Thursday 29 September 2016

Reform of CAO process for disabled students

Published 02/11/2015 | 02:30

Radical changes in the scheme offering a points waiver, and college supports, for CAO applicants with a disability or learning difficulty, such as dyslexia, are being rolled out over the next two years
Radical changes in the scheme offering a points waiver, and college supports, for CAO applicants with a disability or learning difficulty, such as dyslexia, are being rolled out over the next two years
Assisting students: Grace Edge of the IUA

Students from families who can afford to pay up to €700 for a psychologist's report to support their case for entry to college on lower CAO points are set the lose the massive advantage they enjoy.

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Radical changes in the scheme offering a points waiver, and college supports, for CAO applicants with a disability or learning difficulty, such as dyslexia, are being rolled out over the next two years.

A broadening of the avenues available to students under the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) - away from exclusive use of medical criteria - will make it easier and more affordable to meet eligibility requirements.

The CAO opens this week for 2016, when some of the reforms are coming into force, ­including a new educational impact ­statement, where a student and the school set out how a disability has affected their second-level education.

The other key change for 2016 may allow a GP - rather than a consultant - to verify that a diagnosed condition, such as a mental health issue or a blood disorder, impacted on a student's academic performance.

Another new measure will prioritise applicants who are eligible under both DARE and its sister scheme, HEAR ­(Higher Education Access Route), for students from socio-­economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

The change that will ­benefit the single biggest group of DARE applicants - those with specific learning difficulties (SLD), such as dyslexia - will follow in 2017.

This will see the abolition of the ­requirement to produce an up-to-date (no more than three-years-old) ­professional assessment - which can cost between €400 and €700 - and is expected to lead to an increase of about 1,000 SLD students being ­eligible for the scheme each year.

Shocking figures, produced as part of a review, revealed that 21pc of DARE places in 2014 went to students from 15 fee-paying schools - only 2pc of all post-primary schools.

From 2017, SLD ­applicants will be able to use a ­psychologist's report of any age - many children get these in primary school - or may rely on the fact that they received a support when sitting the ­Leaving Certificate.

There is always a fall-off ­between the numbers who ­initially apply for DARE and those who produce the ­supporting documentation - the cost of getting a ­professional report is ­regarded as a major obstacle.

This year, there were 4,503 initial DARE ­applicants, but only 3,305 ­completed the application ­process.

Grace Edge, DARE HEAR project ­manager at the Irish ­Universities ­Association, said the aim was to assist students with academic potential but who are most marginalised in terms of their chances of going to college.

Irish Independent

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