Honours maths for primary teachers

Sir, – While I normally disagree almost 100 per cent with the policies of Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn, I am fully behind his proposal that candidates for primary teaching should have studied and passed higher level mathematics at Leaving Certificate. Would we have had the same degree of protest and controversy if the same proposal had been made with regard to English and Irish? I think not. Secondary teachers can afford to be specialists, but a primary teacher must be an all-rounder and I think parents would expect their children to be taught by primary teachers with the best qualifications in all areas of study.

I don’t know if the regulation still exists that a primary teacher must be able to sing, as it did when I was younger, but there was no controversy there; a primary teacher unable to sing could hardly be expected to instill in a child the vital lifelong love and appreciation of music. I believe the situation with mathematics is comparable. As for the ludicrous suggestion that it was the “boys with honours maths” that caused the crash, I would suggest the exact opposite. The crash was due largely to criminal greed, but also to the non-application of sound mathematical principles to economics. Yours, etc,


Emeritus Professor


of Mathematics,

University College,


Sir, – Mike Cormack (Letters, May 1st) misses my point about the time I – a school principal – spend putting out the bins. I believe that it is a disgrace to expect schools to operate without sufficient funds to pay utilities and to run without caretakers or full-time school secretaries. I also hold that it is an appalling waste of my salary to have my time spent caretaking and cleaning.

Indeed, I am concerned to have quality teaching in our DEIS school and so I make time for important appraisal of teaching and learning. I am proud to report that, as with the majority of DEIS schools, literacy and numeracy standards are rising, attendance is improving and parents are increasingly confident in their involvement.

We practise what we preach, however, and such labels as “successful”, “less successful” and “unsuccessful” teachers or pupils are not within our ethos. Appraisal is a multilateral process and pupils’ success is measurable not only by standardised testing but in their engagement, articulacy, life skills and behaviour. In individual appraisals with teachers in recent years unfortunately, recurrent labels for teachers are “stressed” and “more stressed”. None however, are without stress. Yours, etc,


River View,

Old Bawn,

Dublin 24

Sir, – The Minister’s failure to understand the effect of abolishing the ex-quota guidance provision on the pupil teacher ratio and teaching hours in schools shows an appalling lack of understanding of or a wilful disregard for very basic maths. Everyone else in the country understands that schools now have reduced teacher time and reduced guidance and counselling. Yours, etc,


Sutton Park,

Dublin 13