Thursday 27 April 2017

Leaving cert student with dyslexia challenges State Examinations Commission's refusal to give him adult 'reader' to help him understand papers

In seeking a reader for the Leaving, he exhibited a letter from a clinical psychologist who said his fluctuations in attention and listening are exacerbated by anxiety in exam situations.
In seeking a reader for the Leaving, he exhibited a letter from a clinical psychologist who said his fluctuations in attention and listening are exacerbated by anxiety in exam situations.

Tim Healy

A LEAVING Certificate student with dyslexia has challenged the State Examinations Commission's refusal to give him an adult "reader" to help him understand the papers in the forthcoming exams.

When aged nine, the boy secured a placement at a special school for children with dyslexia of higher or average intelligence but with lesser literacy skills than 98 per cent of their peers, the High Court heard.

Since returning to his mainstream school, his efforts to keep up with his peers involved attending after school study five days a week.

Under a “reasonable accommodation” policy operated by the Commission, students who believe certain permanent or long-term conditions may affect their examinations performance can apply for special arrangements.

After the boy's school confirmed he would need special arrangements for the Junior Certificate, he got a reader, an adult exam supervisor to read exam questions to him in a way he could understand, and was not penalised for spelling and grammar mistakes.

In seeking a reader for the Leaving, he exhibited a letter from a clinical psychologist who said his fluctuations in attention and listening are exacerbated by anxiety in exam situations.

The guidelines for a reader include scoring 85 or less in word reading on the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT). He was refused a reader after scoring 90 on that but got a waiver for spelling, grammar and punctuation for language subjects.

After his appeal against that refusal was rejected last January, he took judicial review proceedings which settled on terms including quashing the Independent Appeals Committee (IAC) refusal of a reader and the matter being reconsidered by that Committee.

After he scored 85 on another word reading test in February, the IAC decided on February 22 he should not be given a reader on foot of material including his having scored more than 85 on two tests and 85 on a third.

He has challenged that second refusal in fresh judicial review proceedings before Mr Justice Seamus Noonan.

Following a hearing on Friday (April 22), Mr Justice Seamus Noonan reserved judgment.

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