Examiner shortage emerges just weeks before Leaving Cert

Marking fees for teachers increased by 50% or more in effort to attract more applicants

The State Examinations Commission is facing a shortfall in applications from teachers seeking to work as examiners across all subjects just weeks before the Junior Cycle and Leaving Cert exams get under way.

The commission has stepped up a recruitment campaign recently to highlight increased marking fees for teachers this year.

However, teacher union sources say the combination of an “exhausting” academic year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, taxation rules and limited opportunity for travel expenses may be affecting the number of teachers available.

All qualified teachers are eligible to apply for examiner positions and successful candidates are selected on the basis of their teaching and assessment experience and qualifications.

The commission has launched a “earn, learn and understand” recruitment campaign which highlights increased marking fees for papers as well as the professional benefits of being involved in marking.

The increased fees mean teachers stand to earn €150 per 25 Leaving Cert scripts and €75 per 25 Junior Cycle scripts.

The commission says this represents an additional €6 per script at Leaving Cert level, an increase of up to 50 per cent depending on the subject and level marked.

At Junior Cycle the higher fees amount to an extra €3 per script, an increase of up to 57 per cent depending on the subject and level marked.

A commission spokesman said teachers are the “lifeblood of the national examinations system” and it relies on their involvement in the marking of the examinations so that it can deliver on its core function.

“We continue to recruit examiners to mark the work of students sitting the Leaving Certificate, Leaving Certificate Applied and Junior Cycle examinations this summer,” he said.

“Prior to Covid, there were difficulties in ensuring that teachers applied for examining roles in the required numbers and this year we do have a shortfall in the number of applications for examining roles across all subjects. This year, with increased candidature, there is a requirement for increased numbers of examiners.”

He said the commission will continue to encourage all teachers to consider becoming an examiner and to “undertake this vital work on the 2022 State examinations”.

The supply of examiners may also influence how quickly the Leaving Cert exams can be corrected, say education observers,

Speculation

No date has yet been announced for the release of Leaving Cert results and CAO college offers, though there is speculation it may be later than the traditional mid-August date.

A commission spokesman said there were additional challenges this year due to uncertainty over the volume of students who may sit deferred exams and the Government’s decision that overall Leaving Cert results will be “no lower’ than last year.

“The results issue date must take account of these additional challenges. Sufficient time must also be allowed for the range of checks and quality assurance procedures which are required in the resulting process to ensure that the highest standards possible are maintained,” he said.

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris said on Wednesday that clarity on the results date is needed "urgently".

While he said he appreciated the challenges facing the commission, he said students and families were trying to plan for the summer and for student accommodation, while universities were trying to plan for the new academic year.

“Students need clarity, their families need clarity and universities need clarity,” he said,

The shortage of examiners is also likely to spark a debate over the sustainability of externally assessed State exams, especially in the context of planned reforms for the senior cycle.

While secondary teachers' unions insist that the Leaving Cert must remain as an externally assessed exam, Minister for Education Norma Foley has proposed changes that would mean teachers assess up to 40 per cent of students' marks.