Cost of genuine exam access

14th January 2005 at 00:00
Despite their revision, the access arrangements for public exams continue to disadvantage the students they are meant to help.

We are a special high school with about 180 students aged 11 to 18. Every year we sit a wide variety of exams and every year we encounter the same problems.

Most of our pupils have literacy problems and most have a reading age below 10. In the majority of cases, however, their levels of understanding allow them to take GCSEs or similar, provided a large element of the mark is dedicated to practicalscoursework.

I ensure that the rules are adhered to in coursework and exams. Every year, therefore, we apply for a large number of students to be allowed access to a reader and in a few cases a scribe. I fill in the forms, copy all the relevant documents and send them off.

Every year our requests are refused. Why? Because our ed psychs' reports are more than two years old or because the report has not been written by a specialist teacher holding one of the qualifications listed.

Every year I argue with each examination board, that: 1 An SEN statement is reviewed annually and if there is no change to it there is no need for a student to be re-assessed by an ed psych.

2 Where a statement clearly says that a student has specific literacy problems, why, as in key stage 3, cannot the exam centre be delegated the responsibility for deciding whether a reader is needed and fill in the paperwork afterwards? A statement of a student's special educational needs is a legal document, which is enforceable in a court of law, but, surprisingly, is not acceptable to an examination board in a request for a reader.

3 Ed psychs have a certain number of hours allocated to each school to be used for statutory work only. Carrying out a re-assessment of a student for examination purposes is not a statutory duty.

This year the head has agreed to pay an ed psych to write reports on each child. However, they either have no time or wish to charge several hundred pounds.

We have around 40 students in Year 10 and 11 for whom such a report would be necessary. Times that by pound;300 (a figure one private organisation quoted us) and you get pound;12,000. We cannot afford to spend that just to have someone sit alongside to read the questions or even the odd word in them. Reading the questions does not give our students an advantage, it just puts them on the same footing as everyone else.

Paul Koller Examinations officer Manor high school, Sale

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