(c) The provision of medical inspection and the treatment of school children, which would cost about L30,000 a year, and dental inspection and clinics, which would cost another L50,000. This expense should be defrayed largely out of the local rates, one third, say L25,000, to come out of the estimates. There would also be the cost of supervision, etc., by the Education Department, amounting to about L5000 a year. Committees, as for school attendance, composed partly of representatives of school managers and partly of local authorities, could be formed for administration.
(d) A considerable impetus might be given to Evening Continuation Schools, on which about L10,000 a year is at present spent. A beginning could be made of compulsory attendance, and the amount of the grant doubled.
Much might be done in all these directions. Much has been accomplished already. The worst that can happen is that a separate legislature should be set up in Dublin, devoid of the requisite means, as it would most certainly be (unless, indeed, it had recourse to the rates, or the taxpayer) of financing Irish Education; swayed from side to side by the exigencies of the party programme of the moment; and temperamentally unable to look at the educational problem from the standpoint alone of the needs of the country in the way that it is now regarded. At present, under the Union, Irish Education is fortunately liberated from all appeals to party passion, and organised with but one end in view, the upbringing of the infant race whose possession is the future.
The need for reform is more urgent and, in many respects, better defined in the system of Secondary than in that of Primary Education in Ireland. But the two ought to be closely interconnected, and in discussing one at least of the more important changes which it is desirable to introduce, the National Schools have as good a claim to be heard in the matter as their elder brethren.
Since 1900 great efforts have been made by the Intermediate Board to promote the interests of Secondary Schools and to supply the educational needs of those who want to equip themselves for the struggle of life in its various departments. In 1900, the Board of Intermediate Education was empowered to appoint inspectors, but it was not until quite recently, after many fruitless applications and under a threat of resignation by the Board, that inspection was placed on a business-like footing and a permanent staff of six inspectors appointed. But this, after all, is a comparative detail, and reform will have to strike deep indeed if the secondary schools in Ireland are to take their place as a living part of a living body.
The question of reform may be dealt with under three principal heads: (1) the abolition of the examination tests, (2) the inter-relationship between the Primary and Secondary systems, and (3) the position of teachers. Although there are other matters which will be briefly referred to, these are the three cardinal difficulties that beset the Intermediate Board to-day and obstruct the most public-spirited efforts to convert the Irish educational system into one organic whole.