Dáil Éireann - Volume 259 - 22 February, 1972
Committee on Finance. - Vóta 27: Oifig an Aire Oideachais (Atógáil).
D'atógadh an díospóireacht ar an dtairiscint seo a leanas:
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 Mártha, 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.
Dr. FitzGerald Dr. FitzGerald
Dr. FitzGerald: Before going on with the general theme of my speech I want to revert momentarily to the question of the community schools. The Minister made an announcement in his opening speech the last day. In reply to a question by me he also clarified a point about the faith and morals clause. Unfortunately, owing to the fact that he confined himself to a very unobtrusive sentence in his speech on the issue of the trusteeship and ownership of the schools, and owing to  the fact that he omitted any reference to the faith and morals clause from his speech—I had to draw it out from him by way of interruption—I do not think the public are yet clear on the changes that have been made. In fact, some of the newspapers the following day did not understand the point about the faith and morals clause. It is significant that even an educational correspondent as well informed as Senator John Horgan, in his article today, does not seem to appreciate the fact that the Minister clarified this point by way of interjection in the debate. Presumably the Press report omitted this reference.
It is important for us to sum up at this stage the point we have reached in the community schools issue, the extent of the climb-down by the Minister in response to Opposition pressure, and the extent to which the scheme as originally devised, in a form which would have been sectarian in effect although, no doubt, not sectarian in intent, has been modified to become something approaching an acceptable arrangement for community schools. We cannot as yet take up a final position on this until we know the terms of the trust deed.
Originally this proposal as set out in the Minister's statement of October, 1970, and sent to the Cardinal, envisaged a management of the school with four representatives of the religious orders and two representatives of the vocational schools regardless of the relative strength of schools in the area or in numbers of pupils. There was no provision for representation of the parents although this is something in which the Minister has professed himself to be interested and something which it may be said the Hierarchy supported in their statement a couple of years ago.
As a result of pressure this has been changed. The Minister agreed that two of the representatives of the religious orders should be appointed by the religious orders to represent the parents. Subsequently he claimbed down in respect of all the schools except Tallaght and Blanchardstown and agreed that the parents' representatives should be selected by the parents, in the case of Tallaght and Blanchardstown  this provision being postponed for two years. Stage by stage at last we have forced from the Minister an acceptance of the right of parents to be represented on the school management in new schools being established if they purport to be community schools.
The original proposal involved a chairman who it was said might be the bishop of the diocese. That proposal has now disappeared. It did not reappear in the May proposals and has not reappeared since. The proposal apparently referred to the Roman Catholic bishop but, throughout these proposals, all the Minister's references to the Roman Catholic bishop of the diocese are offensively couched in the terms of the ordinary of the diocese or the bishop of the diocese, as if there were no other ordinary or no other bishop, so incapable is the Minister of having regard to the feelings of those of other religions, though I know he has no intent or desire in any way to discriminate against them.
The proposal for the trustees originally involved their appointment by the parties concerned which would have meant that they would simply be the representatives of the school authorities concerned. This was then changed to an arrangement under which instead of two of them being appointed by the religious orders and one by the vocational school authorities all three would be appointed by the bishop but he would appoint one representing the vocational school authorities on their nomination. The presumption being, although this was not stated, that the other two would be on the nomination of the religious order concerned or, indeed, the lay school concerned, presumably in areas like Killorglin where the school concerned is a lay school. Again, with prolonged pressure from this side of the House and the representations of a wide variety of Protestant organisations, authorities and individuals of eminence like the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Buchanan, we have finally prevailed on the Minister to eliminate this clearly sectarian provision as regards the ownership of the schools, expressed in most sectarian language referring to the ordinary of the diocese  as if there were no other bishop of the diocese concerned but the Roman Catholic one. Now he is to do the appointing himself. Again, a major concession.
The other issue then introduced into the May proposals, the faith and morals clause, under which the selection committee established for the purpose of selecting the teachers under which its decisions would not in fact stand if the management committee decided against a teacher on the grounds not merely of his morals but of his faith, opened the way to discrimination on the grounds of religion. That has now been dropped altogether. I emphasise this and I hope that this will be taken up by the Press because the omission from Press reports of the Minister's reply to my interjected question the last day has left people, even Senator John Horgan, in doubt on this particular issue.
All these changes have significantly transformed the position. The work we have put in, and it has been hard work and involved quite a lot of questioning and quite a lot of shouting across the floor of this House, and a lot of speeches, has paid off. Eventually we have shamed this Government into abandoning a policy which, as originally enunciated, was extremely damaging in terms of our relationship with and possible future relationship with Northern Ireland and, indeed, one which was offensive to the religious minority here and which they in the letter which the Church of Ireland board of education addressed to the Minister last July made clear was one which they found unacceptable.
There remain, however, several outstanding issues. Only one of these is one which directly concerns the issue of sectarianism and this is the question of the trust deed. We do not know yet what the contents of the trust deed will be. I put it to the Minister, however, that for a trust deed to be acceptable for schools of this kind, bearing in mind that they will in practice in most parts of the country, if not all, be predominantly Roman Catholic in the personnel of the teachers and in the student population, and bearing in mind that in practice the management  board will also tend to be over-whelmingly Roman Catholic, that two of the trustees will be appointed by the Minister on the nomination of the Roman Catholic religious orders, then given these facts, which are naturally a reflection of the balance between the Roman Catholic faith and other religions in this part of Ireland, it is very important that the Protestant minority should have the reassurance of knowing that the school will be so run as not to be in any way offensive to their faith and to ensure adequate safeguards for the religion of the children concerned.
The Fine Gael Party in their policy, which I announced on their behalf at the Ard-Fheis, made it clear that we would accept these schools only if there were adequate safeguards for the children of all religions, both Protestant and Catholic. We are not prepared to agree to any system of community schools which is so organised as to be unacceptable to the parents of children of any religion. I put it to the Minister, therefore, that on this side of the House we presume that the trust deed will contain provisions to cover this. We presume that the trust deed will contain a provision specifying that the school must be run in such a way as to safeguard the religion of the children in the school. I do not think this House would accept any proposed arrangement which did not contain that provision. It is a matter of serious concern to us. It does not matter what religious faith we profess, whether Catholic, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian or Methodist, our children's religious faith should be safeguarded in the schools.
The problem in these schools will tend, in the nature of these schools, to be one for the Protestant minority. In other schools it might indeed be in the other direction. If there are other comprehensive schools which are known colloquially as Protestant comprehensive schools, where the majority of the pupils attending will be Protestants, I would be concerned to ensure that the schools are run in such a way, and that the provisions under which they are operated, are such as  to ensure the safeguarding of the faith of the minority of Roman Catholic children attending such schools. It does not matter which way round it is. We are all concerned with this particular point.
I ask the Minister, therefore, to ensure that a clause of the kind that exists, for example, in the terms of appointment of statutory members of the academic staff of University College, Dublin, is introduced into this trust deed and the trust deed is one which for the Protestant minority, the people mainly affected, will be acceptable and that it will ensure that there will be no question of the schools being run in such a way as to be offensive to the children of the Protestant minority. The Minister proclaimed in what appeared to me, listening to the radio, to be a very loud voice at the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis, as if it were a great victory, that Protestant children could go to these schools. I understood the position to be that any school which obtains aid from the State must be run in such a way that Protestant children or Catholic children are entitled to go to it. I understood that we cannot under our Constitution in any school, discriminate by refusing admission to children of any denomination. That being so, the Minister's triumphant statement to the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis seemed to me to have elements of pathos about it.
These schools are no different from any others in this respect. Of course, Protestant children must be entitled to go to them as they are entitled to go to any school just as Catholic children are entitled to go to any school aided by State funds, otherwise we would be supporting sectarian institutions. Our Constitution rightly forbids this. That is not the issue. The issue at stake is whether the school is run in such a way that it is acceptable to the children of the different religious faiths. These schools being stated to be community schools, the Minister having proclaimed throughout, despite the very odd features of them from the point of view of the Protestant minority, that that was the intention, and having now eliminated the particular objectionable  features which were unacceptable to the Protestant minority—I think there is a statement from some of them today, welcoming this particular point— we now have to concern ourselves that the trust deed is so worded that there can be no question of the schools being run in a way as to be unacceptable to the children of any religious denomination.
This is important. Of course there will be provision in the schools for religious instruction and, indeed, one hopes, for religious observance by the children of the different faiths. That is necessary. The vast majority of the people want their children to be brought up in this kind of atmosphere with adequate religious instruction. Indeed, our vocational schools make adequate provisions for this. The community schools will, we presume from what the Minister has said, be modelled on the vocational schools in this respect. It is important that the trust deed should ensure this and that it should not be possible in any school for secular people running it who happen to be of one faith to transform it into a school objectionable in some way, by religious emblems or anything of that kind, to the religious minority.
I would ask the Minister to tell us what safeguards the trust deed will contain to ensure that the children of all faiths in these schools will find them acceptable and that we will not have the position where children come home from school and say something which to their parents indicates that they are being brought up in an atmosphere which to their parents is alien. This would be totally against our traditions in regard to the vocational schools system and is something which we would all be concerned to ensure would not happen. I ask the Minister, therefore, to give the final assurance necessary on that.
The other point about community schools which is unsatisfactory but which is not a point concerning any question of religious faith is the question of the absence of teacher representation. On this side of the House we are quite clear that in establishing new schools of this kind, community schools which are to be genuine community  schools, the teachers must have a say in the running of the schools just as we believe workers must have a say in the running of any business of a substantial size, as is the case in countries like France and Germany. The same principle applies here. Rather astonishingly no such provision is made by the Minister. As a teacher himself one would have thought that he would have been anxious to make provision for teacher representation. Perhaps he is leaning over backwards lest he be accused of having a pro-teacher bias. God knows, nobody could accuse him of that when he totally excludes teachers from any role of any kind in the Management of the schools. I put it to him, therefore, that he should change his mind on this and make provision for additional teacher representation. However, if he does not do so, I still hope the schools will go ahead because it will merely require a change of Government for the change to be made to introduce the additional teacher representation. I do not want to put forward firm proposals for that now. I merely say an appropriate form of teacher representation, without committing this party and an appropriate form could be the presence on the management board of the principal of the school and a teacher selected by the teaching staff. You would have then a 2:2:2 relationship, which would seem reasonable.
I would merely put this to the Minister that I presume that the trust deed will not contain any provisions of any kind to limit in any way changes in the structure of the management system. If it were the Minister's intention to provide a trust deed of such a kind as to limit in some way legally the power of any Government to make changes here and to introduce teacher representation, then that trust deed would be totally unacceptable to us on this side of the House. We are prepared to wait until a Government which has more concern for the rights of teachers come into office in this country, which will not be long. We are not prepared to permit any Government to frustrate us in our efforts to secure teacher representation. I presume that in this respect the trust deed will leave the matter open and because we do not  know that until the Minister says it, because we do not know whether the trust deed will make adequate provision for safeguards for the religious faith of children attending these schools, we must, therefore, reserve our position on the community schools, while welcoming all the changes made and accepting that in other respects the minimum necessary to make these schools acceptable from the point of view of the community as a whole has, in fact, now been achieved.
I want to come back to one other point before moving on to fresh pastures and that is this question of small schools. I mention this because the Minister has given a reply in this House—in fact, several replies—on this question and I want to turn to it for a moment. I made the case in this House the last day and I saw the Minister nodding frequently throughout my remarks, perhaps, the only part of my remarks that he so greeted—I made a case for schools being organised in such a way as to provide an adequate choice of subjects and I have, I think, argued that the article by Father Nolan, C.S Sp., suggesting the contrary, was, in fact, deficient in logic at the various points where he purported to make the argument against having a wide range of subjects. I am convinced on that point. Other speakers in the debate may not agree with me on this but I should be grateful to them when they come to speak, as I understand is likely to be the case, if they would address themselves to the article and to my reply to the article and show where, if at any point it is the case, I am wrong in my logic or where Fr. Nolan is right in his logic, rather than making general statements that variety is not necessary, or anything of that kind. I think my argument here was a closely reasoned one. It deserves careful attention. I would hope that nobody would make general speeches without getting down to arguing the case point by point on a specific basis.
Having said that, the point I want to make clear—I did mention it before but I want to make quite clear that the Minister understands it because I do not have the impression that he does  from things that have been said since —is that while in general the indications that one would get from the criteria which I and he agree on is that schools must in general be of a certain size and I do not accept and the Minister has made no case whatever for their being of a very large size but of a certain size, that in the context of this country, with low density of population, with the problem of low density especially in parts of the west of Ireland and the long distances between schools already, that schools should be closed in those areas merely on these grounds. The right answer, which the Minister has consistently refused to adopt, showing here as elsewhere the unwillingness of the Fianna Fáil Government to show any genuine concern for these areas—the right answer is to make special provision for additional teachers in the few schools in question to provide the range of subjects. We must accept that where the density of population is low and where we are concerned to keep communities alive, it will be necessary to make special provision in these cases and to have a better than average pupil/teacher ratio so that a small school may provide a range of subjects.
The Minister's rule of thumb bureaucratic answer is that given the ratio of pupils to teachers which he has ruled on as being nationally necessary regardless of the interests of any particular part of the country or the special problems of any particular part of the country, a school with less than X number of pupils cannot, of course, survive and letters are sent to tell them to close down. That, to us, is totally unacceptable. The general principle we agree with: there must be an adequate range of subjects; and if in an area there are a number of schools together and the rationalisation of them will give a wider range of subjects, instead of four schools all teaching a narrow range, merge them into two and that will give a wider range of subjects in both. If that, in fact, is the situation, then we will accept the logic of that and we accept, even if this is locally unpopular, that something of the kind needs to be done for the children's benefit.
Where a secondary school exists in  an area where there is no other secondary school anywhere in the region within ten, 20, even 30 miles of the place concerned, I do not accept in those circumstances that such school should be closed because the Minister is unprepared to make any concession about an above average teacher/pupil ratio in that area. We have cases of this kind. There has been mention already today of Ballycastle. That is a special case because there is a vocational school in the area. But, what about the case of Cloghane in the Dingle Peninsula, a school in which the number of pupils has risen very rapidly since its foundation, a school in which there originally were 38 pupils? There are now either 32 or 34 in the first year. Give it five years to grow, for that number of pupils to move up and assuming no further increase in the entry at first year stage, that merely that level of entry is maintained, that school would be a school of 150 pupils within four years. That being the kind of size of school that has hitherto been acceptable, and given that the area is a remote one and that the nearest secondary school is, in fact, a very long distance away, either in Dingle, to which no school bus can get, apparently, over the Connor Pass, because it is not permitted to travel on that road, which is blocked at certain periods of the year, or Tralee, which is something like 30 miles away, in those circumstances, there can be no case for closing such a school. It shows a total disregard for the realities of a country with a low density of population and with very severe rural problems, for the Minister by a rule of thumb to close down such a school. Here is a school that has been highly successful. The numbers in it have increased two and a half times in ten years. It is clear that they will almost double again within four years at the present rate of entry in the first year. The answer here must be to give them a special allowance of extra teachers and that, in fact, is the course of action which this party would adopt in Government.
I call on the Minister here and now, if his Government mean anything of what they say, at election times primarily and at other times occasionally, on the subject of the west of Ireland.  let him show some sincerity in the matter. We will back him where, in fact, there are a number of schools together because there is no distance problem involved and where rationalisation will give better results in terms of range of subjects. But, in these particular areas the answer is more teachers. The Minister will have to face up to that. There is a proposal to close down 13 or 14 schools. While in some cases there may be good reasons, in other cases the proposal is unacceptable.
May I say that his attitude in this House a few minutes ago, when he refused to say where the schools are, is typical of the attitude of the Minister and his Department? This House is entitled to know what schools they are. He has no right to refuse to disclose this. The idea that he will write off to the schools in question but will not tell the Members of this Parliament what schools they are is something totally unacceptable. The Minister and his Department here show themselves to be willing to flout Parliament. They have no regard for this House. This House has rights. We have a right to know what those schools are. The names of those schools should be published. It is a matter of public interest that 14 schools, some of them in remote areas, are being closed down, in some instances at least, in circumstances which do not stand up to scrutiny. I ask the Minister to do his duty by this House and tell us where these schools are. We have come across a few of them because reports have come back to us and complaints have come back in particular cases, but it is an absurd position that, as the spokesman for education in the principal Opposition party, I do not know what the names of these schools are and the Minister refuses to tell me. I do not know any democratic parliament in Europe where that kind of thing would be tolerated. I suspect that even on the other side of the Iron Curtain a Deputy in Parliament would get a reasonably polite reply to a question of that kind, but not, apparently, in this country with its Fianna Fáil Government.
This is one of a number of instances  of where the Minister and his Department act ruthlessly, retrospectively, in a manner which is unacceptable in any democratic system, in any system where there is any justice. We had examples of that earlier in the case of home economics. I am speaking now on the question of teacher appointments.
On about 12th May last, the Department issued a circular to schools calling on them not to make any additional appointments—they were the words used—without consulting the Department. This was the result of a decision in the Department overnight— without consultation, because consultation on matters of this kind is regarded as being beneath the dignity of the Department, to change the pupil-teacher ratio in secondary schools from 1 to 15 to 1 to 20. First of all, that decision should have been the result of consultation. In any normal democratic country it would have followed consultation.
Secondly, a decision to make overnight a change of that character, involving one-third of the ratio, is one which is unacceptable. It is too sudden. Any change of that kind must be made gradually. No doubt the Minister and the Department had neglected to review the position, and the raising of the ratio, for which a case can be made except in the particular case of those small schools where special provisions must be made, should have been done gradually. Not only was it done suddenly and overnight but despite the Minister's statements in this House that nothing of the kind would happen, it was done retrospectively.
Again and again I had to approach the Minister—other cases have come up since—in cases of schools which had appointed teachers prior to May and which were told by the Department that those appointments could not stand, that if the schools wanted to employ these teachers they could pay them themselves, and the schools in most cases had no source of revenue other than public funds, they had no means of paying supernumerary teachers of that kind since they went  into the free education scheme. The Minister, having trapped these schools into the scheme—not this Minister but his second last predecessor—is turning around now and telling them they will have to cancel appointments of teachers.
In this House when I put this to him last year he denied it. He said it was not true. When I spoke to him subsequently he reaffirmed that position. The simple fact is that again and again I pointed out to him that this was the effect. I brought his attention to three cases of schools where this had happened, where the teachers had been appointed and the appointments had to be cancelled. I think the Minister should be honest in cases like this. If he is to make retrospective cancellations, if he is to say to schools that they must cancel appointments already made, he should admit that in the House. It is not good enough to come in here and try to convince people other than those who have specific knowledge like myself that he is not doing anything of the kind. Any denial by the Minister of this is not an honest denial. Convents appointed people, in some instances a short while before, in others as far back as the previous January, people had planned their lives accordingly and then the convents were forced to send out letters to them saying: “This appointment must be cancelled. The Minister has decided without warning that he will not pay an incremental salary although you are a teacher whom we were entitled to take on under the rules then prevailing. This has been retrospectively changed.”
It was intolerable this should have been done and it was intolerable the Minister did not come clean about it and that he did not admit that it had been done. In some cases this has created serious problems for the schools concerned, for schools that have been teaching a particular subject and now find themselves in a position that they cannot teach it. The Minister is on the one hand preaching that schools must have a wider range of subjects and on the other hand he is retrospectively forcing them to cancel appointments of teachers who would enable the schools to widen the range  of subjects. That is inconsistent and the Minister's attitude to this is less than honest.
It is intolerable to find the Minister again and again trying to bring in something retrospectively in respect of pupils already engaged on courses. I do not know if this has ever happened before. Certainly I do not recall its having happened. There is a basic principle in education that when a pupil enters on a course that pupil is entitled to complete that course on the terms in which he or she entered it. Yet, in the case of home economics pupils whom I mentioned earlier, the Minister has again acted arbitrarily. He tried to present the picture here that the convents concerned, the schools concerned, had had adequate notice. The position is that they were told in 1970 there might be a change. In January, 1971, through Circular V.57, they were told that for the examination in 1972 and subsequent to that it would be a condition that a certain standard in the leaving certificate, with whatever number of grades are thought to be proper, would apply. In case anybody suggests that I am not translating it properly, I will read the original:
Is iad na cáilíochtaí oideachais atá riachtanach: (1) An Ardteistiméireacht le grád C (nó grád níos airde) in dhá ábhar i bpáipéar ardleibhéal.
An Ardteistiméireacht le honoracha in dha ábhar.
There is another condition about the necessity to have particular subjects. If it was the Minister's intention at that time that of course it would apply to two subjects, as he seemed to suggest in this House, why did he not say so? Why in 1970 and again in 1971 did he use this vague phraseology that everybody knew it had to be two subjects? The fact is we did not know. The fact is it was undecided until after the students had started on this year's course. I quoted at Question Time a letter I received from the principal of one of these colleges. In it she said:
Last November, several months after these courses had started, after these pupils had started on these  courses, the Department of Education asked me to forward suggestions for revised entry qualifications. I submitted observations in writing but emphasised that no change could come into operation before 1972. I heard nothing further until last Saturday, February 5th, when I received the new regulations for those competing on April 18th, 1972. To my astonishment I discovered that the entry qualifications were radically changed, thus disqualifying many students from this year's competitive entrance examination.
That was disgraceful behaviour on the part of the Department. It was disgraceful that having indicated their intentions to introduce some system involving a certain date unspecified, they did not say anything about grades, just said something about whatever grades are thought to be necessary. They did not say how many subjects. Having given advanced warning of their intention, they failed to come back to the schools before September last to give any indication of what was intended, thereby leaving the schools to assume that for the second year running the matter was being postponed.
No educationist would ever dream that the Department intended to let pupils start a course and months later to dare to tell them they were not entitled to be doing it, that they would be wasting their time because they would not be able to get the opportunity at the end of it to which success in that course would entitle them. After that, the Department, it would appear from the letter I have received, got in touch with the principal of at least one of these colleges and asked the principal concerned to forward suggestions for revised entry qualifications. When I raised it in the House, the Minister suggested that was not true. This is not the first time he has thrown accusations across the House that the heads of schools, including, as in this instance, heads of religious orders, are not telling the truth. As between a nun in charge of a home economics school and the Minister and his Department, I know where my  preference lies until I have solid evidence to the contrary as to who is telling the truth.
The Minister now makes the firm statement, it seems to me highly improbable, that this nun would send me a lying letter telling me of an imaginary request from the Department, an imaginary reply from her pointing out that no change could come into operation before 1972, or that she would suppress the fact that the Department had come back to her and had told her that two honours were required. I am not prepared to believe that the nun in question, as the Minister suggested in the House, lied in what she said or did not say. I believe——
Mr. Faulkner Mr. Faulkner
Mr. Faulkner: The Deputy has changed the phrase from “it seems to me”. The Minister at no time suggested that lies were being told.
Dr. FitzGerald Dr. FitzGerald
Dr. FitzGerald: My understanding of what the Minister said was that what I had read out was incorrect, that it was not true. The distinction between a thing not being true and being a lie is semantic. Outside that semantic problem, the two mean the same thing. If the Minister says that this nun told me an untruth, that she wrote to me something that was untrue when she said that the Department asked her to do this, he is saying the Department did not ask her and she invented it. He goes on to suggest, apparently, that she did not reply, did not submit proposed changes, did not emphasise that no change had been put into operation before 1972 or that, if she did so, the Department came back to her. She said: “I had heard nothing further.” Is that also untrue? I know perfectly well that what she says is true and I simply do not accept what the Minister has said on this subject.
It is about time the Minister and his Department stopped using this House to make these accusations against people in the educational sector who greatly resent the attitude of the Department in these matters. The Minister has made what he calls a concession; that if these pupils do outstandingly well in their exams in April then he will allow them to carry  on though they have not got these grades. The Minister has an absolute duty in justice to allow pupils who have been permitted to go as far as 5th February with a course—the Department knowing they were doing so, knowing from the communication from the home economics school that the school was working on this presumption—to continue and, having continued, to be allowed to enter for the competition to the other colleges and to take their luck with any other pupils. Some of them, as they are pupils who have not got two honours in leaving certificate, may not get the final entry to these colleges but they have a right to their chance. The Minister has an absolute duty in justice, and I do not understand how a man with a conscience—and the Minister I know is a man with a conscience —can deprive any school pupil of the chance they are entitled to because his Department failed to follow up the original communication, because his Department made a mess of it, asked for proposals to revise entry qualifications two months after, according to him, the school should have known that it was all settled. The Department failed to reply to that letter. That any pupil should suffer because of the incompetence of his Department in this respect is something which no Minister should have on his conscience. I do not understand how the Minister can behave like that. I am sorry if on this matter I speak with some emotion, but there have been too many cases in which the Department have tried this tactic and been covered by the Minister. We had it in regard to the cancellation of appointments of teachers and we have it here again. There have been other cases I have had to bring to the Minister's attention in the two years since the last debate. It is time this Department learned that they cannot act in that way in a democratic country.
What all this comes back to is that there is no protection, there is no Education Act. The Department can act completely arbitrarily. They decide everything under rules and regulations they make under unknown legislation. The Minister does not know what legislation these rules are made under. The  Minister decides everything because he controls everything financially. Nobody has a right to anything in the educational sector if the Minister decides to withdraw finance. This method of running education is intolerable and it will be the first concern of this party in Government to put a stop to that and to provide legislation which will lay down clearly the rights and obligations of all concerned—the rights of the parents, the rights of the school managers, the rights of the teachers, the rights of the pupils and no doubt also the rights of the Minister and the Department, so that people will know where they stand, so that their rights in natural justice cannot be overridden as the Minister has, despite his so-called concession, overridden the rights of these particular pupils.
I am concerned about the financial position in regard to building schools. The Government, and I here exempt the Minister from responsibility, have been using the Department of Education's school building programme as a regulator of the economy. We have had cutbacks in school buildings. I worked out figures the last day showing how the amount of spending on primary schools has remained virtually constant in current money terms and has fallen sharply in real terms. The figure for spending on national school building in 1968-69 was £3,185,000; in 1969-70, £3,230,000; in 1970-71, £3,252,000; in 1971-72, £3,381,000. When those figures are translated into constant money terms, allowing for increases in building costs, the picture that emerges is of the following annual reduction in the volume of school building. Allowing for the increase in building costs over the last three years I get a picture like this—a reduction of about 8 per cent in 1969-70, a further 8½ per cent in 1970-71 and a further 10 per cent in 1971-72. I hope I have calculated that correctly. I am a little doubtful about one of my figures because I am having trouble in reading my own writing. This business of using the school building programme as a regulator and cutting back on it in periods of heavy building activity is something which is improper. If we are to cut back on something when there is heavy building  activity let us cut back on office blocks, especially the ones which the Government are renting in such vast numbers. Do not let us cut back on schools.
However, having cut back in a period of very considerable activity in the building industry and having used the schools for this purpose, the Department of Finance should now be prevailed upon by the Minister at this stage, when there is a need to restimulate the economy and when the building industry is going to face severe difficulty—apart from house building there is no other sector of building which will be buoyant in the year ahead as far as I can see—the Minister has a duty to cash in on this regulator attitude of the Department of Finance, to go to them now and say: “You have been cutting back for years past because the building industry has been busy. Now that the building industry is in difficulty, by virtue of the logic of your economic approach, will you now give me some money to restore the annual sharp cuts in the primary school building programme which have been taking place.” We saw the circular which was sent out during the year to vocational schools telling them to cut back, saying that:
Drawings from the Local Loans Fund against authorised loans seem, at recent levels, likely very soon to exhaust the above provision. It has accordingly been necessary for the present to suspend further payments from this Fund.
They were told that no fresh commitments were to be entered into and they were to consult with their treasurer about the possibility of getting a special temporary overdraft to enable the committee to deal with urgent accounts. That is the position the Government were in on 25th October last. The position has changed sufficiently for the Minister to be able to go, on economic grounds, to the Department of Finance and say: “Reverse this. Give us the money now to build primary schools, to build vocational schools, to restore the cuts that have had to be made because of past mismanagement by the Government.”
So much then for the post-primary  sector. I want now to refer to certain other institutions such as training colleges. Here the position is extremely unsatisfactory. The Minister is at loggerheads with the students of training colleges and for very good reason. He is proposing that, instead of doing what has been proposed by this party and what can be done at very little cost, if any, that is, re-organising the teacher-training system so that teachers get a university degree, they are to be confined not to an open university degree but to a B.Ed. This is something which I have argued before. I shall not dwell on it now because I set out the views of my party on 16th April, 1970. I think the Minister needs to re-consider the position. I pointed out to him that the Higher Education Authority itself was inconsistent in its approach to this subject. They quoted, with approval, a Council of Europe recommendation which read as follows:
Whereas some universities may be organised with a special accent on teacher-training and educational research, isolated educational universities are not recommended, because they would run the risk of becoming cut off from developments in other fields of scholarship, research and professional training.
Having recorded that, and talking as if they were accepting it, they turned round and recommended that these training colleges should have a three year course leading to a Bachelor of Educational Science and be confined to that. I think it is quite wrong that teachers should be confined to this narrow area. They should, like other professions and indeed more than most other professions, have a broad education within a university college where they will be involved with people in other disciplines and where they can take a subject-orientated degree or a more educationally-orientated degree, depending on their interest in education and the sector they intend to go into. If we are to have an integrated profession it is absolutely inconsistent with that to have a situation where vocational and secondary teachers go to universities for their professional training and where primary teachers  are confined to teacher training colleges. The more I have thought about this since we first put forward our proposals five and a half years ago the clearer I am that we were right in this. In the training colleges themselves the students and the staff, who were sceptical perhaps of our proposals five and a half years ago, have come around to the view that we were right in this respect and that what should be done here is to re-organise the system so that those who intend to become teachers do their university course and subsequently, as is the case with secondary teachers, take a further year of specialised training. This would need to be a better organised full-time course which the H.Dip. in Education is not.
That is the approach that should be adopted. The Minister will only make a botch of it if he accepts the internally inconsistent suggestions of the Higher Education Authority and if he does not grasp this nettle once and for all. I suspect he will not do so and for a bad reason. We saw the reason coming out in this House a couple of weeks ago when he told us with rather more emphasis, rather more crossness than is his wont—even under Opposition provocation he is a mild mannered man and we do provoke him at times—on that occasion that he had instructed the training college to teach through Irish and they had no right not to be teaching through Irish and that he was determined that they should examine through Irish even if he could not force them to teach through Irish.
We asked what the authority was for giving instructions to them. The Minister was distinctly vague about it and was forced eventually to fall back on the fact that he was providing the money and if he does that he thinks he should tell them how to run their affairs, a principle which does not apply to Government grants outside the educational sector. It is only his Department that has this tradition of dictatorial attitudes to bodies which it finances. Many bodies obtain finance from the Government and the Government very properly stays out of their policies and does not try to interfere with or dictate to them. That is the position in all the other Government  Departments. I could name a whole variety of bodies getting grants-in-aid where there is no Government interference and where any such interference would be regarded as quite improper and inappropriate. Yet, in the educational sphere which, above all, should be safeguarded from Government interference, an area where above all the politicians and administrative civil servants should stay outside, it is here there is this interference.
I suspect the reason why the teacher training colleges will not be re-arranged in such a way that primary teacher trainees will get university education is because the Minister still finds it difficult to dictate to the universities. He has not written any letters so far to Trinity College or UCD saying that they are to teach through Irish in future. He has not got into the position where he can dictate that their exams should be through Irish while their courses are through English. If he has not got that power over them he prefers that teacher trainees should be kept in these colleges where he can still attempt to dictate the language in which the courses are given and can dictate the language in which the examinations are set. I suspect that is why they will not get what they want from this Government.
Again, I can assure the House that when the Government changes that matter too will be dealt with as one of many radical educational changes. In the whole field of educational policy, the job of this side of the House when we get into office will be to reverse an enormous range of Government policies. I reckon there are about 40 different areas of education where we shall have to reverse what the Government is doing. There is possibly no sphere of Government activity in which the change of Government would have such a radical effect and where the reversal of policy will be so dramatic and cover such a wide field.
I trust that in the tradition of the public service of another country nearby the Department officials are making suitable preparations for that. We have read in books such as Mr. Wilson's Diary of the arrangements  that are made so that when the Government changes the civil servants have their plans already made for the Opposition policies. I presume this excellent tradition is carried on and that somewhere in the Department in a secret drawer there is a secret file and that when we come into office the secretary of the Department will say: “Here is how you are to work out your policies. Here is how we shall reverse everything we have hitherto been doing.” I trust the reversal of policy will be carried out with the same enthusiasm and dedication which I must say the Department officials show to the misguided policies of the Minister at present.
Mr. Desmond Mr. Desmond
Mr. Desmond: The drawers are empty.
Dr. FitzGerald Dr. FitzGerald
Dr. FitzGerald: I am charitable enough to believe there might be a drawer somewhere. If not, we shall have to take appropriate action to fill them quickly.
Mr. Faulkner Mr. Faulkner
Mr. Faulkner: I have listened to statements about the Opposition becoming the Government so often that——
Dr. FitzGerald Dr. FitzGerald
Dr. FitzGerald: We know the Minister's and his Government's confidence that they will be there in perpetuity. Therefore, we shall have more pleasure than usual when the change of Government takes place in seeing the look on their faces. I look forward particularly to participating in the programme on the evening of the election and to summing up the results and discussing them with members of the Government who will explain why it is that their long term of office has come to an end. That is a theme I could develop further but not, I think, in the course of this debate.
There is much to be said about the National College of Art. Much was said on the Bill but there are still many things to be said. I am very concerned that these elections should take place. I have been out of touch for a few days and it may be the elections have been held. Through what contacts I have I did urge that the students should get on with the elections, co-operate in them and try to get representatives  elected so that the board can be got into operation as soon as possible. I hope that has happened but I am sure the Minister is more up to date than I am because I have had no contact since last week with anybody in the college. Sometimes a period of four or five days passes in which I do not have contact with the people in the college: I look forward to the time when months can pass without such contact being necessary. I feel this will take time because there are many problems to be sorted out and the Minister knows how deep are the divisions in the college and amongst the staff and amongst the students and between some of the students and some of the staff. I fear it will be very hard to bridge these gaps. Having talked to all sides, the students and staff concerned, I find very little common ground except this, although I think the students do not all accept this: I think there is a willingness among the staff to reconsider the whole approach to art education.
Some of the students may under-estimate the extent to which the staff are willing to discuss a fresh approach. I hope it will be possible for students and staff even yet, despite all that has happened, to sit down together in a constructive discussion wherein the students' ideas, many of which are fresh ideas and worthy of consideration, would be considered in an openminded way by the staff. I detect among the staff a willingness to adopt that approach and I hope some discussion of that kind will be possible. We on this side of the House, and I am sure the same applies to the Labour Party, if we could help in trying to restore relations and get discussions going, are very willing to do so at any time.
I am concerned about one aspect of the college that I do not understand. I believe there is a steering committee for the design of the new school. It has been put to me—I think this is probably incorrect and I put it to the Minister because I think a denial would be useful if it is untrue—that this steering committee has indicated that it does not propose to resign when the board has been appointed, that the design of the  college is not a matter for the board and that they have no function in the matter. If this were, in fact, the attitude of the steering committee the whole purpose of setting up a board would appear to be frustrated. If the board cannot even decide what kind of college it will have, I, certainly, would not serve on a board in such circumstances. I am sure the Minister will be able to make the position clear in his reply and make it clear that the design will be a matter for the board of the college when appointed and that in so far as there is any steering committee that committee will be responsible to the board and nobody else.
I hope officials of the Department will not attempt to interfere with the work of the board in designing the new college. If that were not the case I think nobody would want to be appointed to the board. I hope the Minister's reply will clarify it so that there need be no inhibitions about joining the board and that these rumours that the board will not have power to run its own affairs can be scotched once and for all. I am sure the Minister will want to do that because there is a danger that people will not accept appointments to the board if they feel that the kind of stories now circulating are correct.
There are a number of points I want to make about universities but I shall not dwell on them at length because we did have a very full debate on the Higher Education Authority Bill on certain aspects of university education. I should like to tell the Minister that there is a feeling amongst university teachers that university reform has been indefinitely delayed. The fact that we are approaching the fifth anniversary of the O'Malley plan and that we still have not got published the proposals of the Higher Education Authority as to how that plan should be implemented, has depressed people. For or against the merger they would like to know what the future shape of the institution is to be. The view being expressed in university circles at present is that this document will be published and the Minister will then seek the views of all concerned  and all concerned will make representations, no doubt of a contradictory nature, as is customary with academics, and that the Minister will then have to reformulate the proposals and have further consultations, more or less ad infinitum, and eventually legislation will be introduced, legislation which will take a year or, perhaps, several years to get through the Oireachtas. Judging by the lack of speed in regard to the setting up of the new Department of the Public Service I would not be surprised if this legislation took just as long or, perhaps, longer. The Bill for the setting up of the new Department was to be introduced last April. The purpose of the Bill was to establish a new Department charged with the vital task of reforming the Public Service. The Government have shown not the slightest interest in this. I myself approached a responsible person in Government to press for that Bill as a matter of urgency. The best estimate at the moment is that we shall see the 10th anniversary of O'Malley before we see the new university structure. Could the Minister give us some hope and alleviate the pall of despondency that hangs over universities at the moment? Could he give us some hope that we will see some action to settle this issue because while all this merger talk goes on—it has died down at the moment—the universities are in very serious difficulties because of the total inadequacy of their structures and the great difficulty in changing those structures short of new legislation. In UCD a great deal of work has been done on new proposals for the internal revision of the structure with the object of modernising and democratising it and I hope the Minister will give these proposals very serious consideration when he receives them.
We had a long discussion on university autonomy. Deputy Thornley and I would seem to have a different emphasis, but I sometimes think that, if we had the time to get down to it and discuss it au fond, we would find ourselves in closer agreement than would appear from a superficial view of our speeches and I certainly accept  that the statements of autonomy issued at times by university teachers and organisations of university teachers are aggressively conservative.
Dr. Thornley Dr. Thornley
Dr. Thornley: Hear, hear.
Dr. FitzGerald Dr. FitzGerald
Dr. FitzGerald: But that does not alter the fact that there are real issues here which this House should be careful in handling.
A final point on universities, and a topical one, I think, and another good reason for getting on with this merger legislation to my mind—it may be a small one, but it is certainly a good one—is making it possible in the colleges of the National University of Ireland to introduce a faculty of theology. The fact that this is at the moment precluded, since it would be unconstitutional and illegal for the colleges of the National University of Ireland to finance any posts in this area of study, is a very serious defect and there is something ludicrous about a situation in which 64 years after the British Liberal Government imposed this antiquated Victorian piece of non-sectarianism, of secularism really, upon the National University of Ireland an Irish Government still has to act to remove that disability. It is a serious disability. The absence of a faculty of theology is a serious defect and a serious loss. It is one which gives great concern to university teachers.
There is a Faculty of Divinity in TCD but we cannot have one, and at the very recent staff association seminar, which took place since I was speaking here last, this was one of the topics discussed and a number of speakers put forward their views on it. I would be hopeful that the problems which in the past have loomed up in people's minds, the problems of academic freedom in this particular area, may prove to be less formidable than they might have appeared to be some time ago. Constructive proposals were put forward by the Irish Theological Association some time ago and it is no secret that the new Catholic Archbishop of Dublin was a member of that association and actively concerned with and interested in these proposals, and his presence in the Roman Catholic  Hierarchy now should, I think, facilitate the development in our university colleges of faculties of theology which would have the necessary academic freedom and would add a new dimension, and a badly needed dimension, to these colleges. We cannot have that until the Minister gets this reforming legislation through, and that is another good reason for getting on with the job and five years is long enough to be dawdling with the subject. I know it is not all the Minister's fault. A great deal of it is the fault of other people, but it could have been handled more expeditiously if we had had, perhaps, fewer Ministers of Education and more continuity. Let us now handle it expeditiously.
There are two other aspects I want to mention. Time does not permit me to do more than mention them and one of them will be dealt with more fully by another speaker from our party later in the debate. I refer to the question of reformatory and industrial schools. I am not an expert on this subject and others here will be able to speak with more authority than I can but, from what I have read on the subject, I find it deeply depressing. The fact that it now transpires that Marlborough House will be kept going without trained staff for a further period and that children will be sent there to their detriment by the Government of this country is something we simply find unacceptable. It simply cannot be true that the Government is incapable of leasing a suitable premises somewhere and finding some trained staff to look after that premises. If the Government are incapable of doing that small task then they really should not be there at all. The Minister has responsibility. I appeal to him simply to tell his officials that he wants a premises leased and trained staff employed there within a month or six weeks from now and to get on with it or get out. It is time the Minister took action in this matter and did not allow bureaucratic excuses to hold up humane action, action which is long overdue. I shall leave others to develop that theme more fully, but it is a matter with which the Minister really  ought to concern himself and a matter to which he ought to give priority.
My next point relates to the National Library and the National Museum. These were very fully debated recently in the Seanad and it would be superfluous for me to go over the same ground again here because the debate there really raised all the key issues. The debate certainly showed an extraordinarily depressing position and what bothered me about the Minister's speech was the fact that, while tagged on at the end there was a reference to the National Gallery—at least something has been done—as far as I could see there was no reference to the National Library and the National Museum. I know there is a problem here. I know the Minister has difficulty in providing funds and all the rest of it but, in the light of what was disclosed in the Seanad debate and in view of the response given in that debate on the Government side, surely his speech could have contained some hopeful reference as to what is going to be done for the National Library and the National Museum. The way in which these bodies have been treated is not only a disgrace but an enlightenment to public opinion here and elsewhere as to what Governments of this country mean by preserving Irish culture.
Preserving Irish culture is a great thing off a platform at election times; it goes down well when one is not asked to define it. To me, preserving Irish culture means making sure that those things that have been handed down from the past are not destroyed by neglect but are safeguarded in adequate premises by skilled and trained people and made available and accessible to people who want to learn from them about our past. The neglect of our culture is when these things are not done as they have not been done by this Government. I will not take seriously any statement by anybody on the other side of the House about Irish culture as long as this neglect of these institutions which enshrine so much of our culture continues. The Minister is someone who is genuinely concerned about our culture and he must surely bestir himself and insist that adequate  provision is made and I hope, if he did not advert to this matter in his opening speech, he will at least mention it in his reply.
The last point I want to make is to make a plea to the Minister for special action in a matter which concerns North-South relations. I refer to the position of Magee College in Derry. That college has suffered from the decision to establish the new University of Ulster in Coleraine, a decision many of us believe to have been politically motivated, politically motivated by people in the Northern Unionist Government or Unionist circles who did not want the city of Derry to have the opportunity of being a major cultural centre. It may be that some of these people were genuine or thought they were genuine and honest in the decision they took, that they felt the state of Derry, after 50 years of Unionist rule, was such that to try to place a university there was pretty hopeless. I suppose there is something to be said for that point of view. Considering the atmosphere in Derry today it is not very conducive, perhaps, to educational development at any level, from the primary school level upwards, but, of course, the way you change that is not by neglecting the place, not by cutting it off from possibilities, but by providing the possibilities there; and the fact that the Unionist Government did not do that and diverted the university to Coleraine is a reason why we, who have a responsibility for Derry, should now do something about it. Derry is the natural university centre of the northwest of Ireland. It is within a mile or two of County Donegal and in the past, as an education centre, it has served Donegal very well. I know that in recent times because of the situation in Derry many people from Donegal who went formerly to Derry to avail themselves of the educational facilities there do so no longer.
We have a duty to do something in this matter. The fact that this university is situated in our national territory, as so claimed in the Constitution, but outside our jurisdiction, does not prevent us from helping it. Apparently the Government intend providing money  for an alternative assembly and since they can do that there is no reason why they should not provide money for Magee University. The Government should apply their minds to the building up of a university college at Derry that would be designed to serve the whole of west Ulster, regardless of the Border, because there is no Border at the level of university studies. This would be an imaginative gesture and one that would have some meaning not only for the people of Derry but for the people of Northern Ireland as a whole. I do not think that even hardened Unionists would regard such a gesture as interference but that they would be prepared to see it as a generous gesture on our part to try to do something for a stricken part of our country.
I appeal to the Minister to give urgent consideration to this matter because the fate of this college is now at stake and the chances of saving it depend on action being taken quickly. Educationally, this college is necessary. It is necessary for the future of west Ulster. Whatever may be the political future and however long it may take to get rid of the Border that part of Ireland should be our prime concern. The college is necessary for Donegal. Here there is an opportunity for the Minister to do something imaginative that would serve the cause of national re-unification in time to come, that would serve the immediate interests of west Ulster and which would serve the people of Donegal who are in our own jurisdiction.
If there is one note on which I should like to end it is that we must have a White Paper followed by an Education Act.
Dr. Thornley Dr. Thornley
Dr. Thornley: Hear, hear.
Dr. FitzGerald Dr. FitzGerald
Dr. FitzGerald: This is essential. It is wrong that the Minister should continue to rule the whole system by control of the pursestrings and by issuing rules and regulations without, apparently, any authority to do so. It is wrong that teachers, school managers, pupils and parents should find themselves at the mercy of the arbitrary whim of the Minister's Department which he so often and so wrongly  stands over. This must end. I can guarantee that when there is a change of Government it will end, but I would like the Minister to say that in the interim work will start on this project so that the drawers of the Department will not be totally empty when there is a change of Government.
Dr. Thornley Dr. Thornley
Dr. Thornley: In rising to speak on this Estimate, which is the first opportunity we have had in two years to discuss the Education Estimate, I cannot say at this stage for exactly how long I shall speak, but I doubt if I will follow my friend and colleague, Deputy FitzGerald, into the four hours and 15 minutes during which he has entertained us on this subject. If I may be permitted both by the Chair and by Deputy FitzGerald to open on a flippant note, I might say that the frustration which this House has experienced by not being able to discuss education during the past two years could scarcely be demonstrated more clearly than by the amount of time which Deputy FitzGerald has devoted to the subject on this occasion. With due respect to Deputy FitzGerald, although I agree with most of his remarks, at times they must appear to be mutually contradictory. He seems to offer to us an educational world in Ireland in which there would be less interference by the Minister, more consultation with the interested parties and, at the same time, better solutions.
I would suggest that those three logical premises are what Marx would have called antynoms—self-contradictory in many ways. Very often it is by proceeding through the route of consultation that one achieves the least. While I am no exponent of Ministerial dictatorship, the fact remains that not every vested interest is a progressive interest either in education or in anything else.
Dr. FitzGerald Dr. FitzGerald
Dr. FitzGerald: Hear, hear.
Dr. Thornley Dr. Thornley
Dr. Thornley: But there are times when the knots are so gordian that only the kind of intervention undertaken from time to time by the late Donagh O'Malley is appropriate to untie them. While I shall have a considerable number of criticisms to voice on the  Minister's speech in particular and in Government policy in general, I think it would be appropriate to open my contribution to this debate by offering a certain amount of congratulations to the Government on some of the achievements they have effected during the past decade. Progress has not always been even. If anything, it is becoming slower, not because of the lack of interest of our present Minister but perhaps because there is less money to go round, because there are apparently more pressing national subjects on the agenda, because education is no longer the gross area of interest, still less of money, than it was ten years ago or because the North oppresses us all. In some ways we have slowed down in educational progress, but at the same time we must accept that the present Government of Governments, if one wants to be flippant about Cabinet changes in Fianna Fáil, have done more for educational growth during the past ten years than was done collectively in the preceding 40 years. Education has become a vital item on the national agenda and whole new generations of young people are receiving education in secondary and vocational schools and at universities who would not have received this education before now.
We must give credit where credit is due. Looking back on the record of expansion in expenditure in education during the past ten years, one sees a steady record of progress. The mere fact that issues like the future of the smaller schools, in both the primary and secondary areas, the optimum size of a university, and the future of an institution like the National College of Art should be something of a political controversy in which a lot of people are interested is a credit to Fianna Fáil.
Many years ago, when I was first elected a Fellow of TCD, I said in my speech of acceptance that one of the tragedies of Irish education was that to the vast majority of my fellow Dubliners TCD was an interesting architectural structure around which they went on a bus but one which they would never enter as students. While progress is never adequate, there has been progress and significant changes  have taken place during the past decade so that now to talk about higher education, in particular, is to talk about something that is not a total irrelevance to everybody but a favourite 10 per cent in the community.
Let me not be misunderstood. I am not suggesting for one moment that progress has been far enough or fast enough, but within the restrictions both of our economic set up as a small and relatively poor country and within the political restrictions which attend education—no subject is covered more by political restrictions than education— progress has been significantly and meaningfully made. I have jokingly said in other places that the cleanest form of politics are politics themselves, trade union politics are slightly dirtier and the dirtiest of all are educational politics. The Minister, with all the mistakes he may have made, should be judged as a person beset by many factions whose criticisms of him, while united in volume, derive from different and conflicting motivations. While I fault both his philosophy and his performance on certain points, I am realist enough to appreciate the difficulties he faces.
Having opened on that relatively friendly note, I shall deal with matters of greater detail and, perhaps, more negative matters. I intend to adopt the chronologically opposite approach to that adopted by Deputy FitzGerald; I shall discuss the details first and, secondly, I shall discuss the over-riding philosophy. In a sense this means I will follow the Minister more precisely than did Deputy FitzGerald.
I am dissatisfied with the overall expenditure in the primary school area, in particular regarding the matter of school building. I do not think that the rise in capital expenditure in this area is adequate. On 4th November, 1971, I asked the Minister about the degree of capital expenditure on primary education. My figures differ slightly from Deputy FitzGerald's but his figures were concerned exclusively with school building.
The figures the Minister gave me for 1969-70 were £3.7 million, for 1970-71 £3.3 million, for 1971-72 £3.8 million. I do not think this is an  adequate amount, given the primitive conditions under which many of the children and primary teachers have to work, particularly in rural areas. One of the points in respect of which I have often taken the Minister to task in the past is that when pressed on the size of classes in primary schools he persists in giving average figures. Invariably he argues that it would be beyond the resources and time of his Department to give us figures broken down in a specific regional way. In this way, intentionally or otherwise, he conceals the fact that in certain large urban areas with high populations the circumstances under which the children are being taught are disgraceful and deplorable.
Deputy FitzGerald has quoted the figure of 70 per cent of classes being more than 40 in number. This is by comparison with a Government optimum of one to 32. In certain areas in Dublin it is an open secret that 40 is an under estimate; there are classes of 50 pupils and in some cases of 60 pupils. The maintenance of any kind of educational standards in such classes obviously is an impossibility. The maintenance of discipline is difficult in classes of such size and, in turn, this leads inevitably to recourse to corporal punishment which is still practised on a large scale in the Irish educational system. For many years the Labour Party have opposed corporal punishment, as I do also.
The Minister should bear in mind that the low level of education in some Dublin schools and the high incidence of corporal punishment relates to the size of classes. The Minister has stated that £3,850,000 is estimated for 1971-72 but, in this context, is this an adequate amount? I cannot follow Deputy FitzGerald into the complexities of economics but it seems patently clear that, with the rise in the cost of living and the depreciation of money, we are only holding our own in the level of primary school building. Given the fact that not merely are many of our schools out-dated but that the life expectancy of schools is subject to constant depreciation in value, we should not consider that the performance in this area is adequate.  This is one of the most vital of areas in teaching because, for better or worse, it is the area that affects our children.
I should like to congratulate the Minister and his Department upon the new curriculum. It is a good curriculum and it has brought a more sophisticated and less examination-orientated form of teaching into our primary schools. I believe it will be a success and I am glad the Minister has taken this course. I know the Minister is providing an extra £55,000 for audio-visual teaching aids and for courses for teachers, but I suggest that at this time the amount is not sufficient for this developing area in primary education.
There are aspects of the schools transport system which should be looked at closely. All these topics, such as the closing down of small primary schools, the closing down of small secondary schools, and the acceptance of the necessity to increase the numbers of pupils in universities, are aspects of one total pattern of education. The idea that the bigger concentration in each case is better, and that it will lead to better education, is not an argument with which I am in profound disagreement. Fundamentally I accept the underlying philosophy of the argument of the bigger unit. Here, the central thesis of the Department, which is impossible to divorce from Buchanan, is correct, although there are areas of exception. For example, there are areas with ethnic traditions like Dún Chaoin which are exempt from the overall working of this law. There is no law that does not have exceptions but, in the main, I accept the argument. However, it is applied by the Department in some cases with a certain degree of absolute inhumanity. One such case is Dún Chaoin, about which, I hope, Deputy Cruise-O'Brien will have something to say. As everyone in this House knows through no fault of my own I am not proficient in the Irish language and I am not competent to talk about it.
With regard to transport, the regulations about distance and the ages of  the pupils should be treated more flexibly. I know of a case where a child lives fractionally closer to an old school which is about to be closed than to a new school. The parents were told that the bus which brings children to the new school will not take their child to the new school because the child lives closer to the old school. The child must attend the old school until it is closed, after which he will be transferred to the new school. This is a detailed case and is one I may take up with the Minister privately.
The matter of teacher training needs looking at in greater detail. I was among those people who were not happy with the report of the Higher Education Authority on this subject. I think the Minister knows this because I have brought it up in another context, but I hope he will not be bound too closely by the case of those who are known as “professional educationalists”. I told the Minister previously in this House that I do not know what is an educationalist. At the risk of antagonising people in my own area of teaching, it appears to me that the worst person to advise a Government on a particular area of administration is the person who is professionally involved in the practice in question.
Very often the so-called specialist educationalist is somebody who is simply externalising a specific vested interest and in this case I would hope that the report would not be too rigidly adhered to by the Minister.
My own view is that we are in danger here of repeating the mistakes made by the British Labour Government and elevating to the status of university institutions which traditionally existed, just by making a stroke of the pen. Let me be clear about this: I am not criticising any individual teacher training college. Some of them are excellent; St. Patrick's is an obvious example. However, the Minister needs to develop a clearcut policy about the number of years necessary to acquire a primary teacher training qualification equivalent to a university degree. Does this involve bringing the potential trainee teacher on to the  campus of an existing university, or does it involve giving greater status, greater funds and greater facilities to an existing training college like St. Patrick's? I do not know for certain the answer to these questions. I would tend to favour the latter rather than the former, because our traditional university colleges in Ireland are now reaching a size beyond which they will cease to be effective educational institutions.
I want to deal at some length with the question of secondary teaching, but let me say that the relatively brief remarks I have made on primary education do not imply that I do not regard it as having ultimately the greatest importance of the whole lot. I would commend much the Minister has done here. Given the reservations I have made about specific schools like Dunquin and Montpelier, I think the Department's and the Minister's policy is the correct one. Those of us in this House who, on the one hand, demand higher standards of teaching of children in primary schools, but who, on the other hand, when a closure of a small school occurs within our own constituency scream the loudest about it, are guilty of hypocrisy here. I think the Minister is proceeding broadly on the right lines here, except for one thing which I am glad I remembered before I leave this question of primary schools. I should like the Minister to comment on the future of the three-teacher school. This is something I pressed him upon before.
Far be it from me to make a speech here of the pastoral Ruskinite kind which ex-Deputy Lindsay used to make about the intrinsic beauty of the one or two-teacher school and the frogs hopping along the road and that sort of thing. But at some point one stops. At some point a school becomes a viable educational unit and I would have thought that three teachers was, perhaps, that point. While I am quite happy to see the children of Ireland commuting four, six or ten miles to three and four-teacher schools, a vision of Ireland as a member of the Common Market—a subject to which I shall not refer again in this debate, I hope—in which children come 20 miles to  enormous aglomerations of primary schools is not one which would attract me. I should like the Minister to make some comment on this, the point at which his Department intend, in principle, to say: “This is the acceptable size of a school.”
On the subject of secondary teaching, I think I can really indulge myself in criticism of the Minister. I think it is fair to say that ever since the days of the immemorial Ryan Report the Minister's relations with the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland have (a) pursued an impenetrably complicated path and (b) have involved such a high degree of aversion on both sides that the situation is now so bad that one does not really know what can be done next.
I am not blaming the Minister or his predecessor exclusively for this. No one has been more critical of the ASTI in this House than I have and I have letters both signed and anonymous to prove it. On many occasions in the past I have seen that organisation as an essentially conservative, entrenched organisation proud of its professional status, determined to preserve the class distinction between its members and the vocational and primary teachers. I have seen it as an association which resisted any implication that it was a trade union, delighting rather in its quarterly salaried payments carrying with them the status of the gentleman and only reacting into trade unionism when forced to by the conflict with the Minister. I said all these things before and I make no apology for saying them again. With the principle of the Ryan scheme, which was at the start of the whole complex problem which now faces secondary education, I find myself in essential agreement.
It does remain true, however, that the Minister and his predecessors have succeeded now in alienating the secondary teaching profession to a degree which has not existed for many years. The most recent instance of this is the botch that has been made by virtually everybody concerned of the concept of the posts of responsibility in schools, an issue which at the moment stands at stalemate. I would be only wasting the time of the House to go back in  laborious detail over the shiftings backwards and forwards between straight salary increases, posts of special function and posts of responsibility over the last three or four years. Never has it been defined what is a post of responsibility. Is it locking the school door as you go home? Is it opening the school door in the morning? Is it taking care of the school debating society? Is it taking care of the school library? Or is it just being older than anybody else in the school?
None of these things has been made clear, and here I think the Minister, to a certain extent, is as much at fault as the association, because confronted by the divisions which existed between the different branches of the secondary teaching profession, the ASTI, the Religious Teachers Association, and the clerical managers, his Department has tended rather to glory in those decisions and play both ends off against the middle than to seek to heal them. Here I think that for once the secondary teachers are, in the main, in the right.
With all the defects of the Ryan scheme, one of the things it explicitly promised to the lay teacher was that where the principalship of the school was held by a cleric, the vice-principal-ship would be held by a layman. This was a very important promise to make, and I recall reading at some time the famous article by Mr. O'Connor which was so much criticised then, criticised because it was said that a civil servant should not come into the public press to enunciate what was tantamount to educational philosophy. I have always thought this criticism was completely wrong, and I want to put in a word here for the development division of the Department of Education. I think they are right in playing a constructive role in formulating educational policy.
I know there will be other speakers, even from my own benches, who will follow me and disagree with this. Speakers, for example, will take exception to the fact, as Deputy FitzGerald did, that the Minister permitted civil servants of his Department to go  around the country explaining the community schools project, a topic to which I will later refer. At this stage I just want to say that the principle of a civil servant expounding policy of this kind does not seem to me in any way improper. I think it is perfectly correct. Here we are being slave-bound by the British tradition that the civil servant is a remote, anonymous person who can never be seen anywhere except discreetly at the Minister's elbow. If we were to follow French administrative experience, for example, we would not accept any such view. I have no objection to the role which the Department played in that matter.
Going back to my point about Mr. O'Connor's article, the defects of the Ryan scheme were essentially money defects. It is as simple as that. They threatened some teachers with the possibility of loss of earnings. They threatened others with the possibility that younger people might be promoted over their heads. They threatened them with the possibility that teachers in particular areas like science and mathematics, where it is notoriously difficult to recruit teaching staff, might be appointed to posts of responsibility at a younger age than their seniors teaching what one must with regret call the dying subjects, like Latin and Greek.
In these circumstances the response of the ASTI—and this is going back some years—was essentially conservative and negative. Much has changed since then. The Association of Secondary Teachers have become more realistic even if they have become more militant. The Minister could well win the goodwill of that association if he were to do two things, on the one hand, if he would make a substantive offer of meaningful posts of responsibility, assistant principalships and things like that, and, on the other hand, if he called the bluff of the Association of Secondary Teachers in the process and said to them: “Right. Is this what you want? Do you want to be involved in the running of your schools? Do you want a say in the curricula? Do you want vice-principalships? Do you want status in the schools or do you want to remain”—and I quote from memory how Mr. O'Connor put it—“the hired  hands whose involvement in the school ceases when they go out the door?”
The Minister should present them with those alternatives and call their bluff. Here I want to make a contribution different from the contribution which Deputy FitzGerald would make. The sooner the lay teachers come to realise that their natural allies in the evolution of secondary education lie within the Department rather than elsewhere, the better for all parties concerned, instead of the unnatural form of conservatism by which, in the main, too often in the past the secondary teachers have chosen to opt for alliance against the Department and with the traditional conservatism elements in Irish education—I do not mean all the religious but I mean some of them. Here the clerical headmasters have not covered themselves with glory. Recent events do not suggest that the teaching orders want lay vice-principals. I believe the younger lay teachers are coming to realise that there is no instinctive antipathy between them and the State and that, in fact, the State is more appropriately their ally in the development of education.
At the time of the short-lived teachers' strike—when the rather disastrous settlement of 1969, I think it was, was accepted—a teacher I knew said to me: “Thank God for one thing. The State has been kept out of education.” If that is the teachers' attitude, they are cutting their longterm throats for the sake of a shortterm temporary financial advantage. If the teachers want to take part in the running of their schools they should say so and make it clear. The price they will have to pay for this is the abandonment of the principle of seniority in some cases. The price they will have to pay for this in the long run is the payment of their salaries from the single source of the State. Nothing has ever seemed more unreal to me than the manner in which secondary teachers are paid, with one lump of their salaries coming from the State, and another slightly smaller lump coming from the State to the school and then back to them undersigned by the Mother Superior or the Brother as the case may be. This is an  inheritance which goes back to Disraeli's time. It is quite ridiculous and should be ended.
I want to touch on some other points which bear on secondary education before turning to the inevitable hoary annual of the community schools. A point upon which I do not think Deputy FitzGerald touched—and how there could be any point which Deputy FitzGerald could manage to omit touching upon I do not know but I do not think he touched upon this—was the great degree of disquiet felt by many vocational teachers in particular at the manner in which the secondary schools are permitted to conduct selection procedures. Unlike the vocational schools, the secondary schools accept no obligation to educate every pupil who lives within the catchment area of the school in question. This means in a sense that the abolition of the primary certificate, which was one of the late Deputy O'Malley's major reforms, is vitiated by the fact that the school can seek by intelligence tests, for example, or interviews, to select the bright child or perhaps the upper-class child. I am not happy with that situation and it has been widely protested against by the vocational teachers.
Deputy FitzGerald made much of the fact that children who mature early are not permitted to proceed to secondary education before the age of 12 years. I agree with him on that point but there is the parallel opposite danger by which the secondary school can seek to cream off the kind of child it wants, either for snobbish reasons or for intellectual reasons. That type of thing is no longer meaningful in a day in which we, the taxpayers, pay £20 million a year approximately for current expenditure and maintenance of secondary schools. I do not think these schools have a right to independence although I run the risk of being called a Communist for saying that. I do not think that a school which was set up in 1850 or 1870, in circumstances in which it was totally self-sustaining through school fees, and which is now to all intents and purposes maintained by the State, can maintain the same attitude towards the community which it maintained a century ago. I do not  think the Minister thinks so either and my sympathies would be with him here.
In turn, the schools have a valid cause of complaint. The point has been made by Deputy FitzGerald and myself and others that the grant in respect of the so-called free secondary education has not been raised in the many years since it first came into effect, years of growing inflation and an increasing cost of living. On 4th November, 1971, I asked the Minister if he had any plans to increase the grant payable in respect of children attending secondary schools who had opted into the “free education” system. The Minister replied:
It is not contemplated at present to increase the per capita grant in lieu of school fees payable in respect of pupils attending secondary schools which have opted to enter the free education scheme.
“However,” he concluded with that glorious all-embracing cliché, “the matter is being kept under review.” This simply is not good enough. The headmasters of some of the schools are intensely conservative but some are not. Some are quite prepared to enter into a constructive partnership with the State, and, in particular, the younger brothers and the younger priests are happy to do so. In effect, they are being asked to provide free education on the cheap. In the early years they provided the buildings. I admit that this is less now but they still supply a fair proportion of the sustenance of the schools by the surrender of their own salaries. They are being asked to involve themselves in a State aid system where the grants paid by the State are no longer meaningfully related to the cost of educating the pupils. This in turn has led, as we all know, to the introduction of more and more of these voluntary schemes by which children are asked to contribute for specific purposes such as a new swimming pool or a games room. A question mark hangs over these voluntary schemes whereby no poor child wants to tell his teacher that his mother or his father is unable to contribute to one of those voluntary  schemes. We all know that this goes on but the Government are being evasive in not facing up to it. It is not honourable to describe as free education something which is, in fact, subsidised by the parents under a process which is allegedly voluntary but to all social intents and purposes is, in fact, compulsory.
I am apportioning the blame equally on both sides. The schools, wanting to retain the power they had in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century are anxious to keep ministerial hands off their buildings and their administration, even if only in a token way, and the Department are anxious to give an impression of State involvement in education to the point of free education but are not prepared to foot the bill. In between the two the pupil is the sufferer. He suffers the increased size of classes for example. The capital expenditure on schools, as stated in a reply to a question which I put down on 4th November has remained virtually static since 1968-69. In fact, in the estimate given by the Minister on that day it is fractionally lower this year than in the year before. All this time the number of people attending secondary schools is increasing—all credit to the Minister that this is so—but the cost of this in human terms is overcrowded classes.
Another way this cost is met by the Minister is by the subtle suggestion referred to by Deputy FitzGerald that recruitment in secondary schools should be phased back. This means nothing more or less than that the existing number of teachers broadly should teach additional hours. This fact was virtually admitted to me in this House by the Parliamentary Secretary in reply to a question which I asked on that subject.
There are reasons why these detailed points are not being grasped. They derive from the fact that there is not an overall philosophy of education in the present Government and more specifically there certainly is not a socialist philosophy in education. For the moment I have chosen to adopt the opposite approach to that of Deputy FitzGerald. I want to point step by step the defects which I  see in the existing structure and then, perhaps, at the end, rather than he did at the beginning, to draw these together.
I do not think a system, by which the management and control of primary schools, more particularly, with the managerial system, and secondary school by the by-partisan system of control between the Government and the teaching orders, can be permitted to continue in circumstances where capital expenditure in the coming year is estimated at reaching £15.7 million. Nobody in these benches sets out as a revolutionary to destroy the existing system and uproot teaching orders from places where they have been for many years but surely it is hardly possible to argue that in the case of new schools the same system that applied in the past can be permitted to continue.
A new school is being built in a community like Tallaght and the outgoing Archbishop of Dublin invited a particular teaching order to perform the teaching function. I feel an historical anomaly exists here. We do not any longer live in penal times where education could only be provided by the self-sacrifice of teaching orders. We live now in complex economic times in which the community pay for education and should correspondingly control it. Like Deputy FitzGerald, I am not happy with the Government's conception of what constitutes the appropriate size for secondary schools. In reply to a number of questions put down today by Deputy Kenny and Deputy Enright the Minister was evasive about the Government's view of the optimum size of a school. This gets back to the question of the future of the three-teacher primary school, seeing the whole thing together and the Government are effecting a revolution in the size of schools by stealth. It may be a revolution with which I would agree if I understood the terms. I rather suspect I would agree with it but I should like to be told what is going on.
At the moment that is not the case. What is the target for a secondary school—200, 300, 400 pupils? What is the teacher-pupil ratio? Why are the  existing 14 schools chosen for closure? Why have the special cases of Durrow, Cloghane and Ballycastle been taken into consideration? Is the whole restructuring of secondary education on the lines envisaged in terms of the regional development outlined in the Buchanan Report taking place or is it not? If it is, then we should be told about it in a White Paper, as Deputy FitzGerald and many others have correctly said, so that we can assess here what exactly we are at.
The Minister might, indeed, find that he had some friends in surprising places. I know the Minister with the majority the Government have at the moment does not seem to care very much whether he has friends or not on these benches, but it may surprise him to know that, if he told us in a White Paper what he is doing, he would get a great deal more sympathy from many of those for whom I speak than he would anticipate. In those circumstances he could find that a parliamentary discussion on secondary schools would fragment as between parties rather like the discussion on contraception fragmented them the other night. The Minister would find that there are some strange conservatives on this side of the House who do not support his plans and the plans of his Department, and that there are some unexpected liberals, socialists, call them what you will, on this side of the House, who have, in fact, sympathey for what he is endeavouring to do and would offer him congratulations rather than hostility. The Minister would be wise to take that opportunity.
The next point I want to deal with is the financing of the rebuilding of secondary schools which are increasingly falling into disrepair. This is a lengthy and complex subject.
Progress reported; Committee to sit again.
Dáil Éireann 259 Committee on Finance. Vóta 27: Oifig an Aire Oideachais (Atógáil).