Unqualified teachers correcting Leaving Certificate and Junior Certificate exam papers this year is "less than ideal" but the highest standards will be applied when it comes to correction, according to the General Secretary of the ASTI.
Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, Kieran Christie said that there will be "rigorous oversight" applied.
He added that the ASTI would "much prefer" if all correctors were qualified teachers and involved in the system, but there had been a difficulty with recruitment this year, as well as a "substantial amount" of teachers who declined to correct the exams.
Mr Christie said the reason for this was that the rates of pay "weren't good" but also after two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, teachers wanted a "well deserved break" for the summer months.
"At the end of the two years of remote teaching, mask-wearing and distancing, the appetite was not there to go correcting examinations," Mr Christie said.
As first reported in The Irish Times, the State Examinations Commission (SEC) has said that a "small proportion" of the approximately 4,000 examiners are Post-Graduate Masters of Education students and qualified applicants who are not teachers. But it said, "as in the past", that the "vast majority" of examiners for the State examinations continue to be serving or retired teachers.
Mr Christie said teachers were exhausted by the end of May and that while the ASTI worked hard to improve payment rates, there was work still to be done on that score to make the work more attractive.
He said that the Government "don't ease up on the purse strings easily".
Mr Christie said students and parents should know that there are stringent checks and balances within the system, as each examiner is assigned an advising existing examiner and there is rigorous oversight.
He also noted that Leaving Certificate students can look at their papers and if they see an error, they can appeal it.
He said that the issue of the lack of correctors had been flagged in recent months by the State Examinations Commission and there was also the challenge of rebalancing this year due to calculated grades and "grade inflation" in recent years.
He said the Minister for Education had said that nobody will be losing out, but he accepted that there is apprehension, but nothing but the best and the highest of standards should be applied.
Guidance Counsellor Brian Mooney said this was a problem that had been building for a number of years and correcting exam papers had become less popular.
Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, Mr Mooney said Covid-19 meant there were less exams being sat, so fewer correctors were needed.
He said the State Examinations Commission had sought correctors, but with younger teachers travelling again it may have been a less attractive option.
He said a long-term plan was needed to ensure this does not happen every year.
In reply, the State Examination Commission said it appoints around 4,000 examiners annually to mark the Leaving Cert and Junior Cert, adding that it ran extensive examiner recruitment campaign this year.
"The SEC has been, and will continue to be, active in its efforts to encourage teachers, including recently qualified teachers and retired teachers, with the relevant subject expertise to apply for positions as examiners with the SEC," the committee said in a statement this afternoon.
"Examiners appointed by the SEC are selected on the basis of their academic qualifications, their teaching experience and their examination experience."
It added that all examiners marking examination papers are "appropriately qualified" and are selected on the basis of their academic qualifications, their teaching experience and their examining experience.
The SEC added that all contract staff fees have increased by the 1% public sector pay increase and have increased significantly through a range of other financial enhancements.
"Examiners who complete the marking of examinations scripts satisfactorily in line with the agreed marking scheme and in compliance with the SEC's procedures will be paid an additional satisfactory completion fee at a rate of €6 per script for Leaving Certificate subjects and €3 per script for Junior Cycle examinations," the statement added.
"This represents an increase of between 17% and up to 50% per script at Leaving Certificate and an increase of between 48% and up to 57% per script at Junior Cycle depending on the subject specific rate."