I move amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 38:
In the proposed newsection 21(1)(a), after ‘special committee' on the sixth line, to insert “, one such committee to consider, with reasonable frequency, matters of the arts in education, another such committee to consider, with reasonable frequency, the traditional arts, and a third such committee to consider, with reasonable frequency, the challenges facing the individual artist in Ireland”.
This is an important section of the Bill and I am glad we have more than an hour to discuss it. The Minister shocked us on Committee Stage, in one sense, when he said he planned to re-examine section 21. I recall that I described his plans as "a seismic shift in policy", as the original proposal had been in gestation for about three or four years. Perhaps the Minister will specify the model on which the original standing committee proposal was based. Where did the idea come from? It is obvious that it was modelled on legislation from another country.
These amendments give us an opportunity to discuss the role of the arts in education, the role of the traditional arts and the role of the individual artist, about which Deputy Michael D. Higgins spoke this morning. The wording of my amendment to amendment No. 38 gives a great deal of flexibility and openness to the Minister. I have proposed the insertion, after "special committee" on the sixth line of the Minister's amendment, of, "one such committee to consider, with reasonable frequency, matters of the arts in education, another such committee to consider, with reasonable frequency, the traditional arts, and a third such committee to consider, with reasonable frequency, the challenges facing the individual artist in Ireland". The use of the phrase "with reasonable frequency" leaves it open and flexible. The three strands I have included in my amendment need to be mentioned in this Bill in some way, for a number of reasons.
I would like to elaborate on the importance of a special committee on education, with a brief reference to the background to this proposal. I will quote from some of the various reports into education and the arts over the last 60 years. In 1949, Dr. Thomas Bodkin produced a report that highlighted the fact that there was no art instruction in our primary and secondary schools and universities at the time. The 1962 Design in Ireland report came to the conclusion that the Irish schoolchild is visually and artistically among the most under-educated in Europe. In 1979, Ciarán Benson published The Place of the Arts in Irish Education, which contained 119 recommendations and was very critical of the education system at that time. Mr. Benson recommended that the Arts Council should build up a specialist education service and argued that the Minister for Education of the time should establish a consultative committee to monitor the progress made in developing the arts in education. I made a similar suggestion on Committee Stage, when I tried to justify the establishment of such a consultative committee. I am trying to justify it again by citing these examples.
As part of Ireland's contribution to the European music year of 1985, the Arts Council published a report on the provision of music education in Irish schools. The report, Deaf Ears?, by Donald Herron, provided what the Arts Council described as detailed statistical evidence of the scandalous neglect of music in our schools. Only 2.9% of candidates for the leaving certificate in 1985 took the music examination and many of them studied for it outside of school. The Curriculum and Examinations Board's 1985 discussion paper, The Arts in Education, spoke of the indefensible neglect of arts in Irish education. In 1995, Frank Heneghan of the Dublin Institute of Technology initiated the music education national debate, MEND. The debate gave us a further insight into the state of music education in the primary sector and resulted in scathing criticism of what is happening in primary schools.
Dr. Marie McCarthy, who is an expert in this area, published, Passing It On: The Transmission of Music in Irish Culture, in 1999. She made the point that the contradictory images of music in Irish culture bring to the surface many questions about the scope and nature of music education in Ireland. She argued that our fine reputation abroad is based primarily on traditional, popular and, to a lesser degree, classical musicians, whose musical education occurred, for the most part, outside the formal education system, in community settings, private music schools and certain universities.
On Second Stage, I referred at length to the 2000 report of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals, which clearly supports Dr. McCarthy's argument. If we look at the statistics in that report on music as a taught subject in second level education, an astounding 48% of single-sex boys' schools make no provision for teaching music at junior certificate level. As if that was not bad enough, 74% of single-sex boys' schools do not offer music at leaving certificate level. These appalling figures are not replicated to the same degree in single-sex girls' schools where some 10% of these schools do not offer music at junior certificate level and 17% do not offer it at leaving certificate level. It shows that despite developments, there are still major deficiencies in our education system.
To return to primary education, despite the aspirations in the new curriculum, music is not seen as a serious subject. In most cases it is used as a form of public relations exercise because it is regarded as a good thing for a school to teach music. The problem is that most teachers are not adequately trained to teach music. There is a great need for in-service training for teachers. There is also a need for a support system, something to which I previously referred in the context of physical education, where, in many cases, a teacher may circulate between a number of schools in an area. Such a system would also work in this context and it would be welcome.
In my home county of Kerry, which is also the home of the Minister, I understand there are only four schools doing music to leaving certificate level. This is indicative of a major deficiency.
The PricewaterhouseCoopers' report stated:
If we don't have some sort of decent arts education we won't identify the creators of the next generation, we won't identify the consumers, we won't find the people who will go out and buy books, who'll buy pictures, who'll go to concerts and the whole cycle is being impeded by this. So I think education is something which we absolutely have to look at.
However, teaching of music at leaving certificate level has improved to some extent. An article by Barra Boydell contained figures which indicated a significant increase in the numbers taking music at higher level; from 1,037 in 1998 to 2,893 in 2001. However, the article stated that, while the numbers have increased, the overall standard of students' entering music at third level has declined. That is an interesting observation.
An emphasis on education runs right through the Arts Council report, the Arts Plan 2002-2006. The Progressive Democrats and Fianna Fáil adopted this as part of the programme for Government. It has probably already been abandoned, to some extent, because of the decrease in funding required to put it into practice. In one of the sections on art form objectives it was stated that despite recent advances formidable challenges remain. It stressed that there was almost no provision at primary or post primary level to develop people's understanding of architecture, for instance, which is now included in the definition of the arts.
There is also an absence of a positive promotion of dance within education which seriously restricts the development of dance infrastructure. Public knowledge and appreciation of dance is low despite the large numbers taking part in a wide range of dance activities. Similar points were made in regard to education in respect of the visual arts and right across the spectrum. To ensure that the subject of the deficiency of arts in education will be covered it is important that the Minister demonstrates his intent by specifying that the focus of one of the committees will be education.
As the Minister is aware, most of the lobbying for this Bill came from the traditional arts sector. Some 75% of all the correspondence I received is from that sector. It did not come from Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann alone, but from many other elements of that diverse sector.
As the Minister is also aware, there were major divisions within the traditional arts sector in respect of what approach to take. Some were against the notion of a standing committee in the arts with provision for making recommendations to the Arts Council and on funding, whereas Comhaltas, in particular, supported it. Both sides had valid points and strong arguments.
As someone who is involved in the traditional arts and who values the contribution they make to the community, I believe funding and support for the traditional arts must be changed. The traditional arts play an important role both culturally, educationally and economically. The Minister made this point on several occasions.
Traditional arts must be properly funded but with the restraints on the Arts Council I do not know if it will be able to fulfil this role. It is not sufficient to say that a certain sum of money should be ring-fenced for that purpose because the provisions of this legislation prohibit it. The Arts Council cannot be directed on how funding is allocated. Will the Minister clarify that matter? Does it just refer to individual applications for grant aid or do the provisions in the Bill give the Minister the authority to direct the Arts Council to ring-fence x amount of its money for the traditional arts?
I am aware that Comhaltas made a submission to the Minister seeking that it be treated as a unique entity, a form of national institution to be financed separately to the Arts Council. It asked that special provision be made for it.
I welcome the departure in the grants allocation of Bord Fáilte. Kenmare fleadh ceoil got a grant and some other fleadh ceoil in Kerry, I think it was Milltown, was also grant-aided. No doubt the Minister probably helped in some way. In the past fleadhanna ceoil across the country were generally ignored by national agencies. It was said they had access to other sources of funding which is not necessarily always the case.
The Dorgan report made clear that there was a view both inside and outside traditional arts circles that the Department has a role to play, at the very least in increasing supports for traditional arts. If it can be done by way of grant aid through local authorities or some other means, I suggest the Minister should do so.
The other part of my amendment relates to the challenge facing individual artists in this country. Deputy Michael D. Higgins made a very strong case in that regard in his earlier contribution to this debate. Individual artists are the linchpin of creativity and innovation in the arts and hold a unique position within the arts infrastructure. A book entitledThe Creative Imperative identified a wide range of specific problems facing individual artists. The report made 31 recommendations, many of which address the economic status of artists. It recommended substantial investment, not so much in direct subvention to artists as in the institutional infrastructure for the arts. That emphasis was reflected in many of the submissions we received on this Bill in terms of the obvious neglect of support for individual artists.
A special committee should be established to review, on a regular basis, the problems facing individual artists, whether in relation to social welfare, to which Deputy Michael D. Higgins referred, housing or whatever. Reference was made earlier to the former Taoiseach, Mr. Charles Haughey, who introduced tax-free status for artists. While that is very helpful, more is needed. Very few individual artists are making a good living out of the arts. Many actors are currently out of work as a result of cut-backs in many of the production companies and the discontinuation of tours. A number of centres around the country are either being forced to close their doors or are facing the threat of closure. Individual artists will suffer as a result.
There is an absence of work-space for individual artists throughout the country. Rental of accommodation is becoming very expensive. Provision should be made to make units available to artists free of charge as far as possible. I am currently involved in a project of that nature which is endeavouring to build units for artists and craft workers, to be provided free of charge to the individuals concerned.
To sum up, I believe my amendment will have no adverse effect on the shape of the Bill which the Minister has brought forward and I strongly urge him to accept it. If it is not accepted, I will put it to a vote as I believe its inclusion is critical to the Bill. I have been quite reasonable in relation to earlier amendments. This important amendment will give reassurance to the education sector, the traditional arts sector and individual artists that their needs will be catered for. I will press the amendment.