Hundreds of young people under the age of 16, the state prescribed age for leaving school, are employed in a variety of jobs, but to fulfil Department of Education requirements, they must attend a vocational school for one day per week.
This one day system was pioneered in Cork in the 1930s and Chief Executive Officer of the City of Cork Vocational Educational Committee Paddy Parfrey outlines the educational benefits of the scheme.
The one day a week gives the students an ordered disciplined routine for at least one day out of the seven...whatever literacy they had when they came to us...at least they maintain that amount and add to it.
The cost of the scheme is about £20 per student annually and he considers the benefits for the students far outweigh the costs.
Headmaster Padraig O’Dalaigh’s school includes an employment bureau and social work element. The boys in his school receive a practical education and are often trained according their employment. Many of the boys have poor standards of writing, spelling and speech and all of these are worked on at their own pace.
The system is different for girls who receive education based around homemaking and are trained in dressmaking, cookery, laundry, religious instruction and some Irish and English. Headmistress Eileen Quinlan says
The attendance at school for one day in the week helps to bridge a rather difficult gap in the life of these girls, when they’ve left full-time school at 14 and before they become full time workers at 16.
A ‘Newsbeat’ report by Bill O’Herlihy broadcast on 27 September 1966.