Shannon forced to miss Junior Cert due to 'lack of support'
SHANNON McCabe should have been among almost 57,000 students starting the Junior Cert written exams yesterday.
The 15-year-old already has the Home Economics practical under her belt.
But, yesterday, she was forced to sit the exams out at home because she couldn't get all the support her parents felt she needed for the written papers.
Shannon, from Castleblayney, Co Monaghan and a pupil at Our Lady's Secondary School in the town, has Down Syndrome, and is categorised as having a moderate learning difficulty.
She had entered for English, maths, civil social and personal education (CSPE) and home economics.
Her parents, Peter and Geraldine, expected that she would get supports offered by the State Examinations Commission (SEC) to students with special educational needs, through its Scheme of Reasonable Accommodations.
In the context of the scheme, special need refers to candidates with physical disability, including visual and hearing impairments, or a specific learning difficulty.
Among the supports the McCabes wanted was a reader, which also includes a waiver for spelling and grammar. While other supports were granted, Shannon did not qualify for a reader.
An SEC spokesperson said it was policy not to comment on individual cases.
The spokesperson said a student whose general intellectual ability is below the average range can be accommodated only if there existed a specific learning difficulty not attributable to the student's general intellectual ability.
The spokesperson said the range of accommodations that could be provided varied depending on the grounds on which the application has been made.
"So, for example, unless there is a visual impairment use of a reader would not be provided on physical grounds; there needs to be evidence of a specific learning difficulty for a reader to be granted."
Parents of children with Down Syndrome have been campaigning for the education system to recognise the condition, in its own right, as a category of special needs.
Patricia Griffin, education officer with Down Syndrome Ireland, said the system should recognise that children with Down Syndrome needed particular supports when it came to exams.
Shannon's father, Peter McCabe, said he was "more than disappointed".
"I think every child, when they go into secondary school should be able to sit some part of the Junior Cert."