Tuesday 11 December 2018

'Impending catastrophe' for Junior and Leaving Cert exams if rate of pay for State examiners not increased

There has already been a reported shortage of examiners and superintendents for subjects such as home economics as teachers increasingly refuse to work for the sums on offer

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Ralph Riegel

TEACHERS have voted overwhelmingly to demand a 30pc increase in the rates of pay for those marking and supervising the Junior Cert and Leaving Cert exams.

Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI) members agreed to increase an enhanced pay request to the State Examinations Commission (SEC) from 20pc to 30pc.

The move came as ASTI members complained that those involved in the examination of the Junior Cert and Leaving Cert each summer are paid less than the minimum wage for their expert work.

ASTI member Jim Breslin warned that the SEC are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit teachers for superintendent and examiner duties because of the poor rates of pay.

Expenses have also been cut for teachers who have to travel to examination centres.

There has already been a reported shortage of examiners and superintendents for subjects such as home economics as teachers increasingly refuse to work for the sums on offer.

"We are facing an impending catastrophe in the Junior Cert and Leaving Cert if we don't have enough superintendents and examiners," he said.

"The examiners and superintendents are pivotal in this."

ASTI delegate, Pat Younger from Wexford, warned that examiners in areas such as economics are expected to effectively write-off the entire month of July due to the late timing of the exam and the short deadline for having papers marked.

"I know of teachers who spend 26 days working on exam (papers) - they start at 6am in the morning and put in 10 to 12 hour days just to ensure they make the deadline," he said.

"They are now left wondering is it really worth it?"

Dublin teacher Eveline Holderick said €5.86 is paid per Junior Cert higher level French paper.

However, 56pc of this payment is then taken in tax and other costs.

"I do not get (paid) the minimum wage," she said.

The ASTI's 96th annual conference in Cork heard that many teachers who for years undertook exam work in June now refuse to do so because the pay rates involved are so poor.

"The principle reason we do it (exam work) is to augment our miserable salaries," Mr Breslin said.

ASTI delegate Dermot Brennan warned that better exam pay rates were now vital to "incentivise teachers" for vital exam work.

Another delegate said that seeing more than 50 cent in every euro earned from exam work disappear in tax and costs was "the straw that broke the camel's back."

ASTI delegate Ann Colleary said it was disheartening to see what some specialist examiners are now paid.

Noel Hogan, a teacher based in Monaghan, said the problem was now apparent from how difficult it was proving to recruit examiners and superintendents.

He said when he started exam work he was getting around 300 Junior Cert papers to check

Now, that has soared to almost 500 exam scripts.

"The work is increasing because less teachers are now doing it," he said.

"It is blood money."

He said it was absolutely vital to increase exam pay to protect the system.

"Let us maintain the integrity of the examination system," he said.

A few ASTI delegates challenged why, if teachers are so vital to the examination process, they are not paid the normal hourly rate for skilled teachers.

ASTI delegate Kay Bunce from Kerry said income-challenged teachers are undertaking exam work because they have no financial alternative.

"People are trying to support their incomes in any way they can," she said.

"As someone once said - show us the money."

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