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The Irish Independent reports that Education Minister
Ruairi Quinn has admitted for the first time he doesn't know the number of
unqualified second-level maths teachers -- five months after asking experts to
Despite the urgency of tackling the maths crisis, Mr Quinn suggested to the
Teaching Council last April that it "might wish to advise" his department
on "teacher supply".
But the council -- the teaching watchdog -- has yet to begin the
investigation to establish the number of unqualified maths teachers.
And it claims it does not have the resources to undertake such a study and
will have to outsource the work.
That means thousands of current Leaving Cert students are destined to study
under the same system that has led to worryingly low grades in maths over recent
This latest development will fuel demands
for an investigation to pinpoint the shortfalls.
A spokeswoman for Mr Quinn said that within a month of entering office a
formal request had been made for firm information on the level of teacher supply
for every subject.
"He has acted very swiftly," she added.
It has been another disastrous year for maths in the Leaving Certificate,
with just 10,000 students taking the subject at higher level and 10pc of those
sitting the ordinary paper failing the exam.
The quality of maths teaching had been called into question following
research which revealed that up to half of those teaching the subject do not
hold a third-level maths degree.
But there are no official figures on:
The exact number of unqualified maths teachers.
The schools in which they teach.
And if there are blackspots in need of urgent attention.
Last April, Mr Quinn asked the Teaching Council to carry out an audit of
second-level schools. But five months on, the council is still in the process of
working out how the research will be done.
Parents and pupils will have to wait until next September, at the very
earliest, before any major changes will be made.
A spokesperson for the minister said the scale of the research would be
finalised shortly. She said Mr Quinn would be particularly interested in finding
out the extent of the shortage of qualified maths teachers.
"With maths, he has said there is a problem in both the teaching and
learning of maths, so clearly the minister is keen to find out what the
situation is there," she said.
"Some geographical areas have a huge demand because of rising population,
for example the commuter belts around Dublin. But there are rising enrolments in
general and we need to project what our needs are going to be and ensure we have
an adequate supply of qualified teachers."
The Teaching Council, which is responsible for registering teachers and
governing professional standards, said there are currently 4,062 teachers
qualified to teach maths.
However, not all of these may be teaching. Retired teachers and those working
in other areas often maintain a registration to do short-term work.
The council denied it had been slow in acting. It pointed out that it
received some 200 submissions on foot of a call for input on the education of
It decided "a substantial piece of research" was needed. However, it
could not say definitively if schools would be contacted directly over
unqualified teachers. It was also unable to estimate the cost, as the scale of
the research had not been decided.
The Irish Independent also reports that Irish house prices still haven't
reached the bottom and are not "cheap" at current levels, according to Dermot
O'Leary, an economist at Goodbody Stockbrokers.
Earlier this week, the Central Statistics office (CSO) said house prices in
Dublin had fallen by 12.5pc in the year to July from the peak prices seen in
In a note yesterday, Mr O'Leary, said that while house prices had continued
to fall for the past four years, the CSO data confirmed the downward trend,
recording a 42pc drop nationally and a 49pc fall in Dublin.
He believes that they will have to drop to 60pc from the boomtime prices
before they become "realistic". This forecast is based on an assessment of the
prices that people can now afford to pay for property.
At the peak, property was being bought, on average, for as much as eight
times the buyer's annual income. And while this has reduced to five times at
current prices, it still looks expensive when compared with international
Mr O'Leary said: "While there has been a significant correction, the
international evidence would not suggest this.
"Given high unemployment and lack of consumer confidence, this scale of a
drop in house prices would make property more affordable and begin to attract
buyers once again."
There is a time lag between when Irish house price data are published and
when the changes are recorded. When this is taken into account, the actual house
price decline has been more severe, Mr O'Leary says. Some properties have
already been sold at a 60pc discount from the boomtime peak.
This was the size of the discount on properties offered in the recent
Allsop's auction. It suggests that prices have further to fall, particularly
outside of the Dublin area, he said.
Much will depend on the type of property being sold and its location but Mr
O'Leary believes prices still need to decline significantly before they become
affordable and good value.
However, another economist, Alan McQuaid of Bloxham Stockbrokers, said on
Monday that he was optimistic about house prices rising in the medium term.
"We think house prices should increase on a five-year view as the labour
market improves" he said in a note.
"That said, the level of any rise over the next few years is only likely
to be in low single digits as banks adopt a more cautious stance to lending than
in the Celtic Tiger era" he said.
The Irish Times reports that
the Financial Regulator and the governor of the Central Bank will set out their
concerns about any mortgage debt relief scheme at an Oireachtas committee
discussion later this week.
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan served notice
on the banks and building societies yesterday that some measures will be taken
by the Government.
When he goes before TDs and Senators at the
committee meeting tomorrow, he is to be asked to elaborate on the plans to deal
with the developing crisis over mortgage arrears and other personal debt.
Ministers discussed the issue at Government
Buildings in Dublin yesterday but agreed to defer concrete decisions until a
group of civil servants and bank representatives delivers a report on this
complex issue at the end of next month.
However, the Cabinet agreed that a
“tailored” approach was needed and that there was no “one-size-fits-all, broad-brush solution”.
The 10-member body is chaired by Declan Keane, an
accountant seconded from KPMG to the Department of Finance, and includes
officials from several departments and the Central Bank as well as expertise
from the banking sector.
Figures published by the Central Bank this week
showed that more than 55,000 homeowners were more than three months behind in
their payments at the end of June and this will almost certainly top 60,000 by
the end of September.
On his way into the meeting, Mr Noonan placed the
spotlight firmly on the banks and their role in resolving the difficulties.
Pointing out that the Government had
“put a lot of capital into the banks” to deal with mortgage problems, he
added: “The capital is in the banks to allow the banks
write off some of that debt”.
The Minister’s comments were described by
Noeleen Blackwell of the Free Legal Advice Centres (Flac) as “the first sign of any real urgency from this Government that it
is willing to tackle the issue sooner rather than later”.
The Government’s approach is likely to come in
for sharp Opposition criticism when Mr Noonan faces the Oireachtas Joint
Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform tomorrow morning.
Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan and head of
financial regulation Matthew Elderfield are expected to provide details about
the problems with introducing formal debt restructuring when they appear before
the committee on Friday.
Mr Elderfield has previously warned that any
approach to restructuring needs to take account of the risk that it would create
incentives for borrowers to cease meeting their obligations.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny told reporters
yesterday the Government was “acutely aware” of the seriousness of the
situation facing many households. “In all of these
cases, people borrowed money, banks lent money and, because of circumstances,
sometimes outside their control, there are now difficulties.
“The Government and members of the
Cabinet are acutely aware of this because we meet them every day. We have
commissioned a report on a broad range of issues here and we’ll make decisions
when that comes to hand,” he said.
Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar backed
previous comments by Tánaiste and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore ruling out blanket
debt forgiveness. “There are lots of people struggling
to pay their mortgages and just about managing and they shouldn’t have to pay
for those who can’t or won’t.
“But at the same time if people are
losing their houses or having their houses repossessed, I don’t think it’s fair
that the negative equity, or the debts if you like, should follow them,”
Flac director-general Ms Blackwell said:
“We need a coherent strategy that takes into account
the entire personal debt crisis, not just mortgage arrears.”
The Irish Times also reports that
concerns were mounting yesterday for the future of a $500 million investment at
Intel’s plant in Leixlip, Co Kildare.
Contractors working on the refurbishment of the
Intel plant’s Fab 14 unit yesterday said they had been informed the project had
been delayed and they were being laid off.
One contractor who spoke to The Irish Times on
condition of anonymity said up to 200 specialist construction, engineering and
design staff were told the project was being put on hold.
The contractor said many of these workers had
started on the contract only on Monday and some were stopping work immediately.
A number of staff said they were cautioned yesterday against talking to the
A spokesman for DPS Engineering, which is
involved in the design and project management of specialist parts of the
refurbishment of Fab 14, said the firm was continuing to work for Intel and that
all projects were on track.
Earlier this week an Intel spokesman said that
while contracting companies may have spoken to staff, Intel’s policy was to not
comment on the activities of its contracting firms.
Intel has been refurbishing Fab 14, an older
building on its Leixlip campus, in anticipation of a new production line being
located there. The global technology firm, which is the world’s largest producer
of computer chips, said it would invest $500 million in the refurbishment.
Up to 850 construction staff have been working on
the project and another 200 technical roles have been filled in anticipation of
the new manufacturing line going live in 2013. Although no firm commitment had
been made by Intel to place a manufacturing line in Leixlip, it was hoped the
refurbished unit would be used to produce so-called 1270 chips.
Company sources suggested these chips would now
be built at plants in Israel and in the US state of Arizona. Leixlip would be in
line for the 1272 chips, but these will not go into production until 2013.
The Intel spokesman insisted, however, that
there had been “no change to the plans for Fab 14”.
Intel set up in Ireland in 1989 and has invested
more than $7 billion at its Leixlip campus. Almost 4,000 staff are employed
there by Intel and third parties.
The Irish Examiner reports that
Bord Bia believes it is getting closer to being able to roll out Food Brand
Ireland, the highly anticipated umbrella brand to promote Irish agrifood
Bord Bia’s director of marketing services,
Una Fitzgibbon, said that artisan food producers will have a vital role to play
in the new brand. Artisan and speciality food companies employ 3,000 people in
350 firms with a combined output of €400 million.
Ms Fitzgibbon said: "Work is at an advanced stage in the development of an
umbrella brand for the Irish food industry in order to maximise the potential
for growth at a time when the global demand for food is projected to increase by
70% over the next 40 years.
"Central to the brand promise is that ‘we are natural and we can prove it’.
The brand model will, in particular, highlight the role of place and culture, in
which the artisan food industry plays an integral part, in building the brand
story of Irish food and drink and delivering the vision and strategy for Food
Ms Fitzgibbon was speaking at yesterday’s launch of the Taste Council of
Ireland’s inaugural Food Summer School, at Brook-Lodge Hotel, Co Wicklow. Over
150 representatives from the artisan food sector attended, including Darina
Allen, Myrtle Allen, John and Sally McKenna, Bridgestone Food Guides, Dr Oliver
Moore, Kevin Sheridan and Georgina Campbell. Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney
delivered the closing address.
Taste Council chairman Evan Doyle said: "Irish agriculture is at cross-roads;
there are many choices to be made as to how we best utilise our great
agricultural heritage and resources. We believe that the strategic development
of the Irish artisan and speciality sector will lead to sustainable job creation
through increases in revenue and market share."
Teagasc researcher Dr Áine Macken-Walsh said Irish food producers could compete
on cost, or on their unique and superior value. She also proposed a Middle Farm
model in which farmers would come together in small co-operative-type
Dr Macken-Walsh said: "These organisations can then
bring in the necessary marketing and production expertise to deliver not
necessarily an organic, processed or artisan product but an indigenous product —
conventional/authentic in Ireland, produced non-intensively on family-run farms
using traditional farming methods, compliant with environmental standards,
enriched by cultural, social, ecological significance of these farms."
Exxon and Rosneft sign Arctic deal - - Successor to failed BP tie-up gives
Russians access to US oil reserves; The new deal underscores international oil
companies’ determination to explore and develop the Russian Arctic, one of the
few places in the world with large, untapped oil and gas reserves, and Russia’s
recognition that it needs international help to exploit those resources. Putin
said Exxon “has unique technology” for work in the Arctic. “I was
surprised that one of your platforms was able to withstand being struck by a 1m
ton iceberg,” he said.
Europe bank regulator plans radical funding aid - - EBA already facing
resistance over any shift in EFSF powers; Among the policy proposals being
considered by the European Banking Authority is a new guarantee scheme for bank
bonds, a controversial measure that would require the eurozone’s €440bn bail-out
fund to be given new powers.
Fed official makes plea for more stimulus - - Central bank staff permanently
cut growth forecasts; A leading Fed policymaker called for more monetary
stimulus on Tuesday as it emerged that staff at the US central bank have
permanently cut their growth forecasts.
Martin Wolf: Struggling with the great contraction - -
Nouriel Roubini, also known as “Dr Doom”, predicts a downturn. “A
stopped clock”, some will mutter. Yet he is surely right that the buffers
have mostly gone: interest rates are low, fiscal deficits are huge and the
eurozone is stressed. The risks of a vicious spiral from bad fundamentals to
policy mistakes, a panic and back to bad fundamentals are large, with further
economic contraction ahead.
German MPs to draft eurozone rescue rules - - Merkel nearer to Bundestag
support; On the eve of Ms Merkel’s cabinet signing off on a bill to implement
changes to the EFSF, Michael Meister, a top Christian Democrat finance policy
expert, proposed that new aid programmes be put to a full vote, while the
Bundestag’s budget committee would monitor implementation by the EFSF or its
successor from 2013, the European Stability Mechanism.
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Editorial: The New Resentment of the Poor - - Several top
Republicans want to raise taxes on the poor and working class. But the
problem is how many citizens are poor, not how much they pay in taxes; This
is factually wrong, economically wrong and morally wrong. First, the facts:
a vast majority of Americans have skin in the tax game. Even if they earn
too little to qualify for the income tax, they pay payroll taxes (which
Republicans want to raise), gasoline excise taxes and state and local taxes.
What Price Life? - - Maureen Dowd asks should those whose job it is to
prepare for the worst be punished because the worst didn’t happen?
In a Wall Street Journal column, Bret Stephens suggested “a new edition of
the Three Little Pigs, this one for the CYA age.”
Ordered to evacuate from his Manhattan home near the Hudson River, Stephens took
his family to his parents’ wood-framed house in Connecticut, where a 50-foot elm
crashed in the yard. So he went hard on the Chicken Little mayor. “What’s the
wisdom of the ages,” Stephens asked, “when a mayor wants to erase the
stain of mishandling last winter’s snowstorms by forcibly relocating people from
his zone of responsibility to places that are somebody else’s zone of
Fed Divisions Led to a Compromise on Interest Rates - - Debate over aid for
the economy ended with the current low-interest-rate commitment, according to
minutes from Aug. 9; Officials also came to a temporary policy compromise by
giving markets clearer guidance on how long interest rates would continue to
hover around zero. Some committee members said they wanted to set a calendar
deadline, and others preferred to instead peg interest rates to a specific rate
of unemployment or inflation.
Exxon Reaches Arctic Oil Deal With Russians - - Exxon Mobil struck an
agreement to explore for oil in a Russian sector of the Arctic Ocean that is
opening for drilling in a deal that could grow to $500 billion over time; Under
the new agreement, the state-owned Rosneft could become a part-owner of drilling
operations in the United States. Those operations could include two of the
industry’s most contentious oil extraction methods — drilling for oil in the
deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico and using the so-called hydraulic fracturing,
or fracking, technique on land. The Russians want to learn about both types of
drilling for use at home.