minister the results of an educational opinion poll I carried out in my constituency. Three hundred parents in Meath were asked what did they want more emphasis on in schools and 45 per cent of them, the overwhelmingly largest figure——

Acting Chairman

Tá an t-am istigh.

The Minister went over her time.

Acting Chairman

The Minister is——

I think the survey is an interesting one and the findings should be put on the record.

Literally, one minute is all I need.

Acting Chairman

Not one minute, just a little time.

Forty-five per cent said they would like to see more continental languages taught. In reply to the question what would they like to see less emphasis on, 70 per cent said there should be less emphasis on Irish. Among the continental languages, German came out on top. Eighty-two per cent of parents favoured the introduction of continental languages in national schools. Eighty-six per cent wanted inspectors' reports on schools made available to parents to help them in choosing between schools and 78 per cent favoured a nationally reorganised test in reading, writing and arithmetic at the age of ten which I have already referred to. Those findings are interesting and I would like the Minister's comments thereon.

Ar an gcéad dul síos, ba mhaith liom mar urlabhrú ar chúrsaí oideachais do Pháirtí an Lucht Oibre tréaslú leis an Aire agus tá súil agam go mbainfidh sí as cibé téarma a bheidh aici sa Roinn Oideachais.

Cuireann sé iontas agus díomá orm a laghad tagartha atá déanta do chúrsaí Gaeilge go mór mhór istigh sna Gaeltachtaí áit in a bhfuil riachtanais ar leith ar gach leibhéal. Ag an mbun leibhéal, mar shampla, ar cheann de na hOileáin Arann tá múinteoir breise ag teastáil agus níl sé ar fáil. Chomh maith leis sin tá deacrachtaí ag baint le cúrsaí na n-oileán agus mar sin de.

Níor deineadh, ach an oiread, aon tagairt do chúrsaí teagaisc trí mheán na Gaeilge. Go dtí seo — agus b'fhéidir go dtiocfaidh athrú air — tá sé mar cheart againn labhairt i nGaeilge sa Teach seo agus freisin díriú ar riachtanais i leith teagaisc trí mheán na Gaeilge agus teagasc san Ghaeilge féin.

I will come back to some of the other points the Minister made in her speech in a few moments but in the short time available to me I would like to list a few points which I think are important in evaluating the Minister's speech. The test I have always brought to the Minister's speeches on education is a fundamental one. I always say to myself, and have in this Dáil — the record shows this —"what has the Minister done or what will the Minister do that will change education in terms of the three criteria of access, control and curriculum?" It is this test that I bring to her speech today. What is in this speech which will improve the quality of participation at primary level, secondary level and at third level where the most glaring discrepancies exist and which is forced by the externals in the educational environment to be simply a reproduction system for the professional classes. What I mean by the question of control is even more interesting and has been advanced during the past year when it transpired there was no legal basis for the Minister's administrative actions, the absence of a basic Act which could justify procedures within her Department. When she is replying to Deputy Bruton's survey on public attitudes in, perhaps, County Meath——

Meath, no perhaps about it.

I thought they indicated a certain local flavour. When replying I hope she will be able to tell us when she will publish the opinion delivered to her officials. While the legal basis is there under the Ministers and Secretaries Act of the twenties for there to be an office of Minister for Education and an incumbent to occupy it, in terms of the old Commissioners for Education who were never abolished when the State was taken over and who died away, meeting as they did up to the end until there were not enough of them to form a quorum, does the Minister propose to re-establish this office and go back to some integrated system or does she propose to bring in some correct legal basis for the administrative ministerial actions of the Department in her period in office? I wish her well in that regard.

The issue of a basic education Act will undoubtedly surface because it is needed and no casuistry from the entrails of the Department of Education that some vague concept of principles of continuity will act as an adequate alternative to education and educational powers will hide that fact. The OECD report argues from principles of continuity. Translated into lay language, however, this means that because no one has challenged it legally we will continue in the same way and the principles of continuity will be used as a substitute.

I said my third point is in relation to the curriculum. What have been the achievements this year? The review body have reported in this connection and there is a need for a discussion on the curriculum. Having listened to the speeches of the Minister and Deputy Bruton I can see a greater need than ever before for discussion because the question about the debate of the curriculum is one of the fundamental issues in education. As I listened this morning I could see that people are responding to the immediacy of the external environment of education. In County Meath an overwhelming number of people want their children taught German and they are upset about the amount of time spent on Irish. The Minister spoke about other things in her speech but, to her credit, not in the same utilitarian vein. Having said that, I should like to take up in a positive way the remarks of Deputy Bruton. Is our educational system to be the consequence of fashion or of opinions expressed at one time in one county? The point about it is that despite all the reports the curriculum has not been adequately debated here.

The Minister's preparations are ready in regard to political and social studies on the curriculum. This work took two years and the report was placed on her desk. She had only to say yes but she decided to say no. Of course the advice to her was that there was too much emphasis on rights and not enough on duties. That is why the subject is not taught at second level, reflecting once again an external of the educational environment, the authoritarianism of our society and the absence of desire to create effective citizenship by participation in our institutions. This side of the House is perfectly entitled to make a case for the teaching of any subject and I see the arguments in the wider context of the more general exclusions of society. In terms of access I do not see any positive proposals.

I wish to comment on the idea of allowing the long-term unemployed to return to education by means of a voucher system. This is not new and there was a much better proposal about ten years ago which was much more interesting in many ways because it saw a certain amount of educational rights accruing to the citizen which you acquired from being born in the country and you could use at any time of your life to level the disability of access. It had the advantage that you could go back into the educational system and form the core of your educational experience rather than purchasing educational bits and pieces here and there in the marketplace. While there are many good teachers in that area there is a fair component of chancers who are selling dubious skills to those who are forced to purchase them. In this regard the conditions are far from a true market.

Those of us who speak about education must be concerned about its core. Everyone seems to know what people in the street feel about the education of their children. I have been dealing with parents for a long time and I know there is enormous support for a good general education. When all the fashionable demands are made, again and again parents will come back and say that they are concerned about basic education and they want the core of education made secure for their children. That is a terribly important point.

There is a distressing emphasis in the Minister's speech in regard to educational policy — where I can find it — which seems to be entirely congruent with some notions of demographic change. Of all criteria in assessing the demands for education, demographic trends are selected and given primacy. The Minister cannot say she is structuring her educational proposals on the basis of a particular age group at any one time. That could be done in terms of volumes of teaching allocation in many ways but the way to include it in a speech is to outline the aims in regard to what it is proposed to protect in education and then expand. It could then be said, in so far as these demands are indicated by the pressure of numbers, that they will be catered for. It is a most serious misplacement of emphasis to take the demographic trends and make them the primary criterion by which we are to judge the adequacy of educational provision over the years to come.

Transport, the Gaeltacht, the Irish language and teaching through Irish have disappeared. There is no reference to them in the Minister's speech. It is perfectly clear that there will be a crisis before the end of this year in relation to the school transport system. I raised this matter with the Minister when she proposed the privatisation of school transport on a pilot basis, to be later extended. I welcomed it but she decided to postpone the proposal. The money allocated is totally inadequate for the contractor — Bus Éireann — to supply a proper service. The other way to provide the money is to increase the charge to parents for access to the transport service. If the service is privatised, what are the knock-on effects for Bus Éireann?

Parents are sick to death of being excluded from involvement in education. The public and parents want to know what will happen in relation to Carysfort. They want an end to the quasi-legal, nonparliamentary arrangements that have evolved in the Department of Education ranging from the deed of trust of different schools and so forth from which parliamentarians are excluded from examining.

Where is there a reference in the Minister's speech to the implementation on a trial basis of a psychological service? That could be done using the resources adequately——

What does the Deputy mean?

I mean specifying where and when it will come into existence——

In September.

Good. There has been chaois in regard to the textbook provision in the new junior curriculum. The Minister said she was favourably examining the question of the State taking on the responsibility for providing a library system in schools which, in deprived areas, would remove from children living in poorer areas the burden of buying an endless number of school books. That should have been done because we know that before the Dáil resumes the children will have returned to school but some will have to wait a further six weeks because of the cost of books. What has happened to that proposal? Why was the syllabus for the junior cycle not available in Irish for those who wanted to teach Irish? What is happening about text books? There was no reference to them in the Minister's speech.

Parents say to us all that we should make the educational system strong within core educational principles and then adapt to the environmental need in terms of demography. Parents are sick to their bellies about the notion of free education because there is nothing free about it. The absence of adequate public provision for education is creating intolerable difficulties for poor families. It is also affecting the question of access.

I welcome the reference in the Minister's speech to the decision to increase the provision for mature women students and I would like to hear details of how that scheme will be implemented. I was delighted to hear the reference to gender and to the question of gender equality. There is no better place to begin that than in the Minister's Department. She should look at the Department's pyramid in terms of who is in charge of senior positions, from senior inspector up. Where are the women? The fact is that there is no more notoriously sexist Department in terms of the large number of women national teachers at the bottom and their exclusion from decision making at the top. The Department is authoritarian, jaded, old, sexist and patriarchal. I will have other opportunities of drawing comparisons with that Department.

There were some interesting points mentioned in the speech by Deputy Bruton in relation to trades. I should like the Minister to tell the House the consequences of the confusion that has arisen in relation to sponsored apprenticeships, of the amount of money removed from poor families because many of the so-called sponsorships, for example in the area of mechanics, are not real and are not proceeded with, with the result that the European Community do not give any money towards them.

Mar fhocal scoir, mar a thosaigh mé, tá súil agam go dtabharfar í bhfad níos mó aird ar na riachtanais faoi oideachas sna Gaeltachtaí agus do theagasc trí mheán Gaeilge.

I can understand the anger that came through in Deputy Higgin's speech. I do not know about other Members but during the recent election campaign it was my experience that the education issue was at least on a par with the health cuts as the major issues. I accept that the media took on the health cuts as the major issue and that it was difficult to get through with any other issue. Certainly, I pointed out to the newspaper correspondents I met the seriousness of the education issue as we were encountering it on the doorsteps and I am sure other candidates highlighted that issue, too. In the centres of growing population the education issue was on a higher plain than the anger over the health cuts. The lack of proper education for children, the condition of local schools and the amount of money parents have to pay to keep schools running were raised on every doorstep and proved to be major issues in the campaign. I am disappointed that those complaints were not taken on board by the Minister. The health cutbacks were taken on board by the Taoiseach and, presumably, by the Minister for Health, but there has not been any hint in the speech by the Minister for Education of a change in her attitude. We have the same Minister as we had in the last two years but it appears that she is intent on pursuing the same policy. We have not had any indication of new thinking in that Department. Her speech was most disappointing. Obviously, her past is her present as far as her thinking is concerned. She has been put into a groove by the same officials in the Department that Deputy Higgins referred to. Many of the ideas that have been pushed on the Minister have been in the Department for years. I should like to ask her to have another look at the advice being given to her.

The Minister had the gall to refer to disadvantaged areas. I thought she would have avoided that issue because the programme for Government states that the Government recognise the importance of the education systen in the promotion of equity in our society and that they will ensure, in implementing whatever adjustments are necessary in that sector because of financial considerations — in other words the cutbacks — that the burden of adjustment does not fall on the disadvantaged. The programme does not say that the burden will not fall as heavily on the disadvantaged but that it will not fall on them. In fact, the reverse has happened in that the great burden of the cutbacks has fallen on disadvantaged areas and on pupils attending schools in those areas. Remedial teaching is out. No new remedial teachers have been appointed in the last three years. The school psychological service has been wiped out, forgotten about while the pupil/teacher ratio has increased.

The Minister told us that funds have been made available each year to schools to assist necessitous pupils in the purchase of schoolbooks but that amounts to £1.50 per pupil. The Minister should recognise that in Northern Ireland, what is called the unfree part of our country, the allowance for schoolbooks ranges from £26.60 Stg. to £43.25 Stg. That is between 20 and 30 times higher than the allowance for schoolbooks here. The system of payment for schoolbooks is the most outrageous in our so-called free education system. The new certificate will mean that a whole range of new books will have to be purchased.

Of course, we should remember that parents have to pay for more than school books in our so-called free primary education system. A survey undertaken two years ago by The Irish People, the newspaper of The Workers' Party, showed that an average family with three schoolgoing children faced an annual bill of £330 for school clothing, books and materials. It was pointed out that parents have to pay what is called a voluntary contribution on a regular basis. Weekly, certainly monthly, children are given a note for their parents requesting an extra £5 or £10 and when the children return to school they are asked during class time if they have brought in the money. That amounts to blackmail. Parents are being forced to find the money in order to save their children embarrassment in front of their class. I have no doubt that the figure of £330 has risen to £400 since the survey was carried out.

Parents, for the sake of their children, will find the money but they will do so by depriving themselves or by resorting to borrowing from a credit union or a moneylender. Parents will do the best for their children and the best thing they can give them is a good education. They will do everything possible to give that to them. Parents who are in receipt of £90 per week in social welfare benefits must deprive themselves of certain things if they are to pay the voluntary subscriptions to the schools. By doing so they are covering up the real nature of the cutbacks in our schools. If the schools had not got this assistance from the parents there would be no heating in the classrooms, the buildings would be run down and there would be no caretakers to look after the schools. This is in addition to the provision of books, classroom materials, clothing for school children, etc. Schools in disadvantaged areas have suffered the major element of the cutbacks. So far as education is concerned the Programme for National Recovery has been an absolute disaster, a total hypocritical statement from beginning to end with regard to primary, second level and third level education. There are only three paragraphs in the programme dealing with education but very specific statements are made in them, all of which have turned out to be lies and have not been adhered to by the Government. The Programme for National Recovery states:

The Government will continue to encourage and foster the participation of the disadvantaged at all levels of education. A particular area of focus will be to encourage more second-level pupils to complete the senior cycle. It is considered that this will be a key factor in encouraging more working class children to advance to third-level education.

Everybody who have looked at the situation recognise that we have gone backwards. The Clancy report must surely be an indication to the Minister of what is happening in this area. Not alone have pupils not been able to get third level education but second level education has been run down because schools are not being built. Many schools are without adequate accommodation and pupils spend most of their time travelling to and from schools in other areas. Schools are not being built yet we are told that the Government propose to "foster the participation of the disadvantaged at all levels of education" and to "encourage more second level pupils to complete the senior cycle".

In the review of the Programme for National Recovery the teacher unions should show up the lack of effect of the decisions made in that programme and ensure that there will be a complete change of policy in the education area by the Department of Education and the Minister in any future programme, if there is one.

I must say with regard to the unions that the only union who have consistently fought on behalf of the parents and children in their areas are the Teachers Union of Ireland who have spent their money in advertising campaigns about what is happening. Thomas Davis said,"educate that you may be free". Of course, the reverse is to keep people uneducated so that you can keep them enslaved. A very interesting poster campaign which was run a year or 18 months ago referred to "the politics of ignorance". Many people may not have understood the importance and meaning of that slogan but I believe it is a policy which has been carried out consistently by Government after Government here. They do not want the working class people to be educated in case they become free. The working class are beginning to understand the true meaning of freedom and what education can do for them and their children.

I have dealt with primary education and the lack of remedial teaching psychological services, the upkeep of schools, the number of teachers and so on. I should have mentioned a specific issue because I have been repeatedly in touch with the Minister about it. This relates to St. Peter the Apostle junior school in Neilstown, Clondalkin. This is a new area and the number of pupils there will increase each year over the next number of years. However, because of the numbers in the school last year the Minister decided that two teaching posts would be cut from September next. This school is in a major disadvantaged area, yet in September the number of pupils at the school will have increased.

I will use the few minutes I have left to refer to vocational education. The VEC system has come under particular attack from the Minister. It has come under attack from the Department of Education who had already begun that attack under the previous Minister and who had a policy laid down before the Minister came into office — a policy to dismantle the VEC system. This began by increasing the pupil-teacher ratio in VEC schools to the same level as that in secondary fee-paying schools. I had a major disagreement with the Secretary of the ASTI, Kieran Mulvey, who was then a member of The Workers' Party, on the question of attempting to equate the pupil-teacher ratio in VEC schools with that in private fee-paying schools. The VEC schools are non-selective: they take in anybody and give them an education. They do not select the best pupils. Because they teach practical subjects they need more remedial teachers and should have fewer pupils per teacher in practical classes. There was no basis for the policy pursued by the Minister yet she pushed it through and has run down the VEC system. I would ask the Minister to look again at the policy being devised by her Department and, in particular, to have regard to the VEC system and the whole remedial system in primary schools.

Deputy Deenihan rose.

Acting Chairman

In accordance with normal procedure I must now go back to the Government side and call on Deputy Frank Fahey.

On a point of order, I wonder if it would meet with the agreement of the House if we were to find some system of dividing up the time because there are many speakers here who want to get in. May I suggest that, if the House agrees, the Minister will take no more than ten minutes and the remaining speakers than five minutes each?

Acting Chairman

I have called Deputy Fahey. The Deputy would have to get the Whips to agree to his suggestion.

The House can agree it here.

In fairness, there have been three Opposition speakers to one Government speaker so far.

Acting Chairman

We cannot waste any more time.

I congratulate the Minister, Deputy Mary O'Rourke, on her reappointment as Minister for Education. I should like to pay tribute to her for the very fine job she did as Minister for Education over the past two and a half years. I must say that it was an exhilarating experience to have had her as a boss. I have seen at first hand the very fine work she has done for Irish education in that very difficult period of financial cutbacks. I look forward with much anticipation to a great era for education in the next number of years under the Minister's stewardship. Hopefully we will not have to apply the same level of financial constraints as have applied up to now.

I want to outline some of the areas where her innovation led to significant progress over the past two and a half years, areas where the Minister asked me to undertake some objectives for her. One of those was in the area of the Irish language.

Ar dtús ba mhaith liom a rá nach n-aontaím leis an méid a dúirt an Teachta Higgins faoin iarracht atá á déanamh sa Roinn Oideachais chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn. Tá an-iarracht á déanamh agus, ar ndóigh, tá dul chun cinn maith déanta, maidir leis an Ghaeilge sa Roinn, go háirithe i leith an teanga a chur chun cinn. Tá sé sóiléir anois trí na scoileanna ar gach léibheál go bhfuil gach iarracht á déanamh chun labhairt na teanga a spreagadh. Chomh maith leis sin tá dul chun cinn mór déanta trín siollabus nua feabhas a chur ar staid na Gaeilge i gcaoi is go mbeimid in ann gach ábhar a mhúineadh trí Ghaeilge. Glacaim go bhfuil deacrachtaí againn san aidhm sin, go háirithe i léith téachsleabhair a chur ar fáil, ach táimid ag déanamh ár ndícheall leigheas a fháil air sin.

I should like to deal with the question of school transport, particularly with the more pressing problem of the special schools transport which has been probably the greatest area of difficulty we have had to encounter in the Department over the past two years. We accept that there have been major problems for the parents of special school children because of the diverse nature of their locations in regard to the schools they attend. Often grave difficulties were encountered as they are still, by the parents of special school children because of the long distances that had to be travelled.

At the request of the Minister I initiated an in-depth review of the operation and financing of the present school transport arrangements in so far as they affect mentally and physically handicapped students. This review will be completed by the commencement of the coming academic year. I hope the recommendations for the improvement of the service — greater co-operation and flexibility between the various bodies involved in providing this service — will be taken on board. As I have outlined, the key problem in regard to that service is that students attending special school centres do not live in just the area. In co-operation with some of the schools involved, with CIE and the voluntary agencies we have attempted to devise a new system under which there would be greater flexibility and involvement all round to ensure that as many as possible special students can be picked up at their homes in the morning and returned there in the evening. It is a difficult problem which could be easily resolved if one were to throw money at it, which is something we do not have. We are most anxious to continue to make progress in this regard, as we have endeavoured to do to date.

The Minister herself will deal with the overall question of school transport. Now that I am no longer Minister of State at the Department of Education — being, as it were, in limbo——

I hope the Deputy will be back.

I want to make a personal comment about the school transport issue. I suppose it must be the bane of every politician's life. Before I became involved in the Department of Education, like every other public representative, I wondered what in the name of goodness were they doing in that Department about school transport? Since I have become involved intimately with the problem I have seen and understood the complexity of the issue. I make a personal statement when I say there is no doubt in my mind that the privatisation, to some degree, of the schools transport system will make for a more efficient, much better and cheaper school transport system. I hope that one of the initiatives the Minister will revive will be the pilot project for such privatisation. It simply does not make economic sense, no more than it makes any kind of common sense, to have buses being driven into a school centre in the morning, being driven back to drivers' homes, returning in the evening while, at the same time, school principles must hire private buses to take school teams to matches and so on. It does not make sense that such school buses should remain idle from 4 o'clock in the afternoon until the following morning while there are community needs remaining to be served. Having dealt with this problem for two and a half years there is no doubt in my mind that the pilot project on privatisation of school transport should go ahead. We could then ascertain whether many people's views on the issue are correct.

I would appeal to CIE, particularly the CIE unions, to become involved in this process. There is no reason drivers and CIE buses cannot be involved in this pilot project. There is no doubt in my mind that if that were the case we would have then a better transport system, with those buses being used during the school day for the curricular purposes of the schools and used again for the benefit of the community in after-school hours.

I want to turn now to the other two areas in respect of which I had special responsibility during the past two years, youth and sport. I am very pleased at the progress made in the Department in regard to the development of both. I should like to draw the attention of the House first to the next phase of the Programme for National Recovery where, very clearly and for the first time ever in Government policy, there is a clear commitment to major expenditure on the promotion of sport, where it is said that Fianna Fáil will create a national sports centre at a minimum cost to the Exchequer of £35 million, will spend £11.6 million on six regional centres around the country and a further £5.3 million on further local sports facilities around the country.

In that regard, the Government have already made progress on the acquisition of a 12-acre site adjacent to the new Financial Services Centre on the Custom House Docks site. The site acquisition is well underway. Approximately £1 million has been spent on the acquisition of the land in 1988. An amount of £87,000 has already been spent this year and terms have been agreed for the expenditure of an additional £1.4 million on the acquisition of this land. The steering committee appointed by the Minister to oversee the project have now finalised their recommendation on the method and basis on which tenders should be invited for the design and construction of the centre which will be submitted to the Government shortly.

This building is of a scale and complexity that, even in international terms, places it at the frontier of development in so far as indoor sports facilities are concerned. The necessity for careful preplanning in the case of a project of this type unfortunately results in slower than desired progress at the early stages. Notwithstanding that, with Government approval, actual construction of the centre could be under way next year. I should emphasise that the time spent will be more than adequately justified when the actual announcement with regard to procedure is made. It will amount to one of the most exciting enterprises ever entered into in this country, involving both public and private sectors. We will have a facility of which we will be proud, one which will be economically viable, the most important consideration.

In regard to the regional centres, again delays have occurred. I stand over those delays fully because, at the end of the day, we must construct sport centres that are economically viable, that will not be white elephants but utilised to the full. I have undertaken a much longer period of preparation and planning to ensure that those facilities match the requirements of our people and will not constitute a drain on the Exchequer on completion.

There are at present sports centres around the country costing the taxpayer a fortune. For example, there are two swimming pools in Cork which to maintain open last year cost Cork Corporation £180,000 in one case and £120,000 in the other. There is a pool in Cobh, whose reopening I recently initiated, which was open for two months of the year only — it is eight years only in existence — and that at a cost of £22,000 to Cork Corporation and Cobh UDC. We cannot continue that kind of management and planning.

There is a clear commitment in the document I have quoted to the expenditure of money on those centres. The time taken in their planning and preparation will ensure that when they are built we get them right. I want to challenge Fine Gael especially to tell me whether it is still their policy to take away £30 million from the national lottery for that purpose and, if it is, whether they will accept that that means scrubbing completely the policy and programme for the creation of sports facilities, national, regional and local. If they take away the amount of money from the national lottery they promised to do in the course of the general election they must realise they will be taking away the £11.6 million, the £5.3 million——

It is simply a matter of postponing it.

I am glad we have got from Deputy Deenihan the statement now that Fine Gael will postpone this programme. We need to have that clearly written into the record. That is a scandalous statement to have been made, that — let Deputy Barry not try to shout me down — that he would postpone the national sports centre, the regional sports centre and the local sports centres.

Are you going to provide them? At least we are honest. They have been postponed for the last two years.

The poor man is trying hard to keep his job.

Do not worry, Deputy.

Why do you not speak about youth and political opportunities?

Let me worry about my job.

Deputy Deenihan, I understand that you will have an opportunity to speak.

Deputy Fahey asked me.

You are not supposed to respond to his addressing you.

Obviously, he is very sensitive at the moment.

Almost raw.

Nobody is a bit sensitive. It is only correct to put the record straight.

What about the national sports centre in Athlone?

We had many statements coming from Deputy Deenihan.

I was involved when the centres were being set up. I received a deputation——

We have always acknowledged that.

Since you came into office nothing was done.

I acknowledge former Minister Spring's contribution in respect of that.

(Interruptions.)

I must remind Deputy Deenihan that what would be his time if he was not interrupting the Minister is being taken up.

I am merely putting the record straight. I am pleased that Fine Gael have today been honest and told us that they will postpone the national sports centre and regional sports centres. At least it is good to have an honest assertion. It backs up many of the things they have been saying up to now.

Many promises have been made.

With regard to youth affairs, in our programme for Government we have made a commitment of £8 million for youth affairs in 1989.

That is the next promise.

This will enable us to continue with the wonderful work being done with regard to disadvantaged young people. More than 50 per cent of the money spent in the past few years has gone specifically to the most deprived and underprivileged young people in our community. We have initiated new projects — new programmes with people like Sr. Stanislaus Kennedy, Peter McVerry and many others. For the first time we have a major programme which involves five different Departments operated under an interdepartmental committee tackling once and for all the problems of disadvantaged young people from their perspective, rather than from that of any one Department or agency. It has been a major success and I am very proud and privileged to be involved with that.

Let me say again that if the proposal to switch money from the lottery into health were to be put in place, all that work would be brought to an end. All the work done, all the money spent on young homeless and young substance abusers, young travellers, young unemployed, young people at risk would be lost. This Government are committed to the continuation of this programme in youth affairs, and I am proud to say so.

On the basis of the areas of responsibility which I had in the Department, I commend very strongly to the House that this Estimate be accepted for a continuation of that work.

On a point of order, could I raise on the Adjournment the subject matter of the reply to Question No. 81 of 18 July?

The Ceann Comhairle's Office will communicate with the Deputy.

With your permission, I should like to share my time with my colleagues, Deputy John Browne and Deputy Cotter. Could each have five minutes?

Is that agreed? Agreed. You have three five-minute periods. You must conclude at 1.25 p.m.

It is unfortunate that Deputy Fahey cannot wait to hear my reply to what he said here, which was grossly unfair. The impression given this morning was that all is well in education but, unfortunately, that is not the case, as the Minister well knows. At the moment she is concerned more with reviews than with the real problems which exist in education. She has announced seven reviews today. As a result of her term in office we have now an unacceptably high number of larger classes, loss of subjects for students, shortening of the school week, lack of materials for essential subjects, such as woodwork and metal work, lack of remedial and guidance services because staff are being forced back into the classroom, etc. Students have been denied the services of remedial teachers and counselling because these people are now being deployed in other areas. That is the scenario and there is no way we can deny that.

Education in many fields, especially with regard to the disadvantaged, is being threatened. Those involved in education — and I am a member of a vocational education committee — are totally disillusioned, frustrated and disenchanted with what has happened. At meeting after meeting we are faced with further problems, such as caretakers not being replaced, teachers not being replaced and so forth. In times of financial stringency I agree that one must make cuts somewhere, but it is the concern of my party and myself that these cuts do not fall on the disadvantaged, on the people to whom we referred this morning, which seems to be happening. I shall refer first to the cuts in primary, secondary and third level school building. There has been a cut of 18 per cent in primary school building, 21 per cent in secondary school building and a cut of 29 per cent at third level in the provision of grants for regional colleges. The outcome is that children will continue to have to attend school in inadequate, dilapidated accommodation. The Minister knows that well. Because of the increase in the pupil-teacher ratio, there are larger class sizes. Classes have to be taken in cloakrooms and in the school halls. That is totally unacceptable to pupils, parents and teachers.

The Government in their 1987 programme for office gave a commitment in Thurles, Castlebar, Dún Laoghaire and other centres around the country — and I would probably disagree with Deputy Bruton in this — to provide regional colleges. It is my opinion that regional colleges are essential, not alone in providing education but they could become the centres of regions especially as we approach Europe and the whole aspect of regionalisation. The colleges could become centres for the regions both for education and other usage.

The staffing budget for RTCs has been cut by 5 per cent this year. It will be very difficult if not impossible to increase the throughput of these colleges if there are fewer staff. I would also like to refer to the provision for the school transport service which has been reduced by £5.7 million. The Minister made no reference to how she will provide a school transport system having regard to that cut. How does she propose to run a service with £5.7 million less than was available before?

As I said, it is unfortunate that Deputy Fahey is not present to hear what I have to say. Over the last two weeks the North-South exchange programme has been discontinued. This was funded by the Department of Education and it fostered community relations between North and South. The discontinuance of this programme is very unfortunate and is a retrograde step in North-South relations. I would like you, Minister, to reply to that point. Also, funding for political education officers has been scrapped — and your own party, Minister, will be affected.

That is not true and I shall reply to that.

One individual has got notice already that he was being let go.

That is not true.

I would like that clarified.

This is a small point. Maybe, Deputy, you would address the Chair. If you look endearingly, appealingly or provocatively at the Minister, obviously you are going to get replies. That does not help.

The Minister is looking endearingly at Deputy Deenihan.

I have very little time. Do not try to waste it.

Perhaps the Minister would address the Chair when she is replying. Deputy Deenihan objected before when the Minister replied to him directly. Please direct remarks to the Chair.

With regard to projects for the disadvantaged, Deputy Fahey made a great song and dance about this here today. They have been guaranteed only for the September-December period. The people involved have been given to commitment whatsoever in regard to what is going to happen next year. The fear among the youth at the moment is that some of these projects will be discontinued altogether. Could the Minister reply to that point?

In the Fianna Fáil election manifesto it was announced that funding for the youth movement this year would be £8 million. That was the first indication that the youth movement received that funding was being reduced from £10 million to £8 million. What programmes will suffer as a result of the shortfall of £2 million? The wish of all the people involved in the youth movement is that the core funding for the youth services should be put back into Exchequer funding and not the national lottery. They want the core funding which had previously been provided, which was £3.5 million, to be put back into Exchequer funding.

They are a few points to which I would like the Minister to reply if she gets an opportunity. Has the Minister got agreement with the unions regarding the operation of the new junior certificate? In the rationalisation of VECs, does the Minister intend to have local education authorities as announced in the Programme for Action in Education? Will the RTCs be inside or outside the VEC system? Finally, and I do not want to be too parochial, the Minister may remember that I was on a deputation to her regarding the Listowel vocational school and we accepted a scaled down version of the original plans. Perhaps she could expedite the provision of money for that school.

I would like to compliment the Minister on being reappointed to the Department of Education.

Thank you.

I worked very well with the Minister in the past despite arguments we may have had and I look forward to working with her over the next four years.

Teachta De Brún, if you are going to accommodate An Teachta Cotter, between the two of you there are only four minutes.

Mr. Browne

( Carlow-Kilkenny): A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, ba mhaith liom chomhghairdeas a dhéanamh leat féin agus leis an Aire. Tá súil agam go neireoidh go geal libh, go mór mhór leis an Aire mar tá an-chuid oibre le déanamh aici. Os rud é gur múinteoir mé tá ansuim agam in oideachas, ach de réir deallraimh, ní bheidh a lán le rá agam inniu.

May I mention briefly to the Minister in the two minutes I have — this is unfortunate because I will not praise her but I will not bury her either — the step she took in relation to the public-teacher ratio in primary education which was the worst since 1831? I have heard all the discussions and I have heard experts on education. There are several things that we can do in education but we cannot expect teachers to teach an uncontrollable number. Once the number of pupils exceeds 30 one is fighting a losing battle. There is no doubt that with a maximum of 39 pupils in a class, the Minister is asking the impossible. I am not worried about the intelligent children. They will survive; some would say they will survive in spite of teachers. I am talking about the weaker children who need to be helped. Many of our problems would be sorted out early in life if we had a reasonable number in our classrooms. That is something I will be referring to at a later date.

I want to refer to two or three other items. I hope the Minister will help the younger skilled teachers who are so skilled and protect their salaries and conditions. I cannot understand how the temporary teachers at second level who are to be paid in October are expected to do the impossible once more, to live on fresh air, because the Department of Social Welfare will not agree with the Minister. I hope the Minister looks at this issue too.

There are a number of problems with third level grants. It is a cause of major controversy that some people outside the PAYE system are able to devise a scheme where they can get grants. I hope the Minister will deal with this. In fairness to my colleague who must have 30 seconds left, I will deal with education in detail at greater length on another occasion.

I look forward to that.

It is hardly worth my while standing up, but there are a few points I wanted to mention even though they may have been already covered. Like Deputy Browne I was involved in the delivery of the education service for a number of years and I am well aware of some of the drawbacks we are facing in that system at present. It has been mentioned many times, and it must be reiterated, that the remedial service in our schools is completely inadequate. Some 10 per cent of our students are in the remedial classification. The Minister is making provision for these students in areas of severe disadvantage but, of course, these students are not to be found solely in those areas. In many smaller schools in rural Ireland there is no professional service available for these students. I suggest that the Minister should try to group schools, whether on a county basis or on a sub-county basis. In a school with, for example, 100 students, it is likely that ten could be classified as remedial. It is impossible for one teacher, taking fourth, fifth and sixth classes and trying to provide basic control, to provide assistance for these students at the same time. That disadvantage is then carried into post-primary school where the study of any discipline at that stage implies that a student must be able to read. Students who cannot read obviously cannot benefit from that kind of set up. When they approach examinations, all the questions are literary and they are unable to handle them, and so they are at a desperate and very serious disadvantage. The Minister will have to take cognisance of the fact that students all over rural Ireland are suffering severe disadvantage in this area. Indeed, one would have to say that equality of opportunity is much more an aspiration today than it has been heretofore. That is one example of what has happened. Larger classes hurt everybody.

The new junior cycle programme is welcome. Most teachers were demanding it for years but they are not too happy that it is in the offing in September.

They are not too happy and the Minister knows that because there was furore last Easter. The provision which the Minister made for inservice training was inadequate. Teachers had an opportunity of getting together for one day, but it was no good. Proper induction is necessary. Everybody agrees the programme is required, but the induction of teachers is absolutely inadequate and it would be a shame——

It is in my speech.

I see a reference to it but I do not see any details.

An agreement has been reached.

It would be a shame if its introduction was to be a hit and miss affair and if it was to be less than satisfactory.

Normally a Deputy is not interrupted on his maiden speech, but I must advise that the order of the House requires that I call the Minister at 1.25 p.m. and that the House rises at 1.30 p.m.

I will be very brief.

I am afraid we are limited by the time factor. I must put the question at 1.30 p.m. That is the order.

Extend the sitting, by agreement, for ten minutes.

We cannot have ad hoc arrangements in respect of the order of the House.

I do not mind if Deputy Cotter continues but I will not be able to reply.

I bow to your ruling.

With reference to the last speaker I would have been willing to allow him to continue for the remaining minutes particularly as he was making his maiden speech but, of course, I must be subservient to the Chair's wise decision. I have three minutes left. Quite simply it would be impossible to reply to six pages of comments in three minutes.

First, I thank all the participants for the various points which they made. Deputy J. Bruton, representing the Fine Gael Party, spoke about the early drop outs and the need to recognise them about middle way throughout the primary system and the need for external testing. Much of what he said struck a chord with me. We will await the curriculum review in November. He also referred to the reduction in the pupilteacher ratio, parental interaction and home/school contact. He wanted the Minister for Education to be responsible for training programmes, especially those coming within the ambit of the FÁS agency, and spoke about the idea of education vouchers, the need for greater oral components in language teaching, the Canadian system of teacher assessment throughout a child's period in school and the use of existing facilities rather than building costly third level facilities when existing facilities could be used throughout the year. Last year he Kindly sent me a survey which I read with great interest at the time. Please, accept that I am not patronising Deputy Bruton but I find his ideas excellent. I have always read and listened to what he said on educational matters. Quite obviously he has not just an informed but a very deep interest in the whole subject.

Deputy M. Higgins, representing the Labour Party, talked about the need for an education Act — we will know if that is recommended in the autumn — the need for political and social studies, the need for a genuine curriculum debate and the wish — which came through to him from parents — that there would be a basic core of good general education for children. I could not agree with him more on that. He found fault with my deliberations on the demographic changes. It seems rather odd; if I do not plan for changes I am criticised and if I do I am criticised. I cannot win.

The Deputy also referred to parental involvement. I am glad to inform him that the psychological services were referred to in my speech but perhaps he did not note them because I had to hurry through certain sections. Beginning in September we will have the setting up of the long awaited — 15 years — pilot projects, spanning many Governments in the schools psychological service. It remains for the two areas to be chosen. There will be a three year pilot project, which will be evaluated and monitored along the way. He welcomed the mature women's student grant. I take issue with him, and like Lady Galahad, I rise to support my Department. They are not jaded, chauvinistic, sexist and authoritarian.

Deputy Mac Giolla said that the Programme for National Recovery was lies — that was the word he used. Let me put on the record that it certainly is not lies and I decry the use of the word. Often debates of this kind are fora for hyperbole in one shape or another. His regard for the VEC system is well known and I share it. Beginning in September 90 per cent of students in third level colleges will be in receipt of full funding which we have been able to arrange between our Department and Europe. Whatever dispute is between The Workers' Party and the general secretary of one of the teachers unions is not a matter for debate here, but is a matter between themselves.

Deputy Deenihan took issue with Deputy Frank Fahey. May I explain that Deputy Fahey had an appointment, which I knew about earlier, and had to leave.

Deputy Deenihan talked about school building. The method by which I have gone about the school building programme has been very costly but we have managed to build a number of them. There was no need for what was going on at primary schools. We are building more schools now than when we had double the budget because we provide slimmed down versions — decent classrooms, decent toilets and decent yards. That is what is required. I provided 60 last year, 60 this year and I hope to provide 60 next year. Before I finish in the Department I hope to have wiped out the primary school building problem.

There is no doubt that there remains a problem at second level and I have to tackle it. I do not have the information on the North-South exchange programmes but I will get the information for the Deputy. I checked the funding of political parties following the media reports at the weekend. The youth development officers — or whatever their title — were brought into the Department and asked to give an account of what they are doing with the money. It is as simple as that. Surely one can ask for an account of where the money is going and what it is achieving. We want to see if the title "education officer" in the various political parties is being adhered to. We are asking these officers to account for their movements and the money they are getting. The Deputy suggested that the £3.5 million should go back into the ordinary budgetary allocation. I do not hold out much hope of that happening. We are very glad to have the increased allocation from the national lottery.

Deputy John Browne, an old friend of mine from Seanad days, referred to the pupil-teacher ratio, and said he will be watching developments. So will we, and we have given a commitment to that end. We have set up a forum for the temporary teachers in the primary schools and in the post-primary schools and the problem is almost solved.

Deputy Cotter referred to remedial teachers and that too will engage my attention.

What about school transport?

Go raibh maith agat, a Aire. I must now put the question. The question is: "That the Estimates for the Office for the Minister for Education, First-Level Education, Second-Level and Further Education and Third-Level and Further Education for the year ending 31 December 1989 are hereby agreed to."

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 77; Níl, 72.

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Brady, Gerard.
  • Brady, Vincent.
  • Brennan, Mattie.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Browne, John (Wexford).
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Calleary, Seán.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Clohessy, Peadar.
  • Collins, Gerard.
  • Connoly, Ger.
  • Coughlan, Mary Theresa.
  • Cullimore, Séamus.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Fahey, Jackie.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
  • Flynn, Pádraig.
  • Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Charles J.
  • Hillery, Brian.
  • Hilliard, Colm.
  • Hyland, Liam.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Kelly, Laurence.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Lyons, Denis.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • McDaid, Jim.
  • McEllistrim, Tom.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Morley, P.J.
  • Noonan, Michael J.
  • (Limerick West).
  • O'Connell, John.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Keeffe, Ned.
  • O'Kennedy, Michael.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Malley, Desmond J.
  • O'Rourke, Mary.
  • O'Toole, Martin Joe.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Quill, Máirín.
  • Reynolds, Albert.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Stafford, John.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Tunney, Jim.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Wilson, John P.
  • Woods, Michael.
  • Wyse, Pearse.

Níl

  • Ahearn, Therese.
  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Barnes, Monica.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Barry, Peter.
  • Belton, Louis J.
  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
  • Bruton, John.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Doyle, Joe.
  • Dukes, Alan.
  • Durkan, Bernard.
  • Enright, Thomas W.
  • Farrelly, John V.
  • Fennell, Nuala.
  • Ferris, Michael.
  • Finnucane, Michael.
  • FitzGerald, Garret.
  • Garland, Roger.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Harte, Paddy.
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kemmy, Jim.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lee, Pat.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • McCartan, Pat.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McGahon, Brendan.
  • Carey, Donal.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Connor, John.
  • Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
  • Cotter, Bill.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Crowley, Frank.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, Austin.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • De Rossa, Proinsias.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • Mac Giolla, Tomás.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • Mitchell, Gay.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Nealon, Ted.
  • O'Brien, Fergus.
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • O'Shea, Brian.
  • O'Sullivan, Gerry.
  • O'Sullivan, Toddy.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reynolds, Gerry.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheehan, Patrick J.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Spring, Dick.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Taylor, Mervyn.
  • Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Yates, Ivan.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies V. Brady and D. Ahern; Níl, Deputies J. Higgins and Boylan.
Question declared carried.
Sitting suspended at 1.40 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.