Wednesday, 23 February 1972
Dáil Eireann Debate
Gó ndeonófar suim fhorlíontach nach mó ná £10 chun íoctha an mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun íoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31ú lá de Mhárta, 1972, le haghaidh tuarastail agus costais Oifig an Aire  Oideachais (lena n-áirítear Forais Eolaíochta agus Ealaíon), le haghaidh seirbhísí ilghnéitheacha áirithe oideachais agus cultúir, agus chun ildeontais-i-gcabhair a íoc.
Mr. Clinton: I spoke for a short time on this Estimate last evening. In order to bring my earlier remarks into some sort of focus, and in order to have some sort of continuity, perhaps I might recap very briefly. So far as I can recollect I had expressed regret that there was no framework of legislation covering the whole policy on education. I said it was simply deplorable that the Minister could, by simple decree or order, make drastic changes in the whole education policy. I referred to the community schools bungle and stated my intention of going into that matter later in greater depth. I also stated that I am no educationalist but that I have contacts with certain aspects of education for which I have some responsibility.
I had got to the point about the situation in which I find myself in County Dublin as the chairman of the vocational education committee. I was describing the experience I had some years ago when I was previously a member of the vocational education committee. I was trying to get a vocational school built in Clondalkin. The plans were ready, the consultants were appointed, and a tender had even been accepted. Nothing was happening and I went with a small deputation to see people in the Department about the delay. In the course of discussing the situation, I expressed the view that the whole procedure was extremely haphazard. I said that members of the vocational education committee could not possibly discharge their responsibilities to their own satisfaction because of the rate of growth in the area and because of the lack of statistics available to them and the lack of time available to them to follow up the necessary schemes and the facilities that should be made available. I said that a survey should be made of the requirements of the county, that in making this survey there should be the closest possible contact with the  planning department of Dublin County Council and Dublin city and that they would be able to provide an amount of information in relation to projected development; also that the figures in relation to attendances at primary and other schools in the area should be readily available and that on this information decisions should be made as to where schools should be built, the type of schools and site provision.
At that time I felt I was expressing a view that was important. The outcome was most unfortunate as far as I was concerned because the school that was ready to go ahead was held up for two and a half years. The excuse given by successive Ministers—they changed very rapidly in that period—was that the national survey had now been started in order to secure this sort of information. I have no objection to the survey. In fact I was recommending it very strongly. However, it was most unfortunate that, as a result, the building of that school should have been held up. Eventually the school was built to the original plans and specifications. The cost was a good deal greater, after a lapse of two and a half years.
I considered that this was something stupid. A generation were growing up in a densely populated area and this educational facility had not been provided. The present position in relation to that school is that it is only half big enough. That was allowed to happen, even when the information had been obtained from the survey.
What the Department do in relation to building schools and in deciding the size of schools is to some extent conditioned by the amount of money available. Very often they decide to build schools that are much too small because they have not the money necessary for the building of a larger school. This is most unfortunate.
The situation in County Dublin, while it has improved, has not improved sufficiently. None of us knows where he is going. This time I returned as Chairman of the Vocational Education Committee. The whole responsibility has altered. We now have a regional committee and I  simply do not know where the functions of this regional committee begin and end. When I try to press on with the provision of a school in a particular area I am told that the matter is under consideration by the regional committee. Who has the responsibility? We have a regional committee composed of people who do this work on a voluntary, part-time basis. While they may be making every effort and may be extremely able and suitable persons to pass judgement, they simply have not the time and the job is not being done. This is no reflection on the personnel of the regional committee. The information is not provided on which we can go to the Department and say: “These are the facts and it is obvious from these facts that something should be done”.
There is a site in Rathfarnham which we have had for 2½ years. We do not know what to do about it. A school is urgently required in Ballinteer, Dundrum. We do not know what to do about it. There is no indication from the Department in regard to the matter. The over-crowding in the vocational school in Swords is appalling. Again, there is no indication from the Department as to what our responsibilities are. The community school idea is now imposed on the vocational education committee. We do not know what the responsibilities are. We do not know whether we will put a vocational school in one area or whether the Minister has, in fact, made up his mind that if a new school is to be provided it must be a community school. We should be brought much more intimately into the Minister's confidence. We should know quite clearly the intentions of the Department. We should be told what the future policy is to be in the Dublin region. Where the population justifies it, are we to have more vocational schools? This should be stated explicitly. I shall raise no objection. If the decision is to have community schools, that decision has been arrived at without adequate discussion with the people concerned. I am thinking mainly of the parents who have a primary responsibility in regard to the type of education provided for their children.
The Minister has not given sufficient  consideration to this matter. He is imposing his ideas. I know his ideas reflect those of his advisers. It is not good enough. It is time that vocational education committees knew where they stood and knew the limits of their responsibility.
There is an enormous problem in County Dublin at primary school level and at junior cycle and senior cycle levels. Some years ago we tried to get the Department to accept our recommendation that the new vocational school in Walkinstown should cater for both boys and girls. We could not get that view accepted. Eventually we had to provide a school for boys only. I want to acquaint the Minister of the present position. There is a secondary girls school in the area under the auspices of the Sisters of St. Paul, who have done an excellent job. This school is a wonderful boon to the area. However, the school is not capable of providing the number of places required. This year selection has already been made of the pupils who can be accommodated next year from the primary section for entry to the junior cycle, post-primary. There are 35 girls who cannot be accommodated. None of the other schools in the area can accommodate them. I have spoken to senior persons in the Department about this, on the vocational side. We would be in a position to provide accommodation for those pupils in the vocational school. We could accommodate them temporarily and allow the block that was cut out of the original plans to be provided later in the year and have it for next year. This should be a mixed school. The enormous population of the area more than demand this. The matter requires urgent decision by the Minister and his Department.
We are concerned about the situation in County Dublin. I would ask the Minister to let us know what his mind is in relation to this matter. There is an enormous task to be carried out and there must be co-operation. Otherwise there will be floundering and the job will not be done as it should be done.
My personal view is that the vocational education committee, on its own, with the staff it has, is not able to  survey the situation as it should be surveyed. Two or three persons competent to make a survey should be seconded to this work on a full time basis for a short period. The people acting in an honorary capacity on this regional committee have not got the time and it is not being done. I want to impress that on the Minister and to ask him, as a matter of urgency, to let us know, in the Vocational Education Committee in County Dublin whether it is permissible for us to take in this overflow of girls to the junior cycle. None of the adjoining schools can take them and every day I am plagued by parents ringing me up. I have got an assurance from the people to whom I spoke in the Department that accommodation will be found, that if it cannot be found otherwise the decision will be to bring them into the vocational school there. We have the junior cycle side of the school practically built. More than half of it is occupied and the remainder is to be finished in June but we want permission immediately to employ architects and consultants to get on with the job of designing the senior cycle school. Otherwise we will again be in serious trouble; we will be behind time and we will have the additional expense of putting in temporary accommodation to start the senior cycle in two years time. This will happen unless we are told now to start work on this. This is the sort of co-operation we should have.
I want to say clearly that whenever I meet officers of the Minister's Department they are extremely helpful but they do not seem to be clear enough as to what the Minister's decision will be in relation to the type of schools that will be provided in the future. The plans and preparations are not long-term enough to deal with the situation and it is the cause of great anxiety to everyone. There are anxieties not only in this field but also in the primary section. In County Dublin there are areas like Tallaght and Blanchardstown where there is a city developing almost overnight. There are people going to live there who have found it extremely difficult to find the deposit for their house. Some of them have borrowed portion of that deposit from relatives or other  people. They are paying that back and also have their commitments on the loan. They have not got a spare shilling to contribute to the parish for the purchase of a site for a primary school. A site for a primary school of the size required in Tallaght or Blanchardstown is costing in the region of £25,000. That is for approximately five acres which could be regarded as an inadequate site. The school managers have not got this sort of money and they will not get it from the parents because they have not got it. The sooner there is a decision in the Department to take over this responsibility the better. The situation at present is that a proposal to build a primary school will not be considered in the Department until the school manager is able to say: “I have a site in my own name, fully purchased.” The anxiety this is causing is unbelievable. The Minister will have to look seriously at this and accept the fact that that sort of money is no longer there and it is an expense that will have to be borne by the State. If this is the price of the type of managerial control we have had heretofore I do not think the clergy will hold out for it any longer. I do not think they should be called upon to provide anything more than quite a nominal sum to get the necessary site. Then they have to pay a portion. I know it will be quite a small portion in the type of area I am describing but nevertheless the responsibility is there. I do not want to divest them completely of responsibility to provide some funds but the funds required in areas where the people are poor and overburdened must be a very small amount indeed. This whole question of the responsibility for school sites in a rapidly developing area should be centralised, should be put on somebody's shoulders.
When we come to community schools we are told that the people in the Department are taking over complete responsibility, that the Vocational Education Committee need not worry. The situation in the two areas in which these schools are being provided is that we have not got a satisfactory site in either area. In a number  of areas where we require sites urgently and where Dublin County Council have compulsory purchase orders with the Minister for Local Government they have been with the Minister for some considerable time. All he has to do is to confirm the CPOs but he is not confirming them. He is leaving a state of uncertainty there all the time. I would ask the Minister for Education to use his influence with his colleague in Local Government to get decisions on CPOs as soon as possible in relation to these schools.
I have assured the people in the Blanchardstown area, where I was selected as a member of the board of the new school—I do not know who is a member because the whole thing is so muddled—that a community school is a good thing for the area. I want to assure the Minister that I will do everything possible to get community schools accepted and to see that they are provided as quickly as possible with as little opposition as possible. It is a grand thing that the children of people from all strata of society can take the latch off the same door and go wherever they want to after that and that there is no longer any class distinction in education. I think there was too much emphasis on class distinction yesterday evening. This is not to condemn Deputy Tunney, whose contribution I admire in many ways. He was speaking as a man who was a headmaster, and a good headmaster, for quite a number of years. He is speaking from personal experience and I would not attempt to contradict anything he had to say, but I do think he dwelt too much on class distinction. This is one thing that should remove that.
When I was on the vocational education committee before and when the present Minister for Foreign Affairs was Minister for Education I was pressing for an upgrading of the scheme in County Dublin. I was almost assured by the Minister at that time that this matter would be decided very soon and was under active consideration. It is still under active consideration. A couple of months ago I raised the matter with the Department  and was assured again that it was under consideration. I exhort the Minister to analyse what is happening in County Dublin and to make a decision on this all-important matter. I have made rough notes on the number of schools in County Dublin, the number of pupils and the projected development as we see it. There is the School of Horology in Blanchardstown. There are four centres—Ballyboughal, Kilternan, Rathcoole and Garristown. Some of these until quite recently were day and night centres but they are now night centres. We are providing teaching services outside the schools in institutions such as St. Anne's, St. Augustine's, St. Loman's, St. Ita's, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Ballyboden Boys' Club, Clondalkin Pipe Band, Donabate Judo Club, Shanganagh Castle, Clondalkin Youth Centre. We anticipate expansion in Walkinstown, Clondalkin, Lucan, Balbriggan and Dundrum. We need a new school badly in Dundrum or Ballinteer. We want to get the senior cycle under way as a matter of urgency in Walkinstown. We have had a site for two-and-a-half or three years in Rathfarnham but no decision from the Department. We have Clonkeen Road and Ballinteer, all projected developments that are hanging fire.
Approximate present attendances of day pupils number 2,670 and at night classes 1,930. The number of permanent, whole-time teachers authorised by the Department for 1971-72 is 186. The Minister will appreciate that this number would be higher but we were prevented from employing extra teachers. In passing, I may say that this is one of the great grievances about the Minister being able to make decrees overnight by a statement. Last year, secondary and vocational schools brought teachers from England and elsewhere and promised them employment and then the Minister said: “You must not employ more teachers.” This caused very serious disruption. Without any warning there was a clamp down on the number of teachers to be employed in post-primary education. That is a very serious situation.
 When we raised the matter of staffing and grading previously we were told it was considered that while no single factor was fully satisfactory as a measure of a scheme's clerical staffing requirements, the number of permanent whole-time teaching posts was, perhaps, the most generally acceptable guideline. On this basis we were told the Department would be prepared to sanction clerical staffing arrangements in committees' offices in accordance with a certain pattern which was stated. On this pattern we would be entitled to a much better staffing at office level than we have. We are denied this and have been over years and I do not know why.
We have no Deputy CEO. The Minister must not be aware of the situation because the CEO is completely overworked and, in addition, he is now handed the responsibility of acting as secretary to the community schools. I think that he should rightly carry this responsibility and that we should have this link between the work of the vocational education committee where we have a number of elected representatives who must answer to the people and these new community schools. That contact is absolutely essential. I think the CEO should have the right— this is not yet clear—to delegate this responsibility to a deputy. I am sure that will be done but it has not happened yet.
Again, I want to impress on the Minister that if he is taking his job seriously he would have decided many years ago as a matter of urgency to up-grade the County Dublin scheme. It is crazy not to do so now. The Minister may come back—I hope not but I am trying to anticipate the possibility— and say that as a result of the decision to set up community schools instead of vocational schools we shall be hiving off, perhaps, 30 teachers and that will reduce the number. With 186 permitted and with the vast number of temporary teachers we have in the county we still more than deserve upgrading. Deliberately, I am being parochial because this is the area in which I have some responsibility and in which I know most about educational  problems and can speak with some authority.
I do not want to harp unduly on mistakes made in introducing the community school idea but some things that have now been conceded were the very things that were raised when I went to the Department after the July announcement to talk about the implementation of the proposals. I raised these very points and I was shot down in the Department. I cannot be contradicted on this. I raised the matter of the question of faith and morals being introduced on the final appointment of teachers. Personally, I saw nothing in it and I appreciated the Minister's view that body like that could easily get a teacher from the farthest corner of the land who would sell himself well but might be a completely wrong choice and that some time should elapse between the board appointing him and the selection being made. It was decided that on “faith and morals” he could be dropped.
I raised this. The Archbishop's representative was there. I said this would be misunderstood by many people of minority religions and that it would certainly be used in a way that was never intended by people who would like to interpret it in a certain way and that it would be desirable to remove it. I am sorry to say that I was more or less rebuked by the representative who said they were not catering for that degree of intelligence. I had to say, as courteously as possible, that I was meeting that standard of intelligence every day as a politician and I knew the problem would arise. My objection was rejected by all and sundry in the Department. Now, it is conceded and considered important enough to be conceded but it was not considered important simply because we, the vocational education committee, and I, as chairman, made the representations. We were told there would be no move. At one stage I had to threaten to leave the offices if we would not be listened to and it was obvious that everything we proposed was being rejected.
We raised the matter of trustees and again it was rejected. Would the Minister, when replying, tell us if this matter is finally settled? I understood it was  on the second change and that the Minister will now, in fact, appoint the trustees. But I saw there were some discussions taking place over the weekend that would seem to indicate that this matter is not finally settled. I hope it is. I hope the provision of these schools will be expedited and that there will be no more hitches. Indeed, there need never have been any hitches if the Minister had been more forthcoming and had shared his thinking in all this matter prior to throwing it at the people.
A draft deed of trust has gone out to those participating in this community school idea. There are certain little things which need to be cleared up. I am not now speaking for the religious orders, but a sum of money is required to be provided by the religious orders and by the vocational education committee. Why does the Minister not specify the amount? Has he discussed this with anybody? Nobody could accept a deed of trust which does not indicate what these various groups are letting themselves in for and it is my honest belief that the religious orders will not provide anything more than a nominal sum for a school over which they will have very little control and in which they will have no ownership whatsoever.
Another disquieting feature of the draft deed is the fact that the Minister is almighty and at any time he can wave the wand and change the conditions in the deed of trust. The trustees should be appointed for life. Unless they cease to conduct the business of the community schools they should be appointed for life and this should be stated. The responsibilities should also be stated and defined. They are not defined in the draft deed. I would be afraid of a little bit of overlapping as between the board of management and the trustees. It is expected that portions of the community school will be used by the community at large. There will be swimming pools and recreational facilities. If the school were used for a purpose for which it was not intended, would that be the responsibility of management or would it be the responsibility of the trustees? The Minister might look into this aspect.
 There is some difficulty about the term of office of the board of management. It is suggested that it be three years, in the first instance, and five years thereafter. I assume it is intended to link this with local elections. Now that rarely works out. The Minister will recall that the first proposal published was that the religious orders would have the appointment of the two parent representatives. The last proposal says that each of the religious orders will appoint one of their own and a parent who has a child at the school will be appointed by the other two. How can this be done? These people are already elected. The religious orders have gone ahead and appointed two parents. Now the Minister says the parents must have a child at the school. Neither of the parents has a child at the existing schools and it is most unlikely they will have a child in the new schools. Is this another complication? Will this be another hold-up? This is the kind of muddle that arises when things like this are not fully dealt with by all concerned before publicity is given to them. Kites are flown.
This is a small matter, but not an unimportant one: an already overburdened CEO is being called upon to act as secretary and have responsibility for the secretarial work of these two schools. What extra remuneration will he get? There is no indication that he will get any.
It is stated that any member of the board may be removed from office by his nominator. I do not know whether or not this is wise. It will have to be mulled over. I can see some complications where the parents have the appointment or election of two members. I can see various influences entering in. A parent might be elected and might be dropped again in a month's time. This is bringing it to extremes, but there should be some decision about this. Unless a person misconducts himself in some predetermined way he should remain a member of the board for three years, in the first instance, and five years thereafter. This needs tightening up.
The Minister will be responsible for the erection of the school premises and the development of the school grounds. Heretofore, vocational education committees had the responsibility of employing consultants, preparing plans, putting up a proposition to the Department, building the schools, and so on. This responsibility is now taken out of their hands and will be held by the Minister. Now we were simply told that consultants had been appointed. We asked who the consultants were and, after a good deal of reluctance to disclose the information, we eventually found out that the consultants were a firm from Cork. In the County Dublin Vocational Education Committee we appointed consultants in two areas. This was agreed to by the Department. They did a certain amount of work. Now they are, so to speak, redundant. They were not even notified that the Minister's decision has made them redundant. This is a rather highhanded action and I would plead with the Minister to compensate these consultants. Like everyone else, consultants have to make their arrangements in advance. They have to decide what work they are able to undertake and retain staff for that purpose. The committee do not know what to tell them but we know they are dropped.
It is wrong that one firm of consultants in Cork should be employed to do a job in County Dublin and, as far as we know, to do all future community schools. There is a vast sum of money involved and the public should know if one firm will do all this work and how this was decided. I know there is a certain justification for it and I know that the Department consider that there is a good deal of saving in time and money in making this kind of decision. I appreciate that this is so because this firm are working in co-operation with a project team in the Department and they have already worked out suitable schedules of  accommodation for the schools. Apparently the design of the schools is such that there is a great deal of flexibility built into the planning and changes can be made without expensive replanning. This is excellent and I realise there must be quite a saving but consultants throughout the country are concerned about this matter. They have no opportunity to participate, regardless of the location of the school. I should be surprised to learn that the consultants and architects have not been in touch with the Minister in connection with this matter. It seems to have been a matter of selection without competition.
I have some reservations as to whether it is right that the Minister's nominee shall be chairman of the selection board with regard to the selection of teachers and that he will have a deliberative vote in the event of equality of votes. In this eventuality the Minister's nominee will have an additional or casting vote. I consider this a dangerous situation. When I was discussing this matter in the Department on behalf of the vocational education committee I asked that the same thing would happen in relation to the selection board as is agreed in relation to the board of management, namely, that the chairmanship should rotate. I think the Minister would be well advised to have another look at this matter. It is not necessary to hold up matters while this is done.
It appears the Minister can make statements at any kind of function, statements that change the entire educational policy overnight. The most recent one was to tell the people that unless the post-primary schools had 400 pupils from now on they were to forget about senior cycle education. It is fantastic that a Minister should have this power to tell these institutions which have provided post-primary education, in some areas for generations, that they cannot provide senior cycle education. This is without any warning to parents who may have children in the schools concerned. Now they realise the children cannot finish their education in the schools and it will be necessary for them to transfer to other schools if the Minister implements  his announced decision.
I hope the country will not allow him to do this. One aspect with regard to community schools about which I have a reservation is the size of the schools. I do not accept that it is impossible to provide an adequate range of subjects unless there are 1,600 pupils in the school. A short time ago we were talking about a maximum figure of 400 but now it has suddenly jumped to 1,600.
Mr. Clinton: It jumped from 400 to 800 and from 800 to 1,600. When will it stop? While smaller schools may not be able to provide the enormous range of subjects that are considered necessary and desirable, they have many compensations and they provide things of real value that are not provided in the schools where the children cease to have an identity and are lost in numbers. I do not think the Minister is entitled to make this kind of announcement and tell the people that this is what he has decided. This is not democracy. A few days ago he told us at Question Time that there were 14 schools involved but I would be surprised if there are not more involved. However, I accept the Minister's figure. I should like to ask the Minister to deal with this matter at length in his reply; I should like him to tell us his reasons and to name the schools concerned so that the parents involved will know where they stand. Announcements like that made by the Minister should not be made in this manner.
The salary being offered to the principal of a community school, which will cater for 1,600 pupils, is deplorable. I would ask the Minister to compare the salary he is offering to the person holding such a post with the salary being offered to people employed in the new health boards. He will be amazed at the difference. The salary being offered for the post of principal of a community school is disgraceful, having regard to the responsibility involved.
I realise that the various teachers' organisations are involved in this kind of decision but I wonder if they have  been consulted in this case in relation to the salary and allowance for the extra responsibility involved? Considering that the community school will provide an enormous range of subjects and the principal will be closely associated with the outside community in the provision of various facilities, and the type of public relations it requires and the calibre of the person who must be put into this job if it is to be successful, I must say that I think the salary is deplorable. The Minister must look at it again if he hopes that these schools will be successful.
Deputy Mrs. Hogan-O'Higgins referred to school transport yesterday and said there are certain aspects she does not like. Probably too much money is being spent on transport that could be better invested in reducing the size of classes and in having reasonably small primary schools in which pupils can get individual attention. This means a lot to the average pupil. It might be appropriate at this time to refer to an article which was referred to by my colleague Deputy FitzGerald in the course of his speech. I did not read everything he had to say about it.
Mr. Clinton: Deputy FitzGerald referred to an article by Reverend Father Joseph Nolan, C.S.Sp., in The Irish Times of Tuesday, February 15th, 1972. I read this article and I found an immense amount of logic in it. My colleague Deputy FitzGerald had this to say about it in the public Press.
Mr. Clinton: We can all have our individual opinions about approaches to education. This article is so good that it is worth quoting. I should like to know whether the Minister accepts the logic of it.
The great educationalist White-head enunciated two educational commandments, to guard against, as he put it, “mental dry rot”. “Do not teach too many subjects and what you teach, teach thoroughly.” And elsewhere—“Let the main ideas which are introduced into a child's mind be few and important.”
Mr. Clinton: There is a danger that people like Deputy FitzGerald might regard most pupils as having the same IQ as he has, the same capacity for learning, the same intellect. This is completely wrong. I would say that we would have less than a half of 1 per cent up at his level——
Mr. Clinton: ——among the average pupils in the schools. The vast majority of school going children are lower down than that. The vast majority of them, as Father Nolan said, in the time available during the ordinary school year, are capable only of learning to read correctly, to write correctly and to do accounting accurately. If they can do those three things properly——
Mr. Clinton: Just a moment. I am talking of the junior cycle. I am sure this would be backed by most educationalists. In the junior cycle, if the children could do those things properly the parents would be very satisfied. Many parents will have to be satisfied with less.
Mr. Clinton: This may be so but, if they have not got the intellectual  capacity, I do not think they should be confused with a vast number of subjects, and not be able to master any of them, and not be able to go on to learn other subjects. I will not overdo the quotations but a couple of passages are worth quoting. He said:
To speak of our own situation, one subject in the vernacular, a language, mathematics, a science and a “hand and eye” subject, will discipline the mind and form the understanding as well as, if not better than, four times that number of subjects.
I agree with that. The whole theme of this article is that you can try to do too much in the time available and that only serves to confuse the children. The vast majority of them are not able to encompass it. I agree with Deputy FitzGerald that it should be available for those who are able to encompass it.
My personal thinking about education and the provision for education is that there is far too much concern for the brilliant child and the brilliant family, and far too little thought for the parents of children who are average or below average. What is being done for them? Nothing. Nothing exceptional is being done for them. The parents are paying for the brilliant child who will get there whether we like it or not. Nothing can stop the brilliant child. It is the parents of the dull child who are paying for the brilliant child. This needs to be considered.
So much do I think that, that, as a member of the County Committee of Agriculture in County Dublin, I pressed very hard for and got agreement on my suggestion that a number of agricultural scholarships should be reserved for boys with less education than those doing their leaving certificate in the year of competition, boys we knew would be returning to their own farms and who would be continuing as farmers. We felt that every boy who is interested in farming can benefit from a year in an agricultural college and that the boy with that level of education and intellect requires it more than the other boy. For this reason we reserve a proportion of the scholarships and give them each year.
Some provision will have to be made  if the vast majority of the children are to get the benefits the few get. There is an over-emphasis on brilliance. I am not sure that, in the long run, the over-brilliant person is the best person. Common sense is a quality that is scarce enough. A combination of common sense and average ability produces a better citizen than the over-brilliant person who can quite easily go wrong.
Everybody is told the school to which his child can go and the child can go only to that school. This is wrong. The Minister may contend that he has to provide transport and will not provide transport in order to bring a child to a school of the parent's choice. This is not always right. It may be right in most cases. There should be parental choice in the matter. A parent should be in a position to opt to send a child to the school that other members of the family have attended. There should not be rigidity about this. In some cases where school transport is provided a child who may be outside the prescribed limit will not be taken on the school bus even as a fare paying passenger. The Minister is not listening.
Mr. Clinton: Where the school bus is not full, a child who may be outside the prescribed limit but who is prepared to pay the fare should be allowed to travel on that bus. It is wrong that he should be passed by.
I referred earlier to the complete absence from the Minister's introductory statement of any reference to the work his Parliamentary Secretary is doing in relation to sports and recreation and the preparation of young people in the proper use of sport time in adult life. Perhaps at some stage before the debate concludes the Parliamentary Secretary will tell the House what he is doing in this regard. He is doing a good bit of work but not nearly enough. The limitation may be due to lack of money. I should like to know what has been done in this regard. There is a deplorable trend developing in relation to spare time  and spare money, to spend both in the local pub or lounge bar. People should be prepared for adult life when we all hope the working week will be shorter and there will be more opportunity for people to enrich their lives. They will not know how to enrich their lives if they are not prepared for it. The Minister's introductory statement should have contained some reference to this matter.
I represent Ballymun. I have been attacked there on a couple of occasions because of the Minister's failure to allow the people there to have an all-Irish school. If people want an Irish school and if the numbers are sufficient to justify it the case should be accepted by the Minister as made. It should not be provided on a limited, grudging scale. I say that as a person who speaks the language very badly. I regret the fact that I have lost the ability to speak the language as I used. Deputy Tunney spoke here yesterday evening on the subject of Irish. He spoke as a man with some experience in the matter. He said that he wanted the children to laugh and to push and to shove through the medium of Irish, to play football and to dance through the medium of Irish. I send my children to the Gaeltacht every year in so far as it is possible. I am more concerned that they should absorb the atmosphere than that they should be able to speak the language although I would love them to be able to speak it fluently. I would not mind about the niceties of grammar if they could express themselves through the medium of Irish. That is as far as we can ever hope to get. I get the impression that the people in the Gaeltacht could not express themselves adequately without using English words.
I would ask the Minister on behalf of the people in Ballymun whom I represent that, if they produce sufficient evidence as to the number who would attend an all-Irish school, that school should be provided for them. The building is there and there should be no reluctance on the part of the Minister in acceding to this demand. I know there is opposition from certain quarters from which, perhaps, opposition should not come.
 The booklet, Investment in Education, has come to be accepted by the Department as having the authority of the Bible. Economics is the criterion. This is particularly the case in the matter of teachers. While we are, perhaps, spending money unwisely in certain respects there is not sufficient concentration on the problem of reducing the pupil-teacher ratio so that teachers may give the individual attention which the vast majority of children require.
A vast number of people still have to pay in respect of children attending primary schools. This arises from the shortage of places in primary schools and in order that the children will be eligible to move in due course to the secondary section of the school. Parents in my constituency complain about this. They should not have to pay in respect of their children until they leave the primary school. We talk about free education but it is not free. It is a great attempt. There is no such thing as free education, even in those secondary schools that have opted into the scheme.
Deputy Tunney made some interesting remarks in regard to choice of teacher. He mentioned the fact that we have choice of doctor, that an employee in any walk of life who proves unsatisfactory can be dismissed, but that there is no possibility of dismissing an unsatisfactory teacher. An unsatisfactory teacher could adversely affect a child's life. A man may have academic qualifications but may not otherwise be a suitable person to act as teacher. There must be quite a large number of teachers who would fall into this category.
Deputy Tunney also referred to the fact that children may be sent to school and on arrival there may be told to return home as there is no heating in the school. When they return home unexpectedly there may be nobody in the house. This is a serious matter. He referred to children of tender age going to the primary sections of post-primary schools. They travel some distance in order to have a foot in to the junior cycle. They go to school and are told the heating is off. There is a limited number of them who come out when there is no bus home. They hang  around a town or village, perhaps, for hours or they attempt to walk an unreasonable distance and are in danger on the way. I do not think enough thought is given to this. Deputy Tunney referred to this, stressing the importance of a good caretaker in all schools. He said many people do not realise the importance of a good caretaker. He is speaking with the experience of a headmaster for a period of years and, as I said, a good headmaster. He said how fortunate he was in having the best caretaker in the country. I happen to know the man and I agree that he is a dedicated man. If you have a man who is able to anticipate difficulties, this sort of thing does not arise but it is treated too lightly. I know teachers have a big job in determining where all the children come from and which ones have a difficulty and are in danger. A greater effort should be made to tell the children or their parents in advance that there will be no school on a certain day.
When will the Department grow up and when will the Minister have sense and stop insisting on solid fuel being used in boilers attached to schools in this city? This is crazy. Here you have, in urban conditions, a dump of solid fuel and subsequently a dump of ashes and no place to go with them, nobody with a vehicle to shift them without a lot of organisation and dependence on other organisations. When will we decide that oil is the normal and rational thing to use in these circumstances? When will vocational committees and school authorities be able to give up fighting about this? They fight and eventually they decide that if it is going to delay the school they will agree to it. They agree to it and have this load on their backs. It is so crazy that it is hard to understand why the Department insist on it.
I have children at school doing the intermediate and leaving certificate. For the past two or three years they have been under constant threat that they will not be able to do their examinations because of teachers' strikes. This is an indication of the unsettled state of the whole relationship between the teaching bodies and  the Department. I implore all concerned to try to bring this to an end and not to have this continuous turmoil among the teaching profession and the continuous anxiety of children who have examinations to do and do not know whether they will have to spend a further year or two at school as a result of something that is completely outside their control.
Deputy Mrs. Hogan O'Higgins expressed concern about mentally retarded children particularly moderately-handicapped children not being adequately provided for. It is only fair to say that in recent times the Department have made quite considerable strides in this area and have done a lot that we had not been doing previously to provide facilities for the education of mentally handicapped children. However, I think it requires some investigation and a survey to find out the number of children who are denied these opportunities as yet and to find out whether this could not be overcome in some way on a residential basis if they are too scattered in certain areas. It is a matter of great anxiety to parents and a great deprivation for the children concerned if they do not get education which makes an enormous difference to them. I have some responsibility for an occupational therapy unit or an industrial output unit for mentally retarded adults. I have seen adolescents and adults coming in and not being able to do anything at all. When they are tried out at various things it is amazing the progress they can make. They can live almost normal lives after a period of training in some job and they can be regarded as people going out to work and living a normal life. I think there is very little difference between the mentally retarded adult and the mentally retarded child because the adult still has a child's mind. I give the Minister credit for much that has been done, but I think the problem has not been fully covered particularly in rural areas. Solutions could be found for the people who have not been dealt with.
I had no real intention of speaking on this Estimate. I only undertook to  come in and say something on it because of my interest in education, because of my concern even for my own children, because of my responsibility as chairman of a vocational education committee and because of the enormous changes that have been taking place and that have been announced in recent times by the Minister.
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: The two very instructive speeches that followed the Minister's Estimate speech—the speech of Deputy FitzGerald and that of the Labour Party spokesman on education, Deputy Thornley—set a very good example in approaching this not from a Party polemical point of view while at the same time not being afraid to criticise where they thought criticism was called for. In general, the wellinformed speeches including the very detailed and interesting one we have just heard from Deputy Clinton followed on this line and I do not propose to depart from it.
I think in this area the political parties have very little reason to crow over one another, that the problem which we have inherited is the result of a long, complex and often unhappy history of education in Ireland, the social context of education and the economic background to education. This is a common inheritance with which we are all trying to deal together. So, a debate on the subject can be more in the nature of a cooperative discussion than of a polemical debate. I think that has been so far the case with this one.
Most of the speakers who have preceded me in this debate have been teachers or have taught within this State. I have never done so, though my own education was entirely in this State. I have been taught in Northern Ireland and have taught and been concerned with education outside this country in widely different conditions —in one country which would be regarded as a good deal less developed than this and in another which is in many ways more developed, the United States of America. I would like, therefore, as we all try to bring what we can to this discussion to stand back a  little—I cannot hope to bring the wealth of relevant detail that others have brought and which I am learning —and look at the general picture. Deputy FitzGerald referred to what he discerned in the Minister's statement as a lack of any philosophy of education. I think that is true, but I do not think it is, as it were, the Minister's invention or non-invention. I think the philosophy of the Department of Education for many years in the past certainly was one of having no philosophy of education. That was the philosophy. It was, and when I say “was”, I am speaking with a large share of “is” in the “was”, as there have been changes but there has not been total change—one of controlled abdication and it still is to a considerable extent that.
Certainly, in my many contacts as a civil servant with officials of the Department of Education of those days, I found that they were surprised by the idea that they might be supposed to have a philosophy of education, that it would be presumptuous on their part to have such a philosophy, that education was safely in the hands of people who had a philosophy of education and you handed it over to them, that is to say, the education of more than 95 per cent of the children is in the hands, broadly speaking, under the general control, of the Catholic ecclesiastical authorities. This poses a problem which I think may be unique in the world. It is a sort of double helix arrangement. You have on one side a structure of democratic responsibility for education, of which we here represent something like the summit, and you have parallel with that a hierarchical system in which educational responsibility comes from the top down. In theory at least—there is a little bit of give and take in both systems—one is a hierarchical system down from the top and the other is supposed to come up from the bottom, from the people.
I think that has always posed definite problems and that on the whole there has been and still is a certain ascendency of the hierarchical principle over the democratic. It has seemed to me when I have seen officials of the Department of Education and  Ministers for Education mingling with bishops that I have not noted that they have, as it were, seemed to dominate their social contacts. I felt that they deferred not merely spiritually but as I thought, it seemed also socially and professionally. I think we should ask ourselves how healthy that is.
This situation, this strange symbiosis of the democratic and the hierarchical has had the effect and did have the effect in the past—and this is something which has been changed and very healthily changed because there have been very healthy changes in this area, and the present Government deserves its share of credit for working in that direction and so do certain members of the Opposition here, Deputy FitzGerald and Deputy Thornley—that for long this subject was insulated from critical debate. I have sat in that gallery over there listening to these debates over a good many years and have read them as well, but up to comparatively recently this subject was dealt with more or less as one dealt with the Department of Justice Estimate. One gets up and repeats nice things about the Garda and, generally speaking, one does not criticise the Garda. I am not saying that the Garda deserve any unqualified criticism—I do not think they do—but we are supposed to criticise here and when we stop doing it, it is an unhealthy symptom, and in this area also we have been doing this.
The idea has been that if you criticise what is actually going on in the schools or what you think is going on, what you are really up to is making some kind of sinister attack on the Church or showing ingratitude for the devoted work of the religious orders and so on and people have been, and to some extent still are, frightened off from serious criticism by that. I witnessed, for example, in the Seanad the late Senator Owen Sheehy Skeffington repeatedly drawing attention to the problem, and it is a problem, of corporal punishment in the schools and I witnessed the extent to which he was cold-shouldered by Members of this House. This was a topic that was taboo—you do not raise it—and the answer was always the double answer given when people are embarrassed,  that, first, there is no corporal punishment in the schools, certainly not for failure at lessons and, secondly, that it was right and justifiable to have corporal punishment in the schools and thirdly, will you please shut up?
We are emerging from that period. We have not totally emerged from it; I think that is where we are. As bad areas in any history have left traces behind them as the Joseph McCarthy period in America left traces, so this does leave traces here for which the Minister personally is not to blame or his officials, but for which we all collectively have a share of responsibility. I think it affected the Department itself and that from fairly close association with a notably discreet body, a body which has no liking for publicity, whose habits are not democratic—I am not saying this in any way is sinister; they are not democratic but are hierarchical—the Department tended to acquire an ethos of its own which was much the same in inflection as attitudes of people not responsible to democratic process.
We have come across this very frequently in contacts with the Department and I think the people concerned are not fully conscious of what they are doing or why they are doing it in this relation, when they brush us aside, often tactfully and always politely— we have no fault to find with them in that respect—but they do tend to brush us aside and there is a steady undercurrent of benevolent paternalism in their relations to, for example, questions in this House, to public criticism and so on. It is almost as if the mottoes are that least said soonest mended and that most mendacious of all proverbs —what you don't know won't hurt you. This is the most mendacious of all proverbs and most unsuitable for a Department of Education which should surely be saying that it is what you don't know that is likely to hurt you.
I would here appeal to the Minister and to his Department generally to have a new look at that attitude which has come through in contacts after contacts—I do not need to go into them all; many of them have already  been cited—of not telling the people, telling the House, giving the impression that “It is none of your business; we know what is for the best and we are in touch with people who know even better what is for the best, so just keep quiet and in due course it will all sort itself out”. I should think that a Minister who broke away from that attitude would earn great repute. I hope the Minister will increasingly develop his Department in that direction and along those lines.
I shall certainly be accused in some quarters of attacking Catholic education, but what I am trying to do is criticise and question a particular system of Catholic education derived historically from a relation between the clergy and an intellectuallydepressed, educationally - deprived laity. I am speaking of the past but it is a past which carries a long shadow and which charges and informs the attitudes of people connected with education. Coming from the 18th and 19th centuries it is a shadow that has overlain the history of education in the Free State and later in the Republic. That is partly reflected, I think, in the Minister's Estimate speech.
The phrase “the tip of the iceberg” is one that has entered into the history of this Dáil in another context, but it is to some extent when we read a speech like the Minister's—so informative about certain areas, mainly economic and logistical areas, so uninformative, although his concluding speech may remedy that, about general approach, about the psychology and the philosophy of education—we feel that we are, indeed, just looking at the tip of an iceberg. We are not really talking about what goes on in the schools. That is, as it were, screened off.
I know it can be, and is argued, that what I call the controlled abdication of a say in the philosophy of education—at least an overt, articulate say, a say in the democratic sense—is what the people want, that 95 per cent of them want the Catholic hierarchy and the religious orders to control the education of their children and do not want State interference. That certainly has been the traditional attitude  and I think politicians still tend to assume that it is true. But is it, in fact, true any more? It may be true in some areas: I think it is not true in some others. Is it not rather the case that people, as they become more educated—and they have been becoming more educated—are increasingly critical of the educational system and look with increasing impatience to their elected representatives to remedy its defects, to all of us, not just to the Government, but, of course, they must look mainly to the Government? If that is so, the democratic representatives have the duty to meet that demand, to articulate and to some extent lead it and do that to a greater extent, I think, than has been reflected in the Minister's opening speech or in the general practice of our debate.
There are some large, related questions that I should like to raise. In this debate I think we are right to raise both detailed criticisms and larger issues and I hope the Minister will take plenty of time when replying to cope with both although that will take some time, but he has it. How far do those schools that we still abandon so largely to hierarchical control, inculcate democratic values? How far do they encourage the challenging, questioning, alert habit of mind on which the growth and strengthening of democracy depend? How far do their actual working conditions, size of classes and so on, permit them to do so? That is one aspect of it. Another is: how far do their managers, principals and other controlling bodies even want them to do so? We do not know and the Department, so far as I can see— again, I am open to correction—do not seem to think it is their business to find out.
This question, as we consider it today or at any time in the last few years, is much more than an academic question, the attitude to democratic institutions which is being inculcated in our schools and about which we know only bits here and there as they hit us as individuals. What kind of preparation for life and citizenship is our schools providing? Certainly, in the case of most and probably of all of us, we know that they are inculcating patriotism, a patriotic spirit. It is well  and good and right that they should do that but what quality of patriotism are they inculcating? We ask ourselves these questions today in the light of what people are doing, some of whom are the products of these schools and some of whom take up the gun and the bomb.
I am not blaming all the schools or any particular orders or any particular people. I am not blaming the Minister individually for this state of affairs nor am I suggesting that it is just the schools that turn out the IRA. It is not like that; but the schools play a part in this. Let me illustrate with a little anecdote I heard, just as I came in, of a teacher in a school run by a particular order not very far away who put this question to his class: “What is the opposite of white? —Black. What is the opposite of day? —Night. What is the opposite of Ireland? —England.” We should not make too much of a quip but if there are too many quips like that and if the air is charged with that kind of hint, young people, boys especially, do not need much hinting to see an enemy. It is fun for a boy to have an enemy. He is a combative little animal and that is the way he turns and if he is encouraged to see a legitimate enemy at whom he can hit, he will take the hint. I fear some of our teachers and schools are producing in the guise of patriotism a narrow, intolerant, bitter, fanatical nationalism which makes a target of a particular country and people and teaches people to take little account of those in this island who oppose that point of view.
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Perhaps, they were not in regard to a particular case. The atmosphere of the home, certain aspects of our official culture, certain forms of commemoration, certain public narrowings of the idea of what patriotism means, may all contribute. Chance contacts may contribute. Some Irish schoolrooms—I am trying all the time not to generalise about all the teachers or even any members of a  particular group or a particular order —have contributed to this and some schools are continuing to contribute to it.
In some of our schools we are turning out little IRA. That is a problem at which we have, I think, to look. Some of the people concerned in these movements are teachers. I will not name them. None of us wants any witch hunts here. But this is a matter of deep concern. People have expressed very strong views about drugs here and I think every parent shares fears of children being exposed to drugs and in particular, to hard drugs which may destroy their lives but, personally, I should be just as concerned if I knew my children at a young impressionable age were being taught Irish history from a Sinn Féin or IRA point of view. If I knew they were being indoctrinated in this fashion I should be literally just as concerned as I would be if I knew they were in contact with people who were pushing drugs. I think a narrow, fanatical view of history and of life, a foreign-hating view, is one of the most dangerous things in the world. We saw what it did to Germany in our own time and surely this is something we must avoid in our own society.
The Government have shown a proper concern about some of the results of our educational system and about what people coming out of the system do. We should not merely be concerned with over acts. When a young man comes out and does some terrible thing, plants a bomb in a public place, he does it because a bomb was planted before that in his own mind by somebody, by his parents, by a speech he heard, by a teacher in school. Something has prepared this train of events and he goes out and does something he believes not to be criminal, something he believes not to be cruel, something he believes not to be wicked, something he believes to be perfectly right and patriotic. He goes and does that because we have formed him like that. He has come out in that shape out of our institutions and the set of institutions we are concerned with in this debate is the schools.
 I said I do not want any witch hunt here. What I should like to hear from the Minister is what is being done by way of positive effort to inculcate democratic values. I think we have a right to inculcate these values provided, of course, that we expose them, as they should be exposed, to challenge, to questioning and to discussion. We have a right to inculcate these values through schools, through classes and through discussion groups led by people, though not exclusively, who actually believe in these values. Our civics courses are concerned with the disposal of litter and trivia of that kind; the larger aspects of morality are left to other parts of the curriculum. We inculcate rather severe views, sometimes incorrect views, of sexual morality. On public morality, I do not think we normally have much to say.
A basic course in democracy would, I think, have to include an understanding of just why private armies are wrong, irrespective of the sincerity, bravery, patriotism, and so on, which may be possessed by the members of such armies. The tendency of our schools, of our utterances and our habits of life is to say: “If they are sincere and brave, then they must be right”. We tend not to see how wrong they are. In so far as we let things rip, in so far as we allow that bitter narrow nationalism to flourish within our institutions—it cannot be denied that it does flourish in them—then we are putting our young people in deadly danger. They are in danger because of what they do as a result of this teaching. They are in danger because of what may happen to them physically. They are also in danger of our reprisals, the reprisals of our society. When they behave in a manner that we have taught them is virtuous, we take them and we put them in prison. In certain circumstances we have executed them. I do not think we have the right to do these things and I think we have to begin now to educate in this area. We here must be conscious first and foremost of our own responsibility. Others have responsibilities too. The Northern Catholic bishops very rightly, honourably and courageously asked an important question not long ago: “Who, in their sane senses, want  to bomb a million Protestants into a united Ireland?” It is certain that a great many people think it is right to do that. One member of this House who sat on those benches said the other day——
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: If you had been listening, a Cheann Comhairle, you would, I think, understand. The point is that we in our schools are teaching people to behave in this way. The brief illustration I was giving was that a member of this House said that it might not be right to bomb the Protestant Unionists into a united Irish state, but why not bomb them out? He was not a dissident. He was not a rebel. I am not blaming him. He was taught that. I think the people who asked: “Who, in their sane senses, want to bomb a million Protestants into a united Ireland?” would want to see to this, to see what is happening in the schools under our control. Are all the people coming out of these schools in their sane senses? Some of them want to do just this. We have to face up to that. We have to face up to the danger of this form of teaching, this form of infection through teaching, and not only through teaching, but it is teaching we are concerned with here, to the danger this poses directly to our young people, with whose future we are concerned, and also to our whole society in its capacity to hold together and specifically in its economic future, which is now in dire danger as a result of activities which have been encouraged by, among other things, our system of education, our tolerances and our negligence in relation to that system.
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