People without teaching qualifications to mark exams

Rate of pay for correcting exam papers cited as main reason for rolling staff shortages

Fianna Fáil’s education spokesman Thomas Byrne said the shortage of teachers was putting correcting standards for exams at risk. File photograph: PA

Fianna Fáil’s education spokesman Thomas Byrne said the shortage of teachers was putting correcting standards for exams at risk. File photograph: PA

 

The State Examinations Commission is hiring individuals without any teaching qualifications to correct students’ Junior and Leaving Cert papers due to a shortage of qualified staff.

The development has sparked concerns over the standard of correcting and accusations that the integrity of the State exams is at risk.

The commission has insisted, however, that any non-teachers who have been hired have third-level qualifications in the subject area they are marking.

Teachers say the rate of pay for correcting exam papers – which ranges between €5 and €32 per exam – is the main reason why there are difficulties sourcing qualified staff. A recent teachers’ union conference heard the pay rates described as “blood money” given the hefty tax rates teachers face outside their core pay.

The commission’s website states that “all suitably qualified teachers are welcome to apply for these positions” and that applicants must have “recent teaching experience in the relevant subject area or related subject”.

However, it has confirmed to The Irish Times that while examiners are primarily recruited from a pool of experienced teachers, there are instances where non-teachers may be recruited as long as they have a third-level qualification in the relevant subject.

It said this takes place only if vacancies remained after “all suitable and fully qualified applicants have been offered appointment”.

A spokesman said it was not easy to identify how many non-teachers were due to be hired this year until the recruitment process was fully concluded.

“We are satisfied that all examiners are appropriately qualified in the relevant subject area and that priority is given to teaching experience in making decisions on appointment,” he said.

Standards

Fianna Fáil’s education spokesman, Thomas Byrne, said the shortage of teachers was putting correcting standards for exams at risk.

“Last-minute cramming might be expected of some students, but last-minute recruitment of correctors with no teaching qualification is not acceptable.

“We need to know in what subjects this is happening and to what extent. Students have a right to ensure their scripts are marked to the highest possible standard.”

The commission has struggled to fill examiner positions for a range of subjects until recent days.

It is still seeking examiners to mark Junior Cert religious education exams, and is filling vacancies “as they arise” in Junior Cert geography and French.

In using non-teachers, the commission said all examiners received detailed training and instruction in order to fulfil their role.

The commission said it had an absolute responsibility to exam candidates to ensure their work was marked to the highest standards of quality and integrity and had a range of measures in place to assure quality in the examinations which included measures to identify poor practice.