Foundations laid for trouble over housing
Published 14/08/2015 | 02:30
It has been said one should create with the heart and build with the mind. But wherever Government plans to ease off on the inspection of one-off homes came from, it's hard to see much evidence of an engagement with the mind.
Already there is concern about the emergence of a "two-tier" housing system as different standards are applied. One understands that an election is in the offing and that rural voters are critical to its outcome. One also understands that housing, or the lack of it, is a big issue down the country - just as it is in the cities.
Quick fixes that may see a TD home by a hatful of votes can prove disastrous down the line when the laws of unintended consequences kick in. Solving one housing problem while potentially creating another, even greater, one would generally come under the heading of stupidity.
But this is more than just stupid. As revealed today, the Department of the Environment itself cautioned against the relaxing of the building standards.
And given experiences at Priory Hall and other sites where shoddy practices were exposed long after developers had moved on, one would have thought that the case for strict controls was abundantly clear.
The Government officials were adamant that a softer approach could render homeowners "vulnerable" and added that "risks to public safety are known to occur".
But their reservations came to naught. The building industry is also uneasy at the decision.
Obviously, inspections could be costly and inconvenient but the onus was on the Government to cut down on costs, not do away with the checks.
The purpose of the inspections was to stop bad workmanship and guaranteed a certificate of quality. What is right should take precedence over what is expedient, and this is especially true in politics.
Governments invariably underestimate the price of a wrong decision - to their cost.
Raising the bar for boys in State exams
One of the great known unknowns in the Leaving Cert in recent years is why girls invariably outperform boys. The most popular theories centre on their being more mature, reliable, better organised and thus, better prepared for Higher Level papers.
And all credit to them. A detailed ESRI study some years ago identified that boys start to detach and distance themselves from their studies in second year, and then pick up the pace only when the pressure is really on some years later.
Boys are also believed to be more resistant to learning by rote. All of these factors militate against success when it comes to evaluating 14 years of schooling in a single exam.
The Department of Education recognises the need to review the examination system and introduce more continuous assessment.
That is what the changes in the Junior Cert were supposed to address.
It is essential that this evolution is encouraged and accelerated and that the Leaving Cert is kept under constant review. It should not be a given that girls will always fare better at written State exams than boys.