Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 1 — Department of Education

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Part 4 The Cussen Commission


In response Justice McCarthy suggested that it was this thinking, i.e. that ‘getting them work at ‘anything’ was perhaps to some extent the cause of the trouble’. Justice McCarthy also suggested the establishment of a hostel for the boys to enable them to adjust to life after the institution. However Fr Reidy disagreed, saying that it was a better option to break up the association amongst the boys after they left Daingean.


In August, 1966, a letter to the Minister for Education from Minister for Justice, stated ...I am suggesting that you, coming to the problems with a fresh mind, might have a look at the industrial schools system. I have no doubt that the lack of proper after-care is a grievous fault in the system and that there are ample resources of voluntary assistance only waiting to be harnessed and guided. I think that a vigorous approach to the managers of the industrial schools – individually or collectively would make it extremely difficult for them to maintain a negative attitude.


The file shows a reply from the Minister for Education stating that he would have a good look at the Industrial School system and would be in touch. A few months later, the Kennedy Committee was set up, by the Minister for Education.


Thirty years after the publication of the Cussen Report, a Department of Education memo to the Minister of Finance highlighted the lack of progress in the area of aftercare stated, ‘In general, with the exception of Artane, they (the schools) lack any kind of aftercare or organisation’.

Part 5 The inspection system


From the late 1920s until the mid 1960s there were three types of inspection. Firstly, there was the educational inspection, which was concerned with education in the National School. Secondly, there was a medical inspection performed by the Medical Inspector. Thirdly, there were general inspections to ascertain the quality of residential care provided for the children, which were sometimes carried out by the official in charge of the Reformatory and Industrial School Branch, but were generally done by the Medical Inspector at the same times as the medical inspection. While there were occasions, particularly in the early 1940s, where general and medical inspections were held separately, a trend developed over time where both would be carried out simultaneously in the one visit by the same Department inspector. The Department’s archive of medical and general inspections shows that, from 1939 to 1965, Dr McCabe carried out the medical inspections and the majority of the general inspections of the Industrial and Reformatory Schools.


Following Dr McCabe’s retirement in 1965 the Department of Education left the post of Medical Inspector unfilled until the appointment of Mr Graham Granville in 1976. In the intervening decade a number of changes took place. In the absence of a dedicated Medical Inspector, inspections were initially augmented by, and then replaced with, medical reports by medical officers retained by each individual school. From 1961 to 1963, these medical reports were submitted to the Department on a quarterly basis. From 1963 to 1978, the medical reports were submitted on a twice-yearly basis.


The benchmarks for standards of residential care were set out in the Rules and Regulations that were issued to school Managers by the Department on certification. Department circulars were issued from time to time to supplement them.


The general inspection covered premises including playground, dormitory, kitchen; living conditions generally such as clothing or diet; as well as staff and accounts. The report was based in part on a printed checklist with entries for accommodation, equipment, sanitation, health, food and diet, clothing, recreation facilities and precautions against fire. The reports were impressionistic in character – they were structured so as to give a general account of conditions within a school, dealing generally with the quality of residential care provided and the condition of the children. They left out everyday treatment, including corporal punishment. They did not give detailed information and did not deal with policy matters.


The inspectors’ reports were not published. If a school was satisfactory, the inspection would result in only a short record. After the particular headings, there was a section for general observations and suggestions, which might be as brief as ‘well-run school’. On the other hand, where there was something wrong, these observations could run for several pages. Comments in inspection reports under the various headings ranged from excellent to fair to poor. Where standards fell below what was expected (e.g. inadequate diet) the Department wrote to the Resident Manager in the school with a view to having this rectified, though with mixed success.


The Cussen Report (para 86) was critical of the inspection system operated by the Department of Education up to that point. Cussen described as ‘unsatisfactory’ the system of medical inspection in schools and urged that, in addition to the medical examination of children on admission, a periodic medical examination should be carried out by a doctor ‘specially trained in the diagnosis of children’s diseases, physical and mental’. In response, Dr Anna McCabe was appointed in April 1939. One part of the medical report was a checklist focussed on the health of individual children, with headings such as teeth, thyroid, nail biters, stammer, eyesight.


The principal duties of the Medical Inspector were: (1)protecting the health of the children; (2)making arrangements for the children when they are sick or when they need some medical attention such as for eyes, teeth etc.; (3)general health considerations – food and clothing, sleeping facilities, conditions of work and so on; (4)evaluating the medical services to schools, i.e. care provided to children by the school doctor, including: (a)keeping a record of the medical examination given to a child when committed; (b)the medical examination the school doctor performs on the children when he/she visits the school from time to time.


Dr McCabe’s appointment coincided with efforts to revise the system used for recording medical information on pupils and the issue was the subject of two Department circulars between 1940 and 1943. The first of these, Circular 205/39, issued to Resident Managers on 5th June 1940, announced the introduction of a ‘standardised’ form, which would give both the particulars of the medical examination on admission and the subsequent medical history of the child while in the school. Such a record, which was the responsibility of the Manager, had the advantage of easy reference and was intended to be forwarded with the child on transfer to another school. In terms of medical history, the form included a record of illness section, under which was entered any treatment a child received in either the school infirmary or external hospital. A quarterly reading of height and weight was also to be entered on the form. It was evident from the documentation available that the Department placed great importance on the physical health of the children and wrote to the schools following Dr McCabe’s suggestions regarding referrals for treatment and dietary recommendations. A continuous reduction in weight would raise concerns in relation to adequacy of diet.


A second circular was issued on 28th September 1943 to remind Resident Managers of their responsibilities in the matter of the ’safeguarding’ of the health of the children. They were also advised that the Minister attached the ‘utmost importance’ to the punctilious observance of Rule 22 of the Rules and Regulations for Certified Schools, which required the appointment of a medical officer for the school who would issue quarterly medical reports on the sanitary state of the school and the health of the children. The circular continued: It frequently happens that the Quarterly Medical Return furnished by a School to this Department states that no children, or merely a small number, are suffering from disease, while the inspection by the Department’s Medical Inspector carried out at the end of the quarter in question, reveals that a much larger number of children are suffering from diseases. It should be clearly understood that the primary responsibility for the health of a School rests on the Resident Manager and on the School Medical Officer. The function of the Department’s Medical Inspector in this matter is to satisfy herself that their arrangements for keeping a watch on the children’s health and providing medical attention where required are working satisfactorily.


The annual reports of the Department of Education frequently refer to the fact that the medical inspector had viewed the quarterly medical reports kept by school Managers in consultation with the local medical officers. Furthermore, despite what appears as initial resistance to their use by some school Managers, Dr McCabe was able to cite evidence from medical records as proof of underfeeding in schools in the mid 1940s.


Not all schools were inspected each year, as required by the legislation. The frequency of school inspection varied from school to school and from year to year and some schools were visited more frequently than others.