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How do I apply for DS1 to do his IGCSEs using a computer instead of writing?

(38 Posts)
ToffeeWhirl Fri 01-Feb-13 10:03:34

This is still a long way off, as he is not working on any yet, but I have been wondering what the procedure is for this and whether anyone here has any experience of this.

At the moment, DS1 (13) practises his handwriting for five to ten minutes daily. He can't do more than that because it makes his hand hurt too much. He has been doing the daily practise for four months now and his writing has improved in the handwriting exercise books, but as soon as he has to write something himself, it's all over the place. He is embarrassed by it, but he just can't seem to improve.

He is using a Nessy Touchtyping programme (for dyslexics) as this is clearly a skill that he is going to need. I get him to do as much of his work as possible on the computer as he can then do work that he is proud of. The difference between what he writes and what he types is extraordinary. You would think it was a different child.

Incidentally, he is on a waiting list to see an OT for his handwriting issues. We have been waiting over a year now.

So, when the time comes for DS1 to sit exams, and assuming his writing hasn't caught up by then (which I don't think it will. Interestingly, his Dad also has poor handwriting and struggled with writing in exams at school), how do I apply for dispensation for him to type answers, rather than write them? Do I write to the exam board and ask them? Will they provide a computer, or will we have to bring one ourselves? What sort of evidence will we need to provide to prove that DS needs this opportunity? How easy is it to get permission?

I am worrying about it now because it has dawned on me that he really isn't going to be able to demonstrate his abilities through writing. Can anyone put my mind at rest?

ToffeeWhirl Wed 06-Feb-13 10:09:38

Thank you for the information on OU courses and costs, SDeuchars. That is very useful to know. Thanks too for the info on courses for 14/15 year olds. It is really helpful to know what Ds's options are.

morethan - that must have been very rewarding work. It's good to know that DS1 will be able to access support at FE college. Will have a look for the Wolffe review, thanks.

MariscallRoad Tue 05-Feb-13 15:38:43

SDeuchars thanks for the info I ll tell friends

morethanpotatoprints Tue 05-Feb-13 13:32:07


Sorry, I meant to say. The whole Wolffe review makes very good reading, and you should be able to access it easily enough.
I think provision in the colleges will be much better for dc who have experienced H.ed. I really don't like the idea of dd going to secondary school even though she's only 9.
Also don't forget if you find a local college supplying the full 14 - 19 provision there will be more variety in the basic English and Maths qualifications equivalent to GCSE's and more than likely taught through Key Skills. My experience here found dedicated staff used to interacting with young people who struggle in these areas. They are trained to be more sympathetic unlike secondary school teachers.

morethanpotatoprints Tue 05-Feb-13 13:22:13


The majority of my students needed some type of support as many had been let down by the system. It really shocked and upset me as I thought the system had improved since my school days.
Why it is left for FE providers to pick up the pieces is a mystery to me, obviously apart from the financial aspect.
For the short time I could stand the work it was so rewarding to know I had a part in making these young peoples chances in life increase. I see some around town now in Travel Agents, Retail, Leisure Centres. Some of these were uncontrolable to begin with. Say something they didn't like and you saw a chair thrown across the room, regular out bursts. Usually during an observation, or inspection.

SDeuchars Tue 05-Feb-13 13:20:39

Sorry, try this: Information about the new 14-16 provision

SDeuchars Tue 05-Feb-13 13:19:58

From September 2013, most colleges in England will be able to enrol 14 and 15 year olds without the LA or a school being involved. They will be able to access funding directly from the DfE.

[ Information about the new 14-16 provision]

mummytime Tue 05-Feb-13 12:46:59

A lot of colleges do have 14-16 year olds, but mainly as day release from schools. For example at my DCs school, as part of their Options they can choose to do a one or two day college course instead of other subjects (normally Bricklaying or Hairdressing or Animal Care etc.).

SDeuchars Tue 05-Feb-13 12:42:06

Yes, we started at 13-14. But that was because we were using OU courses instead of GCSEs and A-levels to prove to bricks-and-mortar universities that the DC were able to do their courses.

There is no change to the age at which you can apply.

The change is that OU courses are now funded from the same pot as other university courses. That means that any OU courses taken impact on the amount of loan available for other university courses, which would likely mean having to pay fees upfront at some point (either for OU or for the final year at ANO uni).

The other effect is that 120 credits in OU modules now cost £5000pa, which translates to a single 30-credit module costing £1250 instead of the £450 it cost two years ago.

However, if a young person is not going to go to a bricks-and-mortar university but would like a degree, then they can start on the OU as soon as they like (although I'd recommend being careful what you start with and not starting until 13-14 because of the maturity required to get the most out of some courses).

ToffeeWhirl Tue 05-Feb-13 10:07:54

Thank you, SDeuchars, I will bear that in mind. Do you know at what age students can apply? I think I read that your DC were able to start doing courses quite young, but that the rules have now been changed so that you have to be older. Not that DS1 is anywhere near ready for that level of learning yet.

SDeuchars Mon 04-Feb-13 19:32:57

FWIW, if in two or three years you still think college will be too much, the OU may be a good option - it takes people with no qualifications, you can get a full degree and it is very good at providing help, including physical aids to support conditions such as dyslexia. No-one gets upset if students do not attend tutorials and individuals may be assessed for additional one-to-one assistance.

(I have been an associate lecturer for 12 years and have also been a student and had two home ed DC study with the OU.)

ToffeeWhirl Mon 04-Feb-13 00:36:42

I'm not sure about that SDeuchers. I would hope he'd be ready, but there is no guarantee. Anxiety remains a big issue for him, so going to college would be a huge challenge. However, he is still only 13 and has made a lot of progress in the last few months, so who knows? Thank you for the suggestion and I will bear that option in mind. I would certainly like to delegate all the arrangements to somebody else if I could.

Do you know if all colleges take children of 15 and 16? I have looked at the website of our local college and it doesn't mention it. However, I have recently received a copy of a letter from the local college via my local home ed group, which states that: "from September 2013, we will be able to enroll 14 and 15 year olds as full time students. We are really excited about this as we have worked with part-time students of this age for many years." So this suggests that there is an option available already. The full-time option is based at a college a long way away and I'm not sure DS would be able to cope with that.

Maris - I like the idea of a mentor for DS. He will need someone to help him, that's for sure.

more - it's really odd that mature students get so much support when school children don't confused. I'm glad you had such great advice and support yourself though. grin at the printer coming to visit.

morethanpotatoprints Sun 03-Feb-13 20:30:00


The free printer did not come round to visit me, lol. smile. See, I try so hard and still my bad English haunts me.

morethanpotatoprints Sun 03-Feb-13 20:28:22

Toffee I would second what SDeuchars said regarding F.E. and H.E. As a mature student I was assessed, diagnosed and given support all within a matter of weeks. I received a free laptop, (top of the range), software including read & write and dragon. A free printer and a company even came round to the house to install it all.
I've probably told you this before but it was ironic being diagnosed alongside some of my students.
Children seem to have to wait far too long to access the support they need.
It may be worth looking at the 14 - 19 provision at a FE college, not sure how this works now though.

MariscallRoad Sun 03-Feb-13 18:33:51

In HE they get mentors which is v good!

MariscallRoad Sun 03-Feb-13 18:28:15

I think Deuchars is right. Good idea smile.

SDeuchars Sun 03-Feb-13 15:14:54

Sorry, that last HE meant higher education, not home ed.

SDeuchars Sun 03-Feb-13 15:14:30

Do you think DS may be ready to go to college before he is ready to take exams? Given what you have said, I'm wondering if it may be easier (if he can cope with it) for him to go into college at 15 or 16 without any exams and let them deal with the arrangements. It is often easier to get accommodations in FE and HE than in school (and certainly easier than for independent candidates).

ToffeeWhirl Sat 02-Feb-13 17:51:57

You are all brilliant grin. I feel much more hopeful now. I was beginning to get a panicky feeling whenever I imagined the exams.

Just cooking dinner, but will come back and read properly when DC are in bed. Thanks all.

streakybacon Sat 02-Feb-13 17:37:46

Oh, and yes, he's doing IGCSEs. It hasn't been straightforward but far easier than it might have been as we have an excellent exam centre who are very keen to help. Our local LA were rubbish and hadn't the first clue about how home educators should go about exams. In practice, it's far better to deal directly with the centre's SENCo and exam officer as they'll know exactly what they require from you.

streakybacon Sat 02-Feb-13 17:35:54

Toffee I've been planning this for a long time and gathering evidence for well over a year. I first spoke with the exam centre's SENCo about 18 months ago and have gone over JCQ guidelines so that I've been gathering the right kind of information for when it's needed. Like you, we don't have a statement for my son but LA have allowed access to Ed Psych to do an exam arrangements assessment, but that only goes towards the final application.

If you want extra time, scribe or other 'big' allowances you do need a statement or EP report that justifies it. You can't just say it's normal way of working for that - it has to be evidenced. Keyboard yes - the exam centre doesn't have to make a formal application for that and can just agree to it at SENCo level.

Even once you have the arrangements in place it's still not straightforward. My son will be taking Physics and Chemistry exams in the summer but won't be able to use a keyboard because the exam centre uses Wordpad for keyboard allowances and it doesn't allow for scientific notation, equations etc.

It might be worth having a look at some of the past papers as well, so you can see how the exams are laid out and know exactly what kind of problems your son is likely to face.

Jamillalliamilli Sat 02-Feb-13 16:26:35

Almost ideally the SENCO will do all the right things for your child, however you may need to work with the SENCO to ensure most things are in place at the beginning of whichever exam syllabus is being taken and they are documenting the ‘picture of need’ and expect to be organising access arrangements for them with the exam’s officer closer to the date.

Jamillalliamilli Sat 02-Feb-13 16:20:24

Hi Toffee, we’re currently doing A levels having done both IGCSE’s and GCSE’s.

There are ways of submitting coursework as HE, (we have) but they are very hard going, and can (and anecdotally often are) marked down. You can also do ISA’s (science) through any school or college that will co-operate, but IGCSE’s are a lot simpler, and stress free. (and currently more highly regarded by uni’s if that may be applicable at some point)

Assuming all current plans go ahead by the time your ds sits the system will likely have changed again, (but I’ll probably still be on the other thread!) but please don’t worry too much.

At the moment all you need to be doing is keeping basic evidence of it being his normal method of working and any paperwork that gives speeds, accuracy, or reasons for difficulties, ed psych reports etc, and keeping it well filed so you can show the history easily. (this isn’t essential but makes it all much simpler later) Your own daily diary is fine if it’s laid out well enough, (note that ‘catch up he file’ you see in my fly list, it includes his struggles with writing, typing speeds, and remedial work. :-))

There are two ‘types’ of access arrangements candidates: those who are disabled (within the meaning of the 2010 Equality Act ) and those with LD’s. If the candidate is both always go down the medical (disabled) route.

As Streaky says it’s all on the JCQ site, (it’s known as the ‘pink book’ in education circles) but is always subject to future changes: (for those needing extra time, sometimes starting at Page 7 and 8’s visual chart’s and working backwards can be helpful)

Often the simplest way (including if it’s medical tbh) currently to ensure smooth dealings is to have recent* standardised EP test scores evidencing the needs, and basic report, copy of form JCQ AA 8 (download from JCQ here: ) with the right bits filled and pre-signed by EP (allows the exam centre to use it or as evidence for their own) available to the exam centre along with your records of normal method of working available to them.
This allows you to make it easier for any exam centre to accommodate the candidate, and make them happier to let them sit. (Be aware access arrangement candidates have earlier cut of entrance dates than standard, your centre’s exam’s officer will know them or you can ask your exam board)

*A level candidates who’ve turned 18 or will have by exam date, need an adult EP standardised test, as the standard ones only cover to 17, even if the candidate is statemented to need access arrangements.

The exam centre must provide the computer readied for exam conditions, ie ‘cleaned’ and internet etc disabled. (if a very disabled child is using an adapted one, there’s a huge process to get the computer checked and exam ready) If there’s an issue with physical need for laptop/ built in/separate key board make sure they’re aware early. The easier and least grief you make the exam centre’s life, the more likely to be let sit there, and the more likely they are to accommodate future HE/ HE SEN students. smile

Hth a bit.

mummytime Sat 02-Feb-13 10:44:03

You could also talk to someone like the NEC (you don't have to buy their course) to see what you would have to do to get accommodations (the technical term) for your DS if he did his iGCSEs with them.

I would also investigate alternative courses, and look at where he wants to get to, and what qualifications he really needs.

ToffeeWhirl Sat 02-Feb-13 10:38:12

I think if he has a writing aid as his normal mode of work at school, almost, then it will be quite straightforward for him to get that in exams too. As your son is at school, the teachers (SENCO, maybe?) should sort it all out for him, although you may need to nag encourage them. If your son is not able to show his true potential without a writing aid, then he should be entitled to one.

almostanotherday Sat 02-Feb-13 10:20:28

Reading this and wondering if I could do the same for my son, his school has said they will be sorting him out a writing aid over the next few week due to dyspraxia and ADD.

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