Private Members' Business. - Reports on the Arts in Education: Motion.

I move:

That Seanad Éireann in view of the partial access through private provision for the Arts that is available to children, calls on the Minister for Education and the Government to commit themselves to speedy implementation during the term of the present Government of the Benson report on the Arts in Education so as to enable the children of this country to have access to the Arts as part of their normal development through the curriculum of the school system with the inevitable result of there being a much more widespread enjoyment and appreciation of the Arts in Ireland and above all so much more opportunity for the increased development of the personality and that it further notes the Brinson report —The Dancer and the Dance— and the Herron report —Deaf Ears— which develop the proposals of the Benson report in the respective areas of theatre, dance and music.

This motion in the name of Labour Party Senators, including myself, draws attention to the state of the arts in Ireland at present. That is its general purpose, but it has within that a more specific intent. It is to pose a series of questions as to what proposals there are to redress the present situation whereby the average child cannot look forward to having access to an introduction to the arts through the educational system. In its first sentence it makes reference to the situation that prevails which is one of private access to the arts — private provision for partial access. First, there is no apparent policy commitment to putting in place exposure to the arts in the full developmental sense as a major policy provision.

Secondly, where partial access is involved, it is purchased privately. I have written elsewhere about this and I have drawn a distinction between the facilities which a child might have for exposure to the arts through education and what might be called child improvement. One has only to contrast the difference between an educational system which would accept that the arts were a normal part of development — that provision should be made for them in the curriculum; that buildings should be flexibly designed so as to make possible the practise of the arts; that teachers should be trained so as to be able to create access to the arts; that conditions should prevail in relation to sums of money for instruments and so forth — and that which prevails at weekends or evenings midweek in Ireland.

What I think takes place is that well-meaning parents enrol their children in ballet, piano lessons, dance lessons, bouzouki lessons, violin lessons and so on, saying, as they often do to their neighbours, that the piano lessons will stand to her when she grows up or they thought the child should have dancing lessons. I call that child improvement — partial access to the arts in a country that has not put a commitment to the arts firmly in place. It is not a substitute for an arts policy.

This resolution makes reference to three reports, the Benson report of 1979 which drew attention to a whole series of reports which had preceded it and drew attention to the centrality of arts in the normal development of the child and in more recent times two further reports, one dealing with dance — the Brinson report — and the Herron report which dealt with provision for music education in Ireland. The third report was entitled Deaf Ears.

The purpose of the motion, therefore, is to ask a series of questions initially. The one upon which the motion is built in the first place is the fundamental question: why the arts in the first place? Why an interest in the arts? I can provoke a question in a stronger way. Should we ask this question: why make provision for the arts? In terms of unemployment, is it a question that should be asked only in terms of economic growth? For example, can the list I have mentioned in the first model of provision for the arts in education be defeated by the simple statement that there is no money for all of this? Secondly, who should have access? Should there be general access to formation in the arts or should there be partial access? Thirdly, how should that access be provided?

What are the implications for a society where one has to purchase the right to have an aural capacity to be able to listen to music, a visual capacity, a capacity to move, to have access to all the usual repertoire of creative development? What are the consequences for personality? What is the relationship between, for example, the total effect on the school and other subjects? It is said that we teach geography very creatively, that we even teach a little creativity in history. I do not doubt any of that, but in moving the motion I am interested in the answers to these fundamental questions. Finally, and the initial question: who should pay? The entire society suffers in a system where only those who can pay privately have the kind of experiences I mentioned.

I might answer these questions in the few words that I have to say but there are other more practical questions on which I would like to hear some answers. I thank the Minister for Education for his presence here this evening because he is probably in a position, more than anybody, to answer my questions. What is the present status of the Benson report published in 1979 on Arts in Education? I am not interested in the present state of development of the Curriculum of Examinations Board. I am interested in the broader proposals of the Benson report. Also, what general proposals exist in relation to an arts policy, because in fairness to the Department of Education, it would be difficult to have a policy for arts in the schools if there were not a clear arts policy relating to arts generally within society. Finally, which is the most mundane matter in so far as the third question has implications for the first two: what is the present thinking of the Cabinet in relation to the proportion of funds which will be provided in the normal provision next year for the arts in education or through the most exotic source of the proceeds from the national lottery?

To return to the questions I posed for myself in the beginning, John Benson in his report prepared for the Arts Council in 1979, quoted Professor Bodkin's report of 1949 on the arts in Ireland as follows:

In Irish schools, the subject of art, in either the historical or the practical aspect, is neglected. Few of the principal schools and colleges, for either boys or girls, employ trained teachers to deal with it, or possess the requisite accommodation and equipment for the purpose.

It is now 1986 and I am encouraged to ask: how many inspectors within the Department of Education now deal specifically with the question of arts in education? How many and to what purpose? How many schools do they deal with and so on? The introduction to the Benson report also quoted a report by a Scandinavian group on design in Ireland which noted:

The Irish schoolchild is visually and artistically among the most under-educated in Europe...

It quoted the Richards report of 1976 entitled "Provision for the Arts" which stated:

More needs to be done to persuade boys' schools to provide music courses; their neglect of music is an affront to education standards.

The report did not simply repeat other reports and draw pessimistic conclusions. It spoke about a number of initiatives that might be taken. A great debate then started about changing the curriculum.

I am very worried, and it is one of the reasons this motion is down here, because there seems to be an absence of an explicit commitment to the proposals contained in the Benson Report. Even far less is there a commitment to a time scale in which it might be implemented. Are the fundamentals of the report accepted? Which sections of the proposals are not accepted? What is the time scale on the implementation of those that are accepted and how do they relate to other initiatives that might be taken in relation to the arts?

The Brinson report, The Dancer and the Dance, in answering why we should be interested in the arts and have arts in the curriculum, listed six reasons that had been given in an earlier report of the Gulbenkian Foundation under the heading of Arts in Education. The six reasons it gave were:

1. They are necessary to develop the full variety of human intelligence in all its different modes. We need all the modes and languages of communications.

2. They enhance capability and adaptability. Thus, times of economic depression are times for more not less expenditure on the Arts.

3. They encourage the education of feeling and sensibility.

That third reason draws attention to the false contract between reason and imagination in the school system — this deadly cancer so present in Irish education for so long, that it is only when one has order, rote learning and total authoritarian control, that one has true education taking place.

The Gulbenkian report and other reports have suggested that it is in an atmosphere of relaxation when one has a flexible environment, more participation by the child, flexible movement by the teacher and facilities for using imagination, that learning can take place. These arguments are not defeated by suggesting that there has been such a change in the larger society, that our children are now not able to be educated except in conditions of greater control and so on. I am simply making the case without being contentious. To suggest that reason and imagination cannot be combined in the curriculum is a very false notion.

The fourth point is that:

The Arts in education facilitate a sense of discovery in relation to values. It is by exploring values that we extend our humanity in conditions of change.

Values that are discovered within and through the application of the arts in education thus extend to other subjects, developing a curiosity. The fifth point indicates that the arts in education facilitate the true understanding of what constitutes culture and identity. One would imagine that at a time when we are living under a far more global version of communications than we had previously, there is a greater case for the arts in education, so that we might explore a modern identity, given the specifics of our environment in history, and equally that we might develop an openness and a tolerance to other cultures and be able to absorb what is best.

Sixth, the arts in education facilitate the development of physical and perceptual skills that are needed to function in the world of work and more importantly in a world of no work, a world in which one might have to define activity that is simply not rewarded for productive purposes. We might be tempted to say "do we not all agree with that?". I must draw on some of my experience as chairman of the Galway-Mayo regional arts board for seven years. When a committee of which I was chairman applied for a grant to run a seminar on dance and physical education, we were told straightforwardly that dance had nothing to do with physical education. We went ahead and we were inundated with applications to attend the seminar and lo and behold an innovative genius decided to run a seminar on physical education that very weekend in the other corner of the country and it became quite difficult for physical education teachers to attend the seminar were were running. That kind of inflexibility is symptomatic of a total failure to understand what arts in education are all about.

The failure to define creativity is what lies behind much of the failure to define an arts policy. The country is reeling along in an old bogus belief that all creativity is a matter of individual genius. Individual genius there is, but most creativity is something that is acquired and something that is established in a social transaction with others. Artists will tell us that, but reflected in the lay phrase "she always had it in her or he had it in him," is the idea that one could say some magic words and what was inside would come out. It is not just a primitive view of creativity, it is a profoundly ignorant view and it is too prevalent. It justified the notion that only the best and the brightest chosen by God or somebody else could develop a sense of dance, theatre, music, writing or whatever, and it was responsible for asserting this private view of creativity rather than a social view of creativity. It helped put down the notion that all children could develop and that all children could develop wonderfully from exposure to the arts. It is that that has led to having an inadequate and totally unsatisfactory provision within the school system and to having what exists as a supplement to that, an obsessional interest in child improvement rather than a general provision in the arts.

I will give an example. Once in my capacity as chairman of that committee when a ballet teacher had ceased to provide ballet classes in Galway city, my wife and I set about finding a teacher and a venue in which ballet classes might continue and hundreds of children came. Then a dance company was coming from Wexford, and we handed out hand bills to invite parents to come, and about 11 came. They were delivering hundreds of these children for the child improvement dancing classes but, God bless them, they had had no opportunity of ever understanding the importance of dance in its own right.

Thankfully, attitudes are changing and it is now common belief that those who had no opportunity of being exposed to the arts suffer for it. Exposure to the arts encourages people inevitably, to greater degrees of tolerance. I am not drawing a deliberately negative picture, I have to draw it, because if one waits seven years for a commitment on one report that I mention here, one is entitled to be as strong as I am in making the points that I am making. I do not accept that partial improvements on some of the proposals constitute a reply.

In relation to music provision, if one looks at countries that have the same gross national product as Ireland, in which the average earnings are roughly the same, and in which the budget on education is the same and one compares like with like, one must immediately notice the underprovision there is for music in the Irish educational system. For example, if a child in the west of Ireland wants to develop his interest in music, the only provision in that regard is a university that has neither a department of drama, that has a one year course in music appreciation, and that has no department of art but which calls itself a university college. It would like to have adequate facilities in this area. It has passed resolutions asking for them, but they are not there. What one can do is that one can have a collection among the neighbours and one can hope for a patron, some Medici from some village in the west of Ireland, or you can have your own private loot to transport your child to Dublin for music lessons. If you want evidence of all this you can take out the report, Deaf ears, and look at the percentage of pupils participating at primary and secondary level. The lack of provision in some community and comprehensive schools is most tragic.

The story is told in the Herron report. The number of inhabitants in Norway is 3.8 million. The number of official schools of music is 193. The number of inhabitants per music school is 19,900. In Denmark there are 4.9 million people; there are 207 schools of music; and the number of inhabitants per music school is 23,700. In Finland there are 4.7 million people; there are 82 music schools, and the number of inhabitants per music school is 57,300. In Ireland the number of inhabitants is 3.4 million; there are four schools of music; and there are 850,000 inhabitants per music school. That tells a story. Either you believe that the right to have access to developed aural sense, to be able to listen to music, is something that belongs democratically to every family and every child in every area, or you do not. We have decided — whether it was official policy or not — that we would exclude the majority of children in a great part of the country from the opportunity to develop an aural sense.

In relation to The Dancer and the Dance, the third report to which I referred, that simply repeats the general case for the arts in education but it goes on to look at the specific case in relation to dancers and to the whole treatment of dance. I have no doubt in my mind that dance, like everything else, is now rising in popularity, overcoming enormous prejudices based on sexism and based on definitions of what is appropriate male and female participation. It is probably the one area which has the least provision made for it within the building section of the Department of Education.

Here I want to make a statement which I would like to have refuted for the sake of my own edification. I am interested in the buildings that have been erected in the modern period. I notice how few flexible walls there are in them, so that, for example, you would have rooms that might be turned into theatres. I am interested in the kind of floors that have been put in so that you could, for example, practise dancing without breaking any bones, elbows, ankles or whatever, or doing yourself severe muscular damage. There are very few. In fact, the absence of a commitment or policy on the arts feeds into an absence of an explicit policy for curriculum inclusion. The failure to extend the curriculum inclusion and create access is reflected even in the physical setting of education. It is reflected equally, of course, in the professional training of teachers, the requirements that are there in relation to the release of people for in-service training and so forth.

I put down this resolution to ask for unanimous support from Members of the Seanad and to indicate to the Minister for Education and the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach with responsibility for arts that they would have our support. Money must be provided in the Estimates for the arts in general and particularly for arts in education. I will conclude by mentioning what I feel are some of the missing elements of the arts policy in general. One of the problems is that it must begin by taking on some of the issues which the Benson review of previous reports dealt with. That is the definition of creativity itself in a social sense. It must accept that there is a developmental purpose in the arts which spills over into other areas and that the inter-school system will benefit from the placing of the arts at their centre. This will require co-operation from trade unions and from people who manage schools in releasing people to be retained, and so on, to develop competences in this area.

What is needed is a comprehensive philosophy of the arts. I am particularly worried that when private provision is made for the arts a number of things happen. For a start a certain aspect of the arts does not get developed. You may ask what are the public supporting at present. The answer is that they are supporting very much an extraordinary explosion in community arts, redefining the phrase "access to the arts". They are not talking about access to a building. They are talking about being able to participate in the arts as a formative part of their own lives. That is what people are asking for. One needs a strategy and a policy in relation to provision for the arts.

On 1 July 1986 the Minister of State, Deputy Nealon, wrote to me about the provision of an arts centre and theatre in Galway city. He told me that the Director of the Arts Council had indicated that "the Council is most actively considering this matter at present and that it is hopeful of concluding its deliberations before the end of the summer". He went on to point out that £897,000 had been expended by the Arts Council in the Galway area. I was grateful for that information but I would even be more enthusiastic if I knew there was an arts policy in place. As somebody involved in the arts for a good number of years, I think the very worst thing that could happen in relation to the arts would be the disbursement of sums outside the framework of a coherent policy. A coherent policy should take on board a number of responsibilities of a moral kind in relation to the place of the artist in Irish society. There is a great deal of guff about the position of the artist in Irish society. Among the common assumptions associated with that guff is that idea that artists can live on air.

In 1980 a survey entitled "Living and Working Conditions of Artists" was initiated to their credit. It was a three volume report commissioned by the Arts Council and reported in 1980. It gave the living conditions of artists which were an indictment of Irish society. The number of them who were living on an income of several hundred pounds was a scandal. In that regard the Association of Artists in Ireland in their report entitled "Crisis in the Arts" published in 1984 made many recommendations. I have time to deal with only one. It is their recommendation in relation to the living conditions of artists. In that report there was a very specific suggestion. It was that Ireland should take the example of the Federal Republic of Germany under the influence of suggestions from the European Commission that the living conditions of artists be improved. I believe we should follow that example.

I am very worried about the fact that many artists provide a great stimulus to the arts all of their lives, but they have not the necessary social welfare contributions to give them the normal entitlements in times of sickness and old age. This is slightly extraneous to the motion, but it is something about which I feel very strongly and it is a human point. From attending different arts openings and so forth — and in my time I must have opened over 100 exhibitions — I am continually faced with young artists who are about to reach the peak of their career and who, if assisted, will turn out to be established artists of immense reputation. But more and more I am meeting people I met at the beginning of my own career who are past the high point of their career and who now look forward to penury. I have examined the provision made in the different artistic trusts and I find that even the trusts themselves, the wills and the bequests that have been made, are heavily geared towards the emerging artist. There is very little for the artist who is over the age of 50 or 60 years and who has not got adequate contributions. I would have liked if, for example, all the private trusts involved in the arts had set aside a portion of their funds to make provision for the retirement of people who had given their lives to the promotion of the arts.

The social welfare code should be amended in the light of what I have suggested so that recognised artists would be regarded as State employees, their contributions could be accredited and they could look forward to retirement with dignity.

I will come back to the thrust of the motion. The motion is about the vacuum that is created in the absence of an arts policy and there being, apparently, no full response to the implications of the Benson report. All the later reports acknowledge that the Benson report is the base document from which you must depart. The other docuiments — Senators can add others in — dealt with music and dance. I am trying to develop in this resolution, and in initiating the debate, the case for implementing the Benson report. It is simply suggesting that the arts are general rather than specific, that the arts can be appreciated in a social context, drawing from a social theory of creativity rather than an individual one. A spiritual dimension to one's life is released through the arts. It is fascinating to note the consequences of regarding the spiritual as being circumscribed entirely by the religious and there being no other opportunities for the exercise of imagination and so forth.

Finally, there is the question about curriculum reform. There should be provision, within the school system, within the new curriculum at all levels, for the arts. I know and welcome every single innovation that has been made. However, let me draw a distinction about innovations that have been introduced by individual teachers and the private collections that have taken place for instruments and so forth. I acknowledge those but I do not regard those as policy that has been supported by financial provision. If we make this commitment, it will pay us even better in times of depression and lack of employment because the people who will leave the school system will be far more balanced, far more flexible and far more sensitive, and will be gifted in intra-personal skills. Most important, we will have created a public who will go on to provide a far more appreciative audience for all of the arts in the decades to come. For those purposes I move the motion on behalf of the signatories.

It gives me great pleasure to second the motion and to touch on some of the points that the mover, my colleague, Senator Michael D. Higgins, elaborated on in his discourse this evening.

Traditionally the arts have had a peripheral role in the Irish educational system and, despite changes in the system over the last two decades in particular, that peripheral position has been perpetuated. From that perspective the Labour group tabled this motion to focus on a neglected area of the curriculum and to underline the importance in the whole personal development of people in the formation of the type of society we are going to hand on. Obviously, the key element in that will be the education of our young people. In recent times there has been an emphasis on the practical subjects to the detriment of the personal development of individuals. The arts in particular offer an opportunity and a system to develop the very fundamental qualities of humanity which are probably most needed in the society which will face young people into the next century.

The access to the arts in education has largely been confined to those in a position to pay for private tuition. This is particularly true in the case of music. Only 39 per cent of students who took intermediate and leaving certificate examination in 1983 included art and/or music among their subjects. The breakdown of figures suggests that in addition to poor facilities and inadequate teaching provisions the arts also suffer from sex stereotyping, with fewer than 1 per cent of boys studying music in that year to leaving certificate level.

I come from a part of the country that is well looked after, relatively speaking, in relation to the arts. Senator Michael D. Higgins has already referred to the dance company who undertake promotional work and the teaching of dance in primary and secondary schools in the environs of the town of Wexford. They do so living on a shoestring, on the acknowledgment of those schools that permit them to come in, and are paid for directly by the pupils who wish to participate in the programme. Similarly, in Wexford we have the Riffraff Theatre Company who do street theatre and theatre in the schools. They are part of Wexford Theatre Co-Operative, whose very existence next week is threatened when there are no resources to pay the electricity and telephone bills. That is the level of funding and support the arts have. We are fortunate enough to have the Wexford School of Music. The Wexford Youth Orchestra will travel to Belfast next week to give a concert. Again, this is funded privately by collections and by the enthusiastic support of parents, but not by the State. A fundamental part of the entire debate is yet again money, resources and commitment.

The argument for a radical improvement in arts provision at all levels of Irish education has been well documented. The mover of the motion referred in detail to this. The Place of the Arts in Irish Education by Benson was published in 1979, and The Arts in Education, a report of the Curriculum and Examinations Board was published last year. The Labour Party believe that the opportunities and benefits which flow from the development of creativity and artistic expression should be available to all children, not just to those whose parents can afford to pay or those from a privileged background who appreciate the benefits of being exposed to a sense of the aesthetic. That can be achieved only by giving music, the visual arts, drama and dance an integrated role in the curriculum itself. To this end I would call for the establishment in the Department of Education of a planning committee for the development of the arts at primary and post-primary levels. This committee would have responsibility for the development of an overall plan. That is what is lacking, that is what required — and was called for by the Curriculum and Examinations Board — as well as a complete review of the education of teachers for the various arts areas. I call for the appointment of specialist subject advisers in the three subject areas of music, drama and dance, and arts and crafts, with responsibility for promoting and developing their particular art at primary and post primary levels. This should be done on a regional basis — not just in the cities — covering the the entire country.

In terms of music I mentioned the Wexford School of Music, a small, low key affair, existing on goodwill, hard work and precious little resources or State commitment. There are schools of music in Dublin, in Cork and in Limerick. What of the rest of the country? Are they not entitled to have not only peripatetic reaching out from the major centres but also their own schools of music in their own area? There is no plan, no commitment, no co-ordination of the efforts to reach out in the arts to the country as a whole.

Drama, although part of the primary school curriculum, should be introduced as a subject in its own right in the junior cycle, not merely as an adjunct to physical education or as an adjunct to the teaching of English but as a creative subject in itself. At senior cycle this should be developed into a practical course which could have its own assessment and certification and would be valuable for people who want to pursue a career at third level.

The practical music syllabus at junior cycle should be broadened to include other areas of music from traditional, jazz to rock and modern music. I call for a five year development programme. Let us put parameters on what we are going to do. Let us put down in detail where we are going, what we want to achieve at the end of it and each year as we go along. There should be a development programme during which music teachers would be employed on an ex quota basis in post primary schools. The area of media studies is also much neglected and so vitally important in the age we live in. Media studies obviously should be developed as a subject at junior and senior cycle.

In terms of theatre in education there are, I understand, two such companies in existence in the country now — Team in Dublin and Graffiti in Cork. I have seen Team in operation in the schools. I know the value they can give to a school. I know the amount of work they do. I understand that through lack of resources they are reduced to two new productions per year. This is not a co-ordinated approach. This is not a committed approach to the development of theatre and dramatic arts in our schools. It is an indictment of us as a country with such a rich artistic and theatrical heritage that this should be the case. Resources must be provided to establish and maintain not only these companies but more companies on a regional basis with productions that can reach into every school in the country at some stage during the school year.

Teacher training is a key to an enhanced role for the arts in our schools. Admission to teacher training colleges at the moment does not favour applicants with leaving certificate qualifications in arts and music. Anybody who has actually taught at primary level in particular knows how important those skills and subject areas are in communicating with children. Children learn through play, through movement, through music and through song. These are the areas which, if a teacher is strong in them, can be of most benefit and help to the developing child and promote in them a sense of the aesthetic and a depth of humanity, the qualities most vital to the creation of a human. Teacher courses should develop a system of electives and require every student to take a least one intensive elective in either music, art and crafts, drama or physical education which would include dance. Any programme of in-service courses for teachers should obviously have such an arts component.

The National Council for Educational Awards could be asked to validate existing courses and new courses for music teachers. They could be asked to establish training boards for music and theatre in order to provide professional courses in these disciplines and these subject areas.

That is a view of the committed programme we could undertake. No doubt the response will eventually boil down to one of resources and money. Anybody with a responsibility for education obviously has at the end of the day, the responsibility to map out the type of education we want to provide for our children. Obviously it has to be of a quality that enriches not only the technical skills young people will require in the 21st century, but more especially the human skills of communication, of understanding which the arts most expecially impart. We commission reports and we leave them to gather dust. We have discussions, but we do not have a committed programme of action. This motion tonight asks us now to look again at where we are going, to decide on these as new priorities and to find the resources necessary to implement the recommendations contained therein.

I welcome the opportunity to make a contribution to this debate and to support this motion. In view of the limited amount of time available to me I will have to confine my remarks to a few aspects of the motion and a few areas covered in the reports in question.

The motion, as the mover Senator M. Higgins said, recognises that some children have access to the arts outside the school system. These are children whose parents are in a position to pay for private lessons for them in music, art, drama and dancing. These are the privileged children in our society. The motion also recognises that the vast majority of children in this country have not access to the arts through the curriculum of the school system. These children are deprived of the enjoyment and appreciation of the arts through no fault of their own. This is further evidence that we are still a long way from equality of opportunity for all Irish children.

The motion calls on the Minister for Education and the Government to commit themselves to the speedy implementation during the term of the present Government of the Benson report on the Arts in Education. It is probably a bit late in the day for that, but I support the motion because I believe its implementation would give greater access, through the school curriculum, to all children as far as the arts are concerned.

The Benson report on the place of the arts in Irish education was presented to the Arts Council in 1978 and accepted by them in December of that year. That is almost eight years ago. The report was regarded at that time as an excellent one. It contained a large number of highly commendable and very practical suggestions and recommendations which were warmly welcomed. The working party which complied the report consisted of very eminent and distinguished people. Submissions were received from a great number of interested groups and individuals. People involved in all areas of the arts were interviewed. In due course the excellent report to which the motion refers was produced and great credit is due to the members of the working party and to the author of the report, Mr. Benson.

The report took a very comprehensive look at the role which the arts played in Irish education and how that role could be improved. It is regrettable that so few of the recommendations of the report have been implemented in the eight years which have elapsed since it was published. It is more regrettable still that there appears to be so little commitment to its implementation. Sadly there has been very little improvement in the situation as far as the arts are concerned since the report was published. They are still sadly neglected in Irish education. The Irish school child is still, as Senator Higgins said, visually and artistically among the most under-educated in Europe. Difficulties in the National College of Art and Design were referred to in the report. Many of these problems related to the validation of courses and the uncertainty which existed in relation to some courses particularly the four year art teachers' course. These difficulties are referred to in Chapter 4,3.1 and again in Chapter 6, 1.6 of the report. It is extraordinary that seven years after these difficulties were identified I had occasion to raise them in this House on a motion on the Adjournment on 31 October 1985. I sincerely hope that the problems to which I referred on that occasion have now been satisfactorily resolved. I should like an assurance from the Minister that that is the case. I should like to express the sincere hope that present and future students of that college will never again be subjected to similar experiences.

The Benson report identifies many of the problems facing the arts at primary school level. It makes the very valid point that if the arts could achieve a more central position in the life of the primary school them this would assist their position throughout the rest of the educational system. In 1971 a new curriculum was introduced in our primary schools. Arts and crafts and music formed two important components of this curriculum. In relation to arts and crafts the new Primary School Curriculum Teachers Handbook, Part 1 states:

The child finds Art and Craft activities absorbing and satisfying; they are outlets for his creative and artistic ability; they enhance his sensitivity and develop his appreciation of design, pattern, texture and colour in the world around him. They are the basis of many traditional skills and occupations which have been beneficial and satisfying to men and women down through the ages and they are the foundation on which adaptability and enterprise rest. It is doubtful if any other aspect of the curriculum can do so much to foster simultaneously intellect, imagination observation and manipulative skill.

It is for its intrinsic value, therefore, rather than for any specific training which it involves, that a place must be found for Art and Craft in all classes in the primary school.

However, serious problems exist for the implementation of these aspects of the curriculum in our primary schools. Many of our larger primary schools have the difficulty of high pupil/teacher ratios. In the smaller primary school teachers are faced with the difficulty of coping with multi class situations. All primary schools suffer to a greater or lesser extent from a lack of resources. The vast majority of teachers have no specific training in the arts. In addition to lacking the resources they lack the skill and the knowledge required for the successful implementation of an arts programme. Also in many primary schools there is inadequate and inferior accommodation which militates against the excellent and gallant effort which very many teachers make to implement this area of the curriculum. The report identifies as a significant fact that very little research or curriculum development has been done on the arts in Irish education. Because of the fact that the vast majority of teachers lack specific training in these areas of the arts there is a lack of confidence on the part of these teachers which results in the situation that has been identified very clearly in the case of music. In chapter 2, 2.5 of this report it is said:

Music was another subject where the implementation of the curriculum was low, and where teachers felt that the objectives were not being well attained. Only half the teachers felt that they were teaching music satisfactorily.

The same applies to all areas of the arts and in the case of most teachers. A teacher who has not the specific training required for the teaching of a specific subject, in the vast majority of cases, inevitably will lack confidence in his or her ability to teach that subject well. Consequently the teaching of the subject in question will suffer.

The same is true in the case of the teaching of music and drama. As Senator Howlin said, drama does not form a specific part of the curriculum. Although it has valuable possibilities for the teaching of many facets of the curriculum it is not widely used in Irish schools because of the lack of training and confidence amongst teachers in the area of drama. Creative dance is an integral part of the physical education curriculum. This is another subject which presents considerable difficulties for teachers partly because of lack of training and of suitable facilities. The report identified all these problems eight years ago and went on to make very specific and worth-while recommendations as to how matters could be improved.

In Chapter 2, 2.7 of the report it is said:

There is, therefore, an urgent and immediate need for a systematic programme of inservice training in art and craft, music, dance and drama for primary teachers. Courses run during school time appear to have a higher rate of attendance than those run in the summer holidays. The inservice training programme might offer courses which are a blend of both the teacher's own time and of his worktime.

The report then went on to deal in detail with the various types of inservice courses and training which should be made available. A very important recommendation contained in this section is that, in the case of block release for specialist arts courses the Department of Education should provide and pay substitute teachers for those attending the courses.

Another very important recommendation made by the working party concerns the appointment of specialist inspectors and specialist subject advisers. There is also a suggestion that, in larger schools, specialist teachers should be employed and, in the case of smaller schools, such specialist teachers could be shared between a number of schools. However, the report concedes that without adequate resources in terms of grants, materials and facilities a satisfactory situation will not be achieved. It is purely a reflection on our commitment as a society and on the commitment of the Department of Education to the whole area of arts that so little progress has been made on all these recommendations since the report was published.

Another relevant section of the report as far as the points which I have been making are concerned refers to the state of the arts in teacher training and in our colleges of education. In relation to the training of primary teachers the report refers to the perception of the arts by students entering the colleges of education. This perception is confirmed by the low status of the arts in the colleges themselves. On page 69 the report states in relation to students entering colleges of education:

Arriving in a college of education they observe that the arts are generally under-staffed, do not have degree status and are generally regarded unenthusiastically by practising teachers. This tends to confirm their views on the low status of the arts. The report indicates a number of ways in which this situation could be changed. Unfortunately very few of these recommendations have been implemented over the years since the report was published.

At post primary level the situation in relation to the arts is even more unsatisfactory. In my view one of the biggest factors which militates against the arts at second level is the competitiveness of the system and the pressures on students. The fact that almost all our third-level educational institutions now operate selection procedures, based on a points system, has led to a situation of extraordinary pressure on students and a concentration on a range of subjects which does not embrace the arts to any significant degree. There is the further problem that the arts suffer from a lack of fully trained or qualified teachers in second level schools. This is particularly true in the case of music, art and drama. In the case of art the position is outlined in Chapter 3, 3.20 of the report and a comparison which was made with the situation in Northern Ireland at that time is very interesting. Time does not permit me to quote from that section, but I would be very interested to know the extent to which the position has improved since then.

In conclusion, I wish to express my support for this motion and to express my regret once again that so little progress has been made in relation to the recommendations of the Benson report since its publication eight years ago. I am not so optimistic as to believe there will be any further progress on it in the lifetime of the present Government whose days are numbered, but I do sincerely hope that, when the new Fianna Fáil Government take office after the general election an enlightened Minister for Education under an enlightened——

Read that document——

——Taoiseach who has already proved his commitment to the arts, will proceed to implement many of the praiseworthy proposals contained in the Benson report.

I welcome the opportunity to support the sentiments in this motion. All of us as legislators and as adults in the community have said what we would like to see done with regard to the provisions of arts in education, but I would like to refer Senators to the attitudes of young people to education and in particular to a survey undertaken by the MRBI in April 1985. In the context of what we are debating here tonight, something quite frightening is written on pages 4 and 5 regarding the importance students attach to particular subjects and I quote from the report:

Of nine specific subjects assessed and rated on basic importance, Mathematics, English and Computers are positioned as particularly so, with majorities rating each as very important. To a slightly lesser extent, Modern Continental Languages and Physical Education are also positively classified in this regard.

Irish and Politics are seen as much less important, while Art and Music are positioned at the bottom of the scale with approximately one in twenty rating each as very important.

Mr. Higgins

And no physical education.

Yes. There, for me, lies the really crucial situation that exists with regard to the arts in education today.

May I refer to Senator Mullooly's winding up comments? I have here before me a Fianna Fáil discussion document, Education in the Early Years, which he claims the new Fianna Fáil Government will put into action. I have read it from end to end and I cannot find one reference, good, bad or indifferent, to arts education or its importance in the very early years, the formative years.

The area of education——

Senator Mullooly's final comments referred to the promises Fianna Fáil will implement if they are returned as a future Government. We all wish young people today could be helped to develop an appreciation of our artistic heritage. The development of the arts can contribute in many ways to the development of personality and to commercial life today which seems to dominate most aspects of education and activity. In commercial life the arts can contribute to the design and good presentation of new products. Young artists are all too often whipped up by commercial interests who use them in a selfish way to promote their own products. I suppose one could look at this in another way — that it is good to have an outlet for the work of good artists in any society.

It is an understatement to say that the arts have been neglected in Irish education down the years. Despite the fact that we have had 30 years or more of reports, starting from the Bodkin report in 1949 right up to the present Benson report and more recent ones, there is one underlying feature common to all. There is a clear lack of support, a noticeable disinterest and a lack of policy in the area of arts and education within the Department of Education. Until such time as the Department's outlook towards these three very important aspects is changed, there is a danger the arts will disappear from the Irish education system. The Arts Council have long considered the development of the arts in Irish education as a priority. While the Arts Council are performing very good works, I do not think the Department, through the educational process, will be allowed to forget their responsibilities. Senator Howlin and Senator Higgins emphasised the importance of making this report an action programme which will make the arts available to all students.

My first recommendation is that we adopt this Benson report as an action programme. Previous reports merely investigated and made statements, but here we have an opportunity for action based on the recommendations of this report. It is my belief that if art is to have an importance in the Irish educational system, it will have to take root at national school level. We are all aware of the pressures in the national school system. There are bad facilities, bad buildings and overcrowding in many cases but thankfully, over the past few years a very conscious effort has been made to improve those conditions throughout the country, but in order to develop the arts in a positive way within the school curriculum we do not have the facility of, say, basic instruments in national schools.

Very recently there was a great hubbub on the education scene when computers were provided to every second level school. At this stage we should demand as a matter of urgency that basic non-expensive instruments should be provided in a specialist room for music in particular, and art in another area in the educational system. This would be a first small step forward, and a positive step.

It is hard to expect under the present conditions that the onus will fall on teachers to develop overnight a policy with regard to the arts in education. At present only the most enthusiastic and committed teachers follow through what might be classed as good students in particular areas of the arts. They take them not in the class or at school but, through their own initiative, outside school hours and give them tuition. I disagree with some of the comments of the proposer and the seconder of the motion who said that only those who can pay for study of the arts and particularly for music can get tuition. I believe that outside among the community there is a wealth of goodwill that could be tapped, whereby tuition could be given to young pupils who show an interest, but unless that interest is created in the classroom that wealth of experience and the ability to tutor others cannot be tapped suitably.

Senator Higgins stated that formalities are too restrictive within the school system and I agree thoroughly with him. If we had a proposal by this Government today to encourage people who have the time and the expertise to come into the school system to offer tuition free gratis by way of goodwill and commitment in regard to the arts — music, art and dance — what would be the first reaction in the schools? Would it be turned down and for what reasons? I am certain that because of trade union rules and restrictive practices of one kind or another, that proposal would be turned down.

What about the managers and the boards of management?

I have not finished with that point. Problems about the availability of schools could be overcome. Throughout the country today we see schools that are supposed to be closed from 4 o'clock until 9 o'clock the following morning being utilised for further education, and for education in the arts. There has been a change in thinking by the managers and the management boards. I am glad to say that even in the last couple of months an experimental step was taken by the CEO in County Galway who purchased a piano for every vocational school in County Galway. Statistics may dismiss it as insignificant but allied to that he has given a commitment that if a student is prepared to come into any vocational school in County Galway he will provide a teacher, perhaps not a fully trained teacher, to give tuition to that student. It is a welcome step and a very important one and I wish it could be embraced not just in vocational schools in County Galway but throughout the country and in all other schools, private schools as well as comprehensive and community schools.

The whole idea of disadvantage was referred to in the debate. I come from the west, as do the proposer of the motion and the chair, and we realise the lack of facilities along the west coast from Donegal to Kerry, with the exception of Cork, particularly for music. I propose to the Minister that he should as a matter of urgency provide, in consultation with University College, Galway, and Galway and City Vocational Education Committees, a school of music or alternatively, or both, a department of music within University College, Galway. About 12 students from my own immediate area are at present studying music in Cork. I make that proposal and I hope the Minister will treat it as a matter of priority.

I wish to refer to the importance of the arts in education for the underprivileged and those with special needs. The good work that has been done by health boards and volunteer groups has been most valuable and must be of tremendous value to handicapped people who use the arts as a means of communication. In many instances it is their only form of communication with others. I hope the Department of Education will also see as a priority funding for people at risk, the handicapped people so that access to study of the arts be made readily available to them as it may be their only means of communication with the outside world.

There is one encouraging aspect in regard to the arts. It is referred to in paragraph 3, page 7 of the introduction of the Herron report. It states that at post primary level the good news is that in the leaving certificate examination there has been a consistent rise in the percentage of boys and girls sitting music examinations. However, it added that the reality is more sobering when it is realised that in 1983 this increase amounted to .73 per cent for boys and 3.68 per cent for girls. In 1985 some 2.9 per cent of the total number of candidates sitting the examinations took music examinations and that is encouraging. Despite what many speakers have said, there is encouragement there and it is something we can build on, provided there is a change in the Department of Education, particularly among the policy makers who seem disinterested and unwilling to give direct commitments to the arts in education.

The central theme of the motion is contained in the words,

...calls on the Minister for Education and the Government to commit themselves to speedy implementation during the term of the present Government of the Benson report on the Arts in Education as to enable the children of this country to have access to the Arts as part of their normal development through the curriculum of the school system...

That was the motivation in the minds of the Labour Senators who put down this motion. The motion also speaks of more opportunity for the increased development of the personality.

Any community or any society claiming to be civilised must be able to achieve a balance within the motivation of the entrepreneur, the almost overwhelming obsession about economics and the love of beauty. We live in a harsh economic world and I can readily forgive people who suffer from this obsession. We insist willy-nilly, not realising what we are doing, that we will become a more affluent society but we never realise we should be insisting that we become a more civilised and educated society, a society that appreciates beauty. On that point there is no forgiveness for the Irish people because we are surrounded by beauty in our land, our rivers, our mountains, our sea, even the soft rains. There is less excuse for the Irish not appreciating the value of all the art forms and the love of beauty contained in their expression. If a civilised society does not get to that balance by way of relieving the economic pressure or the harshness that comes from it, they finish with a Star Wars situation. There is an ideological conflict, one side saying it can make a better life for everyone, the other saying they can beat them, thus leading to war. There is not much intelligence in that.

One of the end results of an appreciation of beauty and the practising of art forms obviously must be a more sensitive mind, a love of literature, music, sculpture, crafts and design which must also result in more tolerance of the point of view of others. Senator Howlin referred to neglect of the appreciation of the arts because we do not teach it and do not think much about it. It was felt that people who developed this artistic mentality were wasters who did not want to work too hard at manual labour, engineering science and so on. This is nonsense — again a test of a civilised society, that is one making a claim to be civilised and tending to become more unbalanced with their conflict of class and ideology. The balance is not there and they are guilty. As Senator Howlin said, the educational system was not geared to the training and appreciation of the art forms. The great majority of teachers do not know anything about teaching art, because they were not trained; it is not their fault.

We can be justly proud of our educational system, but not of the areas which we have neglected. We must get our priorities right. The Benson report should be implemented before the Government go out of office, say, in one year's time. That is the normal time for the Government in the Republic. When that time is up they should have some plans to push forward so that the educational institutions will accommodate the teaching, training and the whole impetus towards an appreciation of all the art forms. Senator Howlin asked why art forms remain inside our educational institutions in this peripheral area. And that is the question which must be addressed.

There are three main areas involved — the State and its educational institutions inside which teachers should be trained in art. I will not ask how many are trained. I am simply saying that teachers should be trained in art as part of the educational system.

The second element is parental influence. Because the parents have not been trained they may not be sympathetic. If they are unsympathetic to their children they might hinder some appreciation of art forms in their children. There is a balancing influence in the third element, the community. Senator Burke said that there is a community consciousness which the Government will have to tap. The idea of community involvement is balancing exercise.

I occupy a unique position in this debate, I dare not go home to Derry and say that I did not speak on it. I have five sons, four of whom are heads of the art department in the colleges where they teach, and the fifth is the director of the Municipal Art Centre in Derry which he built up. His father promoted the idea when he was a member of the Derry Development Commission along with the idea of a theatre for Derry. I was talking about getting sensitivity in the minds of people, and tolerance. My only daughter also teachers art. Do not ask me how it happened because the BBC asked that once and I said: "It is a family quarrel you are looking for." My wife happens to be an artist and a good one. One of my sons said that I was a bit of an artist, I do not know what he meant by that but I have a good idea.

The love of beauty must be seen to be embraced inside all art forms. We must adopt a civilised attitude to all the art forms in our educational system. That means funding, specialist operations, building and money. In the last analysis this means Government motivation, a resolution which I am glad to say will be unanimous. I commend the resolution to the House.

My contribution will be very short because most of the points have already been adequately covered. I am glad that so many speakers are taking this matter so seriously because art is part of our heritage and upbringing. Government funding is needed. Many points have been put forward but the ones with which I was impressed were made by the speaker from Galway when he said that a piano was provided in every VEC school in County Galway. We went one better in Westmeath where the VEC provided a piano and a harp free of charge in all their schools. We found to our sorrow, however, when we had all the expertise and teaching staff organised that we had to charge £70 for 15 lessons of a half-hour's duration in evening classes. In some schools we did not get the required numbers basically because of the terribly high cost charged for those lessons.

I also recommend that instruments should be purchased and grant aided or fully aided by the Government to promote music in the schools. One speaker advocated a special room for the teaching of music and art in schools; that is an excellent idea and should be investigated by the Minister and his officials. In other parts of the EC we are all well aware of the 100 per cent grant aid from the Government to member students. That is why most of the top musicians, ballad, folk, rock or pop on this island come from the North because from the age of six years they were able to get their instruments and to become professionals by the time they reached their mid teens, which is the peak for creating young artists, making them pop stars and airing their wares right across the world. Down here it is practically impossible to do anything unless you come from a family with means who are in a position to purchase instruments. No matter what kind of an instrument you purchase nowadays it will cost in the region of £300 plus. There should be a system whereby instruments would be purchased for a particular school and passed on from student to student. The Government can play a very important role in this area. We all know the temptations that exist today. There are the temptations of going out on the streets at night. No-one knows better than I. I come from very near the town of Mullingar. We have the biggest band in Ireland comprising both musicians and majorettes. They are all-Ireland champions and are rated second in Europe in the big band section. The band leader and his two assistants make an enormous contribution and there are more than 390 people on the rolls. These are young boys and girls from the ages of seven to about 25. Not alone are they learning how to play Irish music but they are under strict supervision. They are a credit to the people of the area who have to run concerts and organise functions to buy instruments. When they meet their opponents from Northern Ireland and other European countries they soon find out that they are grant-aided and are given all the help and encouragement necessary.

Debate adjourned.