156 State Examiners fired in last five years.

By Emma Jane Hade, Irish Independent:

More than 150 examiners have been sacked by the State Examinations Commission in recent years for breaking strict rules for assessing school exams.

Over the last five years, 156 examiners who were found to have been in breach of the State Examinations Commission (SEC) protocol when correcting the Junior and Leaving Certificate exams, “were not reappointed” and had their contracts terminated or not renewed.

A total of 351 examiners were found to have been in breach of protocol during this time period.

Some 116 examiners were “appointed with a warning”, 79 were appointed at a lower level while the remaining 156 were not re-appointed.

The SEC said the majority of these cases involved inappropriate behaviour and were discovered through “quality assurance checks”.

These figures, released to the Irish Independent, come just weeks after an official investigation was launched into a teacher who was seen correcting an official exam paper in full view of the public in a busy Dublin train station.

The woman was reported to have corrected the paper during rush hour in Pearse Street Station.

The SEC strictly prohibits examiners from correcting papers in public.

The state has paid almost €49m to written, oral and practical examiners in 2013 and 2014.

Documents released by the SEC show almost €24.1m was spent on wages, travel and subsistence in 2013, increasing to almost €25m in 2014.

Last year, a total of 6,725 examiners were appointed to examine the Junior and Leaving Certs.

This comprised 4,365 written examiners, 1,122 oral and 1,238 practical examiners.

A spokesperson for the SEC said a breach of protocol can range from “errors in the completion of documentation, totting errors and not meeting deadlines to more serious matters”.

These serious matters also include any “threat to candidate confidentiality”.

The SEC added that around 70 examiners are sanctioned each year – 1pc of the annual examiner cohort.

“It is inevitable that in a large scale system such as ours there will be cases every year where examiners fail to perform as required,” a spokesperson added.

“Examiners receive detailed training and instruction to fulfil their role.”

Fianna Fáil’s education spokesman Charlie McConalogue said the fact that 156 examiners had their roles with the SEC terminated was a “source of concern”.

He said it is “essential that there is confidence in the operation of the SEC.”