Teachers want 30% pay rise for correcting State exams

‘It is worrying that you would have people who are not teachers correcting exams’

Teachers’ unions are seeking an increase in the rates of pay that apply for correcting exams. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Teachers’ unions are seeking an increase in the rates of pay that apply for correcting exams. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

 

Teachers’ unions have called for urgent talks with the State Examinations Commission (SEC) to address a joint pay claim and avoid it having to hire individuals without teaching qualifications to correct State exam papers next year.

The call for talks comes after it emerged that a shortage of available qualified teachers has forced to the SEC to recruit individuals without any teaching qualifications to correct some of this year’s Junior and Leaving Cert papers.

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) and the Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI) have jointly lodged a claim for a 30 per cent increase on the existing SEC pay rate, which they say has remained unchanged since austerity-era cuts were introduced.

“I know that sounds like a lot,” said ASTI deputy general secretary Diarmaid de Paor, “but all the cuts that were applied to the public service - and teachers were hit more than others - also applied to the SEC exam payments and the reinstatement of salary hasn’t applied (to State exam payments).”

“[Rates for correcting] state exams have been cut for the last ten years and haven’t come up at all. They certainly are much lower in real terms than they used to be,” he said.

In a statement released to The Irish Times, the SEC said “Remuneration rates are increased in line with teacher pay rates, which led to an increase of 1% in examiner fee rates for 2018. Rates will increase further for the 2019 examinations in line with the pay restoration measures outlined in the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-20.”

While the work of those correcting exams who are not qualified teachers will be subject to the same scrutiny as qualified teachers, concerns have been raised over the implications for the standard of correcting amid fears the integrity of the State exams is at risk.

Hard word

“It is hard work. It is very responsible work and I think it is very worrying that you would have people who are not teachers correcting exams,” said Mr de Paor.

The SEC said additional levels of oversight will be put in place “if the normal levels of monitoring indicate that such measures are necessary”.

Teacher unions say they hope to resolve the issue in the autumn to allow the Department of Education to account for the increased cost in the 2019 Budget.

“Our view is that this has to be resolved in time for next year. Now that may mean that it has to be resolved in very early autumn so that if there are budgetary implications that the money is allocated,” said the ASTI deputy secretary.

“It is fair to say that it is a matter of urgency.

“This has to be addressed in a serious manner in time for next year otherwise the crisis is going to get considerably worse,” he said.

David Duffy, education research officer with the TUI, blamed the shortage of teachers on low SEC pay rates but also pointed to the introduction of new pay scales for new entrants in 2011.

“You have a difficulty there. In terms of the wider teacher issue, part of the difficulty is the shortage of teachers generally.

“We can map that back to the creation of new entrant pay scales in 2011. What we also have is a difficulty not just in recruiting new teachers but we also have a problem trying to retain our existing qualified teachers.

Citing figures from the Higher Education Authority, Mr Duffy said the emigration rate for qualified post-primary teachers has increased from 4 per cent in 2008 to 18-21 per cent in 2014.

“We have difficulty recruiting people into the job and when they do qualify we have a difficulty keeping them in Ireland.

“This issue is about pay but it is not just an issue of SEC pay but it is also an issue of the wider new-entrant problem.”

Emphasising the importance of maintaining the integrity of the State exams system, Mr Duffy said “The TUI believes that qualified teachers should be correcting exam papers and supervising State examinations. It is very important for the integrity of the system that that occurs.”