Tuesday 29th October 2013

Irish Teachers working for €50 a week on Job-Bridge schemes


A good few of Irish schools are using the Job-Bridge scheme to hire qualified teachers to work for only €50 a week on top of social welfare payments.

This is despite one of the country’s biggest education unions ordering members not to take jobs in the Government’s controversial internship scheme, amid suggestions that young teachers are being exploited.

Schools struggling with overcrowded classrooms and ever-tightening budgets are turning to the scheme to get the extra staff they need.

New figures show 58 teaching positions were taken up under Job-Bridge. At least 32 of the posts were for primary teachers, who were hired across 17 different counties. There is currently an advertisement for two primary teachers in Claregalway on the Job-Bridge website.

The Government had previously cleared the way for schools to use JobBridge in this way, sparking anger from the INTO union, which says that teachers should be employed either full-time or paid a fair rate for substitution work.

JobBridge offers nine-month internships to unemployed people who get an additional €50 a week from the State on top of their social welfare payments.

INTO had passed a ruling saying primary schools should not recruit teachers under the internship scheme, which it described as “exploitative”.

However, many schools are desperate for extra staff as they face restrictions on the number of teachers they can employ based on the number of pupils in attendance.

The Department of Education has set the pupil-teacher ratio at 28-1 in primary schools, and maintained that figure in the Budget.

Although they cannot employ an extra teacher full-time once they reach this limit, many schools are successfully applying to JobBridge for an additional teacher to tackle overcrowded classrooms.

Fianna Fail education spokesman Charlie McConalogue said the Government had to provide more jobs for desperate young teachers, not only JobBridge placements.

“The answer is not to get young teaching graduates to basically work for free for a year. That’s not fair. They’ve trained for four years and we have to respect their role,” he said.

Sinn Fein education spokesman Jonathan O’Brien said JobBridge allowed the department to get teachers in on the cheap.

“I don’t think it’s right that you give somebody an extra €50 a week to go into a classroom teaching, with all the pressures and strains and responsibilities, and not have a real prospect of full-time employment at the end,” he said.

However, Fine Gael TD Jim Daly, who is a former school principal and INTO member, believes JobBridge is beneficial to teachers and schools.

LANGUISHING: He obtained the latest figures showing dozens of schools ignoring INTO’s directive following a parliamentary question.

Mr Daly said young teachers could gain experience through the scheme, as they would otherwise be languishing on the dole. He has appealed to INTO to lift its threat of sanctions against schools that hire teachers through JobBridge.

Graduates must complete 300 hours of teaching practice within three years to register  as a qualified teacher.

However, Mr Daly said many are unable to get the work experience they need because principals were hiring fully qualified teachers. He said JobBridge provided a foot in the door.

“They can’t break the cycle. JobBridge is a perfect fit, but the INTO’s attitude smacks a little bit of ‘I’m alright Jack, close the door after me’,” he said.

An INTO spokesman disagreed, saying it was impossible for teachers to balance JobBridge with the odd day of more lucrative substitution work.

“What Deputy Daly is essentially saying to young teachers is that they should work for €10 a day,” he said. “That is callous.”

INTO said there was no evidence that hundreds of teachers would jump at the chance to take up a JobBridge internship.

And it added that the opposition to the scheme comes from recently qualified teachers.

Junior education minister Ciaran Cannon urged INTO to reconsider its stance, given that 1,400 new teachers will be recruited in primary and secondary schools next year.

Irish house prices down 2.6% but up in Dublin 12.3% year to September 


A two-tier property market is emerging as prices continue to slide outside the capital

National property prices rose again in September, advancing by 3.6 per cent on an annual basis, up from the 2.8 per cent reported in August. Prices are now growing at their fastest rate since September 2007.

In Dublin, property prices are now 12.3 per cent higher than a year ago, according to CSO’s residential property price index, but the two-tier market continues with prices outside of the capital falling by 2.6 per cent in the year to September.

National property prices rose by 1.8 per cent in September, for the fourth consecutive month, pushing the property index up to 3.6 per cent on an annual basis.

In Dublin, property prices are now 12.3 per cent higher than a year ago, growing by 3.9 per cent in September.

Dublin house prices increased by 4.2 per cent in September, up by 12.2 per cent on September 2012, while apartment prices in the capital also advanced, and are up by 11 per cent on September 2012.

However, the CSO adds the caveat that apartment prices are based on lower transaction levels.

Outside the capital, prices fell  by 0.1 per cent in September, matching August’s decline. On an annual prices, prices outside of Dublin fell by 2.6 per cent in the year to September.

Dublin house prices are now 49 per cent lower than their highest level in early 2007, while apartments are 59 per cent lower.

David McNamara of Davy Stockbrokers says that the “stark divergence” between Dublin and the rest of the country “points to a market currently supported by a lack of supply, with an influx of cash buyers compensating for weak mortgage lending”.

“Evidently, cash buyers are attracted by rising rental values, attractive yields and the current perception of property as undervalued,” he said. Cash buyers accounted for 54 per cent of national transactions in Q2 and a similar split looks likely in Q3 according ot Mr McNamara.

Looking ahead, he expects growth rates in Dublin to start to moderate “as some of the big gains at the tail end of 2012 fall out of the annual comparison”. Outside of the capital, he expects prices to fall further “in many oversupplied regions”.

Dublin house prices are now 49 per cent lower than their highest level in early 2007, while apartments are 59 per cent lower.

Outside of Dublin, the price of residential properties is 48 per cent lower than at their peak in 2007.

IT problems affect production of new Irish driving licences service

 Daniela Reicke (left) Cork, and Aoife Murphy, Blarney, Co. Cork at the launch of the new credit-card sized driving licenses at Government Buildings. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times.    

Daniela Reicke (left) Cork, and Aoife Murphy, Blarney, Co. Cork at the launch of the new credit-card sized driving licenses at Government Buildings.

Customers in northwest most affected by issues on first day of operations

Operations at the National Driver Licence Service are running normally again after an IT problem left members of the public unable to renew or obtain new licences on what was the first day of the new service.

The service changed today meaning members of the public seeking a new license or a renewal must now visit one of the service’s new centres rather than the motor tax office.

As part of a face-to-face application  process, a photo and signature is captured digitally on plastic licenses.

The glitch affected 12 centres located “predominantly” in the northwest of the country, according to a spokeswoman for the service.

There was also disruption to the customer helpline which was out of service for “a brief period” this morning.

Callers to all 34 national centre offices were affected between 10am and midday – but the spokeswoman said the helpline is now up and running again.

“There have been a few teething issues with the ‘Go Live’ of the new NDLS service today, which is to be expected  with the introduction of a new national service,” said the spokeswoman.

“As soon as the issue was identified remedial action was taken and we can report that the issue has now been fixed .

“We would like to thank the public for their patience today as we introduce  the new National Driver Licence Service and get it bedded in.”

Revenue to seek 2014 Local Property Tax payment from household by Christmas


Revenue is to write to 960,000 property owners

Property owners who opt to pay the Local Property Tax for 2014 using a debit card, credit card or cheque will have to pay by next month, according  to the Revenue Commissioners.

Revenue is to write to 960,000 property owners asking how they intend paying next year’s tax.

People who made a single payment this year are asked to contact Revenue to let them know their preferred payment option for 2014.

Revenue has said 46% of householders paid the tax for 2013 by cheque, cash, credit card or debit card.
They will have to contact  Revenue in the coming weeks.
Those making paper tax returns must select a payment option by 7 November. 
People filling out tax returns online have until 27 November.
Local Property Tax Manager with the Revenue Commissioners Vivienne Dempsey told RTÉ News: “If you are paying at source, so through your wages or your pension, then it will come out on your first payment in January and be spread evenly across the year to December.
“But if you pay by debit card or by credit card, or if you are sending in a cheque, the payment will come out in November.”

Housework and Gardening, can help & boost your Heart Health

Study of Swedish seniors found a reduced death risk of up to 30%


Activities such as gardening, do-it-yourself projects and housework may be as good as formal exercise when it comes to reducing the risk for heart attack and stroke, Swedish researchers say.

For people 60 and older, just keeping busy with daily activities can reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems by nearly 30 percent and even prolong life, they added.

Being on your feet and active cuts the time spent sitting around, pointed out lead researcher Elin Ekblom-Bak, of the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences and the Karolinska Institute, in Stockholm.

“Sitting is mainly replacing time you spend in daily activity and vice versa,” Ekblom-Bak said. A recent study found long periods of sitting actually increased the risk fordiabetes, cardiovascular disease and death, she noted.

“The results of this study showed  that activities of daily life are as important as regular intentional exercise for older adults for cardiovascular health and longevity,” she said.

But that doesn’t mean formal exercise isn’t important. “We saw that those who exercised regularly and that also had a daily physically active life had the lowest risk of all,” Ekblom-Bak explained.

The time people spend exercising, however, is only a small part of the day, which leaves a lot of time for daily activities or sitting, she added.

For the new study, researchers collected data on more than 3,800 men and women in Sweden who were born in 1937 and 1938. Participants were asked about their lifestyle, which included information on their diet, whether they smoked or drank alcohol, and how physically active they were.

The participants were also asked how often they took part in activities, such as gardening, do-it-yourself projects, car maintenance and blackberry picking over the past year. They were also asked about any exercise they did.

To see how heart-healthy they were, the researchers examined the participants and took blood samples to assess levels of fat and sugar. They also checked for high levels of blood-clotting factor, which is linked to a raised heart attack and stroke risk.

During more than 12 years of follow-up, 476 of the participants died from or experienced a first heart attack or stroke, and 383 died from other various causes.

People whose daily activities kept them moving reduced their risk of a heart attack or stroke by 27 percent and the risk of dying from any cause by 30 percent, compared to people who spent the least amount of time on their feet.

“Promoting daily life activities is as important as recommending regular exercise for older adults for cardiovascular health and longevity,” Ekblom-Bak said.

“This is particularly important for older adults as they tend to spend a greater portion of their active day performing non-exercise physical activity, as they often find it difficult to achieve recommended exercise intensity levels,” she said.

The report was published online Oct. 28 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Traditional notions of retirement often don’t support continued physical activity at this stage of life, a U.S. expert said.

“It is almost expected that as we age, we move less,” said Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist and exercise physiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, in New York City.

“Retirement, a patient told me, is for sitting around, resting and watching TV,” she said. “Unfortunately, sedentary lifestyles now range across all age with the same unhealthy results: increased risk for diseases such as cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and certain cancers.”

The human body is designed to be moving a good portion of the day, Heller said. “The less one physically moves, the less they are able to move ,” she said.

Regular physical activities such as house cleaning , gardening, lawn care and climbing stairs help keep the body mobile and strong, Heller said.

“You can burn up to six times as much energy per minute when house cleaning as you do when you are sitting still. People of all ages need to be encouraged to get up off the couch and turn off the computer and TV and move,” she said.

Heller said there are simple ways to add more physical activity into the day, such as the following:

  • Standing up when talking on the phone.
  • Marching in place when watching TV — at least during the commercials.
  • Getting up from your desk every hour and doing jumping jacks, knee lifts or knee bends for three to five minutes.
  • Climbing a flight of stairs every few hours.
  • Vacuuming the house.
  • Mopping the floor.

Another expert described the physical fallout of being sedentary.

Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said sitting for too long may have adverse effects including burning fewer calories, and increasing insulin resistance and fats in the blood.

“Greater time spent in non-exercise physical activities can potentially counter these effects,” Fonarow said. “These findings further emphasize the importance of decreasing sedentary time and encouraging everyday regular non-exercise physical activity to improve cardiovascular health.”

Although the study found an association between being active around the house and reduced heart risk, it did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship.

United Nations cooks up a battle plan to defend Earth from asteroids


Nowhere’s one straight out of the comic books: The United Nations has announced it’s going to start proactively searching for asteroids in Earth’s path — and taking measures to protect us from deadly collisions.

Asteroids, or as they’re known in the scientific community, “flying death rocks,” can be thrown off-course by a single hit from a spacecraft, if the projectile is launched five to ten years in advance.

This isn’t the last-minute USS Enterprise-style save you were probably looking for when you clicked that remarkably exciting headline, but a last-minute save would mean certain death for people unfortunate enough to be in the flying death rock’s path.

First steps, according to our besties at Scientific American, are the UN officially forming an International Asteroid Warning Group (note: will not include X-Men). This group will work with the existing Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

Since no nation or space agency has claimed responsibility for keeping Earth safe from asteroids yet (thanks, America), private entities and astronomers will keep an eye out for potentially dangerous asteroids. Once these are identified, nations in a position to defend Earth will have to designate an agency, such as NASA, to coordinate counter-measures.

We live in thrilling times, my friends. Next stop: Starfleet!

may be as good as formal exercise when it comes to reducing the risk for heart attack and stroke, Swedish researchers say.


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