Exams Access For Dyslexic Students

One of the joys of having a dyslexic daughter winding her way through secondary education one of the main themes that caused stress and frustration is the topic of this blog article.

Let's talk about Exams Access.

For my daughter, her dyslexia assessor recommended that Jess be given an extra 25% of exam time and the use of a laptop to answer her questions in exams.  Jess was fortunate in that she didn't need to use any further technology to support her as these arrangements allowed her to have the best chance of being able to answer her exam questions.

This experience and subsequent conversations with SENCOs , DSA Assessors, Parents and Students has lead me to explore a little more as I was interested to know more about how a dyslexic learner is able to complete an exam, if they really couldn't read the text in the questions of those exams.

This must be a source of stress and frustration to be in that situation.
For many years schools and colleges have not had the benefit of being able to use technology to overcome this problem and so have opted to supply a 'Human Reader' to sit with the student, and read out the questions in the paper.
This is obviously very effective.  The interaction between reader and student should be quite straight forward.  The text is read out naturally and at the pace required.
There are however some downsides to having a human reader.

How helpful is a human reader in exams?

At the outset there is a cost.  That human reader will need to be paid if they are not an employee of the educational establishment and if they are then, there must be a time cost as they will have been taken away from another duty elsewhere.

There is a social angle to consider too.  The assumption being made is that the reader and the student will be able to work together.  What if there was something distracting about the reader that the student reacted to?  Will the student feel intimidated especially if the human reader is known to them as a teacher?
Is there a feeling of lack of independence for the student because they have an adult reading out their exam to them?

So does technology give a student anything better?

The answer to this question is presumably subjective depending upon the person giving the answer.

In a recent trial of technology for exams access in Cambridgeshire, ten students were given the option  to use a piece of software called SprintPlus.
Click here for more information
Click here to find out more.
The decision to do this was taken two weeks before the exams started and at the end of the exam period, nine of those students felt that it was positive to use technology to support reading exam papers.

Across the country it is widely accepted that technology can be used in exams but whilst there are guidelines for this given by the Joint Council For Qualifications  , it seems that there are no clear technology products that are recommended.  Equally there is no clear focus on how to prepare exam papers such that they can work flawlessly with technology to be read out.
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Click to visit the JCQ website.

So whilst there are developments in this area, it seems that we have a way to go before there are clearer guidelines on which technology to use.

I would be very interested to know your thoughts on this subject and would like to invite you to take part in the survey below.  If I can get enough people to complete the survey (minimum 100) then I will share the results.  Please ask others to visit this post and complete the survey as I hope that the results would be useful to all of us.

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