The State Examinations Commission (SEC) struggled to find examiners to mark a number of subjects until the weeks after the exams last June, as teachers are increasingly questioning the value of the work to them.
For superintendents who supervise written exams, difficulties providing cover at all 730 second-level schools mean some teachers are being paid for five days of superintending work to be on standby, but might not even be called on to fulfil the duties.
Many of those who had been on reserve lists in recent years were not available when called at short notice, mainly due to teaching job interviews during the exams or being appointed in the meantime to supervise exam centres for students with special needs.
At the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) annual convention, it was outlined that rates paid by the SEC for exams work have not been restored since cuts imposed during the recession.
In addition, changes to rules around the starting point for measuring travel expenses have severely impacted the amount some contracted exams staff get paid.
Even after the SEC secured exemption from tax for the travel expenses paid to teachers on exams duty, ASTI deputy general secretary Diarmaid de Paor said there will still be a struggle to meet staffing requirements.
“We have repeatedly warned the SEC that if they fail to seriously improve [the rates], they will find themselves with no examiners and no superintendents very soon,” he said.
Although they said it is common every year to have late demand due to dropouts for various reasons, the SEC was still looking for qualified teachers to mark written exams in almost a dozen Junior and Leaving Certificate subjects as students sat the final papers in late June last year.
There has been a particular difficulty finding examiners for language subjects, with teachers being sought for English, Irish, German, Italian and Spanish after those exams were finished in 2016.
ASTI convention delegates unanimously backed a call for negotiations with the Department of Education to appoint science lab technicians to all schools.
Dermot Brennan of the Carbery branch in Co Cork said it is scandalous that a science teacher he spoke to said he had to give up supervision and substitution work and the associated pay because he needed the time to set up the laboratory before his classes.
Clare delegate and science teacher Pauline Nagle said lab technicians will be essential when new courses in Leaving Certificate physics and chemistry are introduced, as up to 20% of marks may be given for assessment of experiments carried out by students in their school labs.
The motion approved by the conference will see the union seek to have a lab technician in all second-level schools, with additional staff to be employed in schools of over 300 students.