Thursday, 13 April 1972
Dáil Eireann Debate
Dr. FitzGerald: asked the Minister for Education what minimum range of subjects he requires to be provided at a senior cycle level in order to justify the continuance of the senior cycle in a rural school.
Dr. FitzGerald: asked the Minister for Education what criteria of teaching qualifications or success rates in examinations he applies in deciding whether senior cycle in a rural school should be continued.
Mr. Desmond: asked the Minister for Education if his attention has been drawn to a statement at the recent ASTI Convention that thirteen school managers were informed by his Department that recognition of the senior cycle leaving certificate classes would be withdrawn from September, 1972, and that this time limit has been extended to September, 1975; if he will list the schools concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
There are in all 34 subjects on the leaving certificate course. Ideally and so as to give pupils the maximum choice a school should cater for the vast majority of these subjects. I would consider that the curriculum of a post-primary school, in order that it might be classed as being reasonably broad and sufficient to provide a fair range of options, should cater at higher and lower levels for at least four subjects from the language group, mathematics, two subjects from the science group, two subjects from the applied science group, two subjects from the social studies group and on one subject from the business studies group. The school would of course in addition  need to provide for religious education and physical education. This, I feel, is the type of curriculum which would be necessary to cater for the aptitudes and ability of all the pupils. It could be achieved only in a school which was sufficiently large in size to warrant the number and quality of teachers which would be required. This would normally entail an enrolment of at least 50 to 60 pupils in each year of the leaving certificate course. There will no doubt be cases where the areas concerned are so located or there are other circumstances which will prevent us from providing the type of leaving certificate course which we would consider to be reasonably adequate.
With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle I propose to circulate with the Official Report a list of the 14 schools to which the notice referred to by Deputy Desmond was sent. The extension in time was granted in order to enable pupils who had already entered these schools to complete their leaving certificate course in them. I might add that the schools in question had on average 12 pupils following each year of the leaving certificate course.
Meán-Scoil Mhuire, Ballisodare, Co. Sligo; Meán-Scoil an Leith-Triuigh, Cloghane, Co. Kerry; Clochar na Toirbhirte, Lixnaw, Co. Kerry; Scoil Sheosaimh, Clochar na Trócaire, Kilkee, Co. Clare; Meán-Scoil Ioseph, Clochar na Trócaire, Borrisoleigh, Co. Tipperary; Clochar na Trócaire, New Inn, Co. Tipperary; Our Lady of Lourdes College, Eyrecourt, Co. Galway; Meán-Scoil Ard na Mara, Kinvara, Co. Galway; Our Lady of Mercy College, Woodford, Co. Galway; St. Mary's Secondary School, Convent of Mercy, Buttevant, Co. Cork; Coláiste an Chroí Naofa, Buttevant, Co. Cork; St. Fintan's College, Presentation Convent, Durrow, Co. Laois; Clochar na Trócaire (Secondary Top), Borris-in-Ossory, Co. Laois: Meán-Scoil Réalt  na Mara, Clochar na Trócaire, Ballycastle, Co. Mayo.
Mr. Power: Would the Minister consider that the repetition of the phrase in Questions Nos. 55 and 56 “in a rural school” would appear to indicate that the questioner would settle for less expertise in teaching and a more restricted range of subjects in a rural school and would the Minister indicate whether his thinking on the matter would coincide with this expression of Fine Gael policy?
Mr. Clinton: Is the Minister aware that his announcement concerning this phasing out of schools he considers not large enough to carry on to leaving certificate standard has caused serious concern in certain areas because in some of these cases he has refused the Brothers permission to extend and in other cases he has not even given a decision to the nuns. The Brothers are threatening to pull out and there is chaos because of this statement. I think the Minister would need to look very seriously at this to allay the concern of the parents of children all over the Dublin region at present, as I know it, because of the uncertainty and the fact that they do not know where they are going in the years ahead?
Mr. Faulkner: I do not agree that there is either chaos or uncertainty. I  have repeated on many occasions what my objective is in relation to the provision of equality of educational opportunity for all our children. I have dealt with this fully in my reply to the Estimate and I have also replied to it in answer to the questions which were put to me here today.
Dr. O'Donovan: The idea that you cannot have a good secondary school unless you have 50 pupils in fifth year and 50 in sixth year is just absolute lunacy. There are large areas of the country where this is not possible. This whole centralisation of education is the craziest idea that was ever produced in this country. Would the Minister not agree that the bulk of the people who have been doing it are people who have never taught in a secondary school in their lives?
Mr. Faulkner: I would not agree at all with the Deputy. The objective here is to ensure that we will have as wide a range of subjects as possible available to our young people, irrespective of their location, irrespective of their social background. As I said before on very many occasions in this House, it is my objective to ensure that all our children will have, in so far as it is possible for me to provide it, equality of educational opportunity.
Dr. O'Donovan: Of course I am asking a question, a Leas-Cheann  Comhairle. What has happened in the Department of Education that they got sold on this crazy notion that you must have large schools and you must have pupils taken 20 miles by bus to go to them in parts of the country, that otherwise they will not be able to get a secondary education at all?
Dr. O'Donovan: Why are the Department doing this? Deputy Clinton talked about the Brothers and nuns. There are certain lay secondary schools in rural Ireland where people, very often a man and his wife, put together an excellent secondary school and now they are being wiped out by dictators in the Department of Education.
Mr. Faulkner: ——irrespective of whether it suits a very considerable proportion of the children attending that school or not. My view is that every child has an aptitude or an ability for something and, therefore, we have got to endeavour, in so far as it is possible, to make available to that child the subjects which will enable him to develop his aptitude and his ability.
Mr. Faulkner: It most certainly is not economics. It is basically educational. Of course, quite naturally we have to consider economics also. There is no country in the world at present capable of providing sufficient money for educational purposes and we have got to make the best use we can of our financial resources. I want to underline and emphasise that primarily this is educational.
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