Over 1,500 retired teachers hired for state exam work

Fianna Fáil and teacher leaders have criticised the continued use of more than 1,500 retired teachers annually to supervise and correct Junior and Leaving Certificate exams.

They made up one in six of the 9,228 people appointed to those jobs by the State Examinations Commission (SEC) last year. The 1,528 employed last year is five more than in 2013, but down from 1,860 retired people given the work in 2012, when they accounted for 22% of exams appointments.

The SEC provided the figures to Fianna Fáil education spokesman Charlie McConalogue, who had sought information in a Dáil question to Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan. The data follows the revelation that while the numbers of retired teachers being employed for substitute work is falling, more than 500 worked in schools last year.

The proportion of examiners marking students’ work who were retired fell from 13% in 2012 to 12% in 2013 and 11% last year — 471 out of 4,253. The 1,057 retired people hired by the SEC as exam centre superintendents made up 21% of the 4,975 total — up slightly on 2013 but down from 27.5% in 2012.

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The SEC told the Irish Examiner that familiarity with the subject through qualifications, teaching, and examination experience are important considerations when it employs examiners.

It has a long-standing policy to prioritise unemployed and substitute teachers for superintendent work, and their applications are considered before those from any other category.

“However, retired teachers may also apply and be appointed in accordance with the terms of the Employment Equality Act, 1998, which prohibits discrimination in employment on a number of grounds, including age,” an SEC spokesman said.

Mr McConalogue said Ms O’Sullivan should ensure these jobs go to unemployed and recently graduated teachers.

“It makes absolutely no sense that the minister is continuing to sanction jobs for teachers who have retired and are receiving State pensions, when there are so many newly-graduated teachers struggling to find work,” he said.

In reply to a request for response, the Department of Education said the SEC would be best placed to reply, as it is an independent statutory agency.

Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) general secretary Diarmaid de Paor said the union’s policy is that unemployed, under-employed, and temporary teachers should be prioritised for state exams appointments.

“The ASTI has made continuous representations on this matter for a number of years,” he said. “Despite some small changes, we are disappointed that the practice of employing a considerable number of retired teachers remains.”

The SEC does not have details of appointments by schools of supervisors for exam centres for students with special needs.

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