to think that in school class conditions and exam conditions are different.

(15 Posts)
bigmouthstrikesagain Mon 03-Oct-16 11:45:17

I am trying to get my head around the possible adjustments that can be made for pupils with SEN in exams. I have been reading the JCQ guidelines and SEN code of practice and info on the NAS site to prepare for my meeting with the school SENCo and hopefully get the the bottom of what is appropriate support for ds in this exam.

I am reading JCQ SEN access adjustments guidelines and it uses examples of different adjustments for pupils taking GCSEs etc. like a scribe or word processor as only appropriate if it "reflects his normal way of working within the centre " .

I am assuming that means they use a scribe in class or a word processor. Now that is entirely reasonable with SEN such as Dyslexia, but in my ds case he is an Anxious HF ASD with tic disorder and sensory issues. His conditions and mood and environment impact his needs daily. So what is 'normal' is not so easy to define. He is struggling with the legibility of his handwriting and the school just put him in handwriting club, this is not going to improve his writing. His awkward way of holding his pen is due to his sensory issues and lack of spatial awareness, he cannot bear to have things touching his wrists and he holds his pen to avoid touching the page (an awkward crabbed hand position) he forms his letters in a weird and wonderful way and refuses to learn an alternative (rigidity and anxiety and sensory issues all apply here!). The fact he manages in class is due to the familiarity of the teachers with his issues and handwriting and he types all his homework where possible.

This year (y8) he is in top sets and is expected to take a 'half' GCSE in Thinking and reasoning skills in the Summer. He has been informed that he will not be able to use a scribe (as he did in the SATs) and that there is a concern that his handwriting legibility will prevent him from doing well in the final exam. They have not offered any support over than handwriting club hmm.

So the Joint Qualifications Committee guidelines talk about 'normal for the centre' (school I suppose they mean), as criteria for support in exams. By this I can only assume that DS will not be eligible for a scribe or a word processor - despite the fact that Autism is very much affected by the individuals circumstances ds will be anxious in the exam, that will increase his tics and his sensory issues so his handwriting will be worse. Exam conditions are not 'normal' so why are the guidelines so rigid? or have I misinterpreted? Any thoughts or experience would be brilliant.

I have requested a meeting to try and work out what to do. Ds is obviously my main concern, I also have a younger dd (with ASD) due to do her SATs this spring so I am going to be faced with 2 dc with exams to worry about. Which is nice confused. I will also need to work out how to approach the issue when ds is doing his GCSEs proper in 3 years.

TeenAndTween Mon 03-Oct-16 12:23:05

Can he not use a laptop/notebook in class too and have that as his usual way of working?

My DD (dyspraxia) used a mixture of handwritten and typed. So typed for longer writing exams (English, History), and handwritten for ones with less writing (Science, Maths).

In school from y10 onwards she had a small notebook type laptop that she used for taking notes in class.

Balletgirlmum Mon 03-Oct-16 12:29:26

My DS is in year 8 & has asd. He has always processing speed & dysfluent handwriting. It hurts him to write for long periods & he has fine motor coordination issues

His normal way of working is to use an iPad or laptop to make notes & write. He does some shorter pieces of handwriting but school have to document using his iPad as his normal way of working.

Like teens child he uses a laptop in exams that are writing heavy but not for subjects like maths.

I would point out that being able to use the iPad in class has revolutionised his learning. He processes information so much better.

mumsneedwine Mon 03-Oct-16 12:32:22

The guidelines are rigid to prevent cheating - you'd be surprised what some schools can try. At the end of year 9 your school should assess students who may require specific requirements and these would need to then be used for year 10 and 11. The reason for the timing is that the assessment is valid for 2 years, so can't be done earlier if to be used for GCSEs. And they are expensive.
A laptop is usually required due (not exclusive list) to handwriting or severe dyslexia issues. A scribe for similar and a reader for reading and processing issues. As each child is an individual their needs have to assessed specifically for them. If you are capable of producing essays in class then you are for exams. If it's an anxiety issue then exams can be taken in a room on your own.
It's complex and school have to give evidence to the exam board that any adjustments are justified.

Balletgirlmum Mon 03-Oct-16 12:44:01

That makes sense mums.

My DS was ending each lesson with a completely blank piece of paper for subjects like English. Occasionally he might have his name, date & an opening few words!

SuburbanRhonda Mon 03-Oct-16 12:47:03

My DS was assessed in yr9 due up his inability to write quickly enough. He was scoring really highly on the first half of every exam but just wasn't able to finish in time. He used a laptop, with spell-check and other functions disabled, for all his GCSEs.

He gave the email from the Senco informing him of this arrangement to his sixth form college and they continued it for A level. He has no SEN, just a physical inability to write quickly enough.

Witchend Mon 03-Oct-16 12:47:19

If they just said you could use adjustments if you felt they'd be helpful then lots of people would claim them when not needed. Just like dbro's school used to push people through their own special dyslexic test to give them more time in exams. In those days the exam boards were happy to accept it though.

But also I believe that if you're not used to working with a scribe it can be very difficult, so I don't think just for exams would be a good idea.

Balletgirlmum Mon 03-Oct-16 12:48:28

As ds's assessments were in year 7 I'm guessing he'll have to go through it again then at the end of year 9?to be honest paying for the ed psych assessment was worth it because it's made him realise he isn't thick & led into camhs involvement.

bigmouthstrikesagain Mon 03-Oct-16 12:55:28

Thank you for replies all.

That it makes sense for guidelines to be rigid is not in question but the problem I have is the definition of 'normal' as that fluctuates for a developing child. Obviously it makes sense for the school to assess needs thoroughly in year 9 (but ds is y8 and will be moving to Upper school in Sept so ds will be in a new school as well as new year group for that assessment). He has had an Educational Psychologist assessment in school recently but that was for his ASD etc. diagnosis and will not have touched on his handwriting - though I have not seen the report so I am guessing! As promised reports have not been sent to me as yet.

If it is only extra time that ds can be allowed for his exam - that may help make the exam less stressful but his handwriting is probably still going to be pretty illegible -- this is why he had a separate room and a scribe during the SATs. I am not sure why the school think handwriting club is now the answer - they will have to justify that to me and also why a laptop/ word processor is not a good idea generally for ds in class and if it is why he is not using one - the school has i pads and laptops all over the c=place - it is not like my day when we had one bbc computer in the school and a computer lesson comprised of no actual computers, 11101001 and decision trees!grin

Balletgirlmum Mon 03-Oct-16 13:01:04

Yo need to check the report.

Ds's asd assessment included the DASH handwriting fluency test & also various other tests which flagged up processing speed under a certain centile.

It was these result that triggered the extra time & laptop.

Balletgirlmum Mon 03-Oct-16 13:03:28

We did have to quite firmly push for it in the meeting though - I was able to say that the ed psych specifically reccomended it.

bigmouthstrikesagain Mon 03-Oct-16 13:15:05

SEN should not just be defined by lack of work produced but also by the potential of an individual pupil, if a child is producing sufficient work and then they may be assumed to be doing well and not needing intervention but if they could meet their potential by using a word processor ... It seems retrograde to be insisting on all work to be written when the world has moved to using other means of communication. MN would be very quiet if we had to hand write and post all our random thoughts!

Dawndonnaagain Mon 03-Oct-16 13:37:50

It is a reasonable adjustment for somebody with an ASC to have 25% extra time for exams and for them to word process their exam. If your child is word processing homework, this should count toward their normal way of working. Keep pushing.
As an aside, my dd, also with an ASC, did manage to change her handwriting for exams. It made a difference.

Balletgirlmum Mon 03-Oct-16 13:42:28

It's about putting everyone on an even footing rather than about the type of technology the world today uses.

So a child with a disability or SEN that affects their ability to write by hand should not be disadvantaged therefore they are allowed the extra time and/or use of a laptop or scribe to enable them to demonstrate their ability in an exam.

Similarly a child with dyslexia or slow processing speed.

It's all about centiles & you can be below average but to qualify you have to be below a certain centile.

Balletgirlmum Mon 03-Oct-16 13:46:14

Then you get little madams like dd (she has an asd too & did used to have very poor handwriting but her issues were different, using a special pen has enabled her to write much more fluently. She did qualify for extra time when she was assessed in year 7 but I very much doubt would now.

Anyway this year she merrily walked into school afte having overheard us talking about DS & his assessments & informed all her teachers she was using a laptop for all lessons as it needed to become he normal way of working!!!

We roasted her & pointed out its things like that which make schools & exam boards more cautious for the kids that bed it!

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