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of teachers dismissed in each of the last three years is not large. It represents fifty out of about 12,200 teachers; i.e. one in every 244 teachers, or approximately about four per 1,000.
It is a fact that the Pensions system is so arranged that during the last five years of a teacher's service the pension assigned increases from about two-thirds of the maximum to the maximum amount. Thus, a teacher retiring five years before he reaches the age for full pension receives a pension about 30 per cent. less than the maximum. This defect is well known to us, and we have urged upon the Treasury the desirability of a change in the scale in this respect; but this is a matter not in our control.
A request has been put forward on behalf of the teachers, that where teachers are dismissed through the exigencies, real or supposed, of a new system, the addition of a number of years to their actual service should be made, so as to qualify for full pension. We have no power to make this concession, but we have made a representation on the subject to the Treasury.
It has been proposed that cases of inefficiency should be referred for appeal to a commission of “ independent” persons. Apart from the absurdity of delegating powers of inquiry to persons who are not in our service, and over whom we could have no control, there is no apparent reason why the inspectors, as a body, should be considered unfit to supply us with all the information that is necessary in such cases. The inspectors are, from the nature of their work and their special experience, the only persons in the country properly fitted to give an expert opinion on a question of a teacher's efficiency or inefficiency. It would be unprecedented to send a commission of amateurs to decide on a point where expert knowledge is the sine qua non for forming a correct judgment : and it is improbable that the judgment of such a commission would have much weight with the National teachers if it was adverse to the teacher.
In nearly all cases, dismissal for inefficiency is not ordered until the senior or the chief inspector has added his opinion on the school to that of the district inspector. In the Education Office, the examination of such cases has been for the past three years entrusted to an official with expert practical knowledge of the schools. The cases are, moreover, personally examined by the Resident Commissioner.
Again, it has been suggested that dismissals have been multiplied in order to effect the amalgamation of schools. This statement is not borne out by an examination of the records. Of the 51 cases of 1905, the question of amalgamation under the terms of Rule 186 (i.e., when average attendance in either the boys' or girls' school is under 30) was considered in four cases. No action was taken in three of these cases ; in the fourth (a case of an infants' school) the school was amalgamated with the girls' school with the manager's approval.
In conclusion, it may be well to point out the responsibility that is thrown upon us to maintain the efficiency of the National schools. Where a teacher is inefficient in the discharge of his professional duties, the onus of finding a remedy is in nearly all cases laid upon us and our officers. The pupils, who are the chief sufferers, cannot make their voices heard; their parents are usually not in a position to understand the value of the teaching. Where they do see its failings, the desire not to injure a neighbour prevents them from complaining, though complaints are by no means unknown. The manager, on whom alone the local responsibility falls, feels it invidious to take severe action, and in cases of professional inefficiency, as opposed to immorality in conduct, he looks to the inspector for redress. The dislike to incur odium makes a manager slow to do anything that could be represented or misrepresented, as harsh and severe. This feeling is frequently manifested in the correspondence of managers. Thus, a manager recently, in forwarding an appeal from a dismissed teacher against the action of the Board writes :-" It visable, I think, that he (the teacher) be given to understand that he may put away all hope of being retained. For obvious reasons I prefer this notice to come from the Board." Not all managers are so frank, but the cases in which the “ obvious reasons " dictate their conduct are the rule rather than the exception.
In such circumstances a grave and painful duty devolves upon us, and in the interests of the half million of children in daily attendance at the National schools we cannot consent to the weakening of our powers of punishing cases of inefficiency in the manner best suited to preserve these interests from injury.
The revised plans and estimates for school buildings have now Building been under consideration for nearly four years, and we regret to Granto, state that, so far from a decision having been arrived at, the present aspect of the question is even more serious than when we called attention in our reports for 1903 and 1904 to the prolonged delay in its settlement. All grants for the building and improving of National school-houses have been suspended since August 1905, and, as the Treasury have recently attached certain conditions, impossible of acceptance by us, to their promise of funds for this service, it would seem as if the resumption of the awarding of aid has been postponed indefinitely.
In order that the present regrettable position in which we are placed may be rightly understood, it will be necessary for us to give a short account of the mode of dealing with the question of the provision of State funds for school buildings for the past twenty years,
Up to and including the financial year 1887-8 there was no limit to the amount which we sanctioned in any one year towards the cost of the erection and improvement, &c., of vested schoolhouses. We made the grants, and the Board of Public Works framed the estimates, basing these on the amount which, having regard to the grants notified to them, and to past expenditure, they considered would become payable during the year.
Under this system frequent demands for supplementary votes became necessary, and so long ago as August, 1880, the Treasury declined to present to Parliament a supplemental estimate for £1,500 submitted by the Board of Public Works.
With a view to securing that the estimate should more nearly aprroximate to the expenditure, it was agreed that we should supply the Board of Works, from time to time, with information as to the grants marle by us and likely to become payable in whole or in part during the financial year.
The arrangement had not, however, the desired effect, as that Board stil found it necessary to send forward supplementary estimates. The Treasury consequently reconsidered the question of the estimates, and they dealt with the matter at some length in a Minute of December, 1887. They called the attention of the Irish Government to the amount (£35,000) estimated to be required for 1887-8---an increase of £5,000 over the estimate for 1886-7, of £13,000 over that for 1885-6 and of £23,560 over that for 1884-5—and they claimed a right to place a limit to the amount of the grants, or at least to the amount which might be paid in any one year. Further, it was mentioned that the total payments from all sources in respect of school buildings, including the expenses of fittings and repairs, from the 1st January, 1832, to the 31st March, 1886, amounted to £1,092,433.
We furnished the Irish Government with our observations on the points raised in the Minute. We adduced various causes which had previously impeded the erection of school-houses, viz. :-(a) the hostility of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy to the principle of vesting schools, (b) similar hostility on the part of the Presbyterian body, and (c) the difficulty in obtaining sites : and we stated that the recent removal, in a large measure, of these impediments had naturally thrown increased burdens on the Vote. These burdens should, however, be regarded as arrears accumulated through more than half a century of comparative inactivity, and must cause an abnormal pressure for years to
We also pointed out that from 1840 to 1884 Building Grants were not admissible in the cases of Convent and Monastery schools, and that bringing these schools under the ordinary rules which govern building grants, had led to further increases in the estimates.
Touching the expenditure of £1,092,433 between 1832 and 1886, we reminded the Treasury that this sum included the cost and maintenance of the office buildings in Marlborough-street, the agricultural model farms and boarding institutions, the district and minor model school establishments, and the Marlborough-street training college, with its auxiliary honses. The total cost of these buildings, &c., during the period in question, approximately stated, was upwards of £500,000, which left about £500,000 as the expenditure towards the building and maintenance of ordinary National school-houses. Early in 1888 the Treasury made the following proposals :
1. The amount to be inserted in the estimates to be settled in conjunction with the Commissioners of National Education as well as the Board of Public Works.
2. The amount so settled to be accepted as binding on the Commissioners in their consideration of applications for new grants.
3. The Board of Public Works to keep the Commissioners informed from time to time of the progress of expenditure and liabilities.
4. The amount thus settled and provided for each year not to be exceeded—any threatened excess to be averted by arrangements to be concerted between the Commissioners
and the Board of Public Works. Their Lordships also intimated that they were prepared to ask Parliament to provide during the next three years (i.e., 1888-9, 1889-90, and 1890-1) £120,000 in all, for grants for building and improving schoolhouses, and they stated that, while this provision would involve a limitation of the grants to be made by us during these three years, they had no doubt that with our "great know ledge of the genuine educational requirements of the country we should be able to meet the really urgent cases of inadequate school buildings within this limitation.”
These proposals were accepted, and grants were made under the conditions agreed to up to the year 1902. The sum placed on the estimates for each of the years 1891-96 was £30,000, with the exception of the year 1894-5, when the amount was only £28,000. This sum was increased to £40,000 for the remaining years of the period. In December, 1895, however, we were warned by Their Lordships that they should be under no obligation to continue the provision at the expiration of the triennial period 1896-9.
The arrangement agreed to in 1888 proved unsatisfactory. Experience showed that, in consequence of the multitude of applications for grants to supersede schoolhouses, condemned on sanitary grounds by the inspectors, grants could not be refused, in
many cases, even in excess of the sums annually placed on the estimates; so that, as unexpended balances could not be carried over, an apparent deficit often occurred. During the year 1894-5 the grants inade by us were almost double the amount of the Vote for that year. In consequence of this state of things we were compelled in the following year to suspend all building grants for a considerable time. Serious embarrassments were thereby caused to managers who were ready to build, but could not be allowed to proceed. The grave crisis, thus created, led to a long correspondence with the Treasury, in which, supported by the Irish Government, proposed that the annual grants for buildings should be converted into “grants-in-aid,” unexpended balances being carried over. In this way, it was represented, we should be in a better position to regulate our expenditure by the amount of money at our disposal.
We pointed out that in the seven years ended on 31st March, 1895, unexpended balances to the amount of £26,976 78. 2d. were returned to the Exchequer, though the whole of this large sum was required to discharge liabilities which were accruing at the time upon grants previously made, and which had since become payable, and we urged that, in view of the insanitary condition of a very large number of Irish schoolhouses, the grants for the next three years' period should be increased to £60,000 per annum. Both these proposals were rejected by the Treasury, and grants were, as already stated, continued on the basis of the arrangement of 1888 until the year 1901-2.
In 1900 we approached the Irish Government and the Lords of the Treasury with new proposals for the years subsequent to 1902, viz.: (a) that the annual grants should be “at least £40,000 a year," the unexpended balance of each year being carried forward to the credit of the next; (b) that this Vote of at least £40,000 should be placed on the basis of a yearly renewal of the same; so that at any time we should have a period of at least two years to look forward to as covered by the Vote—“this, of course, to be limited by the time when the wants of the country in the matter of school buildings might be sufficiently provided for.” (There was little prospect at that time of the latter condition being fulfilled, at an early date, as the inspectors reported as far back as September, 1898, that 770 new schoolhouses were required to supersede unsuitable structures, and, in addition, 69 new schoolhouses were needed where none at that time existed); (c) we further asked for authority to grant the entire cost of building schoolhouses in necessitous localities.
In addition to complaining of the inadequacy of the funds at our disposal, we began, about that time, to consider the necessity for improvement in the standard plans of the Board of Public Works and for increases in the official estimates for school buildings. In 1900, the system known as the "results system ” was abolished, together with the meagre programme till then in use in the schools. Under the new system, it soon became