The State Examinations Commission needs to recruit suitably qualified and experienced teachers “in greater numbers” to correct Leaving Certificate examination papers, the Teachers Union of Ireland has urged.
President of the TUI, Seamus Lahart, was commenting on the record number of upgrade results awarded to Leaving Certificate candidates – there were 2,916 examination upgrades this year, compared to 1,453 last year.
The significant increase in successful appeals has raised concerns around the overall marking of results in Leaving Certificate examinations. A quality assurance check outside the appeal process resulted in 45 examination results being upgraded – 19 were in maths and 45 in other subjects.
This year appeal applications were made by 9,049 candidates against 16,965 results, compared to applications made by 5,197 candidates against 9,087 grades in 2018.
Mr Lahart, said marking examination papers was “onerous and tedious” and he believed the commission was not attracting enough experienced teachers to do the work.
“There is the overarching issue of teacher supply and teacher workload over the year,” he pointed out.
Mr Lahart said the “bureaucratic demands” on teachers during the year had increased and they were left feeling burned out as a result.
“When it comes to correcting exams obviously teachers are not being attracted to do this work which is onerous and tedious. Obviously, it is best done by experienced and qualified teachers,” he said.
“I suspect the State Examinations Commission is not attracting experienced teachers to do the work in sufficient numbers and it needs to respond to that. It needs to recruit suitably qualified and experienced teachers in greater numbers.”
President of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland, Deirdre MacDonald, said the appeals process added to the “robustness” of the State's examination system. It also reaffirmed for students, parents and teachers that they had an examinations system that was independent, transparent and fair.
“The increase in the number of appeals is most likely due to the fact that it (SEC) has received much publicity over the past year and also the fact that in a number of subjects students can see digital copies of marked scripts,” she said.
The appeal results were issued three weeks earlier than in previous years and this was achieved by having appeal examiners marking the scripts on a fulltime basis, rather than in the evenings after school and at weekends.
Earlier this year a student successfully argued in the High Court that the appeals' process was too slow and was unfair to students. The court ordered the SEC to speed up the appeals process.
Just two results were downgraded in the appeals process this year compared to five last year. Most upgrades this year were awarded to higher-level subjects including Biology (392), English (240), Irish (256) and Maths (325).
Those still unhappy with their remarked examination scripts can refer their appeal to a panel of independent appeal scrutineers.