Marking scheme for Project Maths does not reflect ability of brighter students

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has today (Wednesday) said that the marking scheme for Project Maths does not reflect the ability of brighter students and leaves many questions unanswered about why so many marks were awarded for some sections and so few for others.

“Despite the fact that this year saw a dramatic fall in the number of students failing Leaving Certificate maths and record numbers taking the higher level paper, the marking scheme which was adopted has left many in doubt about its suitability and whether or not it is doing a disservice to our students.

“The marking scheme for this year’s Leaving Certificate honours paper saw the easiest section of some questions being awarded as much as ¾ of the total marks, with the more difficult sections receiving a very small amount of the possible total.

“For example, question eight, which dealt with the robotic arm, saw 55 out of a possible 75 marks being attributed to part A of the question, which is generally considered to be less difficult than sections B and C, both of which received just 5 marks each. Section D of the same question was awarded 10 out of 75 marks. I have been informed by a corrector of this paper that the marking system for this question was changed drastically because the results were so dismal.

“Where question three of the same paper (Leaving Cert Honours Paper 2) was concerned, 15 out of 25 marks were awarded in one part for ‘any reasonable first step’, with the more difficult parts being given a ‘mid-partial credit’ of just 5 extra marks. In some cases, 10 marks out of a possible 25 were awarded for ‘any work of merit’.

“The marking scheme being used does not reflect the true ability of the students being examined and certainly does not give the brighter maths students a chance to shine. A decline in the numbers failing maths should be seen as a good thing. However, if we are masking weaknesses in the system with favourable marking schemes which reward all students, not just the good ones, we are not getting to the root of our children’s struggle with maths.

“The State Examination Commission’s policy is to issue a Chief Examiner’s report following the first examination of a new syllabus, which for Project Maths is not due to take place until 2014. I have noted also that the last Chief Examiner’s maths report for the Junior Certificate was carried out in 2006. For the Leaving Certificate it was 2005. In my view, this is unacceptable.

“We need to ensure that the changes being made to the maths syllabus are serving our children in the best way possible. We need transparency around why marks were awarded in the way they were and why the children who were able to complete only the simplest part of the question were so handsomely rewarded.”

Schools need to implement cyber-bullying policies

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire TD, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has today (Monday) called for schools to implement cyber-bullying policies to deal with students who are tormenting others online. Deputy Mitchell O’Connor was speaking after a new campaign was launched to increase awareness about the issue.

“Cyber-bullying is a growing problem with an ever increasing number of young schoolchildren having access to the internet through their mobile phones. The 24-hour nature of social networking sites like Facebook means that children can be persecuted by their bullies on a constant basis. It is incumbent on both parents and schools to take a proactive approach in tackling this very damaging problem.


“First and foremost, schools need to look at implementing cyber-bullying policies. Students cannot be allowed to bully one another online or elsewhere. However, at present, this is a very difficult situation for schools to address. They face a legal grey area about what action can be taken against students found to be cyber-bullying outside of school time.


“While the law protects adults against various types of discrimination and abuse at the workplace under a variety of labour laws, the same cannot be said for school children. New legislation may be necessary to fully address this problem; we cannot allow our children to be bullied on online forums with no repercussions for their persecutors.


“Many parents may be completely unaware that their child is being bullied; according to the campaign group Bully4u, children won’t tell their parents they are being bullied for fear that their mobile phones and internet access will be taken from them. I would urge parents to check their children’s personal pages on social networking sites; you need to be clued in to what your children are doing online if you want to spot any problems.


“We can only expect this problem to increase in the coming years, as more and more young people switch to smart phones and tablets as their main sources of communication. Huge numbers of our primary school children have mobiles with internet access; we need to ensure the safeguards are in place to adequately protect them from bullies and predators in the online world.”

€153,000 funding will help prevent flooding in Monkstown and Stradbrook

Fine Gael TD for Dún Laoghaire, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has today (Friday) welcomed the announcement by Minister for Public Service Reform and the Office of Public Works, Brian Hayes TD, that €153,000 has been allocated to Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council for the Stradbrook stream in Monkstown.

“I am delighted that the Minister has made this funding available which will help prevent flooding in Monkstown and Stradbrook.

“The money will be used to install culverts in two locations and replace screens. Drainage pipes will be installed which will allow water to flow under roads, trails, paths or similar obstructions and in turn will prevent flooding in the area.

“I am glad that despite the current economic constraints, this Government is supporting flood alleviation measures. Only last November we were given a frightening reminder of how devastating flooding can be. This announcement will be warmly welcomed by residents in the area, especially those living close to the Stradbrook stream.”

Mitchell O’Connor welcomes Tall Ship to Dun Laoghaire

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has today (Saturday) welcomed the arrival of the Tall Ship to Dun Laoghaire harbour, which is due to take place this afternoon.
“The atmosphere in Dun Laoghaire this afternoon is electric and the mood has been heightened by the unexpected arrival of the Tall Ship into the harbour.
“The Ship was bound for Dublin Port, which, at the last minute, was unable to accommodate her, so instead arrangements were made to bring her into Dun Laoghaire. Local residents are delighted to welcome her and the excitement on seeing this spectacular ship pulling into the harbour is palpable.
“There is already a ukulele festival on in the town and with the sun shining and a fireworks display planned for tonight after 9pm, the festival spirit is in full swing.
“I am delighted that arrangements have been made to accommodate the Tall Ship at Dun Laoghaire and encourage everyone to come out and give her the welcome she deserves on her arrival.”

Schoolbooks.ie must get its act together and allay parents’ concerns

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has today (Friday) called on schoolbooks.ie, the online company that supplies school books, to get its act together and to communicate with parents about why their orders have not been filled, despite the money having already been paid.

“It has been brought to my attention that many parents who have placed orders with schoolbooks.ie and have paid substantial sums of money for their children’s school books, have been left hanging for several weeks without their orders being filled. Any attempts to contact the company have been in vain and there has been no communication on behalf of the company with the parents to explain why their orders have not been filled.

“Many of these parents are extremely anxious, not only about getting their children’s school books organised as the beginning of the school year draws near, but also about what exactly is going on with the company and whether or not their hard earned cash has been lost.

“Schoolbooks.ie appears to have a good reputation among parents who have used the service in the past. Many parents cite the speed and ease of delivery as the reason for using them again. However, this year the company’s approach seems to be very different with no attempts being made whatsoever to contact customers and to dispel their fears about the cause of the delay.

“I attempted to contact the company myself today and to add insult to injury, their phoneline is ringing out and there is no answering message to indicate what is going on. By all accounts the company is exceptionally busy, with the result that a massive back-log has been created. However, simply ignoring parents, forcing them to travel out to the business premises and collect their purchases from an online provider is completely unacceptable and absolutely farcical.

“I am calling on schoolbooks.ie to, at the very least, communicate with parents and to give them an indication of when they can expect their order. A simple phone answering message would do much to allay the concerns of parents, who have already waited for weeks, being none the wiser as to whether or not their money has been lost to a company that has gone bust.

Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown shortlisted for 10 Excellence in Local Government Awards

Local authority delivering for local communities.

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has today (Wednesday) said the fact that Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council (DLRCoCo) has been shortlisted for ten Excellence in Local Government Awards is testament to the hard work being carried out by the Council on behalf of the communities it serves.

“The Chambers Ireland 2012 Awards, which are entering their ninth year, recognise the hard work done by Councils across Ireland. The shortlist, which has just been announced for this year’s awards, sees DLRCoCo nominated for a staggering ten awards out of fifteen categories. The nominations reflect the range of areas the Council has targeted for the benefit of Dun Laoghaire, Rathdown and the surrounding areas.

“Among the categories DLRCoCo is nominated in are Festival of the Year for the Summer of Heritage Festival, Parks & Recreation for the enhanced facilities available at Cabinteely Park, Sports Development for the Dun Laoghaire Bay 10k Race and the Local Authority Economic Efficiencies Award for Enhancing Economic Efficiencies through Increased Pro-Active Engagement with Business Customers.

“Radical reform of how local authorities do their business is being embarked on by Government. Now more than ever, we need to do more with less. We must ensure that local government, the business community and local residents are working together to achieve best results. It is quite clear that DLRCoCo is doing just that.

“These awards are an acknowledgement of the efforts being made on the ground by the Council and the breadth of initiatives that are taking place at local level. I wish all Councils the very best of luck with the awards, which take place in November, and I am exceptionally proud of DLRCoCo for its achievements to date.”

Chief Examiner’s Project Maths report must be published without delay

Weaknesses in the system will not be evident by Wednesday’s results.

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy and former school principal, Mary Mitchell O ’Connor, has today (Monday) called for the Chief Examiner’s report on Project Maths, which is with the Department of Education and Skills, to be published without delay so that a full assessment of the effectiveness of the subject can be determined.

“There is a genuine fear that Project Maths will lead to our students being wholly unprepared for what lies ahead at third level, as pupils are not being taught basic mathematical concepts. This will lead to students having to play catch-up when they enter college or university which will have a corresponding negative impact on the reputation of our third level institutions.

“I have been informed by a corrector of the Leaving Certificate honours mathematics paper that in one of the 75 mark questions, based on the robotic arm, the marking system had to be changed drastically to reflect more a favourable outcome as the results were so dismal. This means that Wednesday’s examination results will not give an accurate indication of the weaknesses in the system but instead will show the same number of pupils failing, the same number passing and the same number getting As, Bs and Cs.

“Due to the recent changes in the Leaving Certificate curriculum, the amount of calculus being taught has been severely reduced. Vectors, matrices, sequences and series, differential calculus, integral calculus and equations have also largely been removed. Probability and statistics are now worth 50% of the marks on Paper 2 and for the first time ever, students are not being given a choice in the questions they answer. Furthermore, there are concerns over the adequacy of the training being given to Project Maths teachers which also has severe repercussions on student’s abilities.

“The below-average performance of our pupils, when it comes to mathematics, has to be addressed. We need to get to the root of why our children are not succeeding in this area. Concerns that Project Maths is not the answer but that it will eventually lead to lower standards cannot be ignored as this will impact significantly on students’ preparation for third level courses and will act as an impediment to the future development of Ireland’s knowledge economy.

“I have raised this issue in the Dáil with the Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn, and will continue to keep in contact with him on the matter, expressing my concerns and those of a growing number of academics.

“I am calling on the Minister to ensure that the Chief Examiner’s report on Project Maths is published as early as possible so that a full and comprehensive assessment of where we are going can be determined, with any necessary changes being made as soon as is practically possible. ”

Mary Mitchell O’Connor calls for NAMA to be open and transparent about property transactions

Fine Gael TD for Dun Laoghaire, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has today (Monday) called on NAMA to drop the veil of secrecy and be open and transparent with the public about its property portfolio and sales process.

“I believe that NAMA has a habit of keeping details of property sales closely guarded making it difficult for members of the public to view and purchase properties in its portfolio. I am very concerned about this practice and I am calling on NAMA to be more open and transparent about how it puts all of its land and properties up for sale.

“It is crucial that ordinary members of the public have full visibility of NAMA’s property portfolio and that properties are not just being sold to a select group of people. NAMA is obliged to get the maximum price for land and property it has acquired. If these properties and land are being sold behind closed doors, then the taxpayer is being short-changed.

“I am calling on NAMA to publish its entire property portfolio, including all properties that have already been sold, and for how much, as well as what properties and land it currently has for sale. NAMA should also reveal how land and properties are valued and how they subsequently decide on a sale price. This should all be published on NAMA’s website, which at the moment is difficult to navigate, especially when searching for properties for sale.

“I have raised this in the Dáil on two occasions, specifically in relation to Booterstown Marsh in Dublin where two interested parties enquired about the sale of the Marsh from NAMA but were told that the sale had already been agreed, despite no ‘For Sale’ sign ever being erected. After I raised this in the Dáil, a ‘For Sale’ sign was subsequently erected.”

“NAMA needs to step up and answer the many questions people have about how it conducts its business.”