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Pot Quinn says kettle Burton is black June 6, 2011

Posted by Tomboktu in Irish Politics, Ministers.

The Sindo reports that Ruairí Quinn has told his colleagues that they are not tackling difficult decisions quickly enough. The report says he had his Labour cabinet colleagues in mind, and Joan Burton in particular. If the report is true, then one of them needs to give him a good old-fashioned clip around the ears. Twice.

Quinn is the only one of the Labour ministers at the cabinet table to have transferred from being the party’s spokesperson in opposition on a Department to being the minister there. Unlike him, all of the others have had to learn the innards and nitty gritty of a new brief. Significant in that is getting their heads around the spending options, and when they do they will find that these are on shifting sands with the State’s finances not coming out of crisis any time soon.

His own ‘big ticket’ action has been to establish the cost-free forum on patronage in the primary sector. On the other commitments in the Programme for Government, it is difficult to find evidence of any action, particularly where they would improve the lives of the most disadvantaged in Ireland:

[1] Commitment: We will improve the quality of the pre-school year by implementing standards and reviewing training options.

[2] Commitment: [T]his Government will invest in a targeted early childhood education programme for disadvantaged children…

[3] Commitment: A priority in education will be to recruit, train and support the highest calibre of teachers

[4] Commitment: We will give greater freedom and autonomy to school principals and boards to raise educational standards by devolving more responsibility locally…

[5] Commitment: We will require schools, with the support of the Inspectorate, to draw up five year development plans for their schools and individual teachers

[6] Commitment: Administrative functions, relating to maintenance, school building projects and coordination of support services currently carried out by principals will be devolved locally…

[6] Commitment: We will review Junior and Leaving Certificate systems and implement reforms necessary to encourage greater innovation and independent learning

[7] Commitment: Professional development for maths and science teachers will be prioritised

[8] Commitment: The system for evaluating schools will be reformed so parents have access to more information when choosing a school for their family

[9] Commitment: A national literacy strategy for children and young people will be developed as a matter of urgency
Action announced: The Department intends to publish shortly a national literacy and numeracy strategy which will provide a continuum of measures designed to improve performance in these critical areas.

[10] Commitment: Pre-service and in-service training in teaching of literacy for all primary and secondary school teachers will be improved

[11] Commitment: The primary priority for investment in ICT in the immediate term will be the integration of ICT in teaching and learning across the curriculum and investing in broadband development to ensure schools have access to fibre-powered broadband

[12] Commitment: Greater use of online platforms will be made to offer a wide range of subjects and lessons online, and to enable schools to ‘share’ teachers via live web casts.

[13] Commitment: This Government will prioritise school building projects in a revised national development plan

[14] Commitment: The devolution of an annual capital budget to schools will be piloted to allow schools to plan for capital projects

[15] Commitment: The Department of Education’s central database of school accommodation will be overhauled

[16] Commitment: New schools will be built to grow with their communities and to provide for more interactive, child-friendly model of education.

[17] Commitment: We will negotiate the transfer of school infrastructure currently owned by 18 religious orders cited in Ryan Report, at no extra cost, to the State.

[18]Commitment: We will examine how to make existing expenditure on educational disadvantage more effective.
Action announced: The decision to remove the Rural Co-ordinator Service from 331 rural DEIS schools was a measure taken by the last Government to secure some €24 million in savings in the 2011-2012 school year. The service will therefore be discontinued with effect from 31 August 2011. I do not intend to revisit the decision of the previous Government to withdraw rural coordinator posts.

[19] Commitment: We will publish a plan for the implementation of the EPSEN Act 2004 to prioritise access for children with special needs to an individual education plan.

[20] Commitment: We will reverse the cut to the number of psychologists in National Educational Psychological Service in Budget 2011
Action announced: To date some 175 psychologists are currently directly employed within my Department’s NEPS service and an additional three are due to take up duties shortly.

[21] Commitment: We will encourage schools to develop anti-bullying policies and in particular, strategies to combat homophobic bullying to support students [This commitment is must be important to the Government: they’ve made it twice in the Programme for Government.]
Action announced: I am currently considering […] the establishment of a working group to help draft a roadmap towards the elimination of homophobic bullying from our schools. [Furthermore, Minister Quinn did not answer the specific question that was asked on this last in April about the number of inspections that would evaluate if the schools are taking adequate steps.

[22] Commitment: We will initiate a time-limited Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector to allow all stakeholders including parents to engage in open debate on change of patronage
Action announced: Started.

[23] Commitment: We will also move towards a more pluralist system of patronage at second level, recognising a wider number of patrons
Action announced: Educate Together is to be recognised as a patron of second-level schools


1. crocodile - June 6, 2011

You only have to read commitment 3 to see what chance Quinn has of doing anything positive. Class sizes soar, teachers’ morale plummets, queues form of experienced teachers (to retire) and newly-qualified ones (to emigrate). When Finland was trying to get out of its nineties slump, one area of expenditure was exempt from cuts – education. If this coalition were really serious about recovery it would eschew the time-honoured rule of ‘across-the-board’ cuts and follow suit.


2. Ninth Level Ireland » Blog Archive » Pot Quinn says kettle Burton is black - June 6, 2011

[…] “The Sindo reports that Ruairí Quinn has told his colleagues that they are not tackling difficult decisions quickly enough. The report says he had his Labour cabinet colleagues in mind, and Joan Burton in particular. If the report is true, then one of them needs to give him a good old-fashioned clip around the ears. Twice …” (more) […]


3. CMK - June 6, 2011

Labour’s credibility in government has lasted all of four months. This week has underlined that dramatically. First, Gilmore’s mendacity over Lisbon is exposed and now Quinn is laying the blame for rat-infested primary schools on the parents of the children forced to attend these schools. It never occurred to him, of course, on the opposition benches to lay into to these parents, but now, all bets appear to be off. The Labour vote constitutes a free fire zone for Labour ministers. Labour at 5 seats in 2016 (or before)?



Budapestkick - June 6, 2011

We can only hope.


Chet Carter - June 6, 2011

The fight is now on for who can become the second largest Party in the next Dail – FF or SF? Labour will be down to 12-14 seats.


Budapestkick - June 7, 2011

Seems likely to me that SF, ULA and left-independents would benefit most from a collapse in the Labour vote. It’s quite hard to see people going back to FF in significant numbers.


RosencrantzisDead - June 7, 2011

The comments on the Journal.ie article are quite frightening – a huge number of posters who agree wth RQ and say that we have lost ‘community spirit’. ‘Shure the parents cud just go an’ paint the place. What is poor Ruairi Quinn to do? Shure he is only a Labour Min’ster of Edookatin in a Fine Gael Government.’

Christ, I hate Irish people sometimes.


WorldbyStorm - June 7, 2011

Well, it’s the easiest narrative available isn’t it? Forget deficits, the fact we’re shovelling money into the financial sector to pay off private sector failure – it’s us who are really to blame. And you’ll see this expressed in the negative ‘why oh why can’t they just do more’ school and the ‘we’re all wonderful if we can just pull together’ school – often combined.


Mark P - June 7, 2011

The comments section of the journal.ie is a wretched hive of scum and villainy.

If politics.ie is the unrestrained id of a certain cohort of incoherently rage filled sexist, racist, right wingers, the commenters over at the journal.ie reflect the views of a much more complacent and smug but almost equally right wing section of the Irish society.

The distinction was particularly evident during the British Queen’s visit. Over on politics.ie there was a snide surliness about the whole thing, about our politicians, about disruption, about the Queen, about the money spent. While on the journal.ie, most of the commenters vigorously embraced the “now we are a mature nation”, “giving us all a lift”, “isn’t this historic” media narrative and even mild dissent from that was regarded as backwards and illegitimate. The sort of thing only someone in a Celtic jersey would say.


4. tomasoflatharta - June 6, 2011

Deputy Quinn is a paragon of virtue compared with his party leader Eamon Gilmore – “Are You telling the Truth, or Is that what you are telling the American Embassy?” http://tomasoflatharta.com/2011/06/06/eamon-gilmore-are-you-telling-the-truth-or-is-that-what-you-are-telling-the-american-embassy/


5. make do and mend - June 7, 2011

What’s interesting about the Gilmore wikileaks document is how the various power bases interact. (Only the most niave would think that politicos don’t say one thing for public consumption but privately hold a different position.) Anyhow.

During the boom, there was debate about the Boston-Berlin direction that Ireland Inc. was taking. It was generally assumed that our braintrust was playing peter against paul and gaining from both ends.

Yet, during the bust, we still have to pander to the US empire to ensure maintenance of tax-haven jobs whilst keeping German and French banks (EU empire) happy by entering into economic austerity to pay failed private (banks and the ilk) bond holders. Once again, the braintrust failed to assess the risks. Our power bases are so busy keeping foreign corporations and banks happy that the people suffer. The often two-faced approach to public policy is possibly a consequence of trying to serve too many masters.

It seems no party is willing to drop the Ireland Inc. bullshit and start governing the country as a country/society. And the people, especially the partially educated, will not contenance a drop in total living standards so that we can construct some sort of sustainable economy based on competent use of resources and intellectual capabilities.

Our politicians actions are a reflection of our national expectations. Politicians can only hide behind half-truths, elisions and downright lies because there is always a substanial population cohort complicit with the lies and have the belief that they will benefit therefrom. Those who don’t game the system are just losers and deserve their lot. This is the fundamental social message of present day Ireland Inc. The rest is just window dressing.


6. WorldbyStorm - June 7, 2011

“Those who don’t game the system are just losers and deserve their lot.” Excellent way of putting it. Real food for thought there. I find that really depressing because it seems so accurate.


7. Terry McDermott - June 7, 2011

‘US Ambassador Thomas Foley: “Gilmore, who has led calls against a second referendum, has told the embassy separately that he fully expects, and would support, holding a second referendum in 2009. He explained his public posture of opposition to a second referendum as ‘politically necessary’ for the time being.”
Why does the leader of the Labour Party find it neccesary to share his private views with the American Embassy?


8. EM - June 7, 2011

Deputy Labour Leader Joan Burton came to Sligo in February and refused to make ANY promises on cancer centre being restored at local General Hospital. Within hours Ruari Quinn promised (a) not just a reinstatenent of the service which had been removed to Galway but (b) promised a full ninth national centre of cancer care excellence. Needess to say it has been all over OceanFM past week that Labour/Fine Gael has failed to deliver this promise. So, who’s slow making Cabinet decisions then????? It may not just be junior Minister John Perry who will be left egg on his chin…….


WorldbyStorm - June 7, 2011

The interesting question is… do they care? With five years ahead of them perhaps they think they’ll have time to dispense better news later in the electoral cycle.

I wonder if they’re going to be disappointed.


9. Bartley - June 8, 2011

In fairness to Quinn, some those commitments were obviously just pre-election pandering to the education constituency with no possibility of ever being implemented.

For instance the commitment to professional development for maths and science teachers, as if a weekend jolly up to Bundoran would be all thats required to close the qualifications gap.

For a substantial minority of maths teachers, the reality is that to even reach a baseline qualification (say a pass BSc or BA in Mathematics) would require years of part-time study, or a substantial career break to return to full-time study.

The chances are vanishingly slim that those teachers would be prepared to put in such a massive effort and incur such expense without being compelled to do so.


10. Jim Monaghan - June 9, 2011

“professional development for maths and science teachers, ”
Quite a surprising number of Maths teachers are beefing up their qualifications (or lack of it) in maths at the moment. For instance, the Open University has had an influx of them. This is a very good development and shows a great deal of willingness to engage by said teachers.


LeftAtTheCross - June 9, 2011

New entrants to maths teaching require as a baseline qualification a bachelors degree which includes maths as a final year component. I wouldn’t over emphasise this aspect though, as the level of maths required to complete say an engineering degree far exceeds the level required for second-level, so the bar has been set quite high there already. In terms of in-servce training, the new project maths syllabus which is being deployed at the moment has required “willingness to engage” as Jim phrases it. I appreciate that many people might think that teachers have a cushy deal but the reality is that there’s a lot of effort put in outside the core contact hours and there are few enough maths teacher who are so sufficiently on top of their subjects that they can kick back and coast through it. When a teacher is working through a maths problem on the board in fron of a class there’s little leeway for making mistakes, they either arrive at the solution or they don’t, there’s no room for waffle. The real skills of teaching are the soft skills of imparting the knowledge and approach to kids, and that’s not the type of stuff that’s taught in a bachelors maths degree, or a H.Dip.Ed.


Jim Monaghan - June 9, 2011

The cohort I am referring to are those who do not have a maths qualification. The experience of my kids is that many, alas, make sure that they only tackle problems they can solve.
I did quite well in the old Leaving Cert. maths and thus thought that engineering UCD would be a doddle. I discovered that there was a huge gap. I struggled.Without a high standard in maths I believe that engineering and science are no go areas.There is a big problem at third level with maths and english. IT Tallaght provides remedial help.
This will annoy but I sincerely believe the school year is too short to cover the course.The comparative school year across the EU should be part of the debate.


LeftAtTheCross - June 9, 2011

“I sincerely believe the school year is too short to cover the course”

Perhaps it is true that teachers and students struggle to cover the syllabus in the available time. Perhaps students shouldn’t take so many subjects in senior cycle. Perhaps there should be more maths classes per week. Perhaps there should be more in-class assistance for the weaker kids.

My better half has some experience of team-reaching maths at senior cycle, where the 2nd in-class teacher focuses on bringing along the weaker kids one-on-one, while the other teacher does the traditional board-based work. there are many ways to skin cats and the longer school term is low hanging fruit in that regard.


Bartley - August 31, 2011

New entrants to maths teaching require as a baseline qualification a bachelors degree which includes maths as a final year component.

LATC, its not the new entrants who are the problem (of which there will be relatively few for the foreseeable), rather its the mass of unqualified incumbents. We cant wait for decades for these folks to stumble their way through to retirement.

I wouldn’t over emphasise this aspect though, as the level of maths required to complete say an engineering degree far exceeds the level required for second-level, so the bar has been set quite high there already.

Just because one can understand the LC maths syllabus without the sophisticated maths thought at third level, it doesnt follow that one can successfully teach LC maths without that kind of deep background.

Being one or two steps ahead of the kids does not a confident & effective teacher make … otherwise, surely the junior cert would be sufficient preparation for aspiring primary teachers entering St Pats or MaryI?


CMK - August 31, 2011

Just on the maths teachers issue. Part of the reason why teaching maths is so unattractive is that here, thanks to the IFSC, there are oodles of career options for maths graduates. Why would any 22 year maths graduate volunteer to give him/herself a lifetime of stress and hassle teaching maths to teenagers; while being constantly vilified by the media; have their competence and qualifications queried; be lumped with the blame for undermining our ‘competitiveness’ by not churning out huge numbers of A grades? The alternative is to get a job in the IFSC working on interesting maths problems for a hedge fund or or insurance company pricing derivatives or seeing how much profit could be made by, for example, buying 10% of the rice output of Cambodia, hoarding it for a couple of months and releasing on to the market or assisting Tesco or Google reduce their tax bill, you know, worthwhile work like that; for a salary that mid-career will likely be three to four times what a maths teacher would earn; all the while being lauded as an example of our ‘innovative economy’ (even while probably working on financial transactions that will wreck the lives of thousands); you’ll never have your competence or qualifications queried; will never be asked to account for your role in the economic destruction wreaked by finance capitalism etc, etc, It’s a no-brainer. The role of the IFSC in undermining the future of maths teaching here is, of couse, no someting you’d raise in polite society.


Bartley - August 31, 2011

It turns out that no one is admitting exactly how many maths teachers are unqualified:


But having taken some Open University courses myself in recent years, I can put an upper bound on Jim\’s influx of maths teachers beefing up their qualifications.

In fact there so few Irish students on the level 3 maths courses (equivalent to final year undergrad) that some years the numbers dont even justify the OU providing a course tutor based here. The bar there would be 10-12 students, both North and South. So given that all of these cannot possibly be working teachers in the RoI, the influx is more like a trickle.


11. Jim Monaghan - June 9, 2011

“My better half has some experience of team-reaching maths at senior cycle, where the 2nd in-class teacher focuses on bringing along the weaker kids one-on-one, while the other teacher does the traditional board-based work. ”

At all levels I think this is the way to go rather than reduce class sizes.It also helps discipline, as the little darlings know that if one teacher has a back turned, the other might not.I would even say that increased class sizes might not be that bad in this situation.


12. Tomboktu - June 12, 2011

The maths syllabus needs a serious overhaul.

Rant point1: This afternoon, I’ve been helping my niece for tomorrow’s maths exam. Simpson’s rule is on the paper. Does anybody actually use it? And if not, why is it on the syllabus?

Rant point 2: Many years when I started a degree in maths, the first thing the lecturer in real analysis & calculus told us was to forget the rubbish on limits and differentials that we had been taught on the Leaving Cert as it was wrong. We then did it properly. A colleague went back to do the LC a few years ago, and the wrong definition of limits, with the dodgy implications for differential calculus was still on the syllabus.

[Edit: and why the fuck do the Dept Ed and the State Exams Commission use a different system for numbering the nodes in Simpson’s rule, making a node that would be even in the rest of the World an odd one for special oul’ Ireland, and an even one here an odd one everywhere else?]


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