Wednesday 28 September 2016

Nearly 1000 special needs students denied support for their Leaving Cert exams

Published 02/06/2015 | 14:25

The number of students denied special accommodation rose by 37pc
The number of students denied special accommodation rose by 37pc

Nearly 1,000 students with learning difficulties who sat their Leaving Certificate exams in 2014 were denied support from the Department of Education, new figures from the State Examinations Commission show.

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Students with a specific difficulty with reading, writing or spelling, including dyslexia, dyspraxia, as well as those with physical conditions, are entitled to apply for help with their examinations under the SEC's RACE scheme.

However, figures given to Sean Fleming TD by the SEC show that 914 special need students were denied 'special accommodations' for their examination papers.

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In the last three years, the number of students denied special accommodation rose by 37pc.

The corresponding figure for 2013 was 894, while in 669 students had applications for a reader rejected in 2012.

“[This] did not happen by accident. It was a deliberate policy on the part of the Government to cut the funding available to cut down on the cost of examinations,” said deputy Fleming.

“The students concerned have passed through the full primary and post-primary education systems. Because they have special needs, they have been assisted along the way.

"In their final examination they need a continuation of the help they have received, but the Government has slammed the door in their faces.”

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Adding: “They have been reduced to tears and their parents are helpless… [these] students are afraid to sit their examinations because they are being deprived of a facility of which they were able to avail in their junior certificate examinations.”

Where a student has a reading difficulty, a reader may be provided.

The range of provisions available to exam candidates include the use of a special examination centre, brailled and enlarged papers for visually impaired students, access to word-processors, tape or voice recorders, and exemptions from components of language subjects.

The number of students applying for the special measures has increased between 2012 and 2014 – from 2,495 to 2,609.

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Responding to Mr Fleming's comments, Junior Minister for Education Damien English said: "The arrangements for reaching decisions are different at Leaving Certificate level and [Junior Certificate]."

"The process must be independent... the SEC cannot give an unfair advantage to one student over another."

"The idea of these supports is to ensure that students are in a position to reach their potential attainment levels and nothing impedes that but they cannot be given an unfair advantage. That requires a judgment call and I am sure everyone would have a different opinion on such judgments but that is what the experts are there for - to judge who is entitled to supports."

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