Special dispensation to use a computer for exams?

(24 Posts)
purpleroses Sun 01-Sep-13 11:18:54

My DS is 13, just going into Y9. He's always struggled with his writing. Handwriting very poor, very slow, and also lacks care over things such as capital letters and spelling. He's otherwise bright and his reading comprehension is very good.

On his end of term reports, several teachers noted his lack of writing was holding him back, though the English teacher seemed oblivious to any difficulties. I raised this with the school (via email) and they've been quite helpful, giving him extra handwriting resources to practice over the summer, apologising that he's had a range of supply/student teachers for English for most of this year and they've not really been that great (they've lost much of his work). Am hoping they'll give him a bit more support with his writing next year.

I asked if he would be able to use a computer at all in class (as his typing is fine) but they've, quite sensibly, said that they only do this for children who've been assessed as needing special dispensation to use computers in their exams. They've said I can ask to have DS considered for this if I want.

Has anyone done this for their DC? Is it just for those with a recognised SN disability (dyslexic, etc)? Or can a DC who just really struggles with the physical aspect of writing be considered? Would he have anything to gain from the process of being assessed, even if they then said his writing wasn't bad enough to merit special dispensation?

BeenFluffy Sun 01-Sep-13 11:28:43

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

purpleroses Sun 01-Sep-13 11:40:02

Thanks Fluffy - do you know whether the allowance for the laptop was specifically because your DD is dyslexic? My DS has never been assessed for dyslexia and doesn't really show all the traits of it (his reading's fine, etc). It's just his writing that struggles a lot.

LIZS Sun 01-Sep-13 11:44:36

ds is uses on in exams and some lessons, recommended by OT and Ed Psych. It has to be established as the norm for that child but Mr Gove is tightening up the rules on Access arrangements hmm so there may be further hoops to jump through to use it in public exams.

MollyBerry Sun 01-Sep-13 11:45:38

It's not just dyslexia. It's for anyone that struggles with that aspect of exams, as in the writing.

I've use a computer in exams and don't have dyslexia just a seeming inability to get things written out even though they are in my head.

It's worth enquiring and getting him assessed to see if he can as surely there's nothing to lose?

basildonbond Sun 01-Sep-13 11:53:32

Both my boys use a laptop for exams for different issues - ds1 has ADHD and processing issues and his handwriting, although legible, is sooooo slow.

Ds2 is dyspraxic and his handwriting is slow, v painful and the end result looks like a spider has crawled through ink - he's also not able to form letters small enough to fit in the lines of standard exercise books

Being able to type has transformed both boys' experience of school and academically they're doing really well. They both use laptops for any extended piece of writing so it is their 'normal way of working'

Ironically it's my leftie dd who has perfect handwriting...(and no issues...)

BeenFluffy Sun 01-Sep-13 12:32:17

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

kitchendiner Sun 01-Sep-13 20:32:05

I asked the school SENCO if DS could use a laptop and the answer was an immediate "yes". At the end of the day, school should want your DS to achieve to the best of their ability. DS has dyslexia but is nevertheless a good reader with excellent comprehension and is in top set English despite terrible handwriting, spelling, punctuation, organisation etc. Does your DS do his homework on a laptop? You could use this as evidence of the discrepancy between his written work and what he is capable of on a laptop.

Anthracite Sun 01-Sep-13 20:40:09

The objective of access arrangements is to enable the student to get what is in their head onto paper.

He should be able to use a laptop in exams if it his normal way of working. It is pretty easy for exam officers to make a case.

The laptop will alleviate handwriting problems, but he will not be allowed a spell checker.

kitchendiner Sun 01-Sep-13 20:48:27

I think the school SENCO said that DS would be able to use a spell checker which would be the same dispensation as if he were using a scribe, ie, no marks for spelling, punctuation etc.

LIZS Sun 01-Sep-13 20:49:33

Some of the functions are normally disabled for exam use , like the spell check.

Anthracite Sun 01-Sep-13 21:00:20

I don't think they are ever able to use a spell checker. If they really can't provide a comprehensible attempt at writing, they should have a scribe.

It's all about getting what is in their head onto paper. If your DS knows his stuff but is not able to express himself, the school needs to ramp up access arrangements. If his spelling is so attractions that an examiner would not be able to decipher it, he needs to use a scribe.

The school needs to demonstrate that this is his normal way of working. This means that he needs to use a scribe in his mocks, as well as having a few pieces of evidence in lessons of using a TA or teacher to scribe his answers. It is something that has to happen over the long term, so the practices should be in place from the start of the academic year.

purpleroses Sun 01-Sep-13 21:38:29

Thanks v much - that's all really helpful. He doesn't need a scribe I don't think. He can type OK, it's literally just the physical aspect of making the pen move nicely across the paper he seems to find really hard. A lack of fine motor skills maybe? Capital letters tend to be used much better when he types too - often it's hard to tell whether they're capitals or not with his handwriting as the letters vary in size so much. His spelling's not great, but it's usually possible to see what he means to say. So a computer, even without spellchecker, would be great for him.

The school did say that if he was going to be assessed to use a computer in exams we'd need to get the process moving soon - maybe that's because, as some of you have said, they would need to demonstrate that it was his normal way of working. DS doesn't know anyone else who's allowed to use computers at school, but he's in all the top sets so maybe it's not so common in his sets. I don't think the school have much TA support in his sets.

Uninformed Mon 02-Sep-13 17:12:26

We had the same problem with our school. It is the school that is the problem NOT the exam board, JCQ, OFQAL or any one else.

Use the teachers comments that your D/S has difficulty with his writing and see the Head about this. (We went in with his exercise books full of comments about his writing). Push for an assessment and ultimately take it to the governors and beyond, do not be frightened of the Head.

D/S will need to use the computer during lessons to qualify for using it for an exam. The rules are "that it is the child's normal way to work".

When you get approval, they will be sly by making it difficult for the child to pick up one of their computers at the start of each lesson.
We bought a second hand small laptop with a good battery for his classwork, without Word but just a text editor. He has to use one of their computers for the exam.

Below is a link to Joint Council of Qualifications concerning access;
Open the PDF and read section 5.8.

www.jcq.org.uk/exams-office/access-arrangements-and-special-consideration/regulations-and-guidance/access-arrangements-and-reasonable-adjustments-2013-2014

Also see FAQS/Access arrangements on the JCQ website

GraceAndVirtue Mon 02-Sep-13 17:21:20

DS used a computer in his recent A level exams. He suffers from tendonitis in his hands so he got a very brief note to that effect from the doctor, just days before he sat the January exams.

The school were brilliant and sorted everything very quickly. As tendonitis is often a short-term problem, DS asked them whether he needed to get a new doctor's note for the summer exam but they were fine with the one he already had. It was a very poorly written note and actually said that DS had problems with writing and typing, but school took his word over the doctor's.

There were a few teething problems in the earlier exams, not least because one of his subjects was French and the list of shortcuts he was given for accents was completely wrong, but I don't think he'd be setting off for the university of his choice next week if the poor examiners had had to try and decipher his shocking handwriting.

Anthracite Mon 02-Sep-13 17:39:32

There were a few teething problems in the earlier exams, not least because one of his subjects was French and the list of shortcuts he was given for accents was completely wrong

That's why it needs to be his normal way of working.

Even if there is a short term need, use of laptop usually comes with 25% extra time, so enough to get him through the accent problem.

LIZS Mon 02-Sep-13 17:42:20

Dear Mr Gove is trying to reduce the number of those eligible for the extra time though hmm There are revised processing criteria to be met. Surely it won't be long before he attacks laptop users too.

buss Mon 02-Sep-13 17:43:32

the school are wrong - there is no need to assess a child to use a word processor in exams any more. It's a bit worrying that they aren't aware of that.

A word processor should be used when it is the child's usual way of working in the classroom.

camptownraces Mon 02-Sep-13 17:50:45

Scribes are for candidates who CAN'T type.

Spellchecker is permitted with word processing in exams if, and only if, the candidate's spelling is in the "below average" range, and this causes a large percentage of words to be illegible.

Otherwise, spellcheck has to be disabled, or 'word pad' or 'notepad' is used.

As Molly says, a diagnosis of dyslexia is not required.

School should assess his handwriting quality, its speed and his spelling.

Anthracite Mon 02-Sep-13 17:59:46

There is an access arrangement where a scribe (eg teacher/TA) can copy out the handwritten script with legible writing and correct spellings. They have to be familiar with the student's handwriting, and the transcription has to be attached to the original script. They can't change the phrasing.

The underlying principle is getting what is in the student's head onto paper.

VegasIsBest Mon 02-Sep-13 18:06:38

Using a laptop has transformed my son's education.
It's really worth pushing if you think your son is just not able to get his thoughts down writing by hand. My son was assessed as dyspraxic which explains his poor fine motor skills. Hope you get this sorted out.

purpleroses Mon 02-Sep-13 18:57:29

That's really interesting that it's supposed to be his "normal way of working" - the school seem to have this back to front in what they've told me and are saying that they won't let it become his normal way of working unless they are already confident that he will be allowed to use them in exams.

Thanks for the link uninformed - I see that it actually includes "poor handwriting" as an example of the sort of reason a school can decide to allow a candidate to use a word processor.

And lots of positive stories here about the benefits of using them - think I will speak to my DS again and then email the school.

buss Mon 02-Sep-13 20:03:46

it used to be the case that schools had to assess for the use of a laptop but that was changed about 3 years ago

camptownraces Mon 02-Sep-13 20:35:26

What Anthracite describes is now known as provision of a transcript, and as she says is for use with poor handwriting.

However many students are liberated by the opportunity to word process, providing their typing is reasonable.

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