Skip to main content
Normal View

Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 9 Feb 1967

Vol. 62 No. 11

Report on Investment in Education: Motion (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:
That Seanad Éireann notes the Report on Investment in Education.

Before the adjournment last night I had referred to the fact that the important scheme for more post-primary education, which would give equality of opportunity to all children, should be dealt with in the true sense of politics and the efforts made, the bold step taken by the Minister should have the support of all thinking and well-disposed people in Ireland. His scheme may not be perfect; people can see faults in it but, at least, the principle which he has enunciated should be supported.

I referred also to the fact that education is a basic service and on the efficiency of that basic service will depend the efficiency of all other services above it. I made reference to the lack of co-ordination between our three branches of education over the years, pointing out that this led to an immense loss of educational power. I criticised the neglect of the branches, mainly the primary branch, in the matter of visual aids, research support and in the guidance of children on leaving the primary sector. I criticised the fact that children were allowed to drift into the post-primary schools without any guidance, without any clear indication of their aptitudes and ability. I criticised the primary sector also, inasmuch as the teachers were asked to carry higher class loads than their colleagues, the teachers in the primary schools in Northern Ireland and in Britain.

I welcomed the fact there was a development of a better parent-teacher relationship. I deplored the fact that we had not faced up to the raising of the school-leaving age prior to this and I moved the adjournment after a criticism of the primary certificate examination, which I said led to a distortion of teaching in the senior classes of the national schools. This certificate is useless as a co-ordinating factor between the primary sector and the post-primary sectors. It had lost its value to an employer as an indication of a child's ability, in view of the amendment of the Apprenticeship Act which is before the House at the present time. I pointed out that preparation for the primary certificate examination led to a restriction in the curriculum in the sixth class particularly, because the examination covered three subjects only. I criticised this examination also because it is a written examination.

Senator Sheehy Skeffington pointed out the importance of the development of the oral aspects of teaching language. He quoted the late Deputy Seán Moylan in 1956 but I go back further to a famous Renaissance scholar who spoke on this aspect of language teaching in the year 1466, over 500 years ago. His name was Erasmus and he spoke as follows:

I have no patience with the stupidity of the average teacher of grammar who wastes precious years in hammering rules into children's heads. For it is not by learning rules that we acquire the power of speaking a language, but by daily intercourse with those accustomed to express themselves with exactness and refinement, and by a copious reading of the best authors.

The fact that there is concentration on the written aspect of teaching Irish and English in the sixth class, in preparation for the primary certificate, leads to a distortion of language teaching. For that one reason alone I think the primary certificate should go. We think it should be replaced by what exists in other countries—record cards which would be a clear indication, over a long span, of a child's ability; there would not be a doomsday effort—one single examination which will decide whether or not a child is able. Certain children do not make good subjects for examinations; they are nervous and, particularly, the dull and slow-learning child is made more inferior by a failure experience. The fact also that this examination is a compulsory one must be criticised. All children who have spent 100 days in attendance in sixth class in a national school must sit for the examination. Though the teacher knows certain children must fail, their parents know they must fail and the children themselves realise they will fail, yet they must prove officially they can fail. They are coerced into sitting for the examination. Many leave at the important stage of adolescence with the mark of failure upon them. We think this has a traumatic effect on a child's character.

Reference was made yesterday to the teaching profession. I want to point out that we have, particularly in the primary sector, some of the finest material that is available in any country. It requires four or five honours on average to get into a training college, yet the universities set down that honours in one subject is required to get into a university. This will later be set at two.

We have the finest material going into our primary training colleges but we find that teachers, on leaving training, do not have sufficient confidence in their own qualifications, and they are consistently asking that there should be some link between the training colleges and the universities. We think this is important. Knowing that the calibre is good, teachers should be the last to criticise their own qualifications. We would expect them to say: "We are good going into training, and we are good leaving training. We reject all criticism of our qualifications", but such is not the case. For years national teachers have criticised their qualifications leaving the training colleges. The final examination standard is very good. Yet teachers over the years have lacked confidence in their qualifications. They would like a link with the universities.

In 1908 it was recommended in a paper read to the Maynooth Union that there should be a liaison between the training colleges and the universities. In 1923, shortly after the Treaty, at a joint conference of the National Universities of Dublin, Cork and Galway it was recommended:

That on and after a certain date to be hereafter determined, a professional degree shall be a necessary qualification for first recognition of a National Teacher.

In 1923 the Right Reverend Monsignor O'Rahilly read a paper to the Congress of Irish National Teachers in which he called for university training for teachers, and he repeated that call 30 years afterwards at another teachers' congress in Killarney in 1953.

Teachers have consistently asked for unification of the teaching profession. There is only one art of teaching. This art is based on the principles of imparting and the acquisition of knowledge. The teacher of the very young must have certain techniques to inspire involuntary attention by a change of voice, by the colour of presentation. Young children are incapable of voluntary attention and of acts of will. Later he has to withdraw that type of technique and create in the child's mind voluntary attention and acts of will. There should be one common training in the art of teaching.

With regard to the nature of our schools, we see every other day reference to the changing function of the school. That has been highlighted within the past few weeks by the Plowden Report, a magnificient work which puts the primary school back in the picture again. To demonstrate the changing function of the schools I want to read this quotation from "To be a Teacher"

The raison d'être of the school has utterly changed. It is no longer primarily a place for instruction in certain traditional fields of knowledge and skill, but a place where children may experience a rich and many-sided life, and, through experiencing this, may gradually form habits, develop attitudes, acquire knowledge and learn skills which will enable them to live happily, successfully and creatively both at the time and in the future.

The rigidity of our system at present in Ireland does not allow teachers to engage in creative activities: there is little flexibility in schools to produce the best results. The time has come when we must examine carefully the functions of the schools in the developing educational scene. Side by side with the changing attitudes to the schools there are changing attitudes to the teachers. The teacher should be given more independence and more liberty to employ his own techniques and inspire his pupils.

In my experience as a teacher, the greatest factor in teaching is the power to inspire children. A teacher who has not the facility to inspire children is only blighting them. They wither before him. The child remains uninspired if the teacher just moves in a pedestrian way from page to page. However, it is very difficult for the teacher to keep up that inspiration in view of the neglect of our schools, in view of the fact that they are losing confidence in their final qualifications, in view of the class loads they have to carry, in view of the lack of visual aids, in view of the lack of support by research, in view of the fact that there is very little promotion in the teaching profession. Many teachers start as assistants and after 45 years service they leave as assistants. We think this is deplorable. There is no profession in which one can get into a rut more quickly than in the teaching profession. When there is no incentive ahead of the teacher he often loses interest. He loses inspiration. The rewards and the availability of promotion in the teaching profession are very meagre indeed. I shall just give the House a few points to illustrate that. In the entire profession, as far as national schools are concerned, there are only 265 vice-principalships available. The value of a vice-principalship is a mere £95 a year and of the 4,379 classification schools manned by lay teachers, 1,788 of them carry a principalship reward of £95 a year.

In 1,835 cases the reward is £125. Therefore, adding those two figures, the House will see that of the 4,379 schools 3,623 of them carry a reward of £125 or less a year for principalship. The opportunities for promotion are greater in Northern Ireland where the block in promotion is met by the creation of posts of responsibility for various teachers. As to how those posts will be allocated is a matter for discussion. There are various points of view regarding this. Some say it should be on the basis of seniority, others on the teachers' qualifications. The mechanics of the allocation of those posts is not a matter under discussion here today. However, the fact remains that those posts are not available to teachers in the Republic.

Yesterday I said that I was going to make a statement on the heating, cleaning and upkeep of our schools in the Republic. Senator Sheehy Skeffington reminded us that Dr. T.J. O'Connell, in the Seanad in 1942, referred to the question of heating and cleaning in the schools. I am making a statement here today on the same matter but along different lines. I want to say calmly and coldly, in fairness to all concerned, that on and after 1st November of this year, in any school where there is a complaint about inadequacy of heating or that children are being taught in substandard conditions, the complaint will be investigated by two members of the executive of the Teachers' Organisation. If the complaint can be supported the teachers in that school will be withdrawn. I want to say that categorically. I say it because I think this question of the inadequacy of heating and the continuance of substandard conditions has gone on long enough. It has led to criticism of the managerial system in this House yesterday.

This INTO action is not to weaken the managerial system. It is to strengthen it and remove the source of criticism which was referred to by many Senators. I say this in the presence of the Minister because undoubtedly it is the Minister and his Department who must be held utimately responsible. I am not referring particularly to this Minister but Ministers for Education over the years. Under Rule 15 (2) it is the Minister who gives recognition to a manager. Under Rule 15 (9) the Minister has power to withdraw the recognition of a manager. Managers are appointed to manage not to mismanage. If they are mismanaging they should go. If previous Ministers and the Department of Education had taken a stand in this matter there would be no mismanagement. Action by the Minister would remove a menace to the managerial system.

Somebody must take a stand. I happen to be in a position where I cannot, in the general interest, tolerate a situation which has continued for so long. Five weeks ago a report came to me of a school where the water from a leaking roof had to be collected in buckets and where six children and two members of the staff had over a period got rheumatic fever and also where the principal had to be screened for tuberculosis following pleurisy. Children came into school in sodden clothes and had to sit in the cold.

Those affected children are a source of worry to their parents, a burden to the community, will be rejected for all public services following medical examination and are unable to undertake hard work physically. That is the type of situation we have at present. We cannot tolerate it any longer.

In this debate we are dealing with three motions. No. 3 is:

That Seanad Éireann notes the Report on Investment in Education. No. 7 is:

That Seanad Éireann is of the opinion that:

1. The primary responsibility for teaching methods, curricula and examinations should be transferred to professional educationists independent of the Department of Education.

2. The State should encourage and assist the establishment and growth of parents' committees to assist the running of national schools.

3. Provision should be made by the State to enable all secondary schools to provide free education for some or all of their pupils in such a way as to minimise class divisions within the secondary school system.

4. With a view to increasing participation in post-primary education by children of parents in the lower income groups, the State should provide maintenance grants for such pupils.

5. Teacher training arrangements be reviewed with a view to securing an integrated teaching profession, a university-trained teaching force, and an increased inflow of teachers to the profession.

6. That improved promotional opportunities be provided for teachers.

No. 9, which is also included in the discussion, is:

That Seanad Éireann is of the opinion that the training of teachers, like that of members of other professions, should be based on the universities.

To keep within the relevance of those motions one, therefore, should, I suppose, ascertain what are the provisions for education at the moment, what will produce the best results, whether the various proposals put down by Fine Gael in motion No. 7 are justified, whether they should be followed in part or in toto and also whether the training of teachers should be based on the universities.

I have read with interest the Fine Gael policy "Towards a Just Society". Undoubtedly a vast amount of work must have been put into it but it contains within it a number of contradictions. It seems to me that the people who compiled this document are not familiar with the real facts. The first section of their proposal is that the primary responsibility for teaching school curricula and examinations should be transferred to professional educationists outside the Department of Education.

In their actual report on education the Fine Gael Party admit in paragraph 8 that within the Department there is "an able and devoted professional staff." I quote the exact words. In paragraph 9 of the same document they say that the most effective Departments of education are those staffed by professional educationists. In paragraph 15 they say that policies must be imaginative and flexible and in paragraph 18 they say that the primary responsibility for the curriculum and the examination system should lie with those directly engaged in the work of education. In paragraph 25 they state that examinations and curriculum should in future be controlled by professional educationists and would not be the subject of undesirable pressures.

They say they want all those things as if they did not exist at the moment. They deal with the matter at the end as if there were no professional staff in the Department whatsoever. At the very end in one of their criticisms they say that the fault of the present system is due to the amateurism within the Department despite the praise they give in paragraph 9 to the skills and devotion of the professional staff within the Department.

The real fact of the matter is this. Within the Department of Education there is a very high quality of professional educationists and the real issue in this particular section of the Fine Gael complaints is mainly that the Department of Education would be better run if the advice of the Department came from extern professional educationists rather than from those who are already there. The extern advisory body represents a rather flexible and fluent body. It is not clearly defined. We are not told how it is to be appointed. We are not told what it is responsible for, to whom it would be responsible or whether it would be responsible to anybody. The professional educationists in the Department at the moment are selected from the most highly qualified practical teachers in all branches, primary, vocational, secondary and right up to university level. They have already proved their skills and their abilities as distinct from the amorphous body of extern advisers whom Fine Gael suggest. They are recruited on a competitive basis. There is no influence. The best educational brains are selected. In that regard the Department have at the moment talent comparable to the best in this country to advise them on education.

Those professional educationists in the Department are in constant close contact with teachers and instructors of all categories. They can observe the methods adopted in various schools. They can see the methods which have proved most successful. They can see the methods that are not coming up to standards, which otherwise might be accepted. There is continuous recruitment among those educational specialists in the Department, so they are in constant and immediate contact with the most advanced theories in the art and science of education. They have the right and the authority to call in at any time they require it outside assistance and take outside advice. Many of them are sent abroad to England, Wales, Scotland, France, Germany and the United States to study methods there.

If they consider it advisable to call in the aid of extern specialists who are not directly associated with education they can do so. The real kernel of this first clause in the Fine Gael motion is that the services of those people should be left to one side; their responsibility should be handed over to people who are at the moment anonymous in their content, whose duties are vague, who would probably be part-time, who would have no ultimate responsibility to anyone and who would not be directly answerable if their advice did not prove to be correct.

I, therefore, could not find myself more in disagreement with the nature of that proposal. I think it would be a most retrograde step and a most regrettable one.

The second proposal in motion No. 7 is that the State should encourage and assist the establishment and growth of parents' committees to help in the running of national schools. I have listened with very great interest to the speech of Senator Dooge. He expressed himself rather strongly, I thought, but perhaps correctly, that our present managerial system is something that relates more to the past than to the present. He implied that our present managers are not discharging their duties. Senator Brosnahan, who has just spoken, made a somewhat similar point. The suggestion is—that is, the real suggestion—that school committees should take over the functions now discharged by one man. Many arguments can be offered in favour of doing that but we must consider the fact and see whether it is practical.

At present all our schools belong to the diocesan authorities of various religious bodies. The schools are vested in them. They own them. Let us be factual about it. The State puts up anything from 80 to 87½ per cent of the cost of those schools. They are then vested in the diocesan authority. The diocesan authority is primarily responsible for the appointment of the manager. As Senator Brosnahan has said, if the Minister does not approve of a particular manager he can remove him and request the diocesan authorities to appoint another, but without the full and acknowledged approval of the diocesan authorities it seems to me that it would be absolutely impracticable, if not impossible, to remove from the manager appointed by them the management of the school and place it in the hands of a committee.

I am not at all sure that it would be the best thing to do. I offer no opinion on that; but I do say that it would not be possible or practical for any government to insist on that in the case of schools which are vested in and which belong to diocesan authorities. I, therefore, suggest to Fine Gael that if they are really serious about this they should go to see the diocesan authorities and ascertain in how many instances the diocesan authorities are prepared to abrogate their rights to local committees. In those cases where the diocesan authorities are agreeable I cannot see that any government could have objection to such a course. There should, of course, be close liaison between the teacher and the parents of the pupils, and I said here in a previous debate on education that the teacher who does not keep in constant and close contact with the parents of the children in his school is not discharging his duties. But there, again, the co-operation of the teacher is required. To what extent is that co-operation available? We are told by Fine Gael that if certain advantages such as playing fields and special aids for education be offered to schools where the manager has vested the management in himself and in a committee that this system will grow and develop. I do not believe that for one moment.

At the moment all national schools are entitled to playing fields, and to special aids for education, provided they are prepared to put up a reasonable amount of the cost. I would consider that if there is a defect in the managerial system as it exists at present that defect should be cured where it exists. If managers are allowing their schools to fall into a state of decay, if they are allowing new buildings in a relatively short time by lack of paint and lack of ordinary repairs to become practically derelict, the cure for that lies with the diocesan authorities who are in direct control of the managers.

One great defect in the managerial system as I see it in most dioceses is that a man is made manager of a national school when he is already approximately 60 years of age. Up to then he has had no interest in education. He has had no interest in schools. Then at that stage of his life along with other responsibilities he is given the responsibility of supervising and controlling the education of the children in his parish. I would say that very few managers, or relatively few, at that age have either the interest or the enthusiasm to take upon themselves the studying of new techniques, ascertaining whether the education being given in their parish is the best type of education available, whether the teacher is making full use of the facilities he has, whether the children are being given all the advantages they could be given, and whether the progress is being made in the schools under his management that should be made. I would say that managers of schools at the present time should not be appointed from among the elderly men, men who in the ultimate resort are responsible only to the bishops of their dioceses. It should be placed in the hands of a young man, a young priest in the parish, a man who has just left college or left the university, who is keen, enthusiastic, and has vigour and interest in education. His pastor then can decide whether he is using to the fullest and to the best his responsibilities, and if he is not his pastor is readily at hand for the parents of the children of that school and they can make a complaint to him. At the moment the manager of these schools is somebody remote, somebody completely outside the immediate control of the parents, and if he does not discharge his duties the only body who can make him do so is his own diocesan authorities.

The third aspect of motion No. 7 is that provision should be made by the State to enable all secondary schools to provide free education in such a way as to minimise class divisions within the secondary school system. I think that we would all agree with that. But as to what produces that result is a matter on which we might profoundly disagree. Personally, having read at least three times the Fine Gael policy "Towards a Just Society", having studied it in detail, having listened to the speeches here, I prefer as a policy for minimising class distinctions within the secondary school system while still providing free education, the policy which is enunciated by the Minister, that all secondary schools which at the moment are charging fees less than £15 per year should be paid a minimum of £15 in respect of every pupil attending that school, and that schools which are charging more than £15 should be given the amount they charge up to a limit of £25. Already by capitation grants and otherwise a very high percentage of the cost of secondary education is borne by the taxpayer. The school fees go to make up the surplus. Many schools at the moment—many Christian Brother schools and other schools throughout the country run by religious orders; we are all deeply indebted to our religious orders for the interest they have taken in education—charge school fees which are much less than £15; and, in fact, the amount they charge is the maximum they charge to the son of the richest man in their parish, or the daughter of the richest man in their parish in the case of convent schools.

That is the standard which they have set to be paid by the richest in their own parish and in the district where they teach. That amount, of course, is paid only by a relatively small number of their pupils. No boy, no girl, is turned away from those schools because their parents cannot afford the full amount. I should estimate that probably on an average the amount which they would receive from their fees would about equal the amount to be received if all the pupils in the school paid half the fees which they charge.

The Government now say that these schools will in future be paid £15 in respect of every pupil attending there. To those schools this undoubtedly will be a substantial increase in revenue. It further says that in the case of schools which were charging more than that, which do not find it economic to educate at less than £25 they will pay the total school fees up to the limit of £25 for all schools coming within the scheme of free education. What Fine Gael suggest instead of the Government proposals is that all schools irrespective of the fees charged and irrespective as to whether or not they are prepared to opt into the scheme will get a grant of £20 in respect of each pupil. Snob schools, private schools, Christian Brothers schools, schools run by the Presentation Convent, all will get the one thing; even though some will be charging no other fees, and some charging large fees to some pupils. Personally, I am rather surprised at this. They suggest that all schools get this grant provided one-third of the pupils admitted to the school be taken irrespective of means. Thereby, in my view, they are creating a class distinction, a class snobbery within the school which never could exist otherwise and never should exist.

How do they hope to select this one-third? Is it to be done by competitive examination? Is it to be done on a snob basis when the rich will become poor and the children of the social class who have lost their money should be taken. I can visualise that among that 30 per cent that it is proposed to take very, very few will come from the cabins and the hovels and very few will come from the homes of the unskilled labourers. Right away they are creating a class distinction within the school itself which should not exist. No one can be more hurtful to another than a youth whose mind is not yet fully developed to the responsibility of being kind at all times. I can visualise in those schools that if a boy were taken from a cabin or from a hovel that many of the other children would make his life practically a hell on earth.

It is suggested also that the boarding schools should benefit by this where thought fit. How can one measure within a boarding school the amount of the fees which should be attributed to feeding a child, to providing recreational facilities, to providing beautiful classrooms and so on as against the amount to be attributed to education alone? To my mind as between schools themselves in that way you are going to set up class distinction and class consciousness. Therefore, in the interest of avoiding class distinction and class consciousness I would suggest that the proposals of the Minister are far more effective, far more satisfactory than the proposals here in the Fine Gael document.

Maintenance grants for pupils which is again suggested by Fine Gael is something which, of course, it may be desirable a Government should approve of but, again, we are limited by our financial resources. This is put in as if the Government were opposed to maintenance grants. I am not aware of anything to that effect, On the contrary, from what I have heard and read in speeches made by the Minister on behalf of his Department he would be all in favour of anything which would ensure that the deserving poor child, irrespective of his circumstances could attain the highest degree of education.

We come now to this resolution about university training for teachers. In my view the results of education depend primarily on the teachers. There are three levels. At the university level the professor has merely to know his subject and to be articulate and audible. He need not be skilled in the art of imparting knowledge, in the art of education. At the secondary school level it is part art of education, part science. At the primary school level it is complete art. One has to take a little child by the hand, so to speak, into the portals of education. One has to arouse his enthusiasm and his interest in the acquisition of knowledge. One has to make the little mind acquisitive and inquisitive. In my view the national teacher is primarily an artist and a university degree might be as much and as little use to him as to a painter or a musician. Primary teaching is the most skilled branch of teaching of the whole lot. Therefore, instead of the present method of recruitment I would suggest something different. I would suggest that those who propose to be national teachers should be selected at the intermediate grade and not at the leaving certificate. They should have practical experience in teaching during the next couple of years. They should have special subjects for their leaving certificate which would help them and lead them up to the training college so that before they go to the training college those who are misfits can be eliminated.

Senator Brosnahan has spoken of the few rewards of national teachers. I agree with him. He has spoken of vice-principalships and said that they are so few and so far between and that they are the only reward for hard working teachers. I regret to say, however, that the organisation of which Senator Brosnahan is the Secretary has made it a rule that it is a breach of professional etiquette for any teacher to accept a vice-principalship except on the basis of age. If you have a five-teacher school and you have one brilliant young teacher of 30 years of age and you have another teacher aged 62 waiting for his pension who has lolled along through the years, if a vacancy occurs for vice-principal the man of 62 irrespective of his lack of ability, irrespective of his lack of interest, must be appointed vice-principal and if any young teacher accepts it he risks expulsion from his organisation. Therefore, I believe that if we in this country are to have the education which our children deserve the responsibility rests not with the Government alone. It rests in proper liaison between the Government, the managers and the teachers. I should like to congratulate the Minister on the steps he has taken towards the post-primary education and the making of it available to all the children of the future.

An Leas-Chathoirleach

An tAire.

On a point of information, I would be grateful if the Minister would in the course of his reply give some indication as to the steps being taken to subsidise the transport of pupils to post-primary schools, secondary and vocational schools. I know the Minister is very much aware of this problem and I know he is very sympathetic.

On a point of order, is this not a device for getting in a quick speech just before the Minister?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

It is not in conflict with the order of the House, as we are still one minute from 11 o'clock.

I am sorry if Senator Stanford thought I would stoop to any device. I was merely asking the Minister if he would give us some information on a certain point. I am very conscious of the problem. I know the Minister is very conscious of it; he is sympathetic and I am merely asking him to give some indication to us.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Chair accepts that as a short intervention but the Senator has now contributed to the debate.

I suppose I could commence my statement by making short reference to the transport problem. As I have already announced, the Government propose to introduce, from the 1st April next, a nationwide transport service and the necessary amount of money will be voted in the Estimates. I should like to say to the House that this is a very difficult problem and announcing that a nationwide transport system will come into operation, or is envisaged, does not necessarily mean an effective transport system will exist in Ireland for our children next September. It is only fair to say this. This national transport system is so complex and involved—one can imagine that, with the huge numbers scattered throughout the entire country—that, in my opinion, it could take anything up to three years before we would have an approach to a satisfactory and smooth-running system. I would not like to create the impression that there will be any makeshift system but the House will appreciate that it would be very difficult, by September next, to have the whole machine, so to speak, operating fully.

Senator Murphy, too, made reference to transport and the anxiety of some of the trade unions that work might be taken away from CIE. Shortly after I got the sanction of the Government to introduce the transport scheme, I issued instructions to my officials that discussions were to be initiated with CIE. I think that was logical. After all, CIE is a national transport company and they are the logical body with whom we should have discussions. In September of every year a very large number of what we would call summer buses are taken off and they do not resume, in the main, until perhaps the following June or thereabouts. Therefore, it more or less coincides— not fully—with the school year and it would be absolutely irresponsible for us to consider licensing 700 or 800 minibus carriers to do work which, in fact, could be done efficiently, and more efficiently, by an organisation with tremendous experience and already with the necessary administrative organisation and so forth. Of course, then again, were we to do a deal with so many groups or individuals—apart from the fact that we would be taking away work from a State company, which is very heavily subsidised by the taxpayer—the tremendous capital sum of well over £1 million would be adding to our import burden. Therefore, I think I have made it clear we appreciate the problem mentioned by the Senator. We have already had a series of discussions with representatives of CIE in relation to the arrangements for this transport system. Of course, the House will appreciate there will be many cases where it would not be feasible for CIE, in certain areas, to provide a service and here, inevitably, there will be the solution of such type of minibus.

Getting back to the debate itself, I think it is the first occasion I sat in a debate for such a long period without opening my mouth. I noticed that Senator Quinlan, when referring to the Investment in Education survey, prefaced his remarks by saying that the first thing to get straight was to realise that this report is really not very unusual in the educational world. He said it is unusual in this country but is quite commonplace elsewhere.

The statistics.

It is unusual in this country but is commonplace elsewhere —that is what he said. It is an extraordinary statement and, in my opinion, could not be further from the facts. Let me read the opening statement made by the Secretary General of the OECD in his foreword to the which reads:

organisation's edition of the survey

The OECD's Education Investment and Planning Programme (EIP) effectively began in October, 1962, when the Government of Ireland appointed a team to prepare this report.

The fact is that the Irish report formed the pilot study for the other OECD countries and this was entirely due to the initiative of one of my predecessors, Dr. Paddy Hillery, who—while other countries dallied—sought and obtained the sanction of the Government to undertake the survey here and a great deal of the discussion on these motions has been based on this document— Investment in Education. Indeed, where Fine Gael would be had they not this report——

Or the Government.

I do not know what they would have done with regard to preparing a policy statement. I should like to say to Senator Quinlan, too, that this was not a commission or a committee set up to examine and make recommendations. There seems to be a misapprehension on this point. It was a fact-finding survey, which was designed to highlight problems and pin-point alternative strategies which might be used towards the solution of those problems. It remained for policy makers to adopt, in each instance, the strategy they deemed to be the most suitable. The report was all the better for this, I think, in so far as neither the team nor the steering committee were hamstrung by efforts to arrive at agreed recommendations. The approach was a new one and could, with profit, I think, be copied elsewhere.

While I consider that in matters such as this it is necessary to set the records straight, I do not think my best contribution to this debate would be to follow all the Senators down all the alley-ways and by-ways. When I took over the Department last year, I realised from the start, from the word "go", that in the eyes of certain sections of our people, the Department of Education just could do no right. If it sat tight it was accused of stagnating, and if it showed initiative it was accused of running ahead of educational thinking and failing to consult. I am all for consultation but this often means bogging down effort at real reform.

While appreciating the assistance of the various learned bodies, and those associated with education, it is no exaggeration to say that nearly all the real thinking in relation to education over the past decade has been initiated in the Department of Education. People who have contented themselves with orations at Old Boys' dinners have contributed very little, indeed, apart from getting the odd sensational headline in the Sunday newspapers.

I asked my officials to show me what had been achieved even back to 1958. Time would not permit me—nor do I intend to bore the House, to go into details—but I will just give the headings of some of the things which have been achieved. I have mentioned the survey "Investment in Education" which was initiated by Dr. Hillery in October, 1962, and a development branch has been established in the Department to continue the work begun by this survey. This was one of its main recommendations. In general, this branch is concerned with long-term planning on education and development of the system to meet social and economic requirements. It is carrying out a survey on existing post-primary educational facilities and on the raising of the school leaving age to 15 years by 1970.

In that connection—and this is not the opinion of the Government because I did not make a submission to them, nor is it the opinion of my officials because I have not had discussions on it with them in great depth —I intend to explore the possibility of raising the school leaving age to 16 years. I should like that very much. I suppose there are 1,001 reasons why this should not be done, and maybe we will be told 2,000 reasons why it could not be done, but in modern times, and taking into consideration what has been achieved in other countries, and our approach to Europe, it is an exercise worthy of examination. As I say, it is purely my personal opinion. It may be as foolish as some of my ideas have been from time to time, but I trust they have been balanced out by some more sensible approaches.

A psychological school service has also been established with an initial complement of three psychologists. This is terribly important. It will act as the nucleus of a guidance service in the three comprehensive schools, and in the three secondary schools which offer comprehensive service. Initially, this psychological service will operate in the junior post-primary cycle, that is, from 12 to 15 years of age. At present it is engaged in the preparation of a national standardisation of an Achievement Test Battery in connection with entrance to post-primary education.

I listened to and I saw a copy of comments by Senator Brosnahan and I was very interested in them. I have had discussions with the Senator in his capacity as Secretary of the INTO, and with other members on deputations. While appreciating that they could be classified—this maybe is a wrong title—as a type of vested interest, and while appreciating that it is up to them to fight their own corner in the best interests of their members, nevertheless I have been deeply impressed by their tremendous interest in education and, above all, their primary consideration for the child, who I am afraid has been forgotten in this House over the past few days. Our primary consideration is the child.

Senator Brosnahan referred to the primary certificate. I have had no hesitation in several public pronouncements in expressing my utter disgust at this form of examination. I think a child at that age is too young. He can be frightened and nervous, and is not sufficiently developed to be put to the test. I do not know what the alternative is at present. We are, of course, studying the problem.

People ask me: "Why do you not come up with a tremendous policy document, a statement on the whole field of education? Why do you not come to decisions? What are you going to do about the primary certificate, about A, B, C, D?" People who know me will agree that there is no quicker man to come up with statements like that, with important statements. Nevertheless, this is a tremendous responsibility because the decisions which we arrive at over comparatively short periods on all these important facets of education will set the tenor and pattern of education for hundreds of thousands of children for many generations possibly, and certainly for many years to come. While there will inevitably be variations on the theme of education year by year, as new methods come on the market, so to speak, and as there are new discoveries in technology and science, and other developments in the world which will have to be adapted to our circumstances, nevertheless there will be an unchanging foundation of basic principles.

That is why I think this is worthy of very, very detailed examination and, above all, here consultation and discussion are invaluable. I see my position as Minister for Education— I do not know whether it is the correct interpretation—as being the political head of a Department, representing the people, not necessarily representing blindly the officials of my Department for whom I have the very highest regard and esteem. They give me valuable, unbiased opinions. I do not necessarily accept their opinions on very important issues. In many instances they give me those opinions in a general way, with the best will in the world, convinced that the advice which they tender to their Minister is good advice. I have sat at meetings with an unbiased mind and I have tried to sit down there as a comparative layman. I regard myself as an individual responsible for having an analytical mind and for receiving various opinions. I appreciate that I, and I only, have responsibility for advising the Government on certain very important measures which must be introduced.

That is as I see it. While still talking about the primary certificate, I think I have said sufficient to indicate my feelings on it. I do not know what the exact solution will be. Criticism has been made here that education should be taken out of politics. This can be a dangerous cliché. What way does one interpret politics? I am sure we all understand that we want education taken out of politics where there is local agitation and political agitation, such as regarding the repairs to a school mentioned earlier by Senator Brosnahan with tremendous validity. That is typical parish pump politics. I have not the slightest objection to education in the real sense being kept in politics.

The Government make certain proposals. The duties of the Opposition Parties, their natural ambition and the goal at which they aim is to replace the Government of the day with their Party. This can only be done in a considered way by putting forward their ideas. The Opposition can only replace the Government of the day by selling themselves to the Irish people who, in the final analysis, are the arbiters of who will be the Government of this country for a definite period. Indeed, I welcome at this level a critical, instructive discussion. I welcome this motion on education just the same as I think it would be the end of democracy if we had not an Opposition to attack me. It helps a Minister for Education and a Government to be subjected to tremendous attack because in many instances the Opposition serves the role of expressing in these Houses of the Oireachtas the very thoughts of the man in the street and the very questions that he or she would ask were he or she here.

When I make a proposal and other Parties criticise it I welcome that. I see my job. If I can advance the lot of the children of this country, and particularly the underprivileged children in this country, I shall be doing a good job. I shall consult with people and listen to advice given by various people. Mark you, in the Fine Gael policy on education and the Labour Party policy on education there were many good things. Indeed, I am studying many of them in detail. If any of them were worthy of inclusion in my ultimate plans I certainly would include them. Why should I not do so? It would be the end of democracy if we were to come in here and say that nobody from the other side could possibly have intelligent ideas. I reject that. That would certainly be irresponsible. I certainly would not be acting towards the children of this country in a responsible way, who, after all are our chief concern, if I thought that people in the Opposition had not some good ideas.

I am sorry that I felt that the voice of the underprivileged was missing in this debate, in the main. To get back to some of the achievements as shown to me when I called for a submission I saw that a great improvement has taken place in the pupil-teacher ratio in the national schools since 1958. As we know, when the Taoiseach, Deputy Lynch, was Minister the ban on the recognition of married women teachers was abolished and the recruitment of untrained teachers was discontinued. I should like my thoughts to flow reasonably to a pattern but I have not a prepared script and they may be a bit disjointed. I think I shall use the opportunity of expressing again that I have not fully come up with a decision. The reference to the recruitment of untrained teachers being discontinued struck me. There are thousands of our young children in this country in private primary schools without assistance from the State. The numbers are very high in those schools. Thousands of children are subjected in many of those schools to being taught not only by untrained teachers who, in many instances, at least have reached a certain standard but they are literally being taught by people who have not even passed their leaving certificate.

I have been told that a solution I would propound might be unconstitutional. That is a great word in this country for doing nothing. I do not say that it is unconstitutional. There was an argument put forward, which I can tell the House might be logical, when the Houses of the Oireachtas brought in a measure whereby nobody who was unqualified could practise as a dentist. If you go down to the library you will see that during that discussion and debate one of the primary considerations was that unqualified people, quacks, should not have the right to treat our children's teeth. That is the important thing. Here we have unqualified individuals in our midst. Some of them are teaching our young children. Mark you my greatest concern is that in a lot of private primary schools some of those people cater for the underprivileged. In certain cases they serve a need and in the main they do a very good job but I am talking about cases, which are not isolated, where the untrained teacher position obtains.

I have given serious consideration to this problem. I put it before the House for their consideration in the future. Please God, I shall be back again for further discussion. When the Commission on Higher Education submit their report I should like to come back here and discuss it because the more discussion there is on those things the more I learn about them. We talk about the Irish language and we talk about the lack of love by certain children for it. This is where the trouble starts in many instances. How can a child love something if you have an unqualified individual trying to teach him? The art of teaching is a most intricate art to acquire. It does not necessarily flow from a person being called to a training college by interview. It does not necessarily mean that because a person has a fleet of honours in the leaving certificate that that person should be looked on as an eminent candidate for teaching. There are some people who would just never make teachers. In the case of many private primary schools these exercises are not indulged in and as a result we have those unqualified individuals teaching. I have dealt sufficiently with that, if not perhaps too much.

In 1963-64 a survey was carried out on large classes in Dublin. Following this survey large classes were reorganised and 104 extra teachers were appointed. This meant the virtual elimination of classes with over 50 pupils. Such a number is far too high and unsatisfactory for one teacher. Similar steps were taken with regard to all national schools in 1965 and in 1966.

I have already said that we have a record number of schools. Major alterations and adjustment schemes were carried out on 121 schools last year and 130 new ones were built. That is not a figure, however, which enables us to become complacent. We all know that in this country at the present time—and I am on record as saying this—there are thousands of schools which can only be classified, I am sorry to admit, as hovels. Many of them fall under the apt and reasonable description given by Senator Brosnahan. They have no toilets and no water and they are a frightening source of infection in a hot summer.

We are trying out a crash programme. It is not an easy solution but I admit that the amalgamation of the larger schools and the smaller ones is contributing to the solution. However, this is one of our national priorities crying out for rectification. I do not think there is any point in going into the question of the small schools.

I should like to refer to the committee on dull and backward children. These children are not in any way mentally retarded. In October, 1965, a committee was established to report on the extent of mental retardation in children. The scope and the steps necessary for the treatment of children who are educationally retarded, the curriculum appropriate for them and the qualifications of teachers responsible for their education are being examined by this committee. They are at present carrying out a survey of the educational attainments of children between 10-14 years in four selective areas, urban and rural. The results of the survey are being processed and on completion of this the committee will be in a position to put forward recommendations to me. One of the recommendations I would not have to wait for the committee to advise me on is that the pupil-teacher ratio should be very small—perhaps 1:7 or 1:8. This is where priorities are needed. What chance has a backward child in a class of 50 pupils?

Reference libraries in national schools were referred to. These schemes were introduced in 1962. To date arrangements have been made for the stocking of libraries in 3,000 national schools and we expect that a further 1,300 schools will be stocked this year. By March, 1968, we hope that all the primary schools in Ireland will have been provided with reference libraries. There are libraries and libraries and I, like everyone else interested, will follow with interest what these libraries will do.

Reference was made to Buntús Gaeilge. We know that a linguistic statistical survey on spoken Irish was carried out in 1963. The result was published in 1966 in Buntús Gaeilge. The working team, I should now like to tell the House, are in the process of preparing graded courses in Irish conversation for primary and post-primary schools and it is hoped that we will be in a position to introduce these courses in the schools by September, 1967. There is nothing that I as Minister for Education will not do to further the advancement of the Irish language. Do léigh mé mo script nuair a bhí mo Mheastachán ar siúil sa Dáil. Dúradh liom go raibh mo chuid Gaeilge go huafásach. B'fhéidir go bhfuil agus ba chóir go mbéadh sí níos fearr ach déanfaidh mé mo dhícheall to advance the language. I am not fortunate in even an approach to being a fluent speaker though, God knows, I should be but I hope to improve myself as time goes on. However, this will be one of my great priorities. I have not any fixed ideas but I certainly have basic concepts just as the Government have and it is up to me to implement those decisions with which I agree thoroughly. That is not saying that there cannot be re-thinking on certain methods. We must adapt ourselves to modern techniques and improvements generally.

While on the subject of linguistics, I think a decision of the Government, which I am now about to announce, will create tremendous interest among all lovers of the language. I have just completed an arrangement for the establishment of a full language institute in Gormanston. This institute will be under a full-time director. It will have an adequate research staff and it will be presided over by an advisory committee comprising representatives of the university, the training colleges, the Franciscan order and my Department and others interested such as teachers' organisations, though I have not fully drawn up representation of the teachers' organisations. I think this will be very welcome.

Senator Brosnahan referred to the heating, cleaning and painting of national schools, and I was going to deal with that heading. The estimate of the annual cost is £100,000 and grants are available for painting once in every four years and annually for the heating and cleaning of national schools. If people are neglecting to carry out their statutory duty, I can assure him that I will take a personal interest in this matter not because the INTO might withdraw their recognition. That, of course, would be serious but I am sure that they will not do it or will not have to do it.

On the question of training colleges referred to by two Senators, I would like to say that an ad hoc committee was appointed in 1965 to make recommendations to the Minister for Education on teacher selection, education and training. This committee reported in June of last year, and revised regulations based on its recommendations are being introduced in connection with training college examinations.

I have a lot of other details of achievements by the Department of Education here, but this is getting more like an Estimate speech so I think I shall confine it to what I have already said.

I should like to say something about my scheme for so-called free education. I repeat again and I admit that there is nothing free, that it will have to be paid for, and that the only people who pay for these things in the final analysis are the taxpayers. Unfortunately, while we have every confidence in the economy of the country we have to be realistic, and we cannot, unfortunately, rely on Senator Garret FitzGerald's buoyancy of the revenue even though it is a great compliment to the economy of the country generally. It would not be realistic to more or less hang our hopes on that. Were the economy not buoyant, or sufficiently buoyant, that would more or less intimate to the people that any developments in education were contingent on the revenue being buoyant.

Under this scheme, as everyone knows, next September approximately 61,500 day secondary schoolchildren will have available to them at no cost to their parents secondary education. There is no means test. Next September irrespective of income a man can send his boy or girl to these schools. Next September we cannot give a choice of school. There are very many schools which at the present time are chock-full. They could not, even if there were no free scheme for education, take in more children anyhow. We cannot give a choice of school, but we will ensure—and I say this with every due consideration of the facts—we will guarantee that no child seeking free education irrespective of means next September will be denied a place in a school.

A secondary school?

A secondary school. What kind of school did you think it was?

A vocational school.

As a matter of fact, I am glad that Senator Garret FitzGerald has raised this. When I was talking to a person whose opinion I value very greatly last night after this debate on educational matters, it occurred to me that in fact that heading will become a misnomer, and no harm either, because as we know the conception of the vocational school in the main has been that it is for the people who will seek their employment in industry and not go on for further academic achievement or development.

Does this mean that the comprehensive schools will replace them?

No. It will be possible for a child next September, or even now, to go into a vocational school, and if he has no bent for woodwork or metalwork or technical study he could continue in the vocational school on purely academic subjects right up along. As I say, this will be a misnomer, because in the vocational schools they will have these joint types of courses. Indeed, it would be a conception of the comprehensive school, too.

However, on my scheme of education, therefore, I have pointed out that there is no means test and that next September approximately 61,000 free places will be available. Senator O'Quigley asked how could the Minister get the teachers and the schools. I shall get the schools and I shall get the teachers, but will I have the co-operation of all? That is the question. Will I have the co-operation of all? I know what I would say were this four or five years back but, like whiskey, I suppose I am getting mellow with age and I hope more dignified in my pronouncements. I shall just say that it strikes me that some of the greatest preachers of charity in Ireland are the greatest offenders, I am sorry to say.

When free education was announced and when the details of the cost of that were sanctioned by the Government the thousands of letters that I got were simply amazing. 99.9 per cent were from people I never met or heard of and they all welcomed it. In the main, too, they were from the lower echelons of society, and from mothers and fathers who saw here at last something that they were denied because they could not get it, due possibly to financial circumstances. People say that the fees are really not a bar. What is £20 or £25? It can be a lot of money when you have a few children you are sending to secondary schools.

(Longford): A lot when you have to borrow it.

It can be a lot of money when you have to clothe them. I need not tell the House about this. People here know about these costs more than I do. Therefore, my priorities were clear to me. A certain sum of money is given to me to initiate this scheme and, remember this, all I am doing next September is simply scratching the surface but as Senator Ahern said I hope I am starting the excavations to lay a solid foundation and that with the money put at my disposal I am getting my priorities right. My priorities are the less well off members of the community. There is no means test. I leave it to the parents to decide whether it is a hardship on them. The Government have given me a very substantial amount of money. It would not be sufficient to give free education to all and even if I had the money I doubt if it would be desirable.

The limits are £15 to £25. As everyone knows I am bringing all schools under £15 up to £15 next September assuming that certain minimum requirements are carried out by them. There are developments which must take place and minimum standards which must be achieved. In other words, next September what they charged last September if they are under £25 I shall pay. I was saying that I have a certain substantial amount of money. I am terribly grateful to my colleagues in the Government because I appreciate that by giving me this money—and they were all unanimous in agreeing to the priority of education—each of my colleagues may have to forgo what to him and, indeed, truly could be deemed to be a most desirable project. Having done that for me and given me this global sum, I have to get my priorities right and my priorities are to help the schools which will cater in the main for the type of pupil I have in mind.

I announced last September my plans for free education. After all, I was the first to make a definite announcement on free education in this country. However, when winter comes can spring be far behind? They were not too far behind.

A little ahead.

Where is the little ahead?

We are still a long way ahead in a lot of issues the Minister has not mentioned.

If you like I shall stay here until 11 o'clock tonight and come back again tomorrow and next week and deal with the whole field of education. I am getting my priorities right not only factually but in discussion.

I know Senator FitzGerald will blind us with statistics this afternoon. I would not hold a candle to him. He would tie me in knots. He will come up with computerised data with the aid of Senator Quinlan and deal exhaustively with the infra-structure of education. I do not even know what that means but he will mention it. He will talk this afternoon on a very high academic plane. May I, a Chathaoirleach, be very respectful to Senator FitzGerald who perhaps has a great political career in front of him? Get in touch and move around the country. Get in touch with the ordinary people and with their worries.

You do not get into the Seanad without moving around the country a bit.

And, please God, Senator FitzGerald will always remain in the Seanad.

A heart-felt wish?

As I say, I got thousands of letters from the parents. Many welcomed this as filling a long want and a break-through in the historic year of 1966. At least it was an approach to giving equality of opportunity to all our children as set out in the Constitution. Then the avalanche started, the after dinner speakers and the trend went something like this: "While we welcome the announcement of the Minister for Education on free education and the equal opportunity for all our children, nevertheless ..." Then they came in with the stab. I am under no illusions. I shall tell them this in public: no one is going to stop me introducing my scheme next September. I know I am up against opposition and serious organised opposition but they are not going to defeat me on this. I shall tell you further that I shall expose them and I shall expose their tactics on every available occasion whoever they are. I see my responsibilities very clearly to the Irish people and to the Irish children. No vested interest or group, whoever they be, at whatever level, will sabotage what every reasonable-minded man considers to be a just scheme. We may differ on methods as has been said and we are all agreed on the conception of an approach to free education because this is all it is, even though I am catering for 75 per cent of the secondary school children.

As time goes on the fees and costs I suppose will increase at least and so must the assistance from the Government. I had a deputation recently and a reverend gentleman as he went out the door, when I said to him "Perhaps a £25 maximum now and maybe in a few years £35", he said jocosely but there was malice in his joke: "You will never catch us. We will always be ahead of you." It was our Divine Lord who said: "Suffer little children to come unto me". There will be a lot of suffering if that is the mentality that prevails in Ireland. I am surprised and I am disillusioned because no Minister for Education came into this Department with more goodwill than I did and I was very surprised. Maybe some day I shall tell the tale and there is no better man to tell it. I shall pull no punches. Christian charity how are you!

Anyway, I shall just give a quotation from a paper which is an indication. I have bundles of cuttings with which I shall not bore the House. I have my own Press cutting service which is of invaluable assistance to me. I get cuttings from all the provincial papers which are invaluable to a Minister. In the main a lot of the criticism comes from people whose fees are so high that they will be outside the scheme and they try to justify this. Why do they not be honest? I have no objection to fee-paying schools; I think they play a part, and there is a part for them in Irish education. I do admit that in certain instances there are, perhaps, valid reasons why they have to charge high fees, or higher fees. I accept that but let them not then create a false impression. The Reverend Superior in charge of a certain school is reported in a Sunday newspaper as saying and I quote:

Many parents who are willing to pay extra to keep schools select do not want to go into the scheme. They fear that numbers in classes will snowball and create overcrowding, and that their children will not get the same individual supervision.

The Reverend Superior added:

It is a problem of safeguarding our right to select pupils.

I am not telling the schools next September whom they shall select; I am not interfering with them in any way; they can now avail of my scheme for free education if they are within those limits and not take in one extra pupil. Bearing in mind my fees—the maximum is £25 and of the actual fee requested only 80 per cent of that is usually collected—we anticipated in the Department that schools charging £30 could easily come into the scheme. The Reverend Superior continues:

We are putting up our fees from £25, probably to £32 this year. Reductions are given to families sending several pupils. A survey of Dublin and provincial secondary schools shows that a majority intend to put up their fees in the near future.

(Longford): Who made the survey?

The Senator is not helping me in the slightest; it is a good question, because so much depends upon the validity of the survey. It is a doubtful statement. I do not believe that a nationwide survey, or anything like that, has been carried out. Nor do I believe that schools in great numbers will increase their fees to keep outside the scheme.

May I address my remarks to those who have decided to opt out of the scheme, so to speak, or who are contemplating doing so? First of all, think of the background to this. Take a certain place; let us say the fees are 40 guineas, a person has to pay 40 guineas. In an area of Dublin, supposing there is an individual who is paying at the present time £25 for his children and he said: "I would not mind paying fees for my children because they are happy there, they know the teachers, I shall make this sacrifice, and they do not have to travel long distances. Possibly, if I availed of free education, my children would have to travel some miles." Quite valid: perhaps this man might have a reasonable salary and, to bounce the fees for him from £25 to £32, can mean a lot of money; it is extra taxation on him, apart from anything else. There are people in this country—people for whom we must have the greatest admiration—who will continue next September paying fees because they believe it is in the best interests of their children to continue at the same school. But can the State continue with impunity to allow those Reverend Superiors and others like them to bounce up the fees, and can the State continue to pay the capitation grant, per pupil, to those schools, irrespective of what increases they make? Is it logical? An outside person hearing such a thing would say we must have plenty of money condoning, in effect, a rise from £25 to £32, an isolated case, maybe? It is not so isolated. Do they expect us to continue paying the capitation fee to those opting out of this most desirable scheme because a few of the mothers, the five per cent, I suppose considered that their children should not be mixing with the children of those, maybe, working in skilled employment or on the fishing boats in this area? This is dreadful, viewed in the light of the celebrations of the year gone by and all the great ecumenical movement that is going on, about which we read, and the pronouncements of Pope John and the late President Kennedy, who spoke in the Dáil. Are all those expressions of love for neighbour and Christian charity to be pious platitudes for some who should know better? I think I have dwelt on that aspect sufficiently long.

May I ask the Minister a question in further clarification of his free scheme? I have a child at a day school in Dublin which may not opt for the scheme. When I get my bill from the school, if I send it in to the Minister, will he pay it? If the school does not opt in, what is the position of the parent who wants to benefit from the scheme?

A very good question. I take it Senator Ó Conalláin has in mind a school which would be within the limit of the £25 maximum?

If such a school will not opt in, any parent who sends the Department of Education the bill, having got it from the school, we shall pay it.

May I ask the Minister a question? I do not understand why there is a swing from £15 to £25 payable for the same adequate education, which used to be adequate in different schools; either it is too little in one place or too much in the other, surely?

Well, of course, this is one of the great points of discussion at present. I shall deal with Senator Alton's point shortly.

I should point out, too, that I have already given the limits and have already spoken of the fact that there is no means test in order to avail of the free education. This education will be free right up to leaving certificate. Not only will there be no means test but, most important of all, there will be no test of ability. The Labour Party agree with that now but in their policy I think the wording is "If the child is capable of benefiting from further education". The point is that each child from next September will be able to proceed from primary to the junior cycle, to do courses for the intermediate, be they technical or academic, without passing the primary. A child will be able to pass from the junior cycle whether or not he has passed his intermediate or has a certificate of competence or whatever it is. Ability will not be a barrier for him making it up to leaving certificate. I think that is right. It is correct thinking and it is good educational thinking.

I do think every child must have an ultimate target, a goal at which he can aim. Perhaps some other time we will be able to deal with higher education, when the Report comes out. My statements in the main have been up to the leaving limit, the leaving certificate. The Government will have to give consideration to—and they will of course—the availability of money and the giving of financial assistance so that a child at a certain standard will not be denied higher education in a university or in a college of technology.

In that connection I should like to say that while university education does not find a place in the Fine Gael motion it is referred to in the survey, Investment in Education, and as the survey in its entirety is before the House, perhaps I could be deemed to be within the rules of order if I take this opportunity in the Seanad to say that I have been giving most earnest consideration to representations which have been made to me in regard to university fees, particularly in view of the imminence of the Report of the Commission on Higher Education.

While not denying the right of university colleges to raise fees if they have no means otherwise to carry out their duties adequately, I have come to the conclusion that as this Report is imminent it would be particularly inopportune for the fees to be raised just now. I, therefore, propose to give to the Colleges, by way of supplementary estimate, sums which would obviate the necessity for them to raise fees from the beginning of the coming academic year. I shall ask any College which has taken a decision to raise its fees to reconsider this decision in respect of the coming session.

Senator Alton's point is of tremendous importance. One of the criticisms levelled against the scheme was that because I was prescribing minimum and maximum grants I was descriminating against schools which kept their fees low. In framing the scheme, I had before me details of the fees being charged in all the schools in Ireland. I also had before me information as to the proportion of the fees which were, in fact, collected. I had details of both the charges and the amounts collected. In prescribing a minimum of £15 I was, in fact, increasing the actual fee income of all the schools in this range by at least 25 per cent.

I realise also that many of these schools kept their fees down through a sacrifice. My intention was that as the schools were providing increased facilities the minimum would be raised over the years. I could not understand, though, an illogical outcry. I have brought all those under £15 up to £15. I have said: "Whatever you charged last September, I will pay next September." Some of these schools are better off. I do not know much about the gospels but I remember the man who was hired for a penny for something like eight hours. Another man was hired for one penny for one hour. I suppose that was the start of trade unionism in the world. Anyway, it is the same type of argument. I am putting them in a better position next September. Notwithstanding that I suppose I can appreciate it if they say: "There is a scheme coming in. We had to bear the sacrifices down through the years. At least we should now get recognition from the State." I accept that there is validity in this and it is only fair to say that their fees were kept very low.

I think in the main fees in secondary schools in Ireland are not based on the principal and interest of the cost of the loan to build or expand, on the cost of the site and its development, on the cost of libraries and swimming pools. I think fees in Ireland are calculated in an arbitrary fashion. They are calculated by very shrewd people on the ability of the area, the city or town or the clientele, the potential customer, the parent to pay, or otherwise on the fee they are likely to get. It is only fair to say that. There is no point in screaming about other things. One Order of Brothers has a debt of over £1,400,000 and the bank interest is very substantial, yet some time ago this Order opened a school in a city and the fees are £12 to each pupil.

I should like to say that I have examined this thoroughly and I have made certain submissions to the Government. Some schools will be getting £15 and others will be getting £25. As I say, I accept the validity of that. I am happy now to be able to announce here in the Seanad that as from September, 1968, that is September 12 months, the minimum will be raised from £15 to £20 leaving only a gap of £5. In the following September, the flat rate of £25 across the board will be payable. I trust that this will, in the main, meet with the suggested objections to my scheme. No doubt other objections will now show their heads above the surface. I do not say that they will come from the category who up to now have been charging the low fees. Watch out for the weekend papers and the subsequent weekends until next September. It will be an interesting summer.

The cost of secondary school building has been a great burden down the years. Many Members of the House are not aware that a secondary school must obtain 100 per cent of the capital itself from the people it is going to borrow from, the banks in the main. Now the State gives 60 per cent of the loan charges which covers the principal and interest. We are having a look at all this. It has been suggested that some of the conditions before the 60 per cent is given to a school are onerous and arduous and that there are rather annoying conditions which are niggardly. That is incidental and I am having a look at it. I also appreciate there is hardship when the banks do not give a sufficiently long period. Six to seven years would be frightfully short.

We have had discussions with the Minister for Finance and his officials. I hope the banks will be able to give a longer term and also when there is a slight easing of credit that they will give the priority to secondary education. Undoubtedly, there are some schools and colleges who are finding it hard to raise the money. Not all of them, but some of them, are finding this hard. The 60 per cent, therefore, of the repayments has been welcomed as a valuable contribution, if a lot of the red tape were cut out.

It has also been thrown at us that not many loans have actually been met. I examined that thoroughly. One of the reasons for that is that some of the buildings have only been completed. In other cases the plans have only been drawn up and the 60 per cent could only be based on the actual amount they borrow from the bank and not on what the contract price actually was. As a further indication of appreciation of the problems of those people I should like to say that the Government have agreed that the portion of the cost of secondary school building which will be borne by the State will be raised from the present 60 per cent to 70 per cent, forthwith.

What does "forthwith" mean in relation to a building project now in progress?

It does not matter a lot.

How does it operate in regard to building now in progress?

I have not the slightest idea as yet.

The plan has been agreed on. I should imagine there could be great hardship if a letter was received last week by somebody telling them that they are now operating on 60 per cent. I should imagine that there would not be great difficulty in such cases qualifying for the extra ten per cent. That would be reasonable.

Senator Nash dealt with some of the motions which are before us. The Fine Gael proposal refers to increased capitation grants subject to the condition that a school offers a proportion of free places to not less than one-third. It is stated that their scheme avoids the danger of creating barriers between free schools and fee-paying schools. In fact, this is creating the worst form of barrier possible. It is creating it inside the school and the classroom. Did not anyone associated with the Fine Gael policy stop to think of what would happen to the unfortunate non-fee-paying pupil, for example, who had not the price of a tennis racquet or a cricket bat? He would not be in a position to participate in what is a normal activity in some of those higher fee schools. There are people in Fine Gael with whom I have discussed this matter. I respect their confidence and I respect the fact that they discussed it with me. They say that a mistake was made and they hope to change this. I think they have made a mistake. It was quite possibly a genuine effort to solve the problem. At least they are attempting to tackle it. They say that their scheme is absolutely free education. Why do not some of the Reverend Superiors have a go at Senator FitzGerald's scheme? His scheme, with the greatest respect, is the most ludicrous thing I have every heard. No fees to £20 and under. Between the range of £20 to £50 increased capitation grants if one-third of the places are made free.

A minimum of one-third.

Yes, a minimum. That has been brought home to Fine Gael and it could do with rectification should the necessity arise at some future date and if Senator FitzGerald is in a position to implement such a proposal he would see that it would be very difficult to do so. Above all, it would create the unhappiest child in the world, he who would be getting the free place. It can be said that some schools give a few free places.

Twenty per cent of the places.

All right. Twenty per cent. I was going to qualify my three or four. In a large family due to misfortune or other family circumstances there might be a remission. By and large, it would be very unfair to put a child into an environment which he was not used to in the first place and in which he had no anxiety to finish up.

Why did he go into it?

Because some mothers, like many we know, suffer from delusions of grandeur. I suggest to Senator FitzGerald that the discussion on his little brainchild should not continue further.

Keep the poor in their place, keep them in schools away from the better-off children.

Imagine Fine Gael talking about keeping the poor in their place. I am in a very charitable frame of mind today. I have a great regard for Senator FitzGerald strangely enough. I am an avid reader of the brilliant articles and the nonsense he can write with equal facility. I have, nevertheless, great regard for his opinions but I just throw this one out. The truth of the matter is that Senator FitzGerald was caught out. Does the Senator want me to tell him who caught him out?

Oh, no. The Senator knows that I know. Anyway, it is true to say that these pupils would become social outcasts in those types of schools.

Like the 20 per cent at present.

Furthermore, the Fine Gael proposal runs counter to any real endeavour to make free post-primary education available. Having one-third of your pupils free is an entirely different proposition from giving free places to a few, the identity of the holders not being known to persons other than the parents of the pupils concerned. At the present time, schools may only collect 80 per cent for different reasons. But here we have free places. Will the schools advertise these free places, will people get inspiration from the Holy Ghost showing that these schools will have free places or will people buy the New Statesman in my city in order to find out? Will it not be advertised that such and such a school has one-third of their places free and will they not then invite applications from these illustrious pupils especially who will sit for a qualifying examination in order to get one of the free places? Will the results be published or will the letters be brought around by agents of a secret society with which this country abounds. Let us not waste the time of the House on this aspect of the Fine Gael motion. Fine Gael are wrong. I should like to get on to the first of the Fine Gael motions.

Might I ask the Minister one question for the purpose of clarification? Do I take it as correct that any student can proceed up to the leaving certificate without passing any test along the way and that the school concerned will arrive at the end of the second year before deciding that this pupil is not adequately trained to go on to the third year?

That would be my wish.

Surely that is against all educational principles?

I think it is an educational principle that the passing of the primary certificate is no longer an obstacle to people proceeding on to post-primary education, that no longer the passing of the intermediate certificate is a deterrent to going on.

I shall accept the Minister's view on the primary certificate but surely after one year in the secondary school unless the student has proved otherwise how can he continue——

That is not a question. Asking a question is one thing; making a statement is another.

I made a factual statement.

Acting Chairman

This is not Committee Stage.

The sooner the facts about education are realised by the large majority of educationists who know nothing about them the better. It is not paradoxical to say that. It is quite true. They get enmeshed and get mixed ideas just like psychologists get a bit queer. These are facts. It is wrong to brand a child for life because he does not pass an examination in those early years. I consider early years those up to 16 or 17. I agree that if after doing leaving certificate you go on to university, or the colleges of technology, and so on, then you must have academic achievement as a prerequisite to entering one of those establishments.

Could the Minister give an example of another educational system anywhere in the world that accepts that pupils can go on for five years without passing an examination?

I shall give an example which is prevalent in this country. At the present time in certain schools if a child applies for entry he has to do an entrance examination. Does the Senator know why? It is because some of these schools, and I said this before, want the pick of the brains of the city or the area in question. They always look to the following September when they take an advertisement in the local papers saying 87 presented, 87 passed with honours and so many different scholarships. The sooner scholarships are gone from primary education the better. They should have disappeared long ago. It is all wrong that such examintions should be a bar to further education. The Senator knows well that he has brilliant pupils in his class in UCC. He knows them. Down the scale of education at the secondary level they were not brilliant. He will know their names and that they were not brilliant.

I agree there are exceptions; one swallow does not make a summer.

We want lots of fine summers in Irish education. Perhaps I could now mention the first of the Fine Gael motions. This shows an unawareness of the actual position that is hard to believe. It will be news to the representatives of all educational bodies, including university representatives who over the years have been associated with proposals with regard to teaching methods, curricula and examinations, to learn that they are not professional educationists. Might I ask Senator FitzGerald whether he will tell us since when did it happen the Minister for Education has not access to professional advice? Does he know the position at all? Over the years the highest positions in the Department of Education have been occupied by a secretary, two assistant secretaries and three chief inspectors. At all times at least four of these positions were occupied by people who were professional educationists.

How many of the existing Assistant Secretaries are professional educationists?

I would say that there are three of them.

The Minister appears to be suggesting that this is a group of whom at least four are professional educationists. I am asking about the present position regarding Assistant Secretaries.

I do not know if the Assistant Secretaries are at this time. The Secretary of my Department is a professional educationist.

Are none of the Assistant Secretaries?

This might not necessarily be the case.

It may not necessarily be the case, but I suggest that it is in fact the case.

I was just making an observation on what the trend has been down the years.

The trend is now to move away from that.

This is arguable too. When it came to framing curricula and determining the nature of examinations this was always done following consultations with representatives of all the organisations associated with post-primary education, including, in relation to the leaving certificate examination and courses, representatives of the university. Any person who thinks that the solution of our educational problem is the setting up of a multitude of committees as envisaged in the Fine Gael scheme is either out of touch with reality or else living in a fool's paradise. The Minister is responsible for the education of the country. If he is not doing his job the Taoiseach can get rid of him or a motion of no confidence or of stricture can be put down in the appropriate place. He cannot delegate his authority to all these committees.

There is one aspect of my scheme which might be specially adverted to and which if I could be so modest as to suggest, since no one mentioned it, is I think unique. If we look at the position in Western Europe in general and the Common Market countries in particular, in none of those countries is there full freedom of access to the higher regions of post-primary education, especially post-primary education of the secondary grammar school type. I have studied, naturally, with a view to possible entry to the Common Market the educational systems of the different countries in Europe, and in all there seem to be kinds of barriers erected, most of them based on an attainment of one kind or another.

If I may return to a few points made by Senator Quinlan, I would like to refer to what he said about computer programming and the necessity to check the results against the yardstick of commonsense. No one will challenge this statement. However, if he applies commonsense to the problem in question, he need not go into the realms of computer programming or higher mathematics to see what is involved. The latest statistics which I have — and they may be of use to the Seanad — show that we have 490,168 pupils being taught by 14,469 teachers in 4,847 national schools. This gives an average of 33.8 pupils per teacher. Of the 4,847 national schools, 2,407 are two-teacher and 756 are one-teacher. In all this we have the position of some teachers, who are in charge of as little as eight pupils, and others could have over 45 or 50 in a class. Therefore, it must be obvious that educationally and otherwise the position is crying out for rationalisation.

It must be equally obvious that on the basis of the central parish schools over a thousand teachers would be added to the pool required to improve the general pupil-teacher ratio. There is no point in anyone comparing the position here with England. The ratio of small schools to large schools here is completely disproportunate by any standards. On the purely educational side, as an educationist, I do not think that Senator Professor Quinlan would suggest that we could go on with the position in which one teacher is teaching all the classes from infants to sixth or seventh, or all the classes from third upwards.

I never said that.

The Senator referred to pupils who were retarded one or two years, D1 or D2 pupils. I think that he is not correct when he says that the grading D2 is simply a measure of the fact that children tend to go to school much later in the country for one reason or another. I refer the Senator to pages 242 and 245 of the Survey.

On the question of parent committees, particularly parent-teacher committees, which has been debated many times in this House, I have read these debates and I will not go over the ground again except to say that I have not any fixed views on this matter.

Will the Minister agree that the definition that accompanies D1 is exactly what is meant?

I understood, subject to correction, that Senator Quinlan said that the label D2 is simply a measure of the fact that in the country children tend to go to school at a later age for one reason or another. If he looks at pages 242 to 245 of the Survey Report I think he will understand the position.

On these parent-teacher committees, I read what Dr. Paddy Hillery, my predecessor, said in July 1961 in the Seanad Debates, volume 54, No. 13 and also the statement made by my immediate predecessor, Deputy Colley, on 24th November in volume 60, No. 6 of the Dáil Debates. I thought their attitude was reasonable. On the general matters of the debate I was very glad to hear the views of the various Senators. None of us has a monopoly of ideas and plans in relation to education. I hope Senator FitzGerald will deal in more detail with the Fine Gael policy document. The motion is in the names of Senators O'Quigley, Dooge and FitzGerald. It seems to me that in this matter of a policy document they panicked and called together for a considerable number of months this committee and had a number of meetings. It was then left to Senator FitzGerald to prepare the policy document. I am assured by a member of this committee that over 80 per cent of what appears in it is the brainchild of Senator FitzGerald. He shakes his head. We are on a morning of percentages. Perhaps a great deal of what is contained in it is the brainchild of Senator FitzGerald. He shakes his head again. Perhaps nothing in it is the brainchild of Senator FitzGerald?

I own to a certain skill of draftsmanship.

There is a certain amount of draftsmanship all right but the qualification is open to doubt in certain instances.

Also a few misprints.

My friend who is on the Senator's committee states that he has a very serious complaint and I am making it now on his behalf. He complains: "I did not see them since". If people serve you adequately I think they should be taken out to dinner and all that. He did not see you since. He says there was an understanding that the final document would be submitted to the committee.

He did not get his usual little notice or phone call. Of course, as we know the by-elections were on and Senator FitzGerald was in a terrible hurry and he came to certain conclusions and he got it out and the result was that the committee never saw the final draft of the document. They learned of its publication in a certain Sunday morning newspaper. As for the effect on the by-elections they should have cooked it until it was fully baked.

Anyway one of the results of the rushing into print of this document was the spectacle we had in the Dáil of Fine Gael Deputies trying to defend a newfound policy and none of them had a clue or an idea. I do not think they even read it. Now we have Fine Gael Senators introducing a motion in this House possibly for one reason and one reason only, namely, to repair the damage done by the members of their Party in the Dáil.

I was delighted to hear Senator Dooge state what the policy of Fine Gael is now in relation to small schools. It changes so often it is really impossible to keep up with it. Would someone tell my shadow in the Dáil what the present policy of the Party is as enunciated by Senator Dooge, just to keep him au fait?

A Senator

You are so well in with Fine Gael you might do so.

We should look forward in the future to having a unified outlook in regard to small schools. I always value very highly the contributions not only in this House but in other learned bodies of Senator Dooge, because I think, when he divests of the usual political verbiage which he believes he must use, that his speeches, when one gets rid of the commercial, contain a great deal of tremendously sound thinking. Yesterday he repeated the name "Fine Gael" 26 times I think, a new political tactic, political onomatopoeia, I have never seen it in a debate before. It is as if I were to repeat "Fianna Fáil", "Fianna Fáil" ... like the thrush

Who sings each song twice over,

Lest you should think he never could recapture

The first fine careless rapture!

Senator Dooge did explain with regard to vocational schools why they did not mention whether they were going to give them free or charge fees. He said the fees were so small that the omission was inadvertent. There is a tremendous charm about people who admit these mistakes. Senator FitzGerald did not know vocational schools existed or if they did that they charge fees. I admit Senator Dooge is always in touch with the ordinary man in the street and has his pulse on the requirements, like other Members of the House, but there are vocational schools now and the name has not been changed yet. This is under consideration, incidentally.

A lot of their work in education was set back — I did not refer to it up to now — by those cuts in the past, ten per cent in secondary education and six per cent in vocational grants by Fine Gael.

What is the cut in grants this year?

I was talking about the cut that Fine Gael made, six per cent in vocational education and ten per cent in secondary education in their last year in office.

Perhaps this will be the last year of Fianna Fáil's term of office.

I hope the graph in education generally in Ireland in the years that lie ahead will continue to show a steep rise. There is one matter which I have left until last. It is the most important problem which we are confronted with. Anyone can talk about free education. We can differ about the degree of it. My priorities were such that they started with what I deemed to be the underprivileged. My problem next September is not the teachers and the schools. At least that is not an insurmountable problem. It will be solved. My problem next September will be to educate the children and their parents to the incalculable value of post-primary education once the compulsory school-going age has been arrived at.

People visualise all those now, because education is free, rushing into secondary schools. That is really a position devoutly to be wished. Unfortunately, as we meet here today, this will not happen, I am afraid, and it is only by a concerted effort on behalf of all of us in public life through talking of the value of education, for the newspapers — and there are very many excellent articles on education currently in the newspapers — and through the media of television and wireless will we be able to get across to those people the value of education. It is not the fees alone; it is not the transport which, in my opinion, in rural Ireland particularly is far more important than the fees, free transport and no means test. There may be a school of thought — and I suppose there is something in it — that if you charge these children a penny, it inculcates a sense of responsibility in the child: quite true but, as I say, fees, transport, help towards the cost of the books are very worthy considerations.

It is the background of the underprivileged, of the child we want to get in — a typical child who leaves at 14; that is the family background, the environmental background — which is the great problem in Ireland today. One of the most tremendous documents which has ever come into my hands or I have ever read is one entitled Social Dynamite and it is headed A Study of Early School Leavers. This has been written and prepared by Rev. Dr. Ryan, Lecturer in sociology in University College, Cork. I had in mind; indeed I was going to recommend to the Government that in the case of a child whose parents were of limited means, and who normally leaves school at 14, that we must give the family a few pounds. I was told by a very responsible person that were I to do that in isolation, it might be politically popular but educationally and economically a retrograde step and to give it serious consideration before I so decided. I mean if we were to give the family of an unemployed man, or if the father were on a disability pension and the State gave, in such instances, an encouragement to keep the child at school and try to counterbalance to some extent, the wages earned in a factory — give him £2 or £3. But the problem, he said, is not money. This survey, which I would commend, is one of the most fascinating but frightening documents I have read.

You do not have to go to Soho, Coventry or Camden Town. This is an actual survey done in an Irish city, finished in December of 1966, of families, typical of many of our cities and large urban centres, taken out of old Georgian houses and put in by a local authority into what were beautiful new houses. The author has headed it A Study of the Early School Leavers. It shook me very much and I think people in public life will all feel, not so much a sense of guilt, as anxiety to see how this problem can be cured. One of the things is that it is not so much the money; it is not finance; it goes back further. It goes back in many instances, to the grandfather of the child, to the background of the mother and father and the environmental background. It is all very sad and brings out in no uncertain manner that the poorer they are the more love and affection exists for the parents in such children and a tremendous love and affection for the brothers and sisters in these large families.

The survey says that one thing is eminently clear. I do not want and will not attempt to infringe on the territory of any of my colleagues, but the one thing highlighted in that survey is the streets, with no playgrounds; not so much the lack of playgrounds; the local authorities have acres, 30 or 40 acres, around those schemes, now with wandering horses and full of boulders with nowhere to kick a football or play a hurling match. The survey then asked different questions of the boys and girls of 13 and 14 and what their ambitions were and why they did not go to school. Almost invariably the reply was because the other boys and girls were going into a factory at 13 or 14, where they could get piecework and where the boys could come in.

We have put up housing schemes costing £2 million and £3 million. Over a period that is quite normal. Our housing capital programme after all has been developed at £25 million a year, I think something of that order, I may not be fully accurate, but the big mistake we made was that we did not supply the community centres. I have seen community centres in America and England and some of them were badly designed. They did not cater at all for the size of the estate in which they were located. Therefore, I think this is a question of pre-planning and half the problem is to acknowledge that the problem exists. If only we could have those community centres, of a certain type in the middle of those housing schemes, centres to which old people could go to watch television — and, mark you, television is not in as high a percentage of them as some of us think. In some of those places there are certain amenities that young people want, certain types of music and dancing. They need a place in which they could get together, go in out of the rain and on which little drama groups could play their part. At what time do we adjourn?

There is a difficulty here in that the arrangements have been made for terminating today at 5.30 p.m., and there was an agreement that the Minister and myself would curtail our remarks substantially. I have not wished to interrupt the Minister because his contribution, in many respects, has been so interesting but in view of the fact that the Minister was not, perhaps, aware of the full nature of that arrangement——

Well, there were other points with which I wished to deal but I do not want to prolong the discussion.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

If the Minister indicates that he will, perhaps, conclude within five minutes the House might sit for that length.

I think I shall conclude now, as the House has been very patient, and I thank the Senators again.

We would be very reluctant to curtail the Minister in any way, if he wishes to terminate in a short while, or to resume for a short while after lunch.

Have I a few minutes left?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

If the Minister will continue and we will adjourn not later than 1.15 p.m.

There were just a few other minor points I wished to deal with; I am grateful to the House.

Business suspended at 1.10 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

At the opening of business this morning the House made certain orders regulating its business. Do we wish to amend these in any way?

Just slightly. Senator FitzGerald will now be called on at 3.45 p.m., and Senator Quinlan will be called on not later than 5 o'clock. The debate will conclude at 5.45 p.m. and the vote will be taken at 5.45 p.m. if there is a vote.

There is just one point to which I wish to refer. The debate so far has covered practically every conceivable angle in the entire primary and secondary education field. Before lunch the Minister stated that children would no longer have to face the primary certificate examination. In view of that, it is reasonable to expect that the Department will lay greater emphasis on the need for having special classes, or a special school at least in each county for mildly retarded children especially.

In view of the fact that we are told we will now have free education, there will probably be a great demand for extra places. Throughout rural Ireland there are not enough buildings to accommodate a great increase in the number of children seeking secondary education. I hope the Minister will give every possible help to the local committees, and to people interested in this problem of mildly retarded children. It may be possible to establish in the various centres, perhaps as part of the ordinary national schools, special classes to deal with these children.

This is also an opportune time to consider seriously the problem of moderately handicapped children as well. It is all too regrettable that in the past these two classes of children have been almost neglected. I know of one county where there are known to be over 130 mildly retarded children, and only 30 of them are placed in appropriate schools. That is really a great shame for our society as a whole. I earnestly ask the Minister, in view of the fact that we will no longer have the primary certificate examination, to make every effort to ensure that special classes will be made available for all the mildly retarded children in the country.

It is true that, under the present regulations, urban councils, town commissions and corporations can provide primary schoolchildren with a hot meal or hot drink at mid-day. It is an extraordinary situation that county councils, as such, cannot provide this facility for children in rural Ireland. We feel it would be a great benefit to the children who sometimes have to walk up to three miles to school if those grants were available to school managers and teachers to provide a hot drink at lunch time for those children. It certainly would be beneficial to them particularly when we find that the children who reside in urban areas receive this facility.

I did not intend speaking on this motion because I am not an educationist but the parallel between health and education is getting so remarkable that I feel, perhaps, it might be as well to speak for a few moments. Health and education are the two things which seem to be the concern of every family in the country and, therefore, for economic reasons they become very important politically. As a result, you have the Opposition Party promising a lot and hoping to achieve this with minimal expense. This always seems to drive the Government to great efforts, which is a good thing. As a result, we always seem perhaps to explode a little bit too much.

Like the Saturday night speakers, I thoroughly agree that the school-leaving age should go up to 15 if not a little higher. I am also absolutely certain that every child in the country who has the necessary aptitude should be able to go on to university education and post-graduate education. I wonder, however, is it quite necessary to take in 75 per cent of secondary schools to achieve this?

The report on education shows that we have the greatest percentage of children in the British Isles receiving secondary education. This, in itself, is a great tribute to the parents, the children and also the schools who are offering education at very reasonable prices. I believe that the Minister may be very disappointed in the number of children who will be able to take his post-primary courses. Experience has shown — I wonder if such is the experience of the Department's psychologists — that quite a big percentage, perhaps up to one-third or more will be regarded as unfit to benefit from post-primary education. This may mean that the Minister may have to establish a third stream, a lower grade stream, such as they have in England. It might have been well to have allowed for this in the scheme.

The bigger point I want to move on to is the Minister's worry about opposition and his worry about why he might be in opposition. I view this as very much akin to the situation which occurred in health. It is not really a matter of vested interests. You have in both health and education a situation in which religious orders do a lot of work for charity. They work at below market value. Associated with those you have doctors and teachers. If I may make the analogy, before 1958 surgeons in voluntary hospitals worked for nothing. Then they were paid at rates which we feel are lower than they should get. Normally, at the same time as surgeons are employed you have the anaesthetist, technicians, biochemists and radio-graphers, and those were paid salaries before and since 1958. When an emergency occurs at night and if the surgeon has to operate the anaesthetist, the radiographer, the technicians and bio-chemist will all receive a fee for coming out at night but the surgeon will not receive a fee. He feels he has been cheated. He has been charitable and now he is stuck with the charity. I can appreciate why religious orders in this country feel they have been cheated.

We note that secondary education in this country is rated at about £60 per child a year as against £120 in vocational schools. I am sure when transport is taken into account in regard to comprehensive schools they will be three times that amount so the State is getting a fair deal in this. Even though they are generous they are still getting a fair deal. Why should everybody be charitable to the State? It is one thing to be charitable to people who are deserving cases but why be charitable to the State? I am quite sure that the people who will print the books for free distribution will not be charitable. I am quite sure that the transport system which will convey the children around will not charge less. They will charge an economic rate. Why should people who have been doing charitable work up to the present be penalised?

This leads me to the point as to why some schools will get £15 and some £25. It may be for financial reasons. It may be just because the Minister cannot raise the finance for a couple of years. From his explanation this morning it would so appear. Even at that it is bad at the present moment because it creates a queer situation where some children will be adequately educated for £15 and some will be adequately educated for £25. It is wrong one way or the other. It is unfair on the youngsters because it means that the poorer children, the underprivileged children, who have been going to low cost schools, will have to do with a £15 a year grant, whereas the better class children who are going to the better class schools will get £25 per head grant. The underprivileged person gets less and the better off person gets more. It is the children who suffer here.

It creates the impression that if you go to the school that gets the highest grant you get the best deal. I can see a flood of children trying to get into the schools which have had fees of up to £30, in the knowledge that they will get the best chance there. The Minister has a great facility for getting things done and of really acheiving results. It seems a pity, therefore, that small points should cause trouble. The Minister would do well not to consider vested interests for a moment and just try to realise that people who give charity to others are not so kind in giving charity to the State. The Minister might realise that it is not so much a question of money as the hurt that doctors, teachers and others feel about these things. There would be indignation but that would easily fizzle out.

This has certainly been the fullest and most comprehensive debate on education that we have had in the last 20 years in Seanad Éireann. I am inclined to think it may even have been the best debate on education since the foundation of this House, but that would require some research to establish. However, I can say from my experience that this has certainly been the best debate in the last 20 years on this subject.

I congratulate the movers of the motion and the speakers who have contributed. It is heartening to see a growing esteem for education in Party politics and national politics. I entirely agree with the Minister that education must always be an element in politics. I mean politics in the highest sense, the art of government. If the Minister needs allies on that point I offer him both Plato and Aristotle who also believed that the ideal State must have the right system in education.

At this late stage of the debate the remaining speakers have agreed to abridge their remarks and I shall certainly do so too.

As we are debating primary and secondary education, we should be clear in our minds as to what is of primary importance and what of secondary importance for these two types of education. I agree entirely with the Minister that the primary consideration is the children. We are likely to have a plentiful supply of these for years to come. I understand that in certain high places they are worried about this in the future but in this debate we need not pursue that topic. The children will be there so we need not devote our attention to them for the moment. The supply of good teachers is, however, the next item of importance among the primary essentials. We must get good teachers and a sufficiency of them. These highly desirable changes — I might say this benevolent revolution — that are about to take place will probably require hundreds more of secondary teachers. Where will they come from? This seems to be the urgent problem now. It is not primarily a question of buildings or equipment; these are secondary considerations.

Let us consider for a moment one or two of the present conditions for the recruitment of secondary teachers in the Republic and outside it. First of all, the conditions for the recruitment of teachers in the Republic are discouraging, to say the least of it. Those who are being trained receive no State support, unlike primary teachers and unlike teachers in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I have consulted professors in education on this. The result is that many of the trainees for secondary teaching have to work during the day. They have to work as many as 20 hours a week in order to pay for this further training. This, obviously, is most undesirable. It takes away their energy and weakens them. Sometimes they must attend lectures in the afternoons or evenings, which means that they are second-grade graduates, or undergraduates, in the university. From the point of view of efficiency and of status this is bad.

I would appeal to the Minister to see that this de-grading of our trainees for secondary teaching will stop and that there will be sufficient State support available to enable them to take on full-time first-grade courses for the Higher Diploma in Education. This is not the fault of the professors or the lecturers. It is the fault of the system and it is something that should be rectified quickly.

Let us look at those who have got their Diploma in Higher Education. What happens to them? We have the discouraging fact that their first year's salary is deplorable. We have to my mind the even more deplorable fact that the Irish Association of Secondary Teachers is, on the whole, content with this situation. So I am informed. Why is this? There is one good reason for it. For obvious reasons lay teachers are afraid that they will be unemployed, that the market will be overcrowded. That is a legitimate fear. It is regrettable that they should have this kind of closed shop attitude. There is the feeling that they must keep out the young ones or that they will crowd us out. There is also, I understand, an arrangement with the INTO that the senior man in a primary school must get preference for, say, a post of subprincipal. I hope the Minister will do something about that.

The position at the moment is that when a young man has with great difficulty got his Diploma in Higher Education he must virtually starve for a year. What is the result of this? Obviously most of the intelligent university graduates turn their backs on teaching. They go into a bank, or somewhere else, where they get a reasonable salary. The alternative is to give them a good salary such as they get in other jobs. I appeal to the Minister to do something about that.

Senator Stanford has mentioned that the Association of Secondary Teachers condone the salaries that are paid to teachers in their first year. That is not quite correct. The attitude of the Association is that they do a year's probation.

That is another name for the same thing.

They are making representations to the Department to have the supplementary allowance which is paid to them increased.

Senator Ó Conalláin is saying the same thing in other words. The fact is that an inadequate initial salary has deterred bright and intelligent young men from going into secondary teaching.

Let us consider those employed outside the Republic. Many of them are graduates who were trained at considerable State expense in the schools and universities here. They go to Britain and the United States, and they want to come back. I am specially interested in this because my son is one of them. He wants to come back. He came home last September and looked around but he has gone back to England again. There may be thousands of others like him, unless they happen to be in West Africa where there is a special arrangement that experience gained in schools there is taken into account for increments elsewhere. That is the result of a long missionary tradition in West Africa. We might extend it.

I ask the Minister seriously to consider recognising the experience gained by teachers in Britain and the United States who want to come back and help us in this revolution which is about to take place. They will not come at the moment if they have to start from virtually nothing on the incremental scale.

There is another difficulty for them, and the fact that I say this does not imply any hostility on my part to the Irish language. Once again Irish is being used as a deterrent in our schools. They cannot get their salary scales without qualifying in Irish, and many of them are not fit to do that for various reasons immediately, so they cannot come. I would suggest a practical expedient to the Minister which has been suggested already, that he should allow them five years or three years, perhaps, in which to qualify in Irish, granting them the full incremental salary up to that point. I do not think that is unreasonable. In fact in the Intermediate and Leaving Certificate we waive Irish for people coming from outside the Republic, and the National University very rightly does the same thing in its Matriculation. It is a reasonable precedent, and we might well extend it. We will need these people in hundreds. They will not simply be good teachers coming back. They will be teachers coming back with experience of modern techniques and methods abroad.

For instance, to take an example, we will have the problem of grouping rural schools. This is something which they have been working at in the United States of America for years and years, and they have done it very successfully. I imagine that a teacher coming from the Middle West or some such area would be most valuable in that field of educational thought in this country.

For that reason I would appeal to the Minister to make it easier for devoted teachers to come back and get well paid posts in secondary schools in this country. We have no restrictions on this kind of thing in the universities, and why should it be so in the secondary schools where they are so badly needed?

The second thing we must think about, though I am not an expert about this, is, as the Minister says, money. He has very rightly emphasised that we are not talking about free education. It is of the greatest importance to tell everyone in this country that it is not free education. These are the Minister's exact words, and how right he is! This will have to be paid for by the taxpayers, quite clearly. How much will we need? We have experts in the House who will tell us various figures. I notice in the Irish Times a very well written article on this by Senator Garret FitzGerald, a very good one, yesterday, and the price seemed to have jumped to £2 million or so. My opinion is that we will need not millions of pounds, but tens of millions very quickly within three years time if this is genuinely going to be done. How are we going to get that? I believe that the country is ripe for a specific educational tax. I am not going to go into the machinery of it, but as the Minister so rightly said we must sell this to the country, that it is worth the taxpayer's time, work and money to get this privilege. I believe that we can sell it. I have been talking to a lot of people up and down the country on this and I think that there is a readiness to pay money in taxation if free education is granted. I accept with the greatest pleasure what the Minister said. He has emphasised that these things are not free. We are going to pay for them. It is thoroughly worth it. America was very backward in education until they suddenly woke up to the fact that the Soviet Union was paying millions and millions of roubles on it and then suddenly America decided “We had better have education”. It is a crude reason, but I would rather have a bad reason for doing a good thing than none at all. We have a better reason. We know that something must be done and we believe that the country would gladly pay. We are backward at the moment. In the seventh, eighth and ninth cencenturies we were the most educated people in Europe, perhaps in the Western World. The tide of history has flowed away from that but it can flow back. We have the intelligence. What we need is training.

I want to touch on one problem that has been mentioned for a moment or two before. We want to save the money of the taxpayer as far as possible. One obstacle has been the tradition, for very obvious historical reasons, of denominational schools. I am not going to embark on this thorny problem but I am going to say this, that I can assure the Minister that from the point of view of the religious minority their mind has changed very greatly on this. As far as I can see all the progressive minds, or most of them, amongst the religious minority would welcome a steady reduction in denominationalism in schools. With primary schools we do not have it actually to the full extent as in secondary schools and in universities.

In other words we are preferring the doctrine of Thomas Davis against Daniel O'Connell's. The fact that we have put up a statue to Davis now at last in our city may mean that denominationalism in schools, which was O'Connell's great fetish thing, is now going out. I hope that this is so.

There is another way of saving money, but again prejudice is rather against it in this country—what I mean is the antipathy to mixed secondary schools of boys and girls. I think that that is backward-looking now, and I can say to the Minister that as far as the religious minority is concerned there will be no suggestion that divided education is something to be defended to the last.

I promised to end quickly and I propose to do so, but I must add that I very greatly welcome the change in the climate of opinion that is shown in this debate and throughout the country. I congratulate Fine Gael on this very admirable document they have produced. I congratulate the Department of Education on this most valuable Report on Investment in Education. The fact that both sides, so to speak, should work in competition in excellence in this way is admirable for the country. Perhaps I could say in parenthesis, though it may seem only a small thing, that as a member of the religious minority I welcome the tone of the debate in which you accept the religious minority as just another kind of Irishmen, children of the nation, problem children, perhaps, at times but not delinquent or retarded. I should like to say this, that I have been in this House for about 20 years and the tone has changed. I welcome too this small thing, that we now talk about "the universities". It was always "the university", in the singular, when I came in here, and that did not mean Trinity College, Dublin. It is a sign of acceptance of children of the nation and as such is welcome.

I would like to touch on two things that the Minister mentioned. First of all, what strikes me as very seriously questionable in his statement of policy is his intention that there should be no test from the time of admission to the time of departure from secondary schools. I would ask the Minister to reconsider that very carefully, for it seems to me to be contrary to educational thought almost everywhere.

I do not think I said that.

I would be very happy to think that you did not.

Everyone thought he did.

What I did say was that academic achievements or ability would not be a detriment to further educational advancement.

That does not mean what I was saying, and I am very glad to hear it. The point is that if it did mean that, the schools would not be entitled to test the ability of their pupils.

I said that whether they passed the examination or not if the pupils had already started in without the primary certificate and want to take the intermediate, whether they pass the examinations or not they can go on.

I hope that this decision means that if the teachers come to the conclusion that a certain pupil is not fit to go on to the higher classes they would not be prevented from saying "I am sorry, we do not think that you are fit to go on. You must go," because if we take away that right of a teacher I think that education, the country, the parents and everyone will suffer. It seems that the Minister does not mean to take away that special test, and that is right.

Finally I welcome the Minister's announcement about university fees which he gave this morning. The Minister was generous with his promises, but this is something he is actually giving. I would assure him in the spirit of his speech, that TCD has no intention of keeping out the underprivileged, no desire to opt out. We are prepared to open our gates as wide as they like. We will endure overcrowding as bad as anywhere if necessary, and we do not want to put up our fees to keep people out. The Minister in his speech redeemed us from the necessity of having to do that and I am very glad.

In conclusion, I fully support the motions proposed by Senator O'Quigley and Senator Jessop.

I feel more confused than ever after the Minister's statement today. So much has been said about education that it is difficult to find what is left to be said.

I was sorry that the motion by Senator Quinlan and Senator Donall Ó Conalláin did not stand because if that motion stood the debate would have taken a different turn completely. Fine Gael introduced a motion of their own which perhaps forced the Government to put down an amendment. To my mind, it took away from the debate because we had very fine speakers from Fine Gael and very few from Fianna Fáil and they were talking politics the whole time, with the Fine Gael speakers trying to put across that the only document in which there was a cure for all our educational ills was the Fine Gael policy for a just society as regards education.

Senator O'Quigley went so far as to congratulate the Labour Party on having a policy on education. He then said it was of interest to note that they covered about half of what is covered in their document but that at any rate half a policy was better than no policy. I consider that a very insulting remark to the Labour Party who were the first of the political Parties in the country to produce a document on education. I defy Senator O'Quigley to find anything in the Fine Gael document that was not in the Labour Party document. I also remind him that there are matters in the Labour document that we consider to be of very great importance — the question of maintenance and fees in vocational schools. We also had the courage to make our comments as regards corporal punishment. These are matters that Fine Gael seem to overlook completely in their policy document. We have quite a lot of statistics in the Fine Gael document but these statistics can be got from the document Investment in Education. It is there in black and white and there was no need for such research when we knew that such a document was being issued.

Our principle in regard to post-primary education is that every child should have an opportunity of receiving post-primary education and that such education should be suited to the aptitudes of the child. Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour all agree on that. There is no disagreement. In the particular matters that Fine Gael pinpoint in their document there is something we could not agree with at all, especially No. 3. At No. 1 they ask that professional educationists independent of the Department of Education should have primary responsibility for teaching methods. I would agree with that and also in regard to curricula. In regard to examinations I have doubts here about what Fine Gael really want. If there are professional educationists, will they deal with examinations? They could deal with the type of examination that could be set but will they deal with the actual papers that will be set? In my opinion the setting of papers is a job for just one person because there is too much danger of leaks, et cetera, if there is a group of people dealing with the setting of papers.

The State should encourage and assist in the establishment and growth of parent committees. We in the Labour Party believe that parent committees should be there in an advisory capacity. We do not believe they should interfere with the running of the school. We think that should be a matter for the teachers and the managers. In vocational schools we have the vocational committees. They do not interfere in any way with the administration of the school. They deal with equipment; they deal with perhaps policy; they deal with building and with heating, cleaning and so on but they do not interfere with the administration of the schools. They are doing a very good day's work by not interfering in the administration of the schools. We believe that parent committees would serve a very useful purpose. We think they would be needed in the future if free transport is to be organised in a proper manner. It will take a parent committee in each area to see that the free transport scheme works smoothly. I brought a transport scheme to Westmeath for three different areas. We set up a parents' committee in each area and they have done great work. They collect one third of the cost and the State pays the rest. A transport scheme would not have been a success without them.

In our policy we go all out for maintenance grants. Fees alone do not solve the question of post-primary education. We heard the Minister say today that if a boy failed his primary or intermediate certificate he should be brought on up along the line but if reports come from the school that the child does not seem likely to reach great academic heights the question of the maintenance of that child will arise every day and on the question of maintenance we are not satisfied with the distance Fianna Fáil have gone in their policy. We are not satisfied that they should ask us to delete all words after "That Seanad Éireann". I think that was stupid on the part of the people who put down the amending motion because many good points were made by the Fine Gael Party here. They made them after due consideration and the fact that I do not agree with them or perhaps the Labour Party do not agree with them should not disturb them so much.

No. 3 is one I have the greatest objection to. How can you state that you will enable all secondary schools to provide free education for some or all of their pupils in such a way as to minimise class divisions within the secondary school system? They walked straight into it there. There you have the snobbery talked about in this House for the last few days. If you create two classes within the schools— the class that pays, the people who have the means, and the people who have not, you are definitely walking into trouble. We in the Labour Party could not accept No. 3. We regret very much we did not put down an amendment of our own to eliminate, at least, No. 3. With No. 3 out, I would say we could vote for the motion. After "That Seanad Éireann", to cut out everything and substitute: "we are confident that what the Minister had done represented far-reaching and progressive steps forward", we are not so sure about.

Investment in Education, I think, boils down to the amount of money that can be provided for education by means of taxation. Fine Gael in their document are very confident that buoyancy of revenue will meet the situation. I could not disagree more with any statement ever made— that buoyancy would meet the situation. It has no possibility of meeting the situation. Last year at this particular time we were discussing the White Paper on Health. Everyone seems to have forgotten about it now but there is a new Minister for Health and we are expecting that new Minister to implement some of the proposals in that White Paper, if not all of them, in the near future. If there is buoyancy of revenue, the people who want to get benefits under the Health Act will believe that some of that buoyancy or revenue should go to ease the difficulties as regards the demand for the health bill. We have the farmers demanding more at present and they also hope that buoyancy of revenue will bring some relief to them. We are in the second era of economic expansion and we are very worried about our rate of progress.

We hear from experts, such as Senator FitzGerald, that we seem to be three per cent behind. Even the Government say that, so our buoyancy of revenue will not be what some people assume it will be; it will be much less. We know that even what the Minister has done will impose a heavy burden on the taxpayers. We have often heard it said, by anybody who knows anything, that the lightest load one ever carried was education. You can travel the world if you have education. You have a sense of values. I do not think we would resent extra taxation if we knew it was being directed to give the 17,000 children —who leave school every year, and who never got any more than primary education—post-primary education. Those people belong to the underprivileged, a word used quite a lot today. It was used by the Minister several times; I would be inclined to say that any taxation imposed, or any improvements effected in our educational system to give people a chance who really wanted to be educated; and there are many who have no interest. It goes back to the parents. The parents will also have to be told how important it is.

I am very glad it is not the intention of the Minister to change the character of the vocational schools. As far as I can see, he does not want integration but he wants a combination of vocational and secondary schools, to give children of both establishments a better opportunity. Vocational schools have definitely done an excellent job. It is the only system of education in Ireland of national origin and its growth has been phenomenal. It has served the country well and anything which would interfere with it in the future should be abolished. We observe that the new system of appointment of vocational teachers was welcomed by the Vocational Teachers' Organisation, but I happened to get a vocational teachers newssheet of 2nd December, 1966 and was rather alarmed at what appeared in that newssheet. I quote from the article under the heading "Radical Change":

Where schools are controlled by the present vocational education committees they should in future be administered by a school council and should work flexibly within a budget determined in agreement with the Department of Education ... and the regional council and should operate under the general supervision of the Department of Education.

Just imagine the county councils being dictated to, or the committees being dictated to: "You put up that much; you have nothing more to do with it; you have no further say." That is what we are being asked to do here by that newssheet. With regard to the formation of the council, the newssheet had this to say:

The school council might consist of the principal of the school, the regional officer or his representative, a representative from the educational division of the Department of Education, a local representative who might be nominated by the local authority or appointed in some other appropriate way, and a nominee of the Minister.

The vocational teachers of Ireland are asking the bureaucrats from Dublin to go down and run their business in every county in the country, in spite of the fact that vocational education has done more for post-primary education than any other branch, because nine-tenths of the people of this country were debarred from going into secondary schools; they were not there. When the Minister comes to deal with a suggestion like that—which I am quite sure will be made to him—I hope he will know what to do with it.

Now I come to the comprehensive schools. We were waiting for the Minister to say something about them today. I do not know whether he spoke after lunch but he did not mention the comprehensive schools before lunch. There is only one thing I know about the comprehensive schools. In one that is in full swing, there are 380 children and 28 teachers: the pupil-teacher ratio there is, surely, all right. Compare the chance of the children attending that school with the chance they got when attending national schools, where there may have been 70 and 75 in a two-teacher school. They must be getting a fair chance now but did they lose their chance by overcrowding in classes that were too big. I hope not but I am afraid that is the case.

The raising of the school-leaving age has been advocated by the INTO and by the Labour Party for years. We are glad that it has been decided to raise the school-leaving age to 15 in 1970 and that it will not be too long after that when it goes up to 16.

Another 100 years!

There is something the Minister will have to consider when he raises the school-leaving age and puts transport at the disposal of pupils to attend schools of all kinds and attend for post-primary education. We shall have to get rid of the so-called compulsory School Attendance Act that we have at present. It is an Act full of loopholes. It is despised by the district justices throughout the country because if a child is brought to court he will be fined a shilling and have the day off from school, and that is all. There is no such thing as sending in reports to the Garda about absences of children from school, because it is absolutely ridiculous to do so. If a child lives three miles from the school and if he says he was digging potatoes or turning turf, working for his father, the teacher will not know. A child can get ten or 12 days in that way.

The greatest worry for any teacher is absentees from school. One can imagine that in the big classes where there are absentees from the fifth, the sixth, and the seventh classes especially, it is almost impossible to get the work done. The teacher has gone so far and has to go back over it again. Absenteeism is the cause of many of our ills. If there is to be no compulsory post-primary education, illness is the only excuse that should be accepted for absenteeism. It should be brought home to the parents that the Government are in earnest about seeing that children attend school. If that is to be done, we shall have to scrap the Act and bring in an amending Bill.

Senator Ryan and Senator Sheehy Skeffington referred to the inadequacy of the training of national teachers. No one realises that more than the teachers' organisations and the teachers themselves. For years and years they have been advocating a third year in training. They have been advocating a change in the system, but they have been wasting their sweetness on the desert air. That does not mean that the teachers we are getting are in any way substandard. If a child wants to get into a training college he must exceed 2,000 marks in the Leaving Certificate before he is called. If he gets fewer than 2,000 marks he will be called for interview to pass a singing test. If he does not pass the singing test he is out the door.

How many marks are there for singing?

What about dancing?

When children are rejected, if they have the means they can go into the university, and after spending some years in the university, and without any training in teaching methods, they can teach in the secondary and vocational schools. People who fail to get into training may do that, and they are doing it every day of the week so, if we pick the top of the leaving certificate and give them three years' training—at the moment it is two, but I understand it will be three—we have a good type of teacher going into national schools. That is my belief.

The existence of so many badly heated and substandard buildings which was referred to by Senator Brosnahan and Senator Quigley is definitely a cause of worry to anyone who is interested in education. It makes a mockery of management, and a mockery of our assistance to underdeveloped countries. Teachers are sent from Ireland to underdeveloped countries to give them an idea of how things should be done. Next year teachers from many of these underdeveloped countries, and from all over the world, will be coming here to the World Confederation of the Organisations of Teachers to mark the centenary of the founding of the INTO. We hope that before 1968 many of these schools will have disappeared, and will have been renovated in such a way that we will not be ashamed to let people from these underdeveloped countries see how we get on at home.

On the question of free books the best thing the Minister could do would be to send all our headmasters in to the social services, for a month's training with the home assistance officers. They will have to assess who is to get free books and who is not to get free books. They will be in rows with parents every day of the week as to where they should draw the line. It will be said that one child whose father was earning £8 a week got free books, and another child whose father was earning £8 5s a week did not get them. There will be all sorts of arguments if the headmasters have to make inquiries about means. This is a means test. It is like the hospital bills, or when a person looks for an old age non-contributory pension, and the home assistance officer wants to know how many hens are in the yard, how many cows are kept, where Johnny is working, where Mary is working, and what contribution they make. The headmaster will have to do something like that, and he will be lucky if he is not lynched by someone who thinks his child should get free books.

I do not know how the question of fees will work. I can see it working in the vocational schools because the amount involved there is nothing. I am chairman of a vocational committee which defied a direction from the Minister to put up fees. We have the lowest fees in Ireland. This will make no difference to us. We charge 15/- a term. We got a direction to put it up to £2 but we are the only committee that did not, and we are glad we did not. How right we were.

I thought the Minister might mention diocesan schools. Does he think that these people are in a different position from those in the ordinary secondary schools. They have their entrance examination. They pick the best. That is what the secondary schools are doing. The others have to go to the vocational schools or to the Christian Brothers' schools. They put up no bar against anyone. They are absolutely and totally selective in the secondary schools today. Anyone who has a child who is ready for post-primary education would want to be moving now even to get permission for the child to do the entrance examination. If he does not come at the top there, he is out. In one school in my area last year 200 children did the entrance examination. There were 40 places and the other 160 had to go elsewhere.

For that reason with this free education for all—something I do not like to call it—the Minister is running up against colossal difficulties. Where will he put these children? Take our own vocational school at home. We had to buy seven prefabs last year and if we have to buy seven more this year it will be a whole prefab village. Prefabs are not the answer to accommodation for children for post-primary education. We have submitted our building schemes and our plans. We have been told that changes must be made and those plans have been going back and forth, up and down for months and months and years and still we have no school— not a stone on a stone.

We have also been earmarked for a technological college. I hope we get our 20 acre site. We are more or less assured we will not lose the technological college in Westmeath and we should be glad to have that school at Athlone. I shall not delay the House much longer because it is not really fair to hold up the Seanad when Senator FitzGerald has to get in. Some arrangement has been made about this.

One last thing I want to refer to is the threat of the Minister today to withdraw capitation grants from schools who do not come into his scheme. I say to the Minister here and now that some will get in free but he will be surprised at what will happen to the rest. They will pay the fees. If you go through with that threat you will close half the secondary schools in Ireland.

I did not threaten as the Senator suggests.

You said that the capitation fees would not be paid to those people.

I should like to make a point of correction if I may. I asked a rhetorical question. I cited the case of fees being increased from £25 to £32. I asked whether the State could stand by with impunity and was it logical for the State to continue to pay capitation fees in such cases. That is an entirely different thing to what the Senator sugests, that the schools who would not come into my scheme will lose their capitation fees.

Thank you. As a result of that statement, I know something I did not know before. I now know that the people who do not want to opt for the scheme may lose their capitation fees. I did not expect that because I know who is involved. The people I am worried about are the people with residential schools who might lose their capitation fees.

That would not leave it so bad. I am surprised that the Minister is in difficulties with this particular section. Part of the blame lies on his own shoulders because you get in from £15 to £25. I think the Minister had the figure of £20 for 1967 and it was to be moved up. The figure will eventually have to be moved up. Those who are taking in children at a very small fee, those in more or less poorer districts made great sacrifices for those children and are now likely to suffer. In my opinion they should not be asked in the future to make the same sacrifices which they made in the past.

This debate by any standards has been a useful one. It has clarified many points for a lot of us and it has cleared up the question of where there is agreement in principle between the Government and the Opposition and where there is agreement in practice but perhaps with slightly different priorities or where there appears to be rather fundamental disagreement. I must say I see the whole problem in a different perspective now as a result of this debate and in a different perspective than I did when the debate started.

It has been a most useful debate for all of us and it has clarified many points which we had not an opportunity of clarifying in recent months. The fact is that there are differences between us. There are some differences in priorities. For example, it would appear that the Minister gives higher priority—perhaps this is for practical administrative reasons—to providing transport to children even if they do not need it financially than he does to providing maintenance grants. Perhaps it is because we are not close to the practical side of the problem when we are in Opposition but we on this side of the House prefer to put the extra £500,000 or so into maintenance grants in preference to providing transport for all children, even those who can afford it. We say that free transport should be provided for children who cannot afford to pay for it and that the others should pay.

I am still not clear from the Minister's speech as to the nature of the difficulties which have led him to provide free transport for all children whether or not their parents are able to afford it and whether or not there are existing arrangements within the parents' means. I hope that after this debate the Minister will examine this matter again. Of course, he may have found that there is no way out of it. The only reason I have to think that he may have good grounds for his attitude on this is that he probably had a good deal of trouble in going to the Minister for Finance to secure the extra half million pounds to provide free transport for children around the country regardless of means but if he had good reasons for persuading the Minister for Finance to provide this extra money he has not given them to this House.

I still believe that a flexible system of transport could be provided on the basis that those who could afford to pay would pay and that those who could not would not have to pay. Why should we allocate so much money to people who do not need money, to provide them with transport when there are so many underprivileged children in the country for whose benefit we could use this money? I believe that there is something wrong with the Minister's priorities in this regard and have yet to be persuaded of the practical difficulties which allegedly render it necessary.

Apart from that particular difference of priority, there are obviously some areas in which many of those on the other side of the House have somewhat different views and are rather divided in their views. I refer particularly to the parents' committees. There were some rather contradictory statements from the other side of the House from several speakers and this ended up with the Minister saying that he had no fixed views. There is some difference there. I believe that all Senators on this side of the House, whatever group or lack of group they belong to, are in agreement that it is desirable and important that such committees should be established. I also know that we on the whole place very great importance on university-linked training courses but those views are not shared by speakers from the other side.

There are then serious differences between the two sides of the House in regard to some other matters. Perhaps we might persuade the Minister to modify his views in regard to some of those points. Thus there is a difference regarding the treatment of higher fee-paying schools and on this it appears that the Fine Gael Party are alone in this judging by the last speaker who committed the Labour Party firmly to the system where you have the schools for less well-off children and schools for well-off children. We are divided on that issue from the Labour Party and the Fianna Fáil Party. I do not believe that enough thought has been given to this. I refuse to believe that the Minister, whom I know to be socially progressive, who seems to be committed to social progress, has thought the implications of this matter out fully. I find it impossible to believe also that the Labour Party are firmly committed to the views expressed by the last speaker. Those are differences in which we may yet persuade the others to come in with our views.

There is a final difference between this side of the House and the other side and that is in regard to curricula and examinations. They seem to be firmly agreed that this must be an administrative scheme rather than one in which you rely on expert knowledge, and that you may take advice given to the administrators or not take it as you wish without any publicity. They seem to be committed to the view that not all advice should be taken and that it should be rejected privately, behind closed doors. These are the areas in which there are definite differences, but I must congratulate the Minister on much of his speech. There are parts of it with which I am most unhappy but most of it was thoughtful, open and showed concern for the problem he has to tackle. At times, as we expected, it was extremely witty.

We have also heard about several decisions which have been taken recently and which were announced here today. They are decisions we all welcome. The decision of the Minister to get away as quickly as possible from this unfortunate £15-£25 span, which lack of resources forced on him as an expedient in endeavouring to open as wide as possible the area of free education in the secondary schools —the decision to eliminate this in two years' time is welcome. The arguments that persuaded him are not just political arguments. Most of them are practical arguments which have come from discussions between the Minister and organisations with whom discussions took place.

I welcome as a member of a political Party and also as one involved in university life the Minister's decision to make financial provision so as to avoid the necessity to increase fees. It is regrettable that the total inadequacy of the Government's provision for the universities forced them to decide to increase their fees. It is unfortunate that this situation should have arisen. The Minister should not have allowed it to happen, but, when he saw what he was faced with, he took the necessary decision and has persuaded the Government to accept his new position.

We welcome also the higher rate of capital grants for secondary schools. The Minister here again has met the arguments put forward to him on this matter. The existing system has not worked smoothly, and in our policy statement we said that, in our estimation, this matter should be urgently reviewed.

The Minister also referred to the question of slow-learning pupils and to a survey the results of which have not yet emerged. We look forward to the position foreshadowed by him in which we will have schools in this category with a pupil-teacher ratio of 7:1. This is only a foreshadowed decision, but we welcome it. We are not talking here, as the Minister rightly said, about mentally-handicapped children. Here provision is totally inadequate, and we dealt with that in our first Just Society policy statement. We are now talking about slow-learning pupils and that is a matter that has aroused the Minister's concern and to which he is giving consideration as to what steps should be taken.

We welcome all of these things in the Minister's speech and I also welcome and agree fully with what he said on the subject of political discussion of educational policy. I can sympathise with people concerned in education who find it thoroughly distasteful to hear people in politics shouting slogans about education at each other and getting involved in educational matters for the purpose of vote-catching. This must at times be distasteful and it is our duty to minimise the vote-catching content of what we say on educational matters.

But education is a matter that can be decided only on a political basis. That is what politics are all about. Those who persistently seek to withdraw educational and other important policy matters out of the political arena, who say that these matters are too important for politics—though they do not intend it—are undermining democracy in this country. Education is so important that it must be involved in politics. Decisions as to how it is to be provided for and how educational needs must be met are political decisions which must be taken by a Minister who is answerable to the Houses of the Oireachtas. And if people think the Minister is wrong they should say so and explain why he is wrong. The Minister has a duty to listen to what people have to say and if he thinks it is right to accept it. This is how such decisions should be taken. But we do not believe that decisions on technical or professional matters such as examinations and curriculum should be taken in this way. These are matters outside the political arena and here there is a difference between us.

I am unhappy about one thing and I have been thinking about it during lunch time, of how to place it in the broad context of the whole educational problem. I find fault with the Minister in his handling of the secondary schools. He has allowed himself to talk in demagogic language here. I can understand that there is a genuine feeling behind what he has said. His social conscience is evidenced by his attitude to some reactions by people in clerical walks of life speaking on education. Nevertheless, even if the Minister has grounds for that, and may even have been provoked by some of the Sunday newspapers headlines, I do not think he is entitled to talk in the way he has here today. He has aggravated the problem instead of solving it. From our experience we know that in Church-State relations there are divergences of views and of interest and failure to speak out has prevented progress being made. This is true in regard to the universities and in the primary schools, but it is not true in the same way in the secondary school area. There the position is not one of a large group resisting change, the privileged seeking to keep themselves outside and away from the common herd. That is not the trouble, nor is the Minister trying to bring them in. The situation we have got now arises out of confusion and misunderstanding but partly also from prejudices on the Minister's part. Instead of opening his arms and saying he wants as many as possible into the system the Minister has drawn a rigid line at a point far below the point where a desire for exclusivity operates. He has drawn a line below 25 per cent of the secondary schools of Ireland as if they want to be exclusive.

The Minister has good contacts in the educational sphere and has had long before he went into politics. He knows perhaps more than most Ministers about people's attitude to education. He knows something about the way an educational system works and the attitude of the people in it. He knows that there is only a small minority of schools catering for people who want to be exclusive. Most of the schools charge fees, not to keep people out of them but because of the totally inadequate provision made for secondary education in this country. As far as these schools are concerned, if they are to have a decent pupil-teacher ratio, if they are to have classes of a size proper for teaching, and if they are to give their teachers a reasonable burden in teaching—18 and not 26 hours a week—they have no alternative but to supplement the inadequate provision the State has made, by charging fees of this kind. They are doing so because while some schools have felt that it is their first duty to cater no matter how badly and how inadequately from the point of view of teacher-pupil ratio for people who cannot afford to pay more than £12 a year, these other schools feel that their first job is to stick to certain standards and charge certain fees so that they can provide a better standard in terms of pupil-teacher ratio for people who can afford to pay a reasonable amount of fees, fees which are larger than in the other schools but which indeed by the standards of other countries are not great even in these places.

Both these classes of school fulfil a useful function. The group of schools in the over-£30 bracket do not want to be excluded or segregated. I know this, because this is something which in the course of the preparation of our policy we found out and which was very much impressed upon us. These schools are very much concerned that they should not be put in a position of being exclusive. This is what bothers and worries them, and they fear it with good reason because of the things that the Minister has said and the attitude he has shown towards these schools. It is clear that if they are cut off into this position of being separate and segregated, charging fees, they are going to be open to the kind of abuse and pressure which they rightly fear and do not want to be subjected to.

Quite a lot of them want to get into the system. They want to be part of the free system and would be prepared to go a fair distance in squeezing certain standards and accepting some lowering of standards in some cases to get into it. The Minister instead of helping them to bring this about and seeing how he could get them in by some means or other, trying to get them in anyway within a few years, speaks of them in abusive terms. It is no wonder that they are worried.

This is not true. I have not criticised the existing fee-paying schools. In fact I paid tribute to them and gave reasons for understanding why in certain instances higher fees were charged. My main outburst, if we might call it that, this morning was applied to those people who are attempting to stay out of the scheme and propose to increase their fees, such as the case that I cited, from £25 to £32. I went further and asked whether it was reasonable for the State in such circumstances to continue to pay capitation fees. I have no quarrel with the other higher fee-paying schools and indeed as time goes on I would hope that the net would extend wider and take a further category in.

I am not referring to what the Minister said in respect of schools increasing their fees. There one can see his point. I am referring to something he said some time before, and one phrase he used was that "some of the greatest preachers of charity in this country are the greatest offenders" against charity. He did not use this expression when he was speaking about schools raising their fees which came some time later, but about this group of schools as a whole. If it is the Minister's intention to confine his strictures to that group of schools which intend to raise their fees he did not succeed in doing so, and in the heat of the moment he seems perhaps to have said more than he should. But in Limerick also at a meeting there with reference to an article in Hibernia he said, and I quote “Fr. Paul Andrews had accused him of fragmenting the educational system and creating class barriers. `I am not creating any class barriers. I know that they are there, and I know who created them too,' he said.” Prolonged applause greeted that demagogic remark. This has nothing to do with people who are going to raise fees this summer.

They are already raised.

This talk about people in this State having secondary schools at different levels— it is a pity the Minister talks in these terms because there is, in fact, a complete identity of interest here. It could have been that as in other countries, we had a large number of schools which wanted to be exclusive and to stay out of the system, thus creating a conflict between the interests of the State and the community and this group, and in certain circumstances some action might have to be taken on that. But we have not that situation. Even if we had a small minority taking up that attitude we should be trying to work with those people and to bring them into the system, and I say to the Minister that it is a pity that he is not doing so. I sympathise with his problem. He would need not £1½ million but over £4 million to bring in all the schools into the system. He has not got it and he must do the best he can with the £1½ million and he has made what he considers to be the best attempt in that direction. I fault him not for doing that but because simply owing to the fact that he has only got £1½ million and cannot afford to bring in all these schools, he talks in terms which must cause an unnecessary exacerbation of feelings between two groups both of whom are aiming at the same thing.

This is the one criticism I would make of his speech. For the rest, what he said was encouraging and helpful. I think that we did enjoy it and I thought that he was flowing so smoothly that I had not the heart to stop him in full flight by suggesting that he was speaking for longer than had been agreed.

What about the differences between us as a method of dealing with this problem, because there is a genuine difference? The Fine Gael proposal is not a perfect proposal. I regard it as the best attempt that can be made to meet a situation which is impossible of perfect solution in the short run. I am aware that it has defects and am more than prepared to hear some alternative to get round the problem. What I am not prepared to accept easily as an alternative is something that does not get around the problem but avoids it and creates fresh problems. The fact is that if you have one class of schools that are free and another that are fee-paying you are creating a clear-cut division in our society of a kind that we have not hitherto had. We have been terribly lucky in this country. There are of course very serious class differences in Ireland but they are gradations rather than clear-cut differences of the kind that they have in England, whereby talking to a man you can tell whether he is a public schoolboy or a grammar schoolboy. That you cannot do here. There are social differences in Ireland but in our educational system we have no clear-cut divisions between people such as has weakened British society by dividing it in a manner which I believe has contributed very considerably to the economic failures there over the past 20 years. We must fight this at all casts. To introduce this even temporarily because of the lack of £2½ million would be most unfortunate and we should do something to get all the schools, or almost all, within the system offering free places. It is a great pity not to attempt that.

The Fine Gael proposal has the negative merit that it avoids this clear-cut division in that virtually all schools will be taking free pupils. Whether they take in one-third or whatever the proportion, would be a matter for the individual schools depending on their particular fee level. People would not be making clear distinctions because they would not know what the precise proportion was. This is an area where we should try to blur differences, not highlight them.

This proposal has also positive merit in that it would be the first step towards the democratisation of these schools. What appalled me about this debate—the Minister made this point in a reference to this at the outset when he referred to a lack of a social conscience—is that I have never heard in all my life such a solid front of prejudice from both sides of the House, this self-satisfied complacent belief evident in the remarks of Senator Yeats, Senator E. Ryan and Senator McAuliffe, that we must continue a division between the schools because it would be terrible if the poorer people were to be permitted to be in the better-off schools, that we must keep them nice and quiet in their own boxes and we must see to it that they will stay there.

That is the Senator's class of thinking.

I did not say any such thing. Very far from it.

Make your own case and do not try to misrepresent ours.

Let us go back and find out what they said. Senator Yeats asked a question which seems to me slightly naïve. I think the Minister will agree. He asked how would we find parents unable to pay the fees.

How would you? It is an interesting question.

We would find them when they presented themselves at the school because they would like to send their children there.

What means level were you thinking of?

That is a matter of detail.

It is a rather important detail.

The important thing would be that the schools would be required if they wanted to go into the scheme not alone to have free places to allocate one-third of these places to children who would not otherwise be able to go to that school, and that allocation would have to be inspected by the Department to make sure they were not pulling a fast one and letting in the children of some old boys for nothing, in order to evade this requirement. They would have to be able to say that they were letting in people of a class who had not previously gone there.

The next point made by Senator Yeats was that the non-fee paying child would be in difficulties. The Minister put this in more concrete terms. He said he would not be able to afford a cricket bat or tennis racquet. Senator Yeats said it would be far better if you had the non-fee paying pupils in a different school.

Senator E. Ryan said all students were subsidised to some degree and the parents would know this and, therefore, it would not make for any social distinction. I think this is a bit naïve.

You mean you disagree with it?

That is right. He said there would be no highlighting of fee-paying schools. I do not quite know how he will ensure that. Then with the lawyer's libel action defence, which as a non-practising barrister I always appreciate, he says: "Even if there were some temporary class distinction this would be remedied later on because they would all arrive at the same standard of living. This is highly obscure. How if you have schools where the classes are larger and the teachers have to work much longer hours, and you put one group in there and the other group in other schools with much better facilities, would this not affect them after leaving school and enable them all to be equal in after life? Apparently the chap who is in the school in which they have not got the facilities will be compensated in some mysterious way and put on a par with the people who had the advantages. I repeat the adjective "naïve", with respect to this thesis, and I think that would be the opinion of most people with regard to this remarkable statement on how equality of opportunity is to be achieved through the educational system.

Senator Nash brought us to the root of it because he used inadvertently a word that showed the mentality that lies behind this approach. He spoke of "the deserving poor". I had not hoped to hear those words in the year 1967. He tells us that "the deserving poor child can obtain the highest degree of education" in the Minister's system. The undeserving poor we need not worry about, of course. With that statement we are back to the first half of the nineteenth century. That is what lies behind this approach. I know that in the heat of the moment I am being unfair.

A Senator

Quite unfair to Senator Nash.

I am only quoting what he said. Anybody who in this half of the twentieth century talks about the deserving poor, deserves what he gets. I know I am being unfair, however, in pressing this point as if the origins of this attitude of the Minister and other Senators were a class attitude. It is not that. It may be in some cases that there is a class attitude of an unconscious kind, more than they realise. But the reason for this attitude is probably a peculiar confusion of this class attitude with a prejudice against those higher fee schools, a kind of inverted snobbery approach on the one hand combined with a bourgeois attitude to the question of equality of opportunity and school segregation on the other. Just how much of each is in each person's mind is a matter of judgment. It is an unholy alliance of opposite forces that you would never expect to find working together but they are working together here to create the system and then perpetuate it—the system of one school for the poor and a different one for the better-off—on the grounds that the less well-off children would be so uncomfortable, because somebody might know they did not pay fees and they might not have a cricket bat.

Of course, the breaking down of class distinction will be painful for both sides. It will be painful for those whose privileges are going to be lost and for those who have to push their way up and put up with the attitudes which will be shown towards them in school and out of school. Nobody is going to pretend that you are going to get rid of those class attitudes easily.

Is the Senator interested in the children or merely in theory?

I am interested in a society in which class differences are a lot less potent than they are today so that all those children can live in a society in which there is genuine equality of opportunity. I do not think the Minister has thought out fully enough the consequences of the system. I do not know whether he has been driven to it because his financial situation pushed him to this solution, but I think he should think about this again. I know he thinks I should rethink my position also. I will think about my position carefully but he should reconsider his also.

With the greatest respect, Sir, how will you pay for your suggestion regarding one-third of the free places? What will your method of recompense to the schools be?

The proposal is to increase the capitation fees if the schools accept that a minimum of one-third be free. In many cases it would be a higher proportion to equalise up the money they would get, but at least one-third of the places should be given to the children who would not otherwise go to that school.

Therefore, if a school charged, say, £49 and gave the minimum one-third free places, would the capitation fee be increased by that £49?

I am not being dogmatic about it but in principle the system would involve an equal increase in the capitation fee to all schools, a doubling of the capitation fee approximately, on condition that they admitted all their pupils free if they could afford to do so without losing money or whatever proportion could be admitted free without losing money, with a minimum of one-third. Schools who charge over £50 would have to choose between entering the scheme and losing money or staying out of the scheme.

They will all tell you they will lose money.

Only if the fees are over £50 would they lose money and many of them are prepared to drop a certain amount if the Minister would allow them to enter the scheme so as not to be considered exclusive.

Methinks thou dost protest too much about exclusiveness. It is the guilty conscience. I know what it is to have a guilty conscience.

The guilty conscience of another Jesuit boy!

It can be a very serious thing.

It appears to be worse in Clongowes than Belvedere.

An extraordinary enigma.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I think matters of conscience or comparisons of schools might be left aside.

The lack of maintenance grants in the Minister's system is clearly—and I think he has admitted this himself—virtually due to lack of money. I should like now to press this point with him, which will be difficult if he is leaving! I should like to be clear that the Minister, in principle, is in favour of maintenance grants but that he simply has not got the money for this purpose at this stage. I think this is his position; I want to be fair to him. I do not think there is any divergence of principle on this issue but simply a difference in that the Government in power cannot find the money and Fine Gael are in Opposition and would like to be in government, and believe that if they were they could find the money. In principle, there is agreement between us on this.

What is unfortunate is that the Minister has substituted for this a peculiarly poor kind of books grant; in fact, he himself knows it is poor. He knows this perfectly well but he has not told us here—that he has, in consultation with the schools, admitted it is a bad system and asked them if they can think of a better one. He has said—and more power to him—that if they can think of a better system, he will adopt it. This really is an extraordinary scheme because the intention is that the Department—and I hope the Minister, when he returns, will correct me if I am wrong—will decide for every school what proportion of the children they think so poor as to need books. How they will do this is mysterious deciding on a proposition somewhere between 100 per cent and nought per cent. Having decided to allocate that amount to the schools—the average amount being 25 per cent in all the schools— they will leave it to the headmasters to allocate the books within the schools.

To describe this as a no-means-test scheme, when it contains the most arbitrary means test ever heard of, in which a Department of State arbitrarily decides how many poor children there are in each school—although they have no direct knowledge whatever on this point—is stretching the English language a bit far. It is a scheme designed to get over the problem that the Minister had not the money for maintenance grants, but wanted to do something and he thought up this half-baked scheme to do something with the small amount of money he had available for this purpose. I am glad he is rethinking it and I hope the schools will be able to put to him some better proposition as to how to handle this money and use it for the benefit of the children.

But what we have to move towards —and I should like from the Minister a straight and open agreement on this point—is a system of maintenance grants, when we have the money—and I quite see he has not got it this year —but, when we have the money, he should commit himself to such a scheme and commit himself clearly. It is not, of course, the whole answer, as the Minister has said—quoting from his Cork survey he had in his hand and which we have not yet seen—there are many other things impeding people from going to school, apart from the question of maintenance grants, but money is part of the problem. A maintenance grant scheme in itself would help to solve the other aspects of the problem—the reluctance of the children to go themselves, and the reluctance of the parents to send them.

On transport there is a divergence between us, to which I have referred already. It appears to arise from the fact that the Minister is convinced that a no-means-test-scheme would be unworkable. I am not convinced of this, largely because the Minister has not told us why this is so. I am prepared to listen to him on this, when he decides to explain himself more fully but, in the meantime—not having heard the reasons—I am not convinced that a Minister with the ingenuity to devise even such a poor book scheme as he did devise, could not devise, with the same ingenuity, a similar type of means-test transport scheme which would be workable and rather more effective than his book scheme.

I am not happy about his statement —and I was not sure I fully understood it—that CIE would be employed solely for this purpose. I may have missed something he said and I may be unfair to him because I see Senator Yeats is shaking his head——

I think the Minister said CIE would be asked to do it, where they could.

I see. Well, fair enough, but it seems to me that the right way to do this—and the only way to do it—is to put it out to tender, on condition that trade union labour is employed and safety conditions are maintained. But to employ a national transport company and give them the right to do it, without checking on whether you could get a more economic tender, seems to me to be quite a wrong approach, and spending educational money in order to subsidise CIE. If you give them the right to a job, without any tender, they will no doubt —as they do in other operations— charge the best price they can get, in order to cross-subsidise the railways some more, as the £2 million they are getting from the Government is inadequate for that purpose at the moment. I do not think educational funds should be applied to subsidise the railways, which is what will happen if there is not a proper tender system.

Moreover, the plan is misconceived; CIE are there to do a public transport job, providing regular transport services on scheduled routes with drivers and, usually, conductors, for large numbers of people. What we want is a flexible system for the low density areas. On reflecting on this point, I had thought that the teacher himself might have brought a number of pupils to school in his car and have got some extra remuneration for that. It would be much cheaper; what he would charge for the extra wear and tear on his car would be a fraction only of the CIE charge, and I had thought there might have been other people travelling in the direction of the school each day—local farmers and so on— and who could come back in the afternoon and who might offer to do the same, at a fraction of the cost of public transport. This scheme involving CIE is a complete misconception of what goes on in rural Ireland, and involves a complete misconception as to the density of population in rural Ireland. I am not too happy about this but we will have to see how it works out in practice.

One disturbing feature of the Minister's speech was his total silence in regard to comprehensive schools. Though he was asked a direct question by Senator Murphy—and, I think, by somebody else—he told us nothing about comprehensive schools, or his plans for them. There has been quite an extraordinary silence on the part of the Minister and his predecessor on this for a very long time. We all recall the announcement of the scheme on comprehensive schools. A previous Minister, I believe, envisaged ringing Dublin with comprehensive schools all round, or some marvellous scheme to this effect. It seems three have been built, one more is being built, there is talk of two more being approved or not, and then it stops dead. Who killed Cock Robin? I think we are entitled to a frank statement by the Minister on this. He has no hesitation in saying what he thinks about clerics in religious orders but he seems to have a little more hesitation in telling us about his relationships with clerics in higher orders.

I should like to know just what went on between the hierarchy and the Government on this issue and what influenced the Government to drop this scheme. If they have dropped it, I think it is a great mistake. We all know the background to this. We know that in this country there has been a conflict, for a century or more, between the hierarchy and the religious orders. Let us get this thing straight and talk straight about it now. That conflict has meant that in many dioceses religious orders have not been allowed to open schools—so that the monopoly of the diocesan college has been maintained— which, in turn, means totally inadequate provision for secondary education.

The Investment in Education Survey showed the extraordinary pattern of secondary education throughout this country—that some areas are well provided for with regard to secondary educational facilities while others have virtually none. It has nothing to do with the economic level or with the standard of living in the area, it is governed by some non-economic factor, and it is well known that the factor is the different attitudes of different bishops in different dioceses. The bishops have, in this respect, I believe put their own private interests before the interest of the country at large, as any group of people are likely to do on some occasions, because we are all subject to the various pressures that make us, at times, think of our private interest before the public interests.

There is only one way of ensuring that this will not continue to happen; that is, by the Government not alone making noises and building four comprehensive schools and then stopping, but going on building some comprehensive schools wherever the inadequacy continues, so that there would be a continuing prodding and spurring of the bishops to reverse the policy that has deprived a large part of this country of adequate secondary educational facilities. I think that needs to be said straight; it needs to be said because we must talk straight about these problems and not hedge them around with mystery. I should like to know what has happened about these schools because, if the Government have stopped building them—because of this pressure—I think they have given up a powerful weapon to ensure the adequacy of education. I do not think we should attempt to build up a very large comprehensive sector of State schools but I do think that a small steady rate of building, judiciously planned, throughout the country, would have a powerful continuing spurring effect on the bishops and indeed on religious orders, the bishops working with them instead of against them as hitherto, and this would help to expand the private educational area in this country, which is what we should be trying to do. Private education has proved extraordinarily economical, and I do not think we could actually afford a State education system. I believe that the comprehensive schools will cost us, per pupil, a fantastic amount compared with the private secondary schools, and the private secondary schools have done an excellent job, where they have been left to do it. We should use the comprehensive schools as a weapon to encourage this process of expanding of the private sector in education. If we give up that weapon, if the State gives in to pressure and agrees not to build any more, I would not be too confident that the sudden spurt of activity in the last couple of years would continue. The Minister should tell us what has happened in this regard, and what the Government's decision is.

I should add that there are, of course, particular merits in these comprehensive schools. They do extend coeducation within limits—something that has hitherto been confined largely to the west of Ireland so far as Catholic schools are concerned. This would be well worth while experimenting with further. I do not want to be dogmatic about which is the better system. The evidence in conflicting on that point. But we should experiment, and there are obvious inhibitions in the private religious schools in regard to this question of co-education—by which I mean co-education of males and females rather than mixed religions, at this point. The comprehensive schools offer opportunities for experiments in this regard which could be useful, and from which we could learn. This is in addition to their positive value as a spur so far as the religious authorities are concerned.

I am not clear on this, and I am sorry the Minister is not here to clarify it, but I think they also may offer mixed education from the religious point of view, and this is something to which we need to give some consideration. There is a good deal of confusion about this. Recently we have been reminded of a decision by the Irish Hierarchy of ten years ago. What the Irish Hierarchy said in 1826 was a little more progressive than what was said then. We are told in the Council of Education Report on Primary Schools that in 1826 the Catholic bishops "admitted the possibility of the literary instruction of Catholic and Protestant children together in the same schools provided sufficient care be taken to protect the religion of the Roman Catholic children and to furnish them with adequate means of religious instructions'." Certain other conditions applied but there was no objection in principle at that time. Since then the objections have not only arisen but have extended right upwards from primary school level even to the post-graduate level in the universities. That is something that needs to be reconsidered.

It is not generally appreciated that we have, in fact, a small number of mixed schools so far as religion is concerned. The same report gave us the figure as three per cent at that time. I do not know what the current figure is. In this respect also comprehensive schools offer an opportunity for experimentation which we need in order to discover whether some of the unfortunate effects which are alleged to follow from mixed education from a religious point of view do, in fact, necessarily follow.

On the question of parents committees in primary schools, Senator Yeats may not be aware that in his absence Senator Dooge defended the concept on the basis that Senator Yeats' wife had been a member of such a committee with him and despite the presence of both it was successful!

I was never a member of such a committee.

No, it was the Senator's wife who was referred to.

Its success has been entirely due to the fact that it has always refused to try to run the school.

I shall leave Senator Dooge to reply to that on another occasion.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Unfortunately, he is unable to make the correction he would like to make.

It has never interfered with the teaching staff in any way.

I am sure that the idea of any such committee interfering with the teaching staff is entirely improper and inappropriate and no one has suggested that they should. I should hope not indeed.

What happened when I was out?

At any rate, Senator Yeats was opposed to the idea of parents' committees and did not think they were the answer.

No. I said, as set out in the motion. That is a different matter.

Senator Yeats said they were not the answer to the problem.

As set out in the motion.

That is my record of what he said. Senator Mrs. Ahern said that if the teachers were satisfied with the managerial system so should we be. That is a reasoning which I cannot quite follow, but in view of Senator Brosnahan's remarks later, the major premise of her syllogism falls to the ground, because obviously the teachers are in no way satisfied with the managerial system, and are threatening very strong action if there is not a drastic improvement in it by next November.

Senator Nash said parents committees were out, because the schools were owned by the diocesan authorities and the question was how many of these authorities would be prepared to abrogate their rights to a school committee. I am afraid Senator Nash is a little remote from the realities. I want to quote again from the Report of the Council of Education which states at paragraph 332:

The local trustees are parochial trustees, acting in trust for the parents and the parish: the schools are thus in effect parochial schools. It is to be feared that this local and parochial ownership of the schools is not sufficiently known and appreciated by the public at large.

—including Senator Nash. That addendum is my own and is not in the report!

These schools are our schools, not diocesan schools. Senator Nash is totally misinformed. The question as to how they should be managed is a matter for the people of this country. If we decide that the present management system is not the best we will change it. In fact, the management system has worked well in many ways but it has some obvious defects which need to be remedied. Either these defects will be remedied soon or the system will be changed. It is as simple as that.

Senator Brosnahan has put a bit of pressure on with a view to remedying some of these defects. The Minister, I think, backed him up. He rather dropped his voice when he came to precisely what he was going to do next November, but I got the impression that he is taking such action that no occasion for such inspections will arise next November and that he hopes the problem will be cleaned up by then. If that is the case I will be very glad to hear it. I hope that if the Minister finds he is not able to effect the necessary changes in time, he will have not hesitation in exercising his powers with regard to managers who do not manage. Previous Ministers have evaded this responsibility. The Minister is such a "cleric killer" that he probably will not be afraid of a few managers especially as he is so willing to tackle the religious orders.

Senator Mrs. Ahern, Senator Nash and Senator Yeats were "agin" this although in Senator Yeats' case the position is a little obscure. He thinks it is not the answer but he is not against it. Senator Ryan, on the contrary, said that Fianna Fáil agree with this proposal and he added that there is no difference in policy. There is not much difference in policy between Senator Ryan and Fine Gael, but there is a large difference in policy between Senator Ryan and his fellow Senators, I am afraid. Finally the Minister quite understandably said that he had no fixed views on this point, that he shared with his predecessors their view which was that they would not take any action to prevent parents' committees being established, nor will they take any action to establish them.

Our motion calls for action and not for sitting back and deciding that this is someone else's job. Our motion is that the State should encourage and assist the establishment and growth of parents' committees to help in the running of national schools. This is a summary of our position, but the details have been spelled out in our policy statement. By "encourage" we mean that the Minister's inspectors should offer their services to establish them, and by "assist" we mean the provision of special matching grants so that where a manager, backed by such a committee, seeks funds for certain purposes like playing fields, he will be treated more generously than when he had not got a committee.

(Longford): How will these committees be appointed, elected, or selected?

The parents' committees would be selected by the same system as any committee is appointed. In this case it would be by the parents. The parents are the owners of the schools and it is up to them to appoint the committees.

(Longford): Will all the parents form themselves into a committee in each school area?

Mr. Garret Fitzgerald

It would be up to the parents, with the assistance of the inspectors, and the encouragement of the manager, and with proper financial aid from the State, to establish committees for this purpose. The parents of Ireland, whatever was the case in 1831, when the system started and the present system evolved, they are well able to do that in 1967, at least in a large number of areas.

(Longford): It is a political matter and it would not work in practice.

Senator O'Reilly's deep pessimism about the ability of the people of Ireland to run their own affairs after 50 years independence is something I do not share.

They could be run on a political basis like some of our universities.

Like in North Cork. The teachers there have organised a committee of parents. The Minister is aware of what they are doing.

Before we get too involved in a university of North Cork, I would like to get back to the primary schools! I should say here that if there was one point in respect of which the Fine Gael policy met with criticism within the Party— I have never heard of the criticism referred to by the Minister—it was on the issue that the policy did not take a strong enough line in regard to the problems of those schools.

Some of the stories which have been recounted in regard to the way those schools are cleaned or not cleaned and with regard to the facilities in them, are no credit to those responsible for their management. There is one story of a school where the children had to bring in 15/- a year in the winter months in order to pay for the heating. As the money was brought in during the course of the winter months, it was marked up on the blackboard opposite each child's name and the child's seating in the class in regard to the fire was related to the amount of money brought in. The less money, the further from the fire.

In another case the manager discovered a child had saved some money in a money box and acquired it and on a complaint being made to the Department the parent was apparently told that there was no evidence of undue influence being exercised.

That is the situation in regard to the management of some of these schools and it is not entirely the fault of the managers by any means because the amount of State aid given for this purpose is so inadequate that many of them, especially at the late age of their appointment, are not entirely equipped for the many fund-raising activities required for this purpose, and are not in a position to supply adequately the extra funds required, nor have they the energy to undertake the management functions involved dealing in the maintenance of schools.

A system which chooses as the person to manage a school somebody who is normally 60 or over, and whose position is such that he would be viewed with such respect by everybody that if anything is wrong they often would not dare to tell him about it, is the worst possible system of management on the face of it, I would have thought, for schools of this kind. However, it is a system which can be made to work and work much better if the Minister does his job and the State provides sufficient finance and if the appropriate authorities take their responsibility serously.

In this matter of the cleaning and maintenance of schools, we have not suggested this is a matter for parents' committees but rather a matter which we believe should be undertaken at a higher level, at a diocesan or regional level. We think the relevant authorities who are currently responsible for the management of those schools should in fact undertake this on a broader basis, diocesan or regional schools officers being responsible for this work, which could be done much more efficiently than at present, where some managers are efficient and some of them, frankly, are not. That is a concrete proposal and I hope it is one of the proposals in our policy to which the Minister is giving serious consideration.

With regard to teacher training, this is one of the areas where there does not appear to be much sense of urgency on the other side of the House, and this I regret. Senator Yeats did not see any immediate benefits from our proposals but hoped they might be possible in the future. Senator Ryan said he had no objection to the university-trained teachers in due course and he subscribed to the aim. Senator Nash, however, taking once again a "hard line", said, if I understood him, that the primary teachers should be separated at the intermediate certificate level and then sent to some training college. Not alone would he not send them to the university but he did not even think the leaving certificate level was necessary. Those are some of the views from the other side of the House.

The Minister contented himself with a record of what had been done. He did not tell us anything of what had not been done. He did not advert at all to the Second Programme decision— almost the only negative decision of the Second Programme, in fact—that although 3,000 extra teachers were needed, the Government would not in fact do anything about arranging to increase the rate of output. The two grounds given, which astonished me, were firstly, that this would involve lowering the standard if you looked for more teachers, and, secondly, that the extra facilities required for this purpose would no longer be required in the 1970s and, therefore, it would be a waste of money to establish these extra facilities.

These are the very worst reasons one can imagine. The first was dealt with by Senator Sheehy Skeffington who pointed out that only eight out of 400 teaching college entrants came from Dublin and half from five counties alone. Obviously therefore, there is a pool of talent readily available unless it is assumed that the people of Dublin are remarkably unintelligent, and I do not think the Minister assumes this. There is a pool of talent readily available and there is no need in any shape or form for us to feel that we would have to lower the standards if we increased intake.

The other reason was the most absurd of all and shows the total absence of anything approaching any planning or foresight on the part of the Minister's Department. This it should be said, was before be became Minister. To say that the extra facilities would not be needed in the 1970s, when the Central Statistics Office, who publish the official population forecasts, have shown that there will be 100,000 more children in national schools in 1981 than in 1971, shows an extraordinary lack of knowledge in the Department of Education of what is going on. How the Department, faced with this probable prospect, which, if they had any appreciation of the demographic trends in this country since 1961, they should have foreseen, could say that we would not need the extra trained teachers, when there will be 100,000 more children to be taught in the 1970s, defeats the imagination. One can only hope that the educational development, unit, which is there now, will change that and that this error will not be made again.

It is a pity the Minister would not tell us more about his plans in this regard. Does he agree that we need more teachers trained or does he think the small school exercise will solve the problem? While it will help the problem, and while I am 100 per cent behind it, I do not think it will solve it. It could not possibly solve it on the mathematics of it, particularly if you view the requirements and the needs of the country as they will evolve in the 1970s. I would like to hear what the Minister's position is on this. It is unfortunate that he has not had anything to say on it.

I refrained on purpose because I understand that the Commission on Higher Education, who are coming out with their report, are going to go into the question of teacher training and all that in detail. I thought it would be appropriate to discuss this when we get their findings.

Teacher training is a different matter.

Do not be involving yourself in this. You are only after blowing in here.

The Minister should not get across about this. There is no need for that.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

There has been comment on the absence of Senators and the Minister. Those oomments should not be made in either case.

We stand and sit corrected. I take the Minister's point, but I am not quite sure I am with him. While I quite agree that the question of the method of training teachers and the university link will probably be dealt with by the university commission's report, I do not think it is in fact relevant to the question of the need for teachers. What we need at this stage, and what we ought to have, is the Minister's assessment of future needs. How he meets those needs is something we will have to consider in the light of the Commission's report. I do not think he needs to wait for that before evaluating the need for primary teachers. This is a matter for the primary sector. How they are produced is a matter for the third level of education.

Our proposals on this are clear. Although we are flexible on this point, we set out clearly what we think is the best system, that the primary teachers should have university training first before they come to the teacher training colleges. This should involve some concurrent training in educational theory and practice during their university degree or other degree and one year in a teacher training college thereafter would provide them with the necessary further qualifications in educational theory and practice. In this way you would reduce by half the population of the teacher training colleges which at the moment are residential for two years. This would enable us to double the output from them. You will need to do something like double the output in order to cater for the requirements of the 1970s, particularly from about 1974 and 1975 onwards. On all this we would like to hear the Minister's views. I am prepared to accept that in the details of how this job would be tackled he would prefer to tell us his opinions when he is speaking to us here on the occasion of the debate on the Report of the Commission on Higher Education, which we now expect in the near future.

On teacher promotion, the only comment from any Senator on the other side of the House, which referred to "pious hopes," was made by Senator Ryan. I do not think our proposals are pious hopes. They are concrete proposals in both the primary and in the secondary sphere. In the secondary sphere, they are quite extensive. In our own words, we set out clearly what we thought it is possible to do, with reasonably accurate costings of those proposals, and to refer to them as "pious hopes" is an inadequate comment.

We need to know from the Minister whether he is prepared to provide the necessary money to make possible posts of special responsibility in secondary schools, whether he is prepared to provide money for headmasters. At the moment the position is that headmasters in secondary schools do not receive any special allowance for this purpose. In fact, one headmaster I know is more junior in salary than anybody in the school because his previous responsibility did not involve any teaching, I think, and, therefore, he did not count as a teacher for incremental purposes. Now he is teaching after many years experience as headmaster and is at the bottom of the scale. That is a serious defect. It is a strong discouragement for people entering the profession. As there are no funds for headmasters' allowances, there is no prospect of lay people becoming headmasters. I believe some religious orders would be prepared to appoint headmasters if there were funds available so that they would be in the position of being able to offer an incentive towards accepting the post.

There are points here which may seem relatively small but which would seem to open up prospects for teachers and open up the whole system. The Minister has said nothing on this part of our motion. It has received no attention at all. It is on the other side of the page, so perhaps it has not been noticed!

The last major point I want to deal with relates to the question of the schools committee proposal. We have a number of objections from the other side of the House. Senator Yeats said it would be unworkable. It would take the primary responsibility away from the Department and give it to people not professionally competent to deal with this matter. Senator Yeats said that as teachers are divided, it would hold things up and that they would never have got the group certificate going if this had been done. Senator E. Ryan said there should not be an independent board. The only reason for this that I can get from his remarks is that if the recommendations of the committee were not accepted there would be a danger of controversy.

These are the objections that so far have been made against this proposal. It is to prevent behind-the-scenes consultations that these committees are proposed. Senator Nash spoke about the high quality of professional people in the Department and their right to call in expert advice. The professional people in the Department of Education have not got adequate office accommodation and very often they have to take their work home. That precludes them from having much influence. Whatever right they have to call in expert advice they are not the people who take policy decisions.

When the Minister was speaking today he said that the Department at the top level are always well staffed with inspectors. I challenged him and I think I called his bluff because there was no reply when I asked how many of the assistant secretaries are professional. There used to be one but when he retired the Minister appointed an administrator and there is no professional man now in this grade.

My secretary is a professional man.

He is a professional administrator.

The secretary?

We are talking about assistant secretaries. The Minister eliminated the only assistant secretary post held by a professional by appointing an administrator.

I would not worry unduly about that.

Senator Nash wanted to know what the terms of reference of the school committee would be. These are set out in our document. The Minister says he has direct access to advice and could not delegate this authority. I wish some arguments were put forward for hanging on to this responsibility in the department. We know what the results of the present system are.

In Northern Ireland and Britain the control of curriculum and examinations is not a political issue. The work is done by committees of people expert in these matters. The system was set up in Northern Ireland in 1961. Like us they had from after the Treaty direct control by the Minister. They dropped this on the appointment of the committee. The committee's first report was sent in August, 1963, and the reply from the Minister is as follows:

Thank you for your letter of 22nd July and for your Committee's Second Report which I endorse in its entirety. I should like to take this opportunity of thanking you, your Deputy Chairman and the members of your Committee and its sub-Committees and panels for the great burden of work which you all have undertaken so willingly and for the expedition with which you have completed these deliberations.

In the second report the committee widened their terms of reference and then asked the Minister whether that was out of order. He encouraged them to widen their field and extended their work. How much deeper are differences in Northern Ireland of a religious and political character than they are here, and still this does not prevent this committee from operating effectively. The advice to the Minister is given by this committee. They also undertake the running of the examinations and the Minister is pleased with it.

Until recently they related only to grammar schools.

They have extended to secondary intermediate schools.

The three years the Senator speaks of are in relation to grammar schools only.

They were so successful that the terms of reference were extended to intermediate secondary schools. We believe the terms of reference of a similar committee here should extend to primary schools also, and I hope the Minister will take another look at this.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

In two minutes the Senator will remember he must yield to Professor Quinlan.

I have a few more points but, unfortunately, I do not think that I shall now have the time to deal with them effectively. In regard to the Labour Party, Senator McAuliffe denied there was anything in the Fine Gael policy that was not in Labour policy. I have listed 23 items in the Fine Gael policy to which I can find no reference whatever in the Labour Party policy. The Labour policy is an excellent one. I read it the day before ours was published and I was delighted to see how much common ground was between the two.

My little friend read it six months before.

The Minister——

You are like a red rag to a bull to me.

I know that.

I hope I will get injury time for all these red rags.

You might need danger money before the night is out.

The point I am making is that the Labour Party policy is excellent and there is practically nothing in it that I would disagree with. But our policy is better and more comprehensive. Theirs goes into a great deal of detail about curricula, and we avoided that because we felt that this was a professional matter and one for specialist cover in a wider field.

These are the points I want to make. There is not time to deal with Senator Quinlan at this stage, for at this stage I am afraid I shall have to yield to him for he has a right to reply, though I did wish to reply to him. I am glad we have had this debate. Senator Quinlan's motion started the ball rolling and we were able then, with our policy statement, to widen the area and concentrate attention on particular matters of particular interest and concern. I am very glad that we heard so much from the Minister today. We have heard much of his thinking and he has covered a wide field, but I have asked him on some appropriate occasion to speak on certain other matters as well which he did not deal with. It has been a particularly useful debate, but there are still divergences between us, especially this disagreement on whether the Minister's proposals would create class division in our society. I would ask the Minister to reconsider his position on this, to examine carefully the points I have made in reply, and I hope that out of this dialogue, which covered so much on which we are in agreement, as well as differences which needed to be discussed and debated, not just in a political way, will emerge a much better educational system. I am very glad that we have had the opportunity of this debate, for it has been a constructive and useful one.

Now that we have come to the end, I think we can feel proud and happy that we have done a good job in debating this. I would ask the Minister and his office to see if it would be possible to release the record of this three days' debate as a booklet as I am sure many bodies throughout the country would be anxious to have it.

Before starting my reply, I must join in the general welcome to the Minister for the decision he announced of freezing fees, providing a grant to enable fees to be frozen in the universities for the present, at least until the report of the Commission on Higher Education comes out and we know where we are going. This is very welcome, but I hope that it is not going to be done at the expense of the increases we should get under the heading of catching up for past neglect; in other words, to enable us to improve some little bit our staffing and equipment facilities, which the Minister knows are really way behind what is in Northern Ireland or in England—less than half. I appeal to the Minister to see that one is not done at the expense of the other.

To get on to the debate proper, first of all, I think that many of us have been rather disturbed by the rather vague statements about the question of examination standards. The idea of the Minister seems to be that anyone can progress as far as the leaving certificate without passing a single examination on the way. I would counsel him to think again very much on that. I would counsel him to leave the decision as to progress up along the various classes to the educational authorities in the schools. The teacher of the school is the only one who can say whether a particular pupil should advance to the next class or not. There is no use in providing and wasting valuable places in our secondary or vocational schools by students who are incapable of absorbing what is being provided. That is only elementary commonsense and it is the standard that applies everywhere.

We seem to be inclined to swing from the extreme of total dependence on examinations to the other extreme of total disregard of examinations. That is fundamentally wrong. If we take the American educational system, which is probably one of the most flexible in the world, we see that while they have not got national or even regional examinations, except just entrance to particular colleges, the whole thing is based on the teacher's assessment of the student's progress. That assessment is entered up every quarter and made known to the parents. As a result of the student's performance then, he has the possibility of getting into a higher secondary school, depending on his credits from the previous one. Likewise, his advancement through the system depends on his credits. We cannot do anything less than that. We have to be practical about it.

Again, we have the plea made by my colleague, Senator Alton, for the third stream, who would scarcely be able to profit intellectually by what is offered in the secondary school or the vocational school. We see that that third stream is catered for very effectively across the Border and in many places in Europe. I think that third stream deserves our consideration, and it is not just or fair to them to try to delude them into the belief that they are capable of obtaining a livelihood in a white collar job. If it is evident from the start that they are unsuitable for that stream, we should have far more hand and eye subjects that will enable them to find out what they are really adaptable to. I appeal to the Minister to look across the Border and learn what they can get there.

Also, indeed, I think there may be some surprises in store when the psychologists complete some of their examinations on material seeking entry to the comprehensive schools. I wonder will their results show that a very significant proportion of those seeking entry are not suitable to follow the courses offered. I believe they will.

We come to a great defect in our education here, the lack of continuing education, because somehow or other, at all levels, we seem to have the feeling that once that phase of education is past, once the student leaves the school, be it secondary, vocational or primary, he is finished with education forever. The real and valuable education is that which is obtained by the individual in adult life when he comes to realise his shortcomings and seeks some way of improving them. This is doubly necessary in our present circumstances when we recognise that many who could have provided for further education for one reason or another have not been able to avail themselves of this and are now well past the age when they can go back to the secondary school. Surely it is time to consider those and to invite them to go back in the evenings and to avail of the adult education courses available in the technical schools or elsewhere and to consider the provision of other and more varied courses to cater for them? Education is a process that continues on all through life and we have to implant that idea firmly in all our students.

Again, the plea is made for a common training in the art of teaching. I think that is quite right. All teachers, primary, secondary and vocational are, in a sense, engaged in the same task and should have a common training in the art of teaching. The quicker we move to a degree as the necessary requirement for all teachers the better.

I listened to Senator FitzGerald's comments on the comprehensive schools. He said that the Government had very obviously changed their mind very considerably about this matter. I shall not, like Senator FitzGerald, seek out hidden causes for this change in Government plans. I simply regard it as the triumph of commonsense. Why, into our existing system which is complex enough, bring another stream so that we would have—the figures may be a little out of date but they are comparative—the secondary school costing the taxpayer £40, the vocational school costing £90 and the comprehensive school costing £150, £200, the sky being probably the limit? For what? For providing a broad education which should be the aim of every district to provide and which every secondary school aims to provide. Indeed if secondary schools got grants or subventions on anything like the scale on which they are offered to the comprehensive schools they would more than fulfil any role that was ever thought up or could be assigned to the comprehensive school. Therefore, I congratulate the Government on their change of mind in that matter and I regard it as the triumph of commonsense. Perhaps some of the comments we made in the Seanad on this unnecessary development when it was first announced with much flag waving may have had some effect in bringing the Department and the Government back to the realities of the situation and the mansize problem waiting to be done in the next decade in relation to post-primary education.

Senator Brosnahan made a very excellent contribution. I was delighted to hear him holding up a very effective trade union weapon i.e., withdrawal of services by teachers in schools that are substandard after 1st November next. I think that is an excellent decision. It is long overdue. What are the reasons? We have got into a mess and have got a backlog. We have a situation in which it takes 12½ years on average to build a national school and anything from four to five years to get sanction for even putting in lighting or sanitary facilities in a school. We have this fantastic backlog. Having regard to the limited resources available in the Budget, even if the Minister could afford to cut red tape, wave a magic wand in the morning and decide that all schools needing to be built should be built within a year and that there should be only a waiting period of three months for the provision of sanitary facilities and so on, the cost would obviously be enormous. Therefore, the staffs putting all those obstacles in the way of those seeking sanction for such schemes and improvements are really employing delaying tactics on behalf of the Department of Finance who cannot afford to finance improvements and buildings that are necessary. They can only afford it by putting it into this very long pipeline and trying to put as many obstacles as possible in the way. I think that should be faced for what it is. It is a backlog and it is our inheritance from the past. Indeed, it is not the fault of the officials who put in the red tape to prevent sanction getting out of hand. The only way we can get over that is by treating the catch-up as an emergency measure. Let us have a crash programme to do it. Let us, if necessary, float a loan to get over it. We cannot tolerate the delays and we cannot get away from those delays except by means of a crash programme.

A good friend of mine, a very energetic priest from Cork city—he was actually Dean of Residence in our university—found himself assigned to the parish of Bantry. He went down on his first inspection. Coming from the city, he was absolutely shocked by the lack of elementary facilities, lighting, water, heating, in the 13 schools that comprised his area. He returned to his presbytery fuming about this. He was going to put this right. This was a manager in action, a real manager determined to do the job. Seven years afterwards he left the parish of Bantry, having been transferred. In that seven years in his encounters with the red tape of the Board of Works, the Board of No Works, the Board of Education and the Board of Non-Education, he succeeded in getting facilities into one school in that district. So let us not blame the managers. Look at the frustrations—typical of many who are determined to do a job. Let us not blame the civil servants because there is only a limited amount of money they can sanction for those schemes in any one year. Probably Senator Brosnahan's efforts and the efforts of the INTO may well be the means of bringing that to a head.

We now come to the Minister's speech. I should like to join in the many compliments paid to him on it. He showed a good deal of openminded-ness. I also join with Senator FitzGerald in relation to the strictures on the emotionalism displayed and to which I shall refer later. First of all, I should like to mention the question of transport services. I feel this is likely to prove an exceedingly costly venture. Its cost cannot be estimated but if the figures quoted by CIE for doing a job in some few parishes in Cork county are any guide, we may well find that the £25 per pupil that it is proposed to pay for school fees will be much less than what the pupil transport will cost. We must place reliance on our people. In the past people had to cope with transport when fewer amenities were available. Today, with so many cars available a good deal of the transport could be passed to the car pool. The cheapest way the State could get over this would be to make a transport grant to students requiring this and that grant, in turn, could be used to defray the costs of a car pool. Otherwise, it may be necessary in certain cases to employ a professional, a mini-bus or something. In the last resort it will be found that by far the dearest solution would be to call in CIE and the one we can least afford especially when our financial resources are so limited and we must spread them out.

I was really alarmed to hear the Minister say in all seriousness that all real thinking done in education in recent years had been done in the Department of Education. If that is his view I do not see any hope for the future unless we have an enlightened democracy in which we are prepared to co-operate as a team and to realise that the children exist no more for the Department of Education than they do for the teachers. The children have their own inalienable rights and the first responsibility is with the parents. The Department are in the position of co-ordinators. Indeed, I think they should realise that. They should realise that not alone in the Department of Education, but in all the other Departments, there seems to be a gross ignorance of what is meant by consultation. Consultation is not merely calling in all the docile to tell them what you have already decided. Consultation is a science and is a paramount science in the modern world to-day.

I am glad the Department of Education have now taken the steps of instituting a psychological service; there are three psychologists at present in the Department. I would suggest that the first task in relation to investigating the psychological basis of consultation, and of psychologically analysing the official mind in regard to consultation, should evaluate what is the standard and the normal form of the practice of the science of consultation in a democratic country. That is the most urgent essential for development in the years ahead.

I cannot get the picture clear—I do not think anybody can—about what will happen next September because, first of all. I think, a survey is long overdue to show how many vacant places are available in the secondary or vocational schools today, where are those located, because the Minister speaks about the necessity for the children to know about his scheme after next October, but surely the vast majority of the pupils entering secondary or vocational schools next October would have entered them, whether or not the Minister had brought in a scheme? They and their parents have already decided no sacrifice would stop them going in. We must consider those who would not have gone and who may be persuaded to go, due to the Minister's scheme. But we would like to know how many are in this group and are there places available for the lot?

With regard to the Minister's outburst on vested interest, I like to feel that, perhaps, the Minister did not quite mean the outburst at that time but I do feel, at the present juncture, there is so much denigration of what are called snob schools, and we have so many reformers who have come from what they call snob schools—be they from Clongowes, Belvedere or anywhere else—that ordinary mortals like myself and Senator Ó Conalláin, who were educated by the CBS and then sent our children back to them, cannot understand what all this furore is about, because we appreciate the remarkably devoted work done down through the years by the Christian Brothers in this country.

And the de La Salle Brothers.

We appreciate that they have given a service to this country which no other country in the world has got on such a scale from a group of its citizens. Any assessment of our present situation or plans for the future should, in all humility and modesty, recognise the wonderful contribution we have got from those bodies and recognise their goodwill and interest in education, as shown by the heavy sacrifice they made. It is easy for us to be eloquent or to get indignant about various things but surely the proof in the case of those Orders is the unremitting devoted service they have given down through the years to Irish education ?

Indeed, I could not help thinking, on reading some statements in the paper and some other statements, that somehow or other, they are sought to be made appear as the villains of the piece at present. I think Senator Alton hit the nail squarely on the head when he said charity is never appreciated and that the reaction to charity is to bite the hand that gives it, whether given by the medical profession, by the Christian Brothers, or by any other group. It is deplorable, but that is the situation.

The Minister did that today, in getting rid of what I consider a fairly unfair differential, of the £15, £20 and £25, by making provision to abolish it in two years, which is a good step in the right direction. But I would appeal to him: why make two bites of a cherry? Why not do it all now and get all the goodwill and everything else required by so doing in the autumn? The extra cost, as far as I can make out, would not involve more than about 20,000 pupils at £10 each, that is, £10 for one year, £5 for another, which spread over two years, is about £300,000. Goodwill is worth more than that to the Government and to our community and I would appeal to the Minister to do that.

I know the Minister has a point in saying that these schools will be better off under his scheme than they were in the past. I readily admit that, but the fees have been kept down solely due to the fact that the assessment was in that neighbourhood, that anything more could not be afforded. Therefore, the school facilities reflected that level of income. If the Minister does give this additional money to them this year —in place of an extra £10 per pupil— does anybody say that one of those schools in a poor locality with, say, 300 pupils will make wise and proper use of that for the benefit of those students? I think nobody will get more use out of it, or stretch it further, than those who operated a school on the very meagre fees they had at that stage. I appeal to the Minister to do the big thing: do not take two bites of a cherry, give the best, even if it means another penny on some tax item or other. Why not let us have it?

Again, I look at the figures here. I am disturbed by the Fine Gael proposal. I can see the problem there but I do not think this one-third free places will meet the situation. I do not see how they can be selected and I do not think it would solve anything. The proposal I would make to the Minister is that any pupil going to schools that are without the system who applies to the Minister or through some channel, proving by means of the income tax return of his parents, that this commitment is a hardship on him, be given a grant of £25 towards the fee. If the fee of the school is more, that is his lookout and he can pay it. In justice, if it is administratively possible at all, any pupil in any one of the schools in the system should be entitled to the £25 grant if he could prove to the Minister that it was needed, based on the income of his parents. If that were done, it would make the schools outside the system available to all who would care to go there on whatever basis is normally applied today. I put that suggestion to the Minister.

The other point I want to make is in relation to the cost of school building. The Minister is going to put up 70 per cent of the principal and interest. That may appear very generous on the surface but is it really? We expect to have an increase from 132,000 to 172,000 students in the post-primary schools in the next five years. We will have 40,000 more pupils. If those 40,000 were not in school, they would be on the labour market. Those 40,000 school places, like a factory, absorb 40,000 of our population for all time. The fact that they succeed one another in a cycle does not in any way invalidate the argument.

If we were to consider those 40,000 as they are today without education, and if we had to put them into the type of menial job they would get without education, what would be the capital cost to put them into employment, if we could find it? I would say a minimum of £2,000 per year. For 40,000 that comes to the staggering figure of £80 million. I wonder are our educational authorities applying to the wrong Department? Should they deal with the Department of Industry and Commerce because there a capital grant of half that amount would be readily available, and also equipment and furnishing grants?

In all our talk about education, we are not facing up to the financial requirements. We should keep in mind what it would cost to put these people into factory employment. It may be said that a school is not a factory but, on the other hand, a school gives a training to these pupils which for the rest of their lives increases their economic output. The output of a school is different from the output of a factory because it is a delayed output. Nevertheless it is very real. If Senator FitzGerald were to compute it, he would find that it would give a fantastically high output. If taxation is required for this, why should not we face it?

The suggestion for an educational tax is an excellent one or, indeed, any type of tax which is earmarked for education: an additional 3d. on income tax, or a few pennies on petrol, or a luxury tax. I should like to see some tax labelled specifically as a tax for education. It might be said that the Minister's scheme under which he gives a £25 grant is a type of PAYE scheme for education.

This is not a free scheme. As the Minister has said quite rightly, nothing is free. This has to be paid for out of taxation. This scheme helps to get over cases of hardship. For the average parent it means that in place of being called upon to pay fees over three, four or five years while the family are away at school, he makes his contribution as a taxpayer, at a lesser rate, but over a much longer period. It is almost like a type of education insurance and it should be viewed in that light. Let us please try to kill the idea that this is free education. In any system we get only, what we pay for.

The Minister dealt with some of the points I made in trying to clarify thinking on the Report, Investment in Education. He talked of this as a pioneer survey. I tried to distinguish between the statistics and to analyse them. These statistics which I have, come out every year in England and in Northern Ireland, and there are far more statistics in them than in our own volume. Of course, they involve greater resources. The point I want to make is that this survey has its limitations because it emphasises economics and keeps away from value judgments.

Paragraph 12.70 of Investment in Education says:

It would, in addition, be consistent with the evidence of earlier chapters that larger schools would have a favourable effect on the benefits derived by pupils. The arguments we have put forward for seeking a re-organisation of school size are mainly on economic grounds. It seems to us unlikely, however, that the weight of argument on the educational side will be such as to complement our arguments.

In other words, we were given economic arguments a year ahead of the educational arguments. If the child and education are the main centrepiece and the main concern, surely educational arguments deserve to be presented at the same time as economic arguments? This is borne out in paragraph 12.3 which says:

In the following discussion it is, therefore, necessary for us to make various assumptions regarding the methods by which different targets or objectives might be achieved. Such assumptions are in no sense recommendations as to form(s) which future policies might take. Our aim is rather to see that the quantitative information which is an essential component soundly-based decision in this field, is available, in so far as that is possible.

My quarrel is that you must have all sides of the case presented and you do not give the field completely to one so that he can get ahead of the other.

The Minister gave some figures to refute what I had said about the faults there must be in the computer strategy. I gave my reasons for that before and I do not intend to go into them again now. All I want to say is that I know the Minister is an engineer, and as one engineer to another, I make a challenge to him. I will go into his office at any time and I will put all the arguments fairly and squarely to him. I expect to be able to convince him after a half an hour or so. He can have any advisers he wishes present. If Senator FitzGerald wishes to be present, and it is all right with the Minister, I shall be only too happy to have him present. If I do not convince the Minister, then I will on the first possible occasion thereafter announce that in the Seanad. That is a fair challenge and I expect the Minister, as one engineer to another, will accept that challenge.

Which of us is not very civil in the engineering line?

Finally, I mentioned the necessity for making a start on some type of committee like those committees which they have in Europe. I now announce that I intend to take the initiative on this and I intend to do so in consultation with my colleagues on the National University panel, Senators Ó Conalláin and Alton, and we intend to get Senator Brosnahan in to form the nucleus of an unofficial Seanad Committee on this. We will invite a representative from the Labour Party, one from Fine Gael and two from Fianna Fáil and also one from TCD to join us in this common effort.

Put them all through the computer.

It is a pioneering effort. We will act as a bridge between the Minister and the educational interests involved so that we may contribute some little bit towards smoothing out the difficulties between now and September. Admittedly, the amount of time we have available is not very great but we shall do the best we can in that limited time. We will study how official committees on education operate in Holland. In fact, I hope to be there within two weeks when I shall have an opportunity of investigating this at first hand. I investigated it about five years ago and I shall now renew the investigation on it. I think we can offer a worthwhile service. If the Minister, when we have got moving on it, sets up an official committee, we will consider that we in our unofficial committee will have made some contribution.

Finally, in winding up, it would be a pity after all the identity in objectives that has been shown in this debate, to divide the Seanad on any of the motions, the Government motion or the Fine Gael motion. I would appeal to the Seanad, so that we can show what little divides us and our great concern for education, that all the motions be withdrawn. I would like to ask the Seanad for leave to amend my own motion. I should like to replace the word "notes" with "commends". The ward "notes" gave us the right to discuss this motion and I should now like to move the amendment so that the motion would read:

That Seanad Éireann commends the Report on Investment in Education.

Fianna Fáil set it up and Fine Gael copied it.

We did not copy it.

Question put and agreed to.

I move:

That Seanad Éireann is of the opinion that:

1. The primary responsibility for teaching methods, curricula and examinations should be transferred to professional educationists independent of the Department of Education.

2. The State should encourage and assist the establishment and growth of parents' committees to assist the running of national schools.

3. Provision should be made by the State to enable all secondary schools to provide free education for some or all of their pupils in such a way as to minimise class divisions within the secondary school system.

4. With a view to increasing participation in post-primary education by children of parents in the lower income groups, the State should provide maintenance grants for such pupils.

5. Teacher training arrangements be reviewed with a view to securing an integrated teaching profession, a university-trained teaching force, and an increased inflow of teachers to the profession.

6. That improved promotional opportunities be provided for teachers.

I move the amendment:

To delete all the words after "Seanad Éireann" and substitute:—"welcomes the recent proposals for post-primary education announced by the Minister for Education, and is confident that they represent a far-reaching and progressive step forward in our educational system."

If I may be permitted, I should like the House to know the Labour Party's position in regard to Part 3 of the motion. I have heard the explanation given but we are still not satisfied that this proposal would not strengthen class distinction in secondary education, which is already growing in this country. It is because of Part 3 that we will abstain from voting on this motion.

That is the only reservation you have.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand part of the motion."
The Seanad divided: Tá, 16; Níl, 27.

  • Carton, Victor.
  • Conlan, John F.
  • Dooge, James C.I.
  • FitzGerald, Garret M.D.
  • Jessop, W.J.E.
  • McDonald, Charles.
  • McHugh, Vincent.
  • Malone, Patrick.
  • Mannion, John.
  • O'Quigley, John B.
  • O'Reilly, Patrick (Cavan).
  • O'Sullivan, Denis J.
  • Prendergast, Micheál A.
  • Rooney, Eamon.
  • Sheehy Skeffington, Owen L.
  • Stanford, William B.


  • Ahern, Liam.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Brennan John J.
  • Browne, Seán.
  • Cole, John C.
  • Dolan, Séamus.
  • Eachthéirn, Cáit Uí.
  • Egan, Kieran P.
  • Farrell, Joseph.
  • Fitzsimons, Patrick.
  • Flanagan, Thomas P.
  • Honan, Dermot P.
  • Killilea, Mark
  • McGlinchey, Bernard.
  • McGowan, Patrick.
  • Martin, James J.
  • Nash, John Joseph.
  • Ó Donnabháin, Seán.
  • O'Kennedy, Michael.
  • O'Reilly, Patrick (Longford).
  • Ormonde, John.
  • Ryan, Eoin.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Patrick W.
  • Ryan, William.
  • Teehan, Patrick J.
  • Yeats, Michael.
Tellers: Tá, Senators McDonald and Rooney; Níl, Senators Browne and Farrell.
Question declared lost.
Question "That the proposed words be there inserted" put and declared carried.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.

I move:

That Seanad Éireann is of the opinion that the training of teachers, like that of members of other professions, should be based on the universities.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
The Seanad adjourned at 5.55 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 15th February, 1967.