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COMMISSIONERS OF NATIONAL EDUCATION
SCHOOL YEAR 1905-6.
HIS EXCELLENCY JOHN CAMPBELI. GORDON,
EARL OF ABERDEEN, G.C.M.G.,
LORD LIBUTEXANT-GENERAL AND GENERAL GOVERNOR OY IRELAND.
May it please Your Excellency,
We, the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland submit to Your Excellency this our Seventy-second Report. In this report the statistics of attendances, religious denominations, &c., in the schools, are for the year ended 31st December, 1905, the financial statements are for the year ended 31st March, 1906, and the general information is brought up to the end of the school year, viz., the 30th June, 1906.
The action of the Commissioners in withdrawing salary Dismissals from National teachers for inefficiency in the discharge of their of teachers
for inschool duties has been made the subject of adverse criticism
efficiency. and attack within the past three months. It has been represented that teachers who had served successfully under the Results system have been discontinued because they failed to accommodate themselves to the new order of things, and have been dismissed on small pensions, or without pensions, through no fault of their own. In support of this criticism attention was drawn to the return, recently furnished to the House of Commons, of teachers dismissed for inefficiency or degraded to the position of assistant within the last ten years. An examination of the figures of the return, it was alleged, shows that dismissal on the vague charge of inefficiency has increased 200 per cent. since the new system was introduced in 1900.
We think it desirable to place before Your Excellency the following statement on this subject :
An examination of the records of the teachers dismissed since 1900 fails to lend proof to the theory that the failures of the new system were even moderately efficient teachers under the Results system. So far is this from being the case that in an overwhelming majority of these dismissals the teachers had been officially censured for inefficiency even previously to 1900. An exhaustive examination has been made of the fifty-one cases, given in the Parliamentary return, for the year 1905. It appears that in forty-nine cases, i.e., in all except two, the teachers had been cfficially reprimanded for inefficiency before 1900 ; in nine cases fines varying from £2 to £5 had been inflicted for inefficiency ; in five other cases depression, either permanent or temporary, in classification, had been ordered for the same cause. It would so appear that these forty-nine teachers had been clearly convicted of failure to conduct their schools satisfactorily before the new programme was introduced or the training in manual instruction and elementary science thought of. With regard co the two cases where there is no record in the books of the Office of official censure previously to 1900, both are cases of assistant teachers-one a young woman, thirty-six years of age in 1905, and married; the other was dismissed at the express desire of the manager, who said he concurred in the view that she was thoroughly inefficient and a hindrance to the improvement of the school, and he trusted, for the sake of the principal and in the interests of the pupils, she would be called upon to retire. Such a statement from a manager needs no comment.
If, however, further proof is needed of the want of foundation for the theory, it may be found in the examination of the details of the inspectors' reports which led to penal action. Were there any grounds for the belief that a failure to take up new subjects, for which they had no aptitude, led to these teachers being dismissed, one would expect to find in the reports some evidences of success in their treatment of reading, writing, and arithmetic, and the mere elementary subjects of instruction. But such is not the case. The inefficiency complained of by the inspectors was largely in respect of the very essentials of a National school education-the teaching of English, arithmetic, and needlework, and in no case has salary been withdrawn where the teaching of these subjects showed merit.
These statements are founded on a careful examination of the cases of dismissal in 1905. There is no reason to suppose that an examination of the cases in 1904 or 1903 would lead to different conclusions.*
Since the above was written, a return has been prepared which shows that of 240 teachers who have been compelled to retire since 1900, only two could be said to have borne good characters as teachers prior to 1900.
The disparity between the number of teachers dismissed during the last years of the Results system (nil in 1896, 6 in 1897, 16 in 1898, 24 in 1899), and the number at present (an average of 50 per annum for the past three years) requires some words of comment. This disparity arises partly from the fact that under the Results system there was an automatic punishment for inefficiency and neglect of duty. The teacher's income varied with his industry and skill : when he relaxed in his efforts, results fees were diminished, and thus his want of efficiency brought its own penalty. Under a scale of fixed salaries (as at present) the necessity for official action in the case of a decline in the state of the school is more marked.
Even before the Results system was abolished it became clear that too much leniency was shown to inefficient teachers, and that some more stringent measures were necessary. The inspectors' reports bore witness to
a great deal of inefficient school-keeping throughout the country
which neither fines nor reprimands could remedy. In order to deal with this evil, we prescribed certain penalties which it was hoped would lead to a systematic method of dealing with inefficiency The scale of penalties, sanctioned by Board's Order of 2nd May, 1899, was, in brief, as follows :
1st year.- Teacher reprimanded and warned ;
class for one or more quarters ;
on trial for a year; 4th year.-Dismissal.
These penalties naturally fell into disuse with the abolition of the old system. When the system of " class” salaries was abolished, the terms did not apply any longer, but the principle underlying the regulations has been maintained. The regulations of 1899 insisted on due warning being given to an inefficient teacher, and that principle has always been preserved ; and the records of the fifty-one cases of the year 1905, above referred to, prove conclusively that no teacher was dismissed until after several reprimands and warnings. No case of dismissal after “one bad report" is on record. Dismissal is not resorted to until it is apparent that there is no chance of the teacher's bringing the school again to a satisfactory state of efficiency.
The number of dismissals in the years 1900, 1901 and 1902, which averaged 21 per annum, was low compared with the three ensuing years, when it averaged 50. The former years were the years of transition-when the new system was just beginning, and a great degree of leniency was observed in corsequer ce both by us and by our inspectors. The number