Low rate of pay blamed for lack of teachers to mark exams
Teachers blame the rates of pay on offer for a shortage of examiners to mark the Leaving and Junior Certificate written papers.
With less than a week to go to the start of the State exams, an urgent appeal has been made to teachers to make themselves available to fill gaps.
The State Examinations Commission (SEC) says the situation is "very tight" generally, while there are more serious shortages in some subjects.
The subjects where there are particular needs are: Irish, Spanish, German, Italian and Home Economics, at both Leaving Cert and Junior Cert, business and ordinary level maths at Leaving Cert, and CSPE and religious education at Junior Cert.
There is a shortage of 48 examiners for CSPE with 22 applications on hand, while for religious education, the deficit is 28, with seven applications on hand. There are challenges every year in filling examiner positions, but it has become increasingly difficult.
Teacher unions have pointed to the pay rates for the work, which have not increased since cuts were imposed in 2010.
A spokesperson for the Association of Secondary Teachers' Ireland (ASTI) said that "the marking of exams is extremely onerous work and the pay is insufficient".
The ASTI and the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) have raised the issue of pay rates repeatedly with the SEC.
Depending on the subject, examiners may spend up to about four weeks working during the summer, with average payments of between €3,500-€6,000 for marking Leaving Cert papers and about €2,500-€4,000 for the Junior Cert, before the usual deductions.
They are paid a fee per paper, which varies depending on the subject, the level at which it is taken and whether it is Leaving Cert or Junior Cert, as well as expenses, such as for travel and subsistence to attend marking conferences that are held every year for each subject. An examiner receives between about 170 and 400 papers to mark.
In an example of the rates paid, the fee per paper for modern languages ranges from almost €12 for higher level Leaving Cert to about €5 for ordinary level Junior Cert. The fee can rise to about €30 for a higher level Leaving Cert exam, with two papers, such as maths.
The SEC said it would be appointing examiners right up to the start of the exam marking conferences and, if necessary, afterwards, in order to fill vacancies, and in response to examiners dropping out for a variety of reasons.
An SEC spokesperson said in previous years they had succeeded in plugging all the gaps and they had "every confidence it will be the same this year".
Overall, about 3,750 examiners are needed to mark what amounts to 115 separate subjects, when account is taken of both Leaving Cert and Junior Cert, and the different higher and ordinary level exams.
The SEC's call to teachers also extends to those who are newly qualified and retired.