Deputy Brian Lenihan was in possession and he had ten minutes remaining. However, as the Deputy is not present, I call Deputy Perry.
Regional Technical Colleges (Amendment) Bill, 1999: Second Stage (Resumed).
Many people have asked why children fail, but perhaps it is more relevant to ask why Governments have failed so many of our children. Our efforts to tackle educational disadvantage are disjointed and lack coherent vision. We in Ireland are too quick to congratulate ourselves on the excellence of our education system. Indeed, the Minister for Education and Science appears reluctant even to engage in the emerging debate about quality in education.
The truth is that we have steadfastly refused to shine a light into the dark corners where some nasty surprises lurk. Some harsh realities loom out of the shadows. For example, of 24 OECD countries, Ireland is fifth from the bottom in terms of reading scores at age 14. Three times as many children have severe reading difficulties in deprived city areas as in the rest of the country and more than one in six school leavers cannot carry out even the most basic literacy tasks.
It is not an accident that people are largely unaware of these problems. It is a direct consequence of the fact that the Government collects no information about some of the most crucial aspects of our education. For example, the Department of Education and Science does not collect information about literacy and numeracy in schools, truancy and suspensions-expulsions from school or the special needs of children which require appropriate resources. There is no serious body of research in Ireland on the effectiveness of different policy initiatives to tackle educational disadvantage. No real assessment is available on the designation of schools as disadvantaged, although 1,600 teachers are employed in them, and on the allocation of remedial teachers. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that policy makers are fumbling along in the dark instead of basing proposals on hard analysis. The education debate in Ireland almost invariably centres on outputs, not outcomes; on pupil-teacher ratios, capitation and ex-quota staffing rather than on literacy, numeracy, pupil progress and course drop-outs. This focus inevitably overlooks questions of quality. The effectiveness with which resources are deployed is as important as the quantity.
Quality improvement is the great challenge for every modern organisation – instead of repeating what it knows, it seeks to become a learning organisation. This involves systematic analysis of what an organisation does, benchmarking against others and re-arranging work so that the organisation operates as a more cohesive team to improve results. This process seeks to engage people in a new way by encouraging innovation, working as a team and taking responsibility for improvement.
The education system has even more reason to put quality improvement procedures in place but it has been surprisingly slow to do so. Such procedures are stoutly resisted in quarters where one would expect an impetus for reform. We shall never get to grips with educational disadvantage unless we are willing to face up honestly to the reasons some children find enormous obstacles both within and outside the school.
Despite its limitations, an examination of inputs nonetheless reveals Government priorities over the years. Spending on a third level student is more than three and a half times that on a primary pupil, in stark contrast to the rest of the EU. Some 54,000 primary pupils are in classes of over 35, which the Department describes as the "maximum", although there have been improvements in that area. One in three of those in need of remedial teaching gets none at primary level and this rises to two out of three at second level. The entire amount devoted to measures to help tackle educational disadvantage represents less than 5 per cent of the education budget at first and second level.
Official efforts to tackle educational disadvantage have been disjointed and applied in an ad hoc manner when resources were available rather than as part of a coherent vision. It is not surprising to find that education has been singularly unsuccessful in levelling life chances in Ireland. In fact, it reinforces inequality. Pupils from low income families do substantially worse at each of the significant stages in the education system compared to the children of top earners. Pupils from low income families are 16 times more likely to leave school without sitting the leaving certificate, four times more likely to get insufficient points to go to third level, and three times less likely to get to third level, having achieved sufficient points.
This Government's declaration that primary education would get priority has been slow to be realised. Third level has manifestly obtained preference and this year the scope for resource improvement at primary level was halved, because the number of teachers released by falling numbers halved. The Minister's present approach, far from giving primary education priority, will see resources for initiative in the sector progressively dry up as the decline of pupil numbers comes to an end.
The voices which get attention in the education debate are rarely those of parents and never of those whose children are likely to drop out early. The voices which dominate the debate are those of the providers. This is not to say they do not have a valid case to make, but no one can expect a union, whose job is to win better conditions for its members, to be able to tell the whole story. The resolution of contentious issues in the Education Bill shows how unequal the partnership in education is. Parents lost on the complaint procedures, in getting a role in pilot school evaluation projects, on the appointment of school boards and on the right to an annual report on their schools.
The quality of education is fast becoming the dominant factor in the success of nations. Modern workers must be capable of continuous adaptation. The ability to work in teams and to embrace change is the most prized asset of an employee. The successful school must recognise these realities. It must seek to transform itself to meet the needs of its pupils. This challenge is greatest for children who experience difficulty in relating successfully to the education system. We cannot continue to allow one in five pupils drop out early.
Our highly centralised Department of Education and Science metes out resources on the basis of systematic rules. It is not capable of the bold response to the particular problems of a school in a deprived urban area. This must change. The Department must make an act of faith in the capacity of the local community to devise models to confront its needs. Resources must be freed up for schools which forge new forms of partnership to tackle educational disadvantage.
A wide gulf separates the early school leaver from the conventional school population. Surveys show that none of them regrets the decision to leave because his or her experience was almost invariably negative. One cannot cross any gulf in small steps, least of all this one; it takes bold strides. This is particularly apt to the challenge of tackling educational disadvantage. The Government has a lot to do in this area.
I welcome the expansion of the institute of technology sector by the provision of the new IT in Blanchardstown. This is a recognition of the pivotal role played by the Regional Technical College-IT sector over the past three decades. The growth of the tiger economy is due to a number of factors, one of which is the timely provision of a skilled workforce to meet the emerging industries of the 20th and 21st centuries. It is appropriate that the western suburbs of Dublin be provided with the training and educational facility of an institute of technology.
In the bigger picture, however, the Government must take into account the excessive growth in Dublin and the need to create counter balances in other parts of the country. This has become a major issue for companies intending to locate in Ireland as firms are finding that staff are more difficult to get in Dublin. Housing is too expensive and transport is a real difficulty. Such companies are considering the benefits of provincial towns as an alternative. The recently published Fitzpatrick report on the Border, midland and western regions illustrates the advantages of focusing on alternative growth centres. On a line from Dublin to Galway, there is a marked lack of development in the midlands and west. The report strongly recommends the creation of two growth centres, Sligo and Athlone, and the upgrading of their institutes of technology.
In recent months the Government has put huge investment into Sligo IT. The new engineering block has great potential for creating jobs in the college's immediate catchment area. It is an attraction for industrialists coming to the area. The Fianna Fáil director of elections in Connacht-Ulster, the Minister of State, Deputy Ó Cuív, said the election sent out a clear signal. There is a huge divide between the west and east coasts and Mrs. Dana Rosemary Scallon had put across a simple message which politicians, particularly the Government, must note. The Minister said on radio that there were many difficulties on the peripheries of the region.
Areas close to the Border have suffered for a generation on account of the perceived dangers of and their proximity to the Troubles. It is time to address this with a major investment in the north-west as part of the Government's macro-planning to alleviate the gross over-development of the east coast. The catalyst effect of having a university in a regional centre such as Sligo should be taken on as a major thrust of the Government. If the west coast gets proper structures and services a huge amount of work can be done. While the new Blanchardstown IT must be welcomed, it is somewhat surprising that new colleges should not automatically become institutes of technology, rather than legislation having to be introduced for that purpose.
Under the Vocational Education Act, 1930, 38 vocational education committees were set up to establish and maintain a suitable system of "continuation education" and to supply or aid the supply of technical education in their respective regions. The number of committees has been reduced to 33. Recently I attended a graduation ceremony in the local community college. A teacher mentioned the three types of leaving certificate and said it was regrettable that students were taken into apprenticeship courses without a leaving certificate. vocational education committees are doing a lot of work in the skills area, but they find it difficult to get students to do the leaving certificate applied course because FÁS and other State bodies are taking students out of it. It is very important for students to finish those courses as it is much more sensible to spend another year or year and a half in school rather than taking on an apprenticeship at 16 years. The Minister should look into making it a requirement of apprenticeship training that students be far clearer about the course they are undertaking by doing the leaving certificate applied if they are in vocational schools. Vocational schools find it difficult to keep students once they have done their junior certificate; they drop out and take up apprenticeships. This must be addressed as it is a serious concern for vocational education committees. They are competing with the apprenticeship boards for students.
In 1979, 49 adult education organisers were appointed to newly created posts to develop adult education services at local level. These organisers are responsible for organising adult education services in VEC areas. Their specific functions include identifying the educational needs of adults, co-ordinating existing activities and liaising with schools and colleges, and with community and economic interests in promoting adult education activity. They are doing a fantastic job with evening classes and lifelong learning activities. Some VEC colleges have degree courses for secretarial skills and it is wonderful that there is now a possibility that their courses will be accredited and that students may be funded when attending these colleges rather than institutes of technology. That is a wonderful idea. Adult education boards were established on an ad hoc basis by vocational education committees in 1984. Their purpose is to draw up and administer a programme of adult education for the VEC areas. The boards receive a separate allocation of funds for the specific purpose of establishing courses in literacy and community education. I appeal to the Minister to look at this area. There are great facilities and committed teachers giving fantastic value for money.
There are 78 literacy organisers, two thirds of whom are employed on a part-time temporary basis. Their role is to organise the provision of literacy and numeracy services, co-ordinate the work of voluntary and paid tutors and match trainees with tutors. Overall, an estimated 85 per cent of tuition is provided by volunteers, which shows huge commitment. However, in certain cases the vocational education committees are the poor relation, particularly when they do not amalgamate with community schools. There can be much politicising on boards and competition can exist between secondary schools with massive numbers and VEC colleges for classification. In years to come this will have to be examined.
The vocational education committees operate projects in co-operation with other Government Departments and local bodies and participate actively in the work of area based partnerships, which are doing great work. The partnerships are a very successful vehicle for job creation and retraining. The vocational education committees are responsible for delivery of the adult literacy and community education scheme, the special initiatives for disadvantaged adults scheme, VTOS, the education components of the prison education service, Youthreach, the out of school programmes for unqualified early school leavers as well as the network of junior traveller edu cation centres and senior traveller training centres. In addition, 92 per cent of all PLC provision is in the VEC sector. As part of this work, vocational education committees engage in joint programmes and extensive interaction with such agencies as FÁS, area partnerships, youth services, probation, health and welfare services, the juvenile liaison service, schools and a range of community and voluntary organisations.
It is very disturbing that approximately 14,000 students, or 21 per cent of the cohort, leave school every year without attempting the leaving certificate. Many of these students take up apprenticeships or take up hotel training, which is very important, but they should have the maturity of spending another year and a half within the VEC structure. That would make them far better qualified for life. It is sad to take people out after just three years in second level, particularly when the facilities and teachers are there and students are being sought. There may be a huge demand for students from CERT and other bodies but some VEC schools have only 20 students in fourth and fifth year. Given the teaching staff in these schools, we are not getting a return on the input of the Department of Education and Science.
Approximately 6 to 8 per cent of pupils in the school system have severe reading difficulties and it is the same figure for moderate reading difficulties. This problem is twice as bad in disadvantaged urban areas. However, despite the concentration of disadvantage in urban areas, 60 per cent of children who are educationally disadvantaged are in rural areas or small towns.
Education has become the gatekeeper to a person's progress. Poor education slams many doors. Students who leave school without qualification are ten times more likely to be unemployed than third level graduates. The position is even worse among people with disabilities, with an 80 per cent unemployment rate being experienced. The spending by the State on a child who drops out in the early years of secondary school is only about one third that devoted to the education of a graduate and the State pays for this under investment later. Compared to a graduate, the average early school leaver receives £26,000 more in social welfare payments and pays £70,000 less in tax revenue over the first 20 years. Early school leavers are more vulnerable to sliding into a life on the margins dogged by crime or substance abuse and placing a very heavy burden on the community in both economic and social terms.
I urge the Minister to consider the suggestion that it should be mandatory for students to finish the leaving certificate applied before taking up apprenticeships in particular. A vocational school principal raised that point with me.
This legislation will see the creation of a new institute of technology in west Dublin. I was brought up in the greater Blanchardstown area, so I know a great deal about the needs of that large community. This infrastructu ral development is long overdue and I am proud that my party has supported and driven this decision, despite the wavering and significant delays encountered by those looking for an institute of technology when dealing with other Governments. Our Government has delivered on this necessary development for that community.
I note Deputy Perry's comments on the west and I welcome his general comments on education. It is more fully understood today than it was even ten years ago that education is the key to one's future. It is the key to attainment and advancement in this society. That was not always the case but it is now and is probably one of the most welcome developments we have seen in Ireland in the last 20 years. The hunger for education among the population is second to none and the educational attainment of the Irish people has created the prosperity we now enjoy. As Deputy Perry said, lack of educational attainment by the last 20 per cent of our population, who are experiencing various degrees of disadvantage, is a big problem. Many Members represent areas with high unemployment and disadvantage. This problem cannot be cured in the short-term. The low level of educational attainment is a problem in disadvantaged areas and the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea, is preparing a ground breaking Green Paper on adult education. I surprised some senior citizens in Tallaght yesterday when I told them of the adult literacy problem in Ireland. They had assumed, given the great advances made by our society in the past 25 years, that all young people could read and write. Many of the 7 per cent of our population who are unemployed, lack basic literacy skills. Education is the benchmark of progress in society. Deputy Joe Higgins may assert that class is still the essential mark of difference, but social theorists have moved from that old Marxist perception and now hold the view that educational attainment is what designates a person as advantaged or disadvantaged. The advertising industry increasingly designates target groups on the basis of educational attainment. This indicates an important shift in thinking in liberal democratic states.
With regard to Deputy Perry's remarks about Dana Rosemary Scallon's success in the European elections, the west has been left behind and there is an eastern tilt in our economy. This imbalance was addressed by the Government in the debate on Objective One status. The west has disadvantaged itself by concentrating too much on the question of Objective One and on European subsidies. The west and the Border counties would achieve more by lobbying actively for the development of the road and rail infrastructure. Good roads will have a greater effect on western prosperity than handouts from central Government or Europe. Much was achieved by the two Delors packages of Structural Funds. We live on a very small island where no place is more than 70 miles from the sea. We should aim to reduce all journey times within Ireland to a maximum of one and a half hours. If that were achieved we would have no difficulty bringing investment and educational facilities to peripheral areas. An executive from a multinational company should be able to reach any part of Ireland within an hour and a half of landing at Dublin, Shannon or Belfast airports. Attempts have been made to reduce peripherality. The IDA, in its latest annual report, declares the authority's policy to redirect investment to peripheral regions. We must not concentrate physical and educational resources in the Dublin and eastern region.
I welcome the institute of technology for Blanchardstown. Some, perhaps like Deputy Currie, may feel a Deputy who represents Tallaght should not welcome the establishment of a rival institution in the west of County Dublin. Deputy Currie knows Tallaght welcomes the institute of technology in Blanchardstown. All of west Dublin cannot be served by the institute of technology in Tallaght although, when it was first planned, the policy makers thought it could serve the needs of the entire west Dublin connurbation. Population analysts could not have predicted the massive growth of the past four or five years.
There is an early plan for four institutes of technology in the Dublin area. Notwithstanding my comments about the need for development in the west, Dublin has a greater requirement of third level places than any other area in the country. The institute of technology in Tallaght is obliged to turn applicants away.
The Government has given the institutes of technology greater status. They have been given a new role and a psychological upgrade. In the past regional technology colleges were regarded, in a snobbish way, as second class educational institutions. That is no longer the case. The new institutes of technology are bringing practical qualifications and jobs to students who have already come through the school system. They are a long overdue addition to our economy and society and I hope they continue to develop. Linkages between educational attainment and employment must be developed.
We have neglected the question of lifelong learning. The Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science, Deputy O'Dea, will address this matter in his Green Paper. We must foster the idea that education does not end when one leaves school or a third level institution. Industry must be persuaded to spend money on training and on developing the human capital which drives successful companies. Ireland will never be a low wage economy and we will never build economic success on that basis. I support the Government's introduction of the minimum wage and I do not agree with lobbyists who claim a minimum wage will make us uncompetitive. The introduction of a minimum wage will lift people's aspirations and oblige industry to invest in the development of its human capital. The institutes of technology are ideally placed to fulfil that function. It is important that linkages between them and industry are continually strengthened because knowledge based industries will bring about economic progress.
In the last general election campaign I advocated increased investment in the institute of technology in Tallaght and I am glad the Minister for Education and Science has sanctioned the spending of £12 million towards that end. At its inception in 1992 the institute had 900 students and there are now 2,500. We need to invest more in the institutes of technology and we need to do so faster than at present. I do not say that as a criticism of the Government's policies, but by way of exhortation.
Five or ten years ago all the economic predictions about population growth and our success were wrong in terms of what was required. Investement has been sanctioned for the institutes of technology, including Tallaght, and they are slowly developing a new infrastructure and expanding their capacity for students who are hungry to learn. Unfortunately, such colleges cannot take students in quickly enough and must turn them away. Blanchardstown will be catering for 1,000 students and while that is a great start it will not be enough. Within five or ten years that figure could increase by up to tenfold.
There were plans originally to have four institutes of technology in county Dublin and there are now three: Tallaght, Blanchardstown and Dún Laoghaire. We must build up the capacity for part-time programmes in these institutes. The Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea, is fully committed to this in the Green Paper. I recall that years ago, when I studied at University College, Dublin, the physical infrastructure of that university lay idle throughout the summer and to a large extent in the evenings. The UCD library was a very quiet place in the evenings, but that is no longer the case. We must build part-time education programmes into institutes of technology because increasingly people wish to return to work. Retired people and women who have been working in the home and have reared their families, want to study and re-enter the workforce. We are not doing enough to encourage such people. They should be encouraged because there are huge skills shortages in the economy.
One of the oddest features of our country is that one is more likely to be served in a tobacconist's or newsagent's shop by a young person, while in developed economies on the continent predominantly older, more mature people are working in such low-skilled retail jobs. It is very odd, given the economic success we are achieving with the Celtic tiger, that we still have young people working in such retail sector jobs. We need to examine that situation and encourage older people to get back into the work force to undertake such tasks. That is the pattern in other countries.
Part-time education programmes are very important. I welcome the fact that the Minister for Education and Science has sanctioned dedicated staff for this purpose at the Institute of Technology in Tallaght. That represents a seismic shift for the Department whose officials up to now have taken the view that one cannot sanction specific staff for part-time evening programmes. That is now being done and it is an indication that the Department is moving with the times, and realising the huge benefits that part-time and adult education provides for people who are not only trying to get a job but are also trying to improve themselves intellectually.
The Institute of Technology at Tallaght is awaiting Government approval for its campus development plan. It is an amazing fact that Tallaght started in 1992 with 900 students and now has 2,500. The plan envisages an intake of 5,000 student places, which is an enormous development in a short period. It shows that there is an enormous hunger for further learning and education in the new suburbs which both I and Deputy Currie serve.
One would imagine that a large institute like the one at Tallaght would take students from all over Dublin. I am reliably informed, however, that 93 per cent of the student intake comes from the adjacent postal districts of Dublin 22, 24, 12, 16 and the county Dublin area of Lucan where Deputy Currie resides. While the general perception is that Tallaght is serving the needs of the whole Dublin area, the institute is trying to cater for the demand for education in its immediate surrounding areas. That is a remarkable fact.
The south western corner of Dublin is fast becoming a city itself, with the remarkable City West business campus which ultimately will employ 6,000 people. It will have a huge impact in bringing skilled jobs to that area, in addition to which it will have a big impact on the Institute of Technology in Tallaght. Some of the world's leading digital technology companies are based in the region which will become a hub for such activity.
We should go ahead with a second airport for Dublin at Baldonnell and the Minister for Public Enterprise should examine that matter which would be a positive development for the region. Such infrastructure is needed to build upon the success of City West, the Institute of Technology and Tallaght Hospital.
Deputy Perry gave credit where it was due – to the Government's focus on education. The Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Martin, is one of the most successful Ministers in the Government. Many people might say that it is easy to be successful when one has the support of a Taoiseach and a Government that are putting money into one's hands. The Minister is playing a developmental role, as is the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea.
The Minister of State should examine seriously the issue of literacy. The country is in a period of full employment. Although the unemployment rate is 7 per cent the real percentage is of the order of 5 per cent and many people cannot get work because they are illiterate. It is a serious problem. When conducting my constituency clin ics I am surprised at the number of times I have been confronted by this phenomenon. I have asked people to write their names and addresses in my notebook, but they sheepishly hand it back, asking me to write down the details instead because they cannot do so. The problem of illiteracy must be addressed. This society cannot progress while leaving 15 to 20 per cent of the population behind who are either illiterate, unemployed or uneducated.
I wholeheartedly welcome this Bill as an honest step towards the establishment of an institute of technology at Blanchardstown. We have come a long way since the idea of a regional technical college was first mooted for Blanchardstown. I was involved in other matters elsewhere at the time, but I understand that the proposal was first made as far back as 1985. It was cancelled in 1987 by the Government, before being revived in the early 1990s. I hope we are now well on the way towards its establishment.
I understand the Minister's reference to false dawns, but not his references to "much inflated rhetoric" and "no real commitment". Why does he not tell us specifically who he is accusing of repeated rhetoric and lack of commitment? Neither do I understand the references in his speech where he stated that
Some people have, over the past year, sought every opportunity to question this project, to seek out short-term publicity by misrepresenting or ignoring the level of commitment and dynamism behind the project. The bottom line is that we have delivered the funding and support which was missing when Blanchardstown was fast entering mythology as one of those projects which was promised at election time but would never appear.
I hope the Minister or the Minister of State will be more specific about those very serious allegations. Who are these people who were responsible for these dastardly acts? I have not heard anyone questioning the project.
When we left office instead of the Blanchardstown institute fast entering mythology, it was becoming a reality on the ground. That is the factual position. The facts are that it was during the term of office of the rainbow coalition, in which I was privileged to be a Minister of State at the Department of Education, that a decision was made to have an institute and that it should be located in Blanchardstown.
I listened with interest to my colleague, Deputy Richard Bruton, who told us that it could have been located elsewhere. It did not follow inevitably that it would be located in Blanchardstown and I and other colleagues fought hard to make sure it was established there. Under that Government the exact location of the institute was decided and a strategic planning group was established. Having regard to some of the comments made by the Minister, maybe I should remind Members, particularly members of the Government, of the terms of reference for the strategic planning group which were announced in May 1997.
The terms of reference state:
The task of the Group would be to prepare a strategic plan for the college, having regard to the existing provisions in the region; to advise on the specific needs and functions of the college; and to advise on the sources of funding for its development and operation.
Specifically the Group should address the following issues:
(a)Policies, objectives and strategies;
(b)Courses to be provided/selected on the basis of appropriate criteria;
(c)Student numbers/courses, entry standards, qualifications, research and industry support;
(d)Areas of special focus and excellence;
(e)Industry links, support services, research and consultancy;
(g)Funding sources – public, private and EU, (Current and Capital);
(h)Provision for governance, executive/ management, staff structures academic and administrative).
The Group should also consider proposals/submissions for potential partnerships or co-operative arrangements etc. with other institutions in the Dublin area.
The findings of the Steering Committee on the Future Development of Higher Education should be regarded as the policy framework for the strategic plan.
The Group will report not later than six months from the date of the first meeting.
They are the terms of reference that were given by the then Minister for Education, Niamh Bhreathnach, when she established the strategic planning group.
Other instructions were given and suggestions made which, to a large extent, have been followed through. It was envisaged that the new Blanchardstown Regional Technical College would develop a flexible framework related to regional and national requirements with an emphasis on specialist higher education for leading edge industries in the region; upgrading specialist skills to higher technical/technological levels; continuing education and the needs of mature students; short or part-time courses to meet specific occupation needs; in-service courses, retraining and up-dating of skills in third level education and special needs arising from educational disadvantage or disability.
It was also envisaged that the proposed new institute would provide relevant education and training responsive to the economic and social needs both locally and nationally. Its aim would be to design and deliver a range of high quality courses for full-time and part-time students to certificate and diploma levels initially and to degree level in areas of excellence to be determined through development. The courses would focus on the needs of the human resource requirements of leading edge high technology industries and on the languages, business, science and engineering fields.
Flexibility in the provision of courses would include co-operative education with work experience, modularisation and credit accumulation. The learning strategy should be aimed at guiding students towards the levels of knowledge and skills acquisition for a variety of areas of working life. Inherent in this approach would be the essential attitudinal development for increasing motivation and for promoting self-management, critical analysis, decision making, problem solving and entrepreneurship.
Having regard to the growing importance of the EU, cross-cultural and global trading, the proposed college should also place special emphasis on producing graduates with proficiency in EU languages and a sound knowledge of social, cultural, economic and business practices throughout the world. This dynamic should be developed and an active basis for relevance should be maintained through a multiplicity of links with public and private enterprise, educational institutions and research and development, especially in regional, national and EU contexts.
Essential links should include those required for the education of workers to the highest international standards; the development of co-operative education with provision for work experience for both students and lecturers; lecturer exchange with enterprises including advice and support for in-company training; consultancy and joint R&D projects with enterprises and information, knowledge and technology transfer.
Concern for those with special needs should be a feature of the mission and activities of the new college. Appropriate measures should be introduced to facilitate their entry and to co-ordinate and channel necessary support, including research, to ensure that they can optimise their potential for achievement.
The courses in the new regional technical college should be designed to take account of the portability of qualifications. This approach should ensure that due account will be taken of courses and qualifications, particularly in the institutions of the EU so that transfer, recognition and progression will be readily facilitiated.
I referred to those recommendations to indicate what was contemplated by those in the previous Administration who were responsible for setting up the strategic planning group and to underline the extent to which that which the Minister claimed for himself in his speech yester day had been done and was a commitment of his predecessors. I do not understand why the Minister should talk in these terms. Why do Ministers do that? I have often wondered about the attitude of Ministers from all parties, including Ministers with whom I served, who were not prepared to give credit to their predecessors and would only mention them if they could blame them. What is the reason for such begrudgery, pettiness and small-mindedness? They pretend that credit for successful projects rests entirely with themselves even when a project – as projects do – span two or more Administrations. It is like a builder putting a roof on a house and pretending no one else was responsible for the rest of the work. I find this attitude particularly incomprehensible and reprobate in a young Minister, one whom we are told will represent the new Fianna Fáil of the future. I do not understand it. I point the finger at all Administrations and some Ministers in all Administrations who have had such a petty attitude.
I was present at the opening of the new Garda station in Blanchardstown, which was officially opened by the Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue. During his speech he made no reference to his predecessors. He made no reference to the part played by the former Minister, Deputy Owen, or the former Ministers of State, Joan Burton or myself. Everyone recognises the reason that Garda station was built so quickly owed something to the fact that the three of us were Ministers in the vicinity of Blanchardstown. Are we so small-minded and so petty that matters of that nature cannot be referred to? The Minister said he expects the new campus to be completed in 2000 or 2001. I hope it is – although these projects have a habit of being extended – and that the official opening will take place in 2000 or 2001. However, the current Minister may not be the one who officiates at the official opening. He would have the right to be annoyed if the contribution he has made was ignored by the Minister who officiates at the opening in 2000 or 2001. If a different Minister is in office, I hope he or she will not be petty and openly admit the Minister, Deputy Martin, played a part, in the same way I would expect the Minister to say previous Ministers made a contribution. I do not understand this small-minded attitude.
I agree with the Minister that it is not often a Minister for Education and Science gets the opportunity to Iaunch a project capable of changing the educational and social landscape so dramatically and that the new institute in Blanchardstown is one of those projects, although he should have said he is one of those responsible. This is one of the reasons I am so strongly in favour of the proposal. The Minister referred to the innovative role of the institute, which was included in the original terms of reference given to the policy committee. He said:
It will help to meet the skills needs of emerging industries. It will also devote itself to improving the level of participation in third level education and training in north west Dublin. This is an area with one of the lowest participation rates in the country, a situation which we cannot allow to continue. The institute will only have achieved its mission if it succeeds in making a significant impact on the level of participation in the region.
I agree with those sentiments. The new institute will be judged by the extent to which it enables that participation.
I strongly believe in educational opportunity as a means of breaking out of social disadvantage, partly because of my experience. Except for the much maligned eleven plus in the North, I would not have received a secondary education and certainly not a university one. I do not agree with the eleven plus. It should not be decided that some children are good and others are bad, that some are to be successful and others are to be failures at 11 years old. However, it gave an opportunity to those of my background to receive an education. On my visits to third level educational institutions in this State, I am often struck by the fact that the majority who attend them are from privileged backgrounds. When I hear Members talk about their education experience, I am often reminded that they also come from backgrounds of some advantage.
Social disadvantage is becoming an issue which could cause serious problems if we do not take the necessary measures to tackle it. Some candidates in the recent local elections claimed that if people voted for them they would ensure their houses are not broken into and that drugs will not be peddled in their areas. Those promises are attractive to people who are harassed and intimidated by gangsters in their areas. However, those ordinary decent people should remember that by trying to get a monkey off their backs they may end up with a gorilla. We must be careful about this. Educational opportunity is the way out of this disadvantage, which we should continue to reiterate.
I visited the Vatican some years ago and wondered how all the jewels and wealth were accumulated over the centuries before coming across the slums and the obvious poverty a couple of hundred yards away. I wondered whose responsibility it ought to be to do something about that. Having visited the wonderful new town centre in Blanchardstown or the new Liffey Valley Centre, one is often reminded of similar deprivation and social disadvantage close to those areas of relative opulence.
I hope that will not be the case when the wonderful new campus is opened at Blanchardstown and that it will be a symbol of the end of second class citizenship in our State. If so, it will have performed an enormous role, not only in the Blanchardstown area and Dublin 15 but in doing something about social disadvantage and deprivation which is a real threat to political life.
I join the Minister in complimenting Mr. Donal Connell of 3 COM and the other members of the establishment board. They willingly gave their time and made a major contribution to this desirable facility and project. It reminds me of an interview given by Val Doonican when he had a couple of songs in the hit parade and was asked how he liked being an overnight success . He said it took only about 17 years.
We have long awaited the possibility of making a third level facility available to the widest possible number of young people. This project dates back to when I was first elected in 1977, eight general elections ago, when Blanchardstown was a rural village. Education has been the biggest issue during those years. A young student from Trinity College was in the House today interviewing Members. His aim is to interview 40 or 50 Members with a view to writing a thesis on our priorities. When I was asked that question I had no hesitation, looking back over those years, in answering "education". I started out in Blanchardstown with meetings about a primary school, other than the original village school. Today in Blanchardstown and the greater Dublin 15 area there is a mushrooming network of primary and post-primary schools.
My recollection of the beginnings of this project is that the first steering committee report from the Higher Education Authority recommended placing it further over on the north fringe. I asked to meet the Higher Education Authority. Colleagues, such as Deputy Currie, and other elected members in the area came together in a spirit of broad consensus on what we thought was best for our constituency. We did not just do so because it was our constituency but because we believed the relative demographics of Blanchardstown and the north fringe would justify selecting Blanchardstown, which was the second choice.
We convinced the Higher Education Authority at that meeting that, as I had suggested, it should meet the planners from Fingal County Council to get a clear understanding of the current and projected population of Blanchardstown. That turned out to be a very worthwhile exercise for the Higher Education Authority. Fingal County Council was able to articulate in great detail the potential build-up and age profile of the projected 100,000 plus population of Blanchardstown.
I have no hesitation in paying warm compliments to my parliamentary colleagues and Ministers on their contributions. The then Minister for Education, Niamh Bhreathnach, met us and other members of the establishment board during the summer recess some years ago. We made an urgent case to her that we needed a specialised institute of technology that would produce the sort of courses which, thankfully, were detailed in the Minister's speech – electronics, computer engineering, information technology, business studies, information technology with French and information technology with German. Those were the specific subjects identified by the establishment board.
Academic qualifications are desirable across a broad range of subjects. However, due to the success of the IDA and Fingal County Council in attracting companies such as IBM, Intel, Hewlett Packard and others to the wider area, there is an enormous base of job opportunities for young people. The then Minister, Niamh Bhreathnach, played a key part in making third level education available to young people. The then Minister of State, Deputy Currie, also played a part.
We laid the foundation for what we have today. This has always been a collective effort on the part of public representatives in Dublin West. We may disagree on policy and Deputy Joe Higgins may disagree with us in terms of ideology, but everybody wants to see projects such as this succeed and for third level education to be made available to the widest possible cross-section of young people.
I agree it is disturbing that, although this will be a wonderful project, there is a large young population in parts of west Blanchardstown or north Clondalkin to whom this type of facility will not be available. That issue is probably for another day and another Minister. However, today the ESRI produced a report on housing estates. Deputy Currie referred to the management, standard and quality of life in some of those housing estates in Blanchardstown, Clondalkin, Lucan and Tallaght.
This is a welcome day. The facility is within its budget of £20 million and the architectural work is under way. Temporary accommodation, which was given urgent priority, accommodates 450 pupils. Eventually, the new campus will accommodate 900 pupils. It is very welcome that the site was changed because if the project had been built on the original site at the town centre its potential for expansion would have been severely limited. It is now being built on a 60 acre site. I do not know the detailed demographics but I think 900 places will not be enough, given the intended further rise in the population of the Dublin 15 area, particularly in Clondalkin and Lucan.
This project, Tallaght Regional Technical College and the other third level facilities will give young people in Clondalkin, Lucan and their environs access to third level education. With the new motorway links, Tallaght Regional Technical College and the Blanchardstown Institute of Technology will be readily accessible to people in the greater eastern catchment area.
I hope that, in parallel with the provision of a third level facility in Blanchardstown, greater emphasis will be placed on the post-primary feeder schools and colleges, to ensure parents and pupils realise the potential opportunities in these facilities. If one goes to primary and post-primary school and on to a third level college, such as the institute of technology in Blanchardstown, one's job prospects, potential for a good income and opportunities in society are substantially enhanced.
I conducted a study when Ballyfermot was part of my constituency and I produced a paper highlighting the very low percentage take-up of third level opportunities by post primary pupils on the west side of Dublin, in comparison to those on the north side and south side. I identified in great detail the need for such facilities. The decision taken by the previous Government to make third level education available on a non fee paying basis was important. As resources have become available to the Government – and the previous Government was endeavouring to go in this direction – we are in a position to ensure all sectors of society can share in the country's economic growth. Where better could one put capital investment than into a third level institute of technology?
The need for a further facility or the expansion of the existing facility in Blanchardstown will depend on the decisions of the local authorities. Naturally, with the revision of Dáil electoral boundaries, I will be putting a greater emphasis on the mid-west part of the constituency and Clondalkin and Lucan, where it is proposed, given the current population build-up, a further 5,000 or 6,000 houses should be provided, which will mean an increase of between 10,000 or 20,000 in the population. It will also depend on whether the facilities in Tallaght and Blanchardstown, the other facilities in the greater Dublin region and the specialised regional colleges in Dundalk and Waterford can provide those young people with third level opportunities.
The emigrants who are returning to this country were fortunate to get a third level education before they left. I would like to see a targeting of pupils who are currently not going on to third level education. We brought together, in this case, the principals of the post-primary schools in Coolmine, Hartstown and Blakestown and the new Castleknock community college because they had first hand knowledge of their enrolments and the number of pupils going on to third level. They were able to identify in great detail the pupils who were getting the opportunity of third level education. That is why the Government has decided to rigorously press on with this project. As it is a 60 acre complex, if places are still unavailable at third level, we can expand this facility rather than starting with another green field site. The number of pupils – 950 – is reasonable for a campus but could and should be expanded if the opportunities we want to provide are not being made available to the widest possible catchment of pupils.
Often it is financial constraint at home which prevents young people from going into third level education. That unfortunate situation should be examined. Teenagers who must earn money for the household cannot spend the extra years availing of the third level opportunity. We must devise a scheme so young people are not denied this opportunity because of financial circum stances at home. That may mean tax adjustments or local authority rent adjustments but if the problems in cost areas such as crime can be minimised and young people become involved in the completion of third level education, and the sporting and related activities which go with it, they will go on to contribute to society.
I welcome this proposal and compliment the previous Government and the public representatives who co-operated with those representing the Blanchardstown area for so many years.
I welcome this Bill. It is necessary. I was a member of the previous Government when this matter was discussed and certain decisions were taken to set this in train. It is critical for the future development of the State that this institute is set up and that it makes its presence felt from the word go. I take cognisance of what the Minister said about the commitment and dedication of the personnel in the Department of Education and Science who drafted this Bill.
In welcoming this Bill, I will make a parallel case which does not receive the same attention as Blanchardstown. This city has expanded at a phenomenal rate in the last ten years and will probably increase by the same proportion in the next ten years. From my time in trade, I know that investors wishing to site in Ireland are anxious to site near mainline markets, major airports and communication facilities. This has led to an explosion of investment and housing with all the consequential requirements. This means that the city is gridlocked. This is causing serious delays, leading to stress and disappointment for thousands of people every day; it also hampers the fluid growth of the State which everyone in this House wishes to see.
There have been difficulties in the west for some time with recognition and delivery of facilities. When one has the opportunity at Government level, one tries to help one's own area as best one can. I am struck by the fact that the Minister refers to the Blanchardstown area and surrounding region as having one of the lowest levels of participation in third level education. It is perfectly in order to make every effort to change that statistic and to provide the depth and breadth of excitement which is present in education and learning to young students, to expose them to that potential and to face them toward that challenge so they can rise with the new century to better themselves.
The European Parliament and Commission recently confirmed that 13 western counties are entitled to Objective One status, bringing with it a higher level of facilities and grant attractions for industries to set up there. One can see the problems caused by lack of infrastructure for mainline companies wishing to site there. Baxter Health Care Products recently announced a £30 million expansion in its plant in Castlebar, County Mayo, and Coca Cola earlier this year proposed an investment of £100 million in Ballina, County Mayo.
Senior ESB personnel, however, recently said that it is practically impossible, not because of a lack of money but because of lack of capacity in the loop system, to site major industry in a broad belt of the west. One can then see the difficulty county development agencies have in attracting such levels of investment to the 13 western counties. As public representatives from that region we support efforts in this area.
There was a campaign in County Mayo to site a regional technical college or institute of education in Castlebar to serve the county. A decision was taken that this should be an adjunct to the Galway/Mayo Institute of Technology, formerly the regional technical college in Galway. I pay tribute to the principals involved in the former Regional Technical College in Galway for their flexibility and consideration of what has proven to be an outstanding success for County Mayo in Castlebar. The principals of GMIT allow a separate budget for the running of that campus. The very fine principal there, Dr. Richard Thorne, provides a range of courses enabling the college to achieve its targets three years ahead of schedule.
In direct contrast to the Blanchardstown area referred to by the Minister, County Mayo has the highest level of participation in third level education in the State. That meant that students from that region wishing to involve themselves in third level education had to travel to places like Blanchardstown, areas outside their own locality,because they did not previously have that facility. The institute in Castlebar occupies a portion of the grounds of St. Mary's Hospital, a former psychiatric hospital owned by the Western Health Board. It is a magnificent building which, when acquired fully, will prove to be not only a beautiful campus but of immense attraction to students from outside the region. The area of ground leased from the Western Health Board in that complex is approximately 75,000 square metres on 18.5 acres of land. About 6,000 square metres have been refurbished and are currently occupied. The master plan for this complex involves the eventual occupation of the entire St. Mary's hospital building, which is planned to be divided into 10,000 to 12,000 square metres for the academic and administration requirements of the campus and the remainder to be used for on-campus student accommodation.
I understand that contrary to the praise the Minister lavished on officials dealing with Blanchardstown, which is making its mark and its presence felt from the word go, that agreement has been reached between the GMIT and the Western Health Board, not only for the purchase of the leased section but for the purchase of the entire complex of St. Mary's hospital, that is 18.5 acres. I am concerned to hear in the past fortnight that it would appear to be the intention of the Department of Education and Science to allow only sufficient moneys for the purchase of the section of that complex currently leased by GMIT. That would be a retrograde step of great magnitude for the region given its Objective One classification and that it has the highest participation rate in third level education.
I would like the Minister to confirm that moneys will be provided to buy out the entire complex of St. Mary's hospital, Castlebar, at the price agreed between GMIT and the Western Health Board and that he will give full authorisation to the development of the master plan envisaged for that fledgling institution. The institution has reached its target number of full-time students three years ahead of schedule. The number of students registered with GMIT Castlebar in September 1998 was 630 full-time and 888 part-time students. Many of these are from the Dublin area, represented ably here by Deputy Joe Higgins and some come from his native County Kerry.
There are full-time courses leading to a national certificate and a national diploma in business studies; a national certificate and a national diploma in computing; PC software development: a national certificate and a national diploma in engineering; a national certificate in construction studies; a national diploma in humanities and a national diploma in business studies, tourism and languages. In continuing education there are seven single subject courses, 13 college certificate courses and a range of others, all of which are validated by either NCEA, GMIT, NCIR or Teagasc and GMIT together.
Will the Minister put an end to my concerns in that matter. The campaign went on for a very long number of years and was supported by the previous Government and it is supported, at least in principle, by this Government, but I would not like to see a restriction put on the expansion of that college because of the passage of this legislation. I fully support Blanchardstown and every pound invested in educational facilities for the young pupils and students of this country. Having reached the current point in our economic expansion it is more critical and important than ever that they are given such opportunities. I wish good luck to those who can rise to the level envisaged in Blanchardstown.
The Government will spend more money on all levels of education, but we face an enormous challenge in the next 15 years. Industry now wants a labour supply with the necessary level of skills, the necessary research and development facilities and the infrastructure to compete successfully in the global market. Given that the next round of GATT negotiations and the expansion of world trade will be a serious issue for the recently elected members of the European Parliament, these issues are critical if Ireland is to maintain its forward momentum.
We need far more flexibility and an awareness in the third level institutes of where we are heading. It is time to develop the potential of enterprise. I propose we set up a western edu cational authority, comprising UCG, GMIT, the Regional Technical Colleges in Athlone, Castlebar, Sligo, Letterkenny and Derry, the fledgling Catholic university in Ballina and the outreach facility to be located in Kiltimagh under UCG, which would have a capacity on an all-Ireland, cross-Border, north western area context. It would have the resources available to it in terms of student numbers for economies of scale and breadth of courses, and students could start in any one of these institutes and finish in another. It would be a clear direction from the British-Irish Agreement that education knows no borders and that Ireland can compete in terms of attracting industry and producing goods with an ability to market and sell on a world scale. It would attract resources from the Peace and Reconciliation Fund, from the European Union on account of Objective One status and the North-South element. I also see its enormous potential to break down the stultification in universities that are not flexible and open to receiving new ideas and new initiatives. I look forward to the Minister examining my proposal in this regard.
I see a bright future if the same level of application is applied to that proposal as to the regional college in Blanchardstown, we are on the way to making our mark in education in the future.
Fáiltím roimh an mBille seo mar creidim go láidir sa saghas sin oideachais, an t-oideachas atá á chur ar fáil ag na hinstitiúidí, ar nós Baile Blainséir, ar fud na tíre. Tá siad ag dul amach sa sochaí agus ag tarraingt daoine isteach nach bhfreastalaíonn de ghnáth ar choláistí mar sin agus ar chúrsaí mar sin. Sin an fáth go bhfáiltím roimh an coláiste nua agus roimh an Bille a thugann staid dleathach don choláiste. The main basis of education is that it should be accessible and attractive. Courses which are being offered in third level colleges, whether universities or institutes of technology throughout the country, have changed drastically in the past number of years to ensure they offer not just an education – which is crucial in any education course and is of value in itself – but also training for employment, giving people the necessary technology and technical skills. It is important that the courses and the colleges respond to economic and social needs in their various constituencies and throughout the country.
The development of the institutes of technology has in no small way added to this development. It is through them that the participation rate has increased. People are coming from a variety of backgrounds and ages to participate in a wide range of courses. However, there is some concern when one reads the Clancy report and the updated surveys and other data which show there are still areas in the city of Dublin and throughout the country where there is a very low participation rate. People from areas of economic disadvantage, social deprivation and educational disadvantage do not get the opportunity to participate in any form of third level course. One of those areas, according to the statistics, is the north-west Dublin region.
For that reason the development of the Blanchardstown Institute of Technology is particularly welcome. It means this college will have to respond to the challenges of its surrounding area. The campus must be and, I understand, will be attractive. It must not be behind closed gates where people are afraid to enter – it needs to be accessible and open. I understand the facilities which will be provided in this college will be of top quality – laboratories, libraries, audio-visual facilities and lecture theatres.
The courses on offer will give people skills but they will also train them for the industries in the surrounding area. These industries are among our greatest employers, for example, Intel, which is only down the road from Blanchardstown. The close links between industry and the colleges will allow a close relationship to develop between industry and education.
The courses which have already been approved for that college and which will commence in September 1999 will cater for leaving certificate students and for mature students. They will allow for in-service courses for people currently in employment and they will also facilitate retraining in the constantly demanding science and technology sectors. It is always appropriate that people should be given an opportunity, within their work time, to retrain and to update their skills. It is sad that FÁS must go abroad to recruit young people to take up jobs in Ireland but welcome that our own people are returning. If those currently unemployed could train for skills and get access to courses, such as those which will be offered in Blanchardstown, and if the apprenticeship sector was developed, we would avoid having to recruit abroad.
One of the other colleges which is opening this year, on the same lines as Blanchardstown, is the Tipperary Rural Business Development Institute. This is close to my own heart, being in my home town, particularly since my late aunt Binkie was on the initial working group many years ago to fight for a college for the town of Thurles. When I look at the campus there and the one on offer in Blanchardstown I must commend the designers because we seem to have moved away from the flat-roofed, two storey building model used for every regional technical college in the country. These colleges will offer courses which are appropriate to the area.
I spoke of the high-tech courses which will be on offer in Blanchardstown, suitable to that area and the needs of industry there. I have already referred to the name of the college in Thurles, which includes rural business. It will focus on agriculture, the rural area and link with the business development of the town and the surrounding counties. These are examples of how the new institutes of technology are responding to the needs of local areas.
I am fortunate that in my constituency of Dún Laoghaire we have such a institute of technology. What was formerly the Dún Laoghaire College of Art and Design has been upgraded as well. That college has seen a major development in its building programme in the past year and in the range of courses it is offering. Two new schools opened last September to add to the school of art, design and media which had long been in existence and which was well established. The two new schools are the school of business and humanities and the school of science and technology. The variety of courses on offer in these schools shows the range which any institute can offer in its own area. The school of art, design and media offers five degree, five diploma and five certificate courses as well as a visual education certificate which can be taken at night. The science and technology school has a diploma in each of those two sectors and a diploma course in both business and humanities. There are also art diplomas and, most importantly, something which should be emulated in all the colleges, access courses which can be full-time and at night.
It is these access courses which will allow people the opportunity to test a third level course, to see whether they would be able to bridge the gap between whatever level of education they have had and the challenge of third level education.
The courses in Dún Laoghaire include a national certificate in technology and a national diploma in electronic commerce, which are at the cutting edge of skills needed. The college and the institutes aim at people who, perhaps, have not had third level or second level education. New buildings, and the new building which the Minister opened last year, will encourage and invite people to try the courses, perhaps through extra-mural courses or the welcome summer school.
I look forward to 2002 when the Dún Laoghaire Institute of Technology will have grown to 2,000 students, having started at 500 in a school of art. While the purpose of the Bill is to deal with the Blanchardstown college, section 11 refers directly to the Dún Laoghaire VEC. This is only a technical provision because there seems to be some doubt as to how the vocational education committees in the Dublin and Dún Laoghaire areas can be appointed following the local elections.
The Dún Laoghaire Borough Vocational Education Committee is in existence since 1930. Initially there were three vocational education committees – Dublin city, Dublin county and Dún Laoghaire. The council situation has changed. The 1993 Act altered the local authority structure for the county and Dún Laoghaire and we now have South County Dublin, Fingal and Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown local authorities. This should have given rise to three new vocational education committees but this was not the case. There seems to be some doubt as to whether or not there is a mechanism by which to appoint members to these new committees. It is crucial that each of these vocational education committees should be appointed immediately. There are staffing arrangements to be considered, interviews waiting, principals to be appointed and courses to be run. The provision in this Bill at least will ensure that the vocational education committees can be appointed. In the context of Dún Laoghaire the future of its VEC is important. It does not have a second level school within its remit but it has a very large post – leaving certificate element with a large number of courses on offer in three different colleges.
We propose that the Dún Laoghaire VEC be established as the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown VEC and that those areas in Rathdown, Dundrum and Stillorgan should be included in the Dún Laoghaire VEC under a new format when it is re-established. This will have resource implications but, because of the services which are on offer, I believe it will be well worthwhile.
The Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown VEC has a number of students taking leaving certificate, junior certificate and apprentice programmes. It also reaches out to the community in the way that a vocational committee should. For example, there are five community education projects with over 100 people employed and a Youthreach programme with 25 places. It is not just any old Youthreach workshop – it is a "sportsreach" workshop, which is largely football-oriented and is led by Pat Devlin of Bray Wanderers Football Club, whose success is known to all since last year. It reaches out to the very young people who need to be gainfully occupied, to get a skill and training and to be given the discipline along with the enjoyment of sport.
The Dún Laoghaire VEC also has a travellers' training centre reaching out to the disadvantaged and to people who need to be encouraged to participate in the most basic education. More particularly, it gives a service to over 130 youth clubs, is directly linked to the youth service, which is led by the most able Peter O'Brien and is funded by the Catholic Youth Council. This group is such that over £1 million is being channelled largely through the VEC from the drugs task force funding for the range of courses and projects it developed.
Many of the courses which are on offer, for example in the Dún Laoghaire Senior College, the Dún Laoghaire Community College and in the Senior College, Sallynoggin, are IT based. Surely that is responding to a need in industry and employment. This year many young people were trained as Microsoft certified professionals. As soon as they finished their course they were able to take up employment.
We have spent many hours discussing adult education and adult literacy. and following publication of the White Paper we will spend many more hours debating these issues. The work of the adult education organiser in the Dún Laoghaire area and in areas of social deprivation cannot be underestimated.
There are 185,000 people in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown area, which I propose should be included in this full VEC. It merits having its own VEC so that it can continue to provide the post-leaving certificate service, the Youthreach programme, the youth service, the travellers' programme and adult education to the needs of the area.
I hope the present committee, which, under the terms of the Bill, can be re-appointed, will be able at least to continue to link with the psychological services, the administration and the technical supports on offer from the other vocational education committees. However, this needs to be resourced directly to the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown VEC if, and when, it is re-established.
The schools and colleges in Dún Laoghaire provide a very high level of service with excellent links to the local agencies and they are recognised as major providers of vocational training and vocational preparation. They are involved not only with industry but also with the statutory and community agencies. They have a capacity to respond quickly to the needs of the area, they are flexible and are able to provide a range of services. It would be a logical progression for the VEC to mirror the council as it is now established.
The Minister indicated he would look at the long-term structure of vocational education and would consult with the various bodies in formulating the new committees over the coming year. Section 11 ensures that there will be no gap in the formation of the committees and their constitution following the successful local elections, and I welcome that.
I hope the models presented in our regional technical colleges and the institutes of technology throughout the country can continue to grow and that they can continue to offer access and support, not just to local industry and to employers, but especially to those who deserve a break in education and who deserve to have access, particularly in those areas of disadvantage and low participation. I also hope we will continue to make it our priority as a Government to ensure that these people get the most access to education. I welcome the Bill as another step in providing services for them.
I was interested to note Deputy Hanafin's comments on the Dún Laoghaire Youthreach project's efforts to provide soccer training to participants. I must contact Roscommon VEC because we could do with training a few footballers in County Roscommon following the result last Sunday.
Or the hurlers of County Tipperary.
I am sure the Minister of State is smiling, but his county still has to play Counties Galway and Sligo. I welcome the Bill and commend it to the House. Its purpose is to establish the Blanchardstown Institute of Technology. I wish it every success and hope it will meet the targets the Minister is setting for it.
I also welcome the emphasis put on upgrading specialist skills, which will be part of the new institute's remit. About 97 per cent of small firms are experiencing serious recruitment difficulties, yet there are nearly 200,000 people unemployed. Two-thirds of companies state that the lack of basic skills, such as literacy, numeracy and inter-personal skills, are some of the main reasons they cannot fill vacancies.
Ireland is in danger of falling behind many other European countries which have recognised the economic importance of further education and training. The Minister's initiative is, therefore, welcome, and I hope it will come to fruition in the development of such activity. The inability of industry to recruit people with technical skills is the biggest issue facing it. This applies even to small industries in the west, which, it is suggested, have not been developed to the extent they should be.
The Minister said the new institute will initially accommodate 450 students. The Government is committed to providing student accommodation on campuses, yet the Minister failed to indicate if accommodation would be provided on the 60 acre campus. There is a housing crisis, especially for students. There will be pandemonium again next September because as soon as the CAO results are published the streets will be full of students seeking accommodation with the Evening Herald in one hand and a call card in the other. Some of the accommodation let by landlords amount to nothing more than glorified pigsties I experienced a number of them when I was a student.
Given the increasing cost of accommodation throughout the country, especially in Dublin, the Minister must look seriously at the current level of the maintenance grant because it is unacceptable. It will not even pay for accommodation. If we are committed to tackling educational disadvantage we must ensure that students who may not have the same financial support as others receive a basic grant to cover the cost of accommodation, travel, etc. The Minister for Public Enterprise is to approve an increase in the cost of train fares, which is an additional cost that will need to be taken into account by students next September. The Minister is not shy about talking but, sadly, little action has been seen to date. I hope that he will comment on this in his reply.
The Minister did not mention research in his contribution and I believe it to be crucial to any institute of technology. He referred to the liaison between industry and the institutes of technology but research did not enter the equation. It is important that there should be investment in research. Ireland has been notoriously bad at providing funding for research. We are extremely lucky if 1 or 2 per cent of funding for research is provided and that is provided only by major indigenous and multinational companies. All industries need to realise, whether they employ five, 500 or 5,000 people, that they must invest in research if they are to keep up to date and remain competitive. I hope the Minister will address this issue also when he replies.
Related to this issue are the postgraduate students who study for masters degrees and PhDs, especially in applied research. If one is lucky to get a place on a postgraduate course in a third level institution, one receives approximately £75 per week; one would be better off drawing the dole. FÁS is looking for 10,000 people abroad while postgraduates students are paid £75 per week. Unless we look seriously at this issue over the coming months there will be a serious problem over the next year or two which will be exacerbated because people will not get involved in postgraduate research. They will be attracted into industry because the money and other incentives are there for them to take up a job. If we are serious about developing third level institutions, research staff are needed and the backbone of research is postgraduate students who carry out a great deal of the donkey work. I hope the Minister will examine this issue. It is essential that postgraduate students carry out research but they will not continue to do so for the amount of money they receive.
The Minister also said that state-of-the-art computers and electronic laboratories would be provided in Blanchardstown and I welcome that. It is crucial that such basic infrastructure is provided. However, he has failed to realise that there are serious problems in many institutes of technology in terms of the provision of computers, for example. He announced funding to provide additional computers but it is only a drop in the ocean.
I spoke recently to a student attending an institute of technology in Dublin. He had to submit 20 projects during the academic year. He had access to a computer for two hours on one morning per week. It is unacceptable that a student should be expected to produce such a number of projects while only having access to a computer one morning per week. There were queues outside the computer room and unless he was outside it ten or 15 minutes before the time allotted to him, he would not have been able to use a computer. If information technology is to be developed and graduates with the required technological knowledge produced, basic facilities, such as computers, should be provided because in every walk of life they are important.
The Minister also said that it will be a policy of the new institute of technology to encourage students from disadvantaged backgrounds to take up courses. The problem is that students from such backgrounds cannot enter third level unless they have a basic level of education. It is crucial that funding is provided to ensure these people have the required education. There is no point bringing a student from a deprived area into an institute of technology unless it can be ensured that he can make his way through the system. It is also pointless to take 20 students from any disadvantaged area, enrol them in college only to have them fail at the end of the year. They will return home and no one else from their community will participate because they failed dismally and returned home hanging their heads in shame. Funding must be committed to the third level sector in order to ensure that these people survive the courses into which they enrol and pass with flying colours. It requires a great deal of commitment from the institution involved to ensure they pass through the system. They are as well off not to take them in as to do so and have them fail because the wrong message is sent out.
In terms of ensuring that such students have good comprehension and a basic level of education before they enter third level I wish to raise the issue of the remedial service. The Minister announced a remedial service for every school but, sadly, that is only the case in name only because the service provided currently does not meet required standards. Remedial teachers teach in broom cupboards and hallways. If children are to be encouraged to take up remedial education, the last thing one wants to do is stigmatise them by putting them in hallways, where there are no radiators and the wind is blowing through the school. If we are serious about providing a remedial service the funding and facilities required must be provided.
At yesterday's meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Science, a teacher outlined that she had six schools on her rota. There are 13 schools in County Roscommon which are covered by eight remedial teachers. It is unacceptable to consider that those students are provided with a remedial service. A teacher calls to the school but a service is not provided. The Minister is disingenuous when he says that he is providing a remedial service for every school. The wool is being pulled over the eyes of many parents and it will take them a while to realise what exactly is happening.
Serious consideration needs to be given to the promotion of adult education in rural communities. Dublin has a myriad of vocational education committees, institutes of technology and universities, but that is not the case in rural areas. We need to look at innovative projects and projects that have been successful. We must work from the basic levels of literacy upwards. In County Tipperary a literacy programme operates through a local radio station. In County Roscommon a mobile computer training unit is run by Roscommon partnership in conjunction with the Leader company. People are queuing up to join these courses. Such initiatives should be encouraged and promoted. While such programmes are provided by vocational education committees access remains a problem.
We need to develop a programme of adult education with specific education targets for disad vantaged people. The Minister spoke yesterday about encouraging people from disadvantaged backgrounds to attend the institute at Blanchardstown. However, we are only talking about a small percentage because if people do not have a basic level of education they will not be able to take up those places and even if they do they will not have come through the system. One is as well off not bringing them in as doing something like that.
I commend the Minister on the facilities that will be available at Blanchardstown institute. Facilities in many third level colleges are poor. There is a great shortage of accommodation in UCC for lectures and tutorials. The Minister knows the Lough Rovers centre well. It is unacceptable to have to go there for lectures, particularly on a wet winter's morning. There is no heating in it and on many a morning I was drenched on the way there. While I welcome the facilities for the Blanchardstown institute it is unacceptable to talk about providing them all in one college while there is such a serious deficit in this regard in other colleges. Some students operate machinery that is 20 years out of date and students go into industry where they must use the most high-tech equipment. If we are serious about the liaison the Minister speaks of between industry and institutes of technology we must ensure that the standard of equipment is similar. While it will never be as up to date as that in industry, because we do not have that level of funding, a certain standard must be maintained.
The campus at Blanchardstown comprises 60 acres. While that is fine, many other institutes of technology do not have sufficient room for expansion. In Athlone the buildings are on top of each other due to lack of space. We must look at the type of buildings erected and the layout of campuses. There is a shortage of building land around many institutes of technology, not just in Athlone and Galway. One way to solve the problem is for institutes to spread their wings. That was done successfully with the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology where part of the campus is in Mayo. The same could be done with other institutes. For example, part of the institute in Athlone could be located in County Roscommon, which badly needs such a rejuvenation and an injection of young people. On a Monday morning young people leave the county to travel to the major centres of population for employment or education purposes. If we could keep a percentage of them in the county perhaps some of them might remain there and open their own businesses. Sadly there is a huge brain drain out of County Roscommon and other counties
With regard to the drop-out rate which averages 20 to 25 per cent, I hope this new institute will enable us to break the cycle. It costs the Exchequer a phenomenal amount of money to pay a student's fees for the first year. We must examine this issue to ascertain whether we need to provide additional support or better guidance counselling at second level. Something must be done because as matters stand money is going down the drain which could be better targeted towards those students.
I commend the Bill to the House and ask the Minister to reply to the points I raised.
(Dublin West): Fáiltím roimh Institiúid Teicneolaíochta Bhaile Blainséar agus tá sé thar am go raibh institiúid tríú leibhéal i mBaile Blainséar. Is réigiún é a bhfuil faillí déanta air le fada an lá ag rialtais agus ag údaráis áitiúla. De dheasca sin tá an-chuid fadhbanna i mBaile Blainséar agus an-chuid fadhbanna a bhaineann le cúrsaí oideachais ann.
Deineadh faillí ar an áit ó thaobh seirbhísí don daonra atá ann, ó thaobh acmhainn a chur isteach don daonra agus go háirithe do dhaoine óga. Is an-mhaith an rud é go bhfuil coláiste tríú leibhéal ag teacht isteach chun déanamh suas don bhfaillí a deineadh ar an gceantar seo le fada an lá.
Caithfear anois ár n-aird a dhíriú ar na struchtúir go gcaithfear a chur in áit ó thaobh an institiúid teicneolaíochta seo i dtreo is go gcabhróidh sé i ndáiríre le gnáthmhuintir Bhaile Blainséar, gnáthmhuintir Bhaile Átha Cliath Thiar agus cosmhuintir na háite. Ciallaíonn sé sin go gcaithfear struchtúir a chur in áit a chabhróidh ní amháin le daoine óga atá ag teacht trí scoileanna tarna leibhéal faoi láthair, dul go dtí an coláiste seo, ach caithfear go speisialta díriú ar dhaoine nach raibh seans acu dul ar scoil nó go coláiste go dtí an pointe seo. Caithfear díriú ar dhaoine a bhfuil an tarna seans ag teastáil uathu chun go mbeidís in ann traenáil a fháil chun jobanna níos fearr ná mar atá acu faoi láthair, a fháil.
Dúirt an tAire nuair a bhí sé amuigh i mBaile Blainséar ag cur in iúl don domhan go raibh an institiúid teicneolaíochta le teacht, go ndíreodh sé a aird ar an gceist seo agus go gcuirfí béim speisialta ar chabhrú le daoine nach bhfuil óg a thuilleadh, dul go dtí an institiúid agus tríd an institiúid fostaíocht níos fearr a fháil ná mar atá acu faoi láthair. Caithfimid deimhin a dhéanamh de go dtárlóidh sé sin agus nach gcríochnóidh sé le focla maithe agus gan mórán a dhéanamh faoi.
The institute of technology in Blanchardstown is long overdue in what is a greatly expanding area in north-west Dublin. Some areas more than others in Blanchardstown have been seriously neglected for many years by successive Governments and the political and industrial establishments. As a result, serious problems have emerged in parts of Blanchardstown with which the local population is attempting to deal and live. The issue of educational disadvantage leading to long-term unemployment among a sector of the population is one of the problems that has arisen from the shameful neglect of areas of greater Blanchardstown, Finglas, which is also in north-west Dublin, and Clondalkin, which are within the catchment area of the new institute of technology. There is a need for special measures to rectify the damage that has been done.
The population of greater Blanchardstown was initially scheduled to reach 100,000 but, astonishingly, following decisions made by Fingal County Council in recent weeks on the rezoning of further land for housing, it will now reach at least 120,000. Therefore, it is obvious that a third level institute of technology is urgent and overdue. However, I demand special measures to assist local youth coming through second level education in greater Blanchardstown, Clondalkin and Finglas to avail in a real way of the new institute of technology. There must be structured intervention and an interaction from the beginning between the new college and the second level schools in the areas I outlined to target, from first year on, the interests of students who can set goals and be primed and assisted by programmes into third level education in the Institute of Technology, Blanchardstown.
I also want definitive action to enable people who did not have the opportunity to avail of a proper second level education up to now to avail of this new facility. This would give them a new lease of life, and it means structured intervention in working-class communities to enable people in that position to recreate their lives and to give them a chance of an entirely new future. This will not happen by accident. The Minister promised it when he announced the opening of the facility and he referred to the fact that the level of participation in third level education there was among the lowest in north-west Dublin, including parts of greater Blanchardstown. This is to the shame of the major political parties which have dominated this country since the foundation of the State. They have presided over a situation that has left generations of working-class people behind as society moved forward. We must have definite intervention to ensure the wrong which was done against a section of the people is set right.
I am not happy with the structures put in place for the governing body of the new institute. It is more of the same – instead of coming up with an imaginative new management structure to reflect the new realities and the type of targets that representatives like me talk about, in terms of real participation by the community, there is more of the same old, time-worn formulas. For example, six people will be appointed initially, three of whom will be members of local authorities.
This gives me cause to be disheartened because there is potential for a continuation of the same old system of political hacks being appointed by the Minister of the day to the latest local facility which comes on stream. There is nothing about the qualifications the six people should have. Will they be members of a political party, the Government of the day in this case, who are appointed because they are on local authorities or because somebody owes them a political favour? This is a reprehensible way to approach this new third level institute. The people put into management should have qualifications. They should be up to date on the needs in education and the demands that will be made on the institute.
Another aspect is the lack of provision for input from the community in the management structure. It is extremely vague and if the Minister is serious about using the facility to allow second chance education for working-class people who have been forgotten by the system to date, there should be a real possibility and provision for the community to be represented on the board. People who have been forgotten and others who are active in the community should be represented on the board so there is a real knitting together of the institute of technology and the local community.
I intend to keep a close eye on this aspect. The institute must not be an ivory tower which might as well be 1,000 miles from the people of Blanchardstown, Finglas and north Clondalkin. I want the fine words in the Minister's speech regarding openness and accessibility to be put into action. I want a real advance in an urgent sense and a change around in the participation rate in third level education by the people of north-west Dublin as a result of this facility.
With regard to the subjects which will be offered, the institute will be a technological college. As such, it will be geared towards industries in the greater Blanchardstown area and other industries which are developing, particularly the new technological and computer operations. This is necessary and the students should be expertly equipped with the most modern technological education to enable them find employment and participate in the modern technological economy. However, it is vital that there is also a place for arts and literature in the syllabus of the new institute of technology.
We must remember that the people who will attend the college are not primarily means of production. They should not be seen merely as cogs in the production wheel of the so-called Celtic tiger to enrich the profits of multinational companies and others which will employ them. They are humans and they have imaginations, sensitivities and feelings. I want a prominent place given to, for example, the study of literature, poetry and the arts as part of what must be a rounded education for the students. These courses should be made available to complement the technological aspects. It is incumbent on the Department to ensure that happens in the college.
On the occasion of provision being made for Blanchardstown IT, it is appropriate to address the question of student accommodation. This has been shamefully neglected by successive Governments and, against the background of the housing crisis, people are paying a heavy price for this neglect. Student accommodation should be provided on every third level campus, including that at Blanchardstown. Students should have the right to decent, good quality accommodation at a price they can afford, but with the rack-renting landlordism which has taken over in the last three to four years, they are put to the pin of their collars to afford somewhere to stay. This factor is keeping many potential students away from third level education. Conversely, by taking over thousands of units of accommodation, flats and houses, in this city and elsewhere, students are a big factor in allowing private landlords to rack-rent their properties. Workers are competing with students for accommodation because, scandalously, they are priced out of the house buying market and are at a huge disadvantage. Providing student accommodation would free up rented accommodation.
There is a serious accommodation crisis in greater Blanchardstown and the position in the private rented sector is catastrophic – working people are being asked to pay up to £1,000 per month. If students will soon be competing with workers in greater Blanchardstown, the market will be so landlord-driven that it will be impossible for local people. I demand that student accommodation be provided with the IT, for the sake of the students and the people of Blanchardstown, particularly those dependent on private rented accommodation.
Apart from the necessary measures to target schools and raise the sights of the community about who can benefit, the questions of accessibility and grant levels must be addressed. Many people are unable to afford college because grants are not adequate and many families in Blanchardstown are dependent on the income of their children when they reach working age. The pressure on young people in these circumstances is to get a job rather than to enter further education. Grant levels, therefore, must be increased greatly to provide a genuine living grant for students in this and every other third level facility. This is crucial in making third level education more accessible, especially to those who have lost out in the past.
We must also address the transport issue. The institute will be located on Blanchardstown Road North. There is a terrible crisis in public and general transport in the greater Blanchardstown area at present and while a facility for an extra 1,000 people is extremely welcome it will greatly add to transport problems unless investment is provided to upgrade public transport, that is, providing proper train and bus services.
We must take a holistic view of the institute. We cannot simply provide prefabs followed by the permanent building and set up the courses. The management, the Department and the Minister must take account of all aspects raised so that the facility can enhance the lives of the people of greater Blanchardstown and north-west Dublin. It can realise its potential but only if attention is paid to areas outside the strict definition of the courses to be provided.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill but I hope it is not an indication of a piecemeal approach on the Minister's part to third level education, specifically the institutes of technology. During the debate on the Qualifications (Education and Training) Bill, I expressed serious reservations about the ITs. This legislation will establish a new college, which I hope will be fully resourced and adequately staffed, but it is essential that the Minister carries out a root and branch review of the other ITs. Many of them are in terminal decline and I have evidence of this.
The root of the problem is staffing. I ask the Minister to make the case urgently at Cabinet for the provision of resources to make permanent those staff currently in temporary or part-time positions. This has led to a decline in staff morale and a lack of continuity.
A primary reason for the establishment of regional technical colleges was to provide technical training for students leaving second level and to prepare them for work. Many of the regional technical colleges, now ITs, were established in areas which needed high quality technical staff for the many industries which required such a labour force. However, if one asks students how long they have spent on placements in industry, they will ask what a placement is. In the vast majority of cases they have not had access to the technological industries which exist beside them. The ITs were established to provide a link between education and industry and if no such links exist the position must be reviewed urgently. That link only exists in exceptional circumstances at present. With temporary staff one will not have the links between industrial management and colleges, or various faculties within those colleges. Neither will one have a link between the student body and the college staff, as a new member of staff means a different emphasis on the information that lecturer communicates. He or she may also orient students in a different way towards industry.
Students often leave a very sheltered home environment when they leave second level education. At third level, their study management is in disarray because it is not monitored and a high number of students drop out, as other Members said. If we were to analyse students who have dropped out of institutes of technology in particular, we would see that they have had very little access to counselling, guidance or job placement services.
Few colleges have professionals readily accessible to the student body and those who are in place are either invisible or inaccessible. Students who are told to come for guidance often find that when they do, the professionals to whom they were directed are involved in the teaching process, which duplicates their work. When there is not a relationship between students, staff and industry, we have a recipe for a serious problem which will need urgent attention.
I ask the Minister of State, as a matter of urgency, to initiate a review of the entire structure and management of the institutes of tech nology. We can then reclaim some of those institutions' glory days. I am not saying we have not had major successes in this area but there is a decline in the numbers of effective graduates from these institutions. It will be necessary to tackle this up front.
Management in some institutions may have become less forward thinking and may not be reaching the high standards initially set. Some institutions may be more determined to dispense degrees and become universities rather than retaining the focus they had when first established. That said, I hope it is not too late to rescue these colleges. It is not all bad news.
Many colleges have established tremendous records in certain disciplines. The Galway Institute of Technology has established a reputation that is second to none for hotel training and management. That is natural, given its situation in an area with high tourism activity. Letterkenny Institute of Technology also has a national reputation for marine and fishing specialisation. However, if these are the only ones that immediately come to mind, the others have lost their focus.
It is important that the institutes of technology develop links with industry. This is not just for placement of students for work experience but to ensure that we find a way to tap the huge resources of industry for investment in the institutes. Many industries benefit enormously from the expertise of these institutes' graduates and have given nothing back. However, they would be willing to do so if approached. Some might find it unacceptable and suggest that if large companies became involved with the institutions there would be further dismantling in some areas but there must be a way to convince industrialists that there is a way for them to work in partnership with the institutes' authorities to resource them. There is a great need for facilities and machinery to be updated. This may be the only way to get resources. The Government has failed to adequately resource the institutions, provide full-time staff and raise morale. It is necessary to act in this matter quickly. Students who leave secondary education and enter these institutes with high expectations quickly become disillusioned and leave to get jobs. They may not be high flyers who are determined to stay in the education system but it is a pity that resources and facilities that benefited others have been denied them.
We must find out why the drop out rate is so high. I believe the reason is that resources and manpower are not readily available to this sector. I would hate if, on the eve of an election, a Minister for Education yielded to a pressure group demanding an institute of technology for another area. In that way we will disperse the limited resources that are available.