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Exam Accommodations



The State Examinations Commission (SEC) is the body responsible for second level examinations in Ireland.  It is a non-departmental public body under the aegis of the Department of Education and Skills. They can be contacted as follows:
Address: Cornamaddy, Athlone, Co. Westmeath.
Telephone: 090 6442700
Email: sec_specialneeds@education.gov.ie
Website: www.examinations.ie

Reasonable Accommodations at Junior and Leaving Certificate Exams 2017

The Dyslexia Association of Ireland welcomes some much needed positive changes to the implementation of Reasonable Accommodations for the Junior and Leaving Certificate from 2017 onwards. The DAI have lobbied and advocated for change to this unfair and unnecessarily stressful system for many years and are pleased that students with dyslexia and their parents will be operating under a fairer system from now on.

Reasonable accommodations can be made available to students with dyslexia when sitting State examinations. The accommodations are intended to limit the impact of the candidate’s disability on their exam performance, while not giving the candidate any unfair advantage.

The options students with dyslexia can apply for if they meet the criteria are:
• Access to a Reader
• Use of a Recording Device or Word Processor/Laptop
• Access to a Scribe
• Waiver from the assessment of spelling, grammar and punctuation in the language subjects

Key Changes to the 2017 Reasonable Accommodations at Certificate Examinations (RACE) scheme

In relation to the provision of RACE for students with dyslexia, two major changes have been announced.

1. Reasonable Accommodations that were granted for the Junior Certificate will now be reactivated at Leaving Certificate level. This is on the condition that the school can confirm that the student still has an identified and continuing need. Schools will continue to be responsible for granting accommodations at Junior Certificate level for students that meet the criteria (Please see here current RACE criteria). In addition schools are now responsible for recommending the supports that should be put in place at Leaving Cert level. This means that the State Examinations Commission (SEC) will, in most cases, accept the reactivation recommendations from the school and there should be no need for further testing of attainment levels.
2. Previous to these changes dyslexic students applied for RACE under the category of ‘Specific Learning Difficulty’. This category has now changed to ‘Learning Difficulty’. In light of this change cognitive/IQ scores are no longer required or a formal SLD/dyslexia diagnosis. This means that more students will be able to access accommodations, e.g. students who perhaps haven’t yet had a formal diagnosis of dyslexia, as well as students with more general or multiple learning difficulties.

Assistive Technology

At present the only assistive technology option available to a student with dyslexia is a word processor/laptop. However it is important to note that the SEC has stated that it is open to individual applications made through the school for the use of other assistive technology provided it meets the following criteria:
• It must be already being used by the student (therefore the student could use their own equipment and there would be no additional cost to its approval for use in a State exam.)
• The SEC are satisfied that is will not jeopardise the integrity of the exam.
• It requires no development work from the SEC in relation to its exam papers.

 

Applications Process

All applications for RACE will be made through the school using a common set of forms. You must indicate on the forms that you are making an application under ‘Learning Difficulty’ if you are dyslexic. There are separate sets of application forms for Junior and Leaving Certificate and they have separate application deadlines. Please see the below time table of applications deadlines for 2017. It is important to note that as 2017 is the flagship year for this change in the RACE application process, the deadlines are quite tight. The SEC has stated that they hope the deadlines will be different in 2018.
The following are the forms that must be filled out in relation to RACE at Junior Certificate level:
• RACE Scheme Junior Certificate Application Form (RA5) – This is the standard application form for RACE at Junior Certificate Level.
• RACE Scheme Junior Certificate Late Applications Form (RA6) – This form is used for late RACE applications.

The following are the forms that must be filled out in relation to RACE at Leaving Certificate level:
• RACE Scheme Leaving Certificate Reactivation Form (Form RA1) – This should be used when applying for the reactivation of accommodations from Junior Certificate. It is also acceptable to use this form to apply for the use of a word processor rather than a scribe if a scribe was grated at Junior Certificate.
• RACE Scheme Leaving Certificate Application for New Accommodations (Form RA2). This form can be used to apply for RACE for students who meet the criteria but did not receive any accommodations in their Junior Certificate OR where a student needs additional accommodations to the ones that were granted at Junior Cert.
• Race Scheme Leaving Certificate Late Application Form (Form RA3). This form can be used to make a late application for RACE at Leaving Certificate. It should be noted that that there is still a deadline for late applications and that schools will have to furnish the SEC with a reason for the application being submitted late.

Additional Information

It is important to note that the criteria for each accommodation have not changed. These will continue to be used to ‘evidence need’. In addition schools will be subjected to strenuous quality assurance checks by the SEC in order to maintain the integrity of both the Junior and Leaving Certificate. Schools will be required to strictly adhere to the criteria when granting exam accommodations. The SEC will provide a referral and advisory service to schools to assist them in difficult or complicated cases in relation to granting RACE.

Decisions on approval of reactivations and first time RACE applications will be passed on to the schools and the school will notify all candidates of the result of their application. If the application is rejected then the SEC will provide the reasons for the rejection in writing to the school and student. As before, an independent appeals process will be available should you be dissatisfied with the result of your RACE application. If you are then dissatisfied with the outcome of the independent appeal you may be able to have recourse through the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman (if the student is under 18 years old) or the Ombudsman (if the student is over 18 years old).

 

Annotation of Certificates

Currently, if a student has been granted reasonable accommodations which impact on the assessment of their exam, the grades obtained by a candidate will be accompanied by an explanatory note, such as: “all parts of the examination in this subject were assessed except spelling and written punctuation elements.”

The explanatory note has been the subject of an on-going legal challenge over recent years.  In 2006 the Equality Authority ruled that the annotation of certificates was discriminatory.   However, the Dept. of Education appealed this decision in the Circuit Court in 2007 and won.  The case was referred to the High Court who upheld the decision of the Circuit Court.  This means that unfortunately, as things stand, annotation of certificates will continue.

It is important to note that post leaving cert and third level qualifications do not include an annotation.

 

Accommodations at Third Level

Many third level colleges and examination bodies make provision for dyslexic students taking written exams.  These provisions can include being given extra time, being allowed to use a word processor/computer, having the specific difficulty taken into account when marking the exam paper, etc.  Students should consult with the Disability Officer in their college, their Tutor or Course Director, to find out precisely what provisions may be available.

 

We believe this information is accurate, but readers are advised to check all details with the relevant authorities as the situation may change.

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DAI activities are part-funded by the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Scheme to Support National Organisations 2016-2019 administered by Pobal), the Special Education Section of the Department of Education and Skills, SOLAS and KWETB.