Thursday 22 February 2018

Retired teachers 'cash in' on exam work bonanza

Younger ASTI members miss out amid claim of two-tier careers

Pay fight: Orla Quinlan, of Kilkenny, at a teachers' protest outside the Dail earlier this month Photo: Arthur Carron
Pay fight: Orla Quinlan, of Kilkenny, at a teachers' protest outside the Dail earlier this month Photo: Arthur Carron
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

Retired teachers on big pubic service pensions are cashing in on lucrative exam supervision and correcting work - while younger teachers struggle to get similar work to top up low salaries.

A total of 1,216 retirees were recruited as exam superintendents last year.

According to new figures obtained by the Sunday Independent, 491 retired teachers were also taken on to correct examination papers.

It comes against a backdrop of festering anger in the profession over the pay and conditions of younger members.

Discontent over two-tier teaching careers is one of the main reasons for the series of work stoppages planned by the ASTI trade union over the coming weeks.

The State Examination Commission (SEC) oversees Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations for some 120,000 candidates annually. Both examiners and superintendents are appointed by the SEC following public advertisement.

In a statement, the body insisted it had a "long-standing policy" of prioritising applications from unemployed and substitute teachers for the position of superintendent.

However, latest figures show retired teachers are still being employed in substantial numbers. In 2014, 4,960 superintendents were appointed to ensure exam halls were adequately staffed.

In total, 864 were either substitute or unemployed teachers. However, some 1,057 were classified as retired.

In 2015, a total of 5,055 applicants were employed in the role, with 604 either substitute or unemployed teachers.

Significantly, the figures show 1,216 were retired teachers. The remainder were classed as serving permanent, temporary full-time or part-time.

During this summer's State exam season, 5,103 superintendents were appointed. However, a breakdown of the figures shows that while 683 were either engaged in substitute teaching or were unemployed, a total of 1,117 were actually retired from the profession.

Superintendents receive a fee of €280.08 on the day that they collect their box of examination papers and prepare their examining centres.

They also receive a daily rate of €112.04 for each subsequent day of their assignment. This means individual payments vary according to the length of time that a particular centre is in operation.

All those appointed to the role of superintendent must be on the Register of Teachers, maintained by the Teaching Council.

Meanwhile, figures show retired teachers are also still being recruited in sizeable numbers each year to correct the State examination papers.

The majority of written examiners are serving teachers - and relevant qualifications and subject expertise are an "absolute requirement".

The SEC insisted it also allocated work to unemployed, substitute and part-time teachers, as well as those recently qualified. But "relevant classroom experience" is highly valued.

However, the main criterion required is the capacity to mark a candidate's work with "maximum accuracy and efficiency". In 2014, a total of 4,238 examiners were appointed, of which 484 were retired. In 2015, those appointed came to 4,207, including 491 retirees. The figure for 2016 was 4,281 appointees, of which 450 were retired teachers.

Individual school principals and management are not involved in the appointment of teachers for supervision and correction work. However 10,500 superintendents are appointed directly by schools to monitor special examination centres, primarily for candidates with special needs taking the tests on their own.

According to the SEC, such superintendents are appointed directly by schools, which are "best placed" to meet the specific needs of these particular students.

On average, examiners mark between 300 and 350 papers within a period of about 26 days. They are paid a 'per script' fee of between €4.13 and €32.33, depending on the examination type.

Travel and subsistence expenses are also paid in line with Department of Finance regulations.

Sunday Independent

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