Wednesday 13 December 2017

Leaving Cert student with dyslexia launches fresh legal bid after application for reader is rejected

The Four Courts, Dublin
The Four Courts, Dublin

By Aodhan O Faolain.

A student with dyslexia has brought fresh High Court proceedings after his application for a reader to help him better understand next month's Leaving Certificate was once again refused.

The student is one of several individuals who have brought actions against an Independent Appeals Committee of the State Examinations Commission, which is under the aegis of the Department of Education, after his application for a reader was turned down.

A reader is an adult exam supervisor who reads exam questions in a way a dyslexic student can understand, while he sits his exams.

Lawyers for the student, who is 18 years of age and hopes to study Art at third level, have brought fresh proceedings because his application has again been refused without him being given the opportunity to submit additional evidence supporting his application for a reader.

Two weeks ago the teenager, who also has a condition known as dyscalculia- a difficulty with numbers, was granted permission by the High Court to seek orders quashing the refusal as well as a declaration from the court he is entitled to be furnished with the reasons for the refusal.

He claims in that action, which is pending before the High Court, that no reasons were given for the original refusal.  He also claims that he has been denied fair procedures.

On Thursday lawyers for the teen returned to the High Court to challenge the Commission's decision to again refuse the teen's application for a reader. 

Michael Lynn SC, appearing with Brendan Hennessy Bl, told Ms Justice Mary Faherty that on Tuesday of this week the committee informed the student of its refusal.

Counsel said this decision was made before submissions supporting the student’s case for a reader had been made. 

The teenager’s solicitor Ms Eileen McCabe was in the process of putting together reports from an education expert, the student's school and teachers which were to be submitted as part of the teenager's application for a reader.

However with no prior notice the Committee issued a fresh decision, again turning down the request. 

"We have not been able to put our case," counsel said.  Counsel said while the Commission may have been trying to be helpful his client has been left at "a significant disadvantage."

Permission to bring the action was granted on an ex-parte basis by Ms Justice Faherty. The Judge adjourned the matter to May 31.

The court had heard the student, who was diagnosed as having dyslexia when he was nine years of age, has applied for entry into third level under the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE). This is an alternative admissions scheme where reduced points are offered to school leavers whose disabilities have had a negative impact on their second level education.

In order to qualify for a reader he needed to satisfy certain criteria, including obtaining certain test scores in word reading on sample papers. After undergoing the tests he obtained a score just above the threshold for eligibility for a reader.

He claims that other factors such as his difficulty with numbers should have been taken into account when his application for a reader was being considered.

The teenager's case is one of several to have come before the court in recent weeks. In a judgment last month on a similar but separate challenge by another student with dyslexia, Mr Justice Seamus Noonan overturned the refusal of a reader on grounds including the Committee's failure to specify reasons for that refusal.

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