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A Level debacle. Lack of SEND. How did school calculate reasonable adjustments?

(12 Posts)
Anamarav Wed 02-Sep-20 11:20:01


Not posted here before. Bit weird to be doing so now my dd is 18. But here goes. She had required SEND support since she was in pre school - when she stopped talking. We eventually got a Speech &lang pathologist to diagnose selective mutism, it was always in the back of my mind that she was autistic though. Anyway we went through primary with no major problems with great send support & ongoing speech and language therapy. It’s when we started Secondary that things went downhill. Speech and language therapy got cut - it was 2013- and send was really hard to get hold of. She had some 1:1 support in year 7 but it stopped in yr8. I asked for another referral to SLT for dd but to this day have not received anything. Yr8 was horrific for her, she was bullied for the huge crime of being quiet, I would tell the school, the school would tell off the kids bullying her and they would label her a snitch. Anyway got through it, when she was doing GCSEs she took a test run by SEND who recommended she required 25% extra time in exams and rest breaks. There was zero information apart from this. Her younger cousin had been diagnosed with autism and displayed exactly the same behaviours as her when she was that age (2-3). But I was informed that you can’t have selective mutism and autism. I did request more information and support from SEND at school but was met with brick walls. Anyway with the extra time she managed to ace her GCSEs- she had been predicted levels 2-3 and got 7 good grades from 5-7. It was too late to go to the sixth form of our choice & she went to her Secondary’s sixth form. I asked for more support from send again and it was even harder to get. What was concerning even more was there was no info on SEND in their 6th form prospectus. Like it’s not available- or of it is Then it’s something the school needs to hide away. In the meantime doing ALevels she felt picked on by teachers. They would ask her questions and she felt put on the spot, increasing anxiety, the teachers were concerned that she didn’t know the subject and pushed her more which again increased anxiety making her freeze. I spoke to head of 6th form & they advised she see a learning mentor, who was the same person who disciplined students when they got out of line by shouting at them. So completely inappropriate for someone with selective mutism or autism. Anyway since she started ALevels the advice regarding autism and selective mutism changed as well as an increased recognition of girls with autism being missed and misdiagnosed. So I requested a referral for an assessment. Anyway for ALevel results she was very disappointed with CDD. We were informed that these were CAGs. Furthermore we were told she would not be able to resit the year. And we Would have to apply as private candidates to do exams. So I appealed on the basis of discrimination. That was over 2weeks ago and I haven’t heard anything yet, despite reminder emails and phone calls. I went through all her homework which was all As & Bs, questioned her on verbal feedback which was all good. I found her timed assessments were not very good (E-B) but she did not get extra time for these and really struggled to finish them. The teachers were well aware but not too concerned as assessments were just exam prep and she would get extra time in exams (hindsight!). Her mocks were poorly planned and her extra time meant if she had more than one exam per day, she wouldn’t get lunch.

I called the exam board asking info on the way CAGs were calculated, specifically when it came to reasonable adjustments. I was shocked and disturbed to find out there was no national guidelines on this and schools made their own calculations in setting out how reasonable adjustments would affect CAGs. I called OFQUAL to confirm this and was told exactly the same thing. How is this possible? It seriously seems like the school have taken 10 added another 10 and come up with 2. What I’m left with a devastated girl, can’t into the uni she wanted. She wants to do the exams but not in the autumn, she does require extra time for processing and cramming really does not work for her, do autumn is not a good option. We are looking for another exam centre & have started online tuition but it’s not something I can afford. Sorry for the length of this. Anyone in a similar position? What’s the deal with reasonable adjustments? Why is there no actual guidance?

OP’s posts: |
AuntyFungal Wed 02-Sep-20 12:18:10

Gov SEND Code of Practice
Lengthy doc but broken into easy chunks.

Have you ever seen or have school ever referred to this doc OP?

What is it that you’d like to focus on?
* exam resits - given that send code was not applied?
* re-take upper 6th - no appropriate send support given?
* ASD assessment - the argument here is if no accoms given for mocks, how can they assess the impact on grades / send qualifications of teacher assessors?
* A-Level grade appeal - as no accoms for mocks (as there should have been)?

The assessment and diagnosis will affect the type of accommodations that the JCQ will allow but some are at the discretion of the school
ie time, reader, scribe = JCQ
timings between exams allowing for extra time & lunch/rest breaks = school.

Some stuff to think about:
* If DD doesn’t yet have an ASD diagnosis then concentrate on getting the assessment. This will open different help pathways at uni. DD will be an adult and you will have difficulty accessing info for and about her re the uni. Better that this is in place before start.

* Who will be doing the ASD assessment? A (clinical) psych, given her co-morbidity rather than an Ed psych would be more appropriate.

* The SEND Code is very clear.
- the doc is statutory ie their legal duties. Not guidance as in ‘would be nice to do’.
- if they do not offer help, they must make the argument for why not.
- lack of £ is not always an argument for no help. Reasonable Adjustments. Otherwise every school & body could argue they don’t have the £ to help.
- help is anticipatory not reactive. As DD had a diagnosis of mutism (and suspected ASD) the school should have put measures in place to help & had a mechanism to measure their effectiveness (an IEP).
- IEP. The school doesn’t have to produce an IEP but it does have to produce a suitable document.

* from the mutism diagnosis what were the recommendations (send accoms) - did school follow them?

* if school were not following guidance, do you want to keep DD at the same school? Are there any other schools she could move to?

* do you want to send DD to uni this year, given all the potential Covid problems?

Keep all correspondence with the school / LEA by email. Follow up meetings with email notes.

Get yourself over to the SEND board - lots of lovely knowledgeable peeps to help you draft a plan & letters.

Anamarav Wed 02-Sep-20 20:48:28

Hello AuntyFungal,

Thanks for your reply.
I’ve never seen the 2015 Gov Send code of practice. Thank you for the link.

To tell the truth we haven’t decided on next steps. DD does want to prove to school that they were wrong and sit the ALevel exam in the summer. I am disgusted with the school for not accommodating her with this considering the lack of support she received. So I’m looking for school to change their minds about either her CAGs or regarding sitting exams in the summer- ideally as an enrolled student not as a private candidate.

With regards to the potential ASD diagnosis, I’m not sure as in the past I’ve always felt it was more selective mutism as she would speak to me - just not anyone else- what causes some doubt though is girls do mask autism and maybe I have a different idea myself on how much is enough talking. When her cousin was diagnosed though it really rang alarm bells. Plus it’s about the time when she was assessed to require extra time. The school should have given some information to us regarding this. Extra time is only given to students who really struggle- the guidance says 85 points of what a “normal” person would expect to do. A Form 8 was probably sent to the exam board - but it was sent without my knowledge or consent. The extra time probably indicates a problem with processing speed, and this is something I’ve noticed in her. She thinks deeply but slowly. The not talking stage she went through when she was 3 left her with language development delay and I’m sure it affected verbal reasoning. I’m not certain however what an autism diagnosis at this stage will accomplish. Will it help or hinder to have a label? It will be very hard to get now she’s an adult as you point out. But I do see the possibility of having a well recognised diagnosis of autism rather than the much misunderstood and hardly known selective mutism diagnosis.

The point is she really needed the extra time. It was so obvious during any timed assessments in class that she seriously struggled to finish. I wish I could find out more details on what is meant by OFQUAL stating:^ Where a disabled student would have had a reasonable adjustment for their exams, centres were asked to take account of the student’s likely achievement with this adjustment in place. Reasonable adjustments are changes made to an assessment or to the way an assessment is conducted that reduce or remove a disadvantage caused by a student’s disability. They are needed because some disabilities can make it harder for students to show what they know and can do in an assessment than it would have been had the student not been disabled ^

It doesn’t help when what really happens is schools are left to their devices and make up their own calculations in how reasonable adjustments are applied to CAG’s particularly when the use of timed assessments are probably not taken into account in a fair manner. So my appeal is based on the Centre (school) did not take into account her likely achievement with the adjustment (extra time + rest breaks) in place.

There is a serious lack of options overall on next steps. As others have pointed out the small chance of appeals being effective at this stage considering the guidance from OFQUAL means our only option has been to claim discrimination. Yes there is the small chance that school got it wrong when not applying reasonable adjustments to in class timed assessments but realistically?

Other options we have been met with shut doors on any sixth form or FE institution who will allow students to retake yr13. Only the ridiculously expensive £30 grand private colleges were willing to speak to us. So we’ve been left with going to the exam board as our next step, as school will not engage with us.

I will check out the SEN board on mumsnet. I don’t know if this thread can be moved there or not.

OP’s posts: |
winterfruit Wed 02-Sep-20 21:28:54

hi OP, I'm not clear whether she had additional time already allowed or whether this would have been a new thing you were arguing for this past year? I guess what I am saying is that reasonable adjustments cant have been expected to have been considered in CAGs unless they were already in place?

Anamarav Wed 02-Sep-20 21:53:03

Hi winterfruit

Thanks for your reply. Yes she already had the extra time + rest breaks in place well before A Levels started - back from when she was doing GCSEs. It’s how those reasonable adjustments were applied which is getting to me. The zero information I’m getting from school, exam boards and even OFQUAL themselves. It just seems weird and disturbing to me that there was no guidance- no best practice- no standardisation in between schools on something which is so important. These are the most vulnerable young people- the ones for whatever reason need support to realise their potential and reasonable adjustments are vital, so if they are not applied correctly or factored in correctly when assessing potential grades...

OP’s posts: |
titchy Thu 03-Sep-20 11:22:29

The process of awarding CAGs wasn't 'this is this kid's grade, as we know they're entitled to extra time we'll give them one grade higher'. Teachers were supposed to award the grade they thought the student would get in the exam, with any special arrangements in place.

Personally given she's got CDD, which to be honest seems a reasonable reflection of a child with a 5-7 GCSE profile, I'd be looking at applying for a degree with a Foundation Year, either for next year, or if she's quick to start this year.

The university disability services won't use any assessment done at school. They'll do their own assessment and implement adjustments accordingly, so pursuing that through school may not be helpful.

Anamarav Thu 03-Sep-20 14:22:13

Hi titchy

Thanks for your reply. As far as I’m aware CAGs were based on:
Mock results
In class timed assessments

It’s mock results and in class assessments- we have issue with. Mocks were poorly planned. So if there were more than 1 Papers a day, she would end up with no lunch break with extra time in place.
In class timed assessments which she really struggled with. As an example 20/50 for an assessment which she had to do in 50 minutes.- a minute a question- That is without the extra time and rest breaks she required. It’s how these assessments were used overall in calculating CAGs which I’m trying to find out? How was 25% + 5% rest breaks factored in? Because it really seems like it wasn’t. Especially since her homework was really good.

With regards to her GCSEs, my point is the teachers predicted her levels 2-4. The impression I always got was that they overlooked her as she was the quiet girl, she certainly felt that.

OP’s posts: |
Climbingallthetrees Thu 03-Sep-20 14:34:32

What grades was she expecting to get? What were her predicted grades for UCAS?

Anamarav Thu 03-Sep-20 14:57:18

Her “aspirational” grades - the ones that went to UCAS were ABB

OP’s posts: |
PetCheetah Thu 03-Sep-20 15:08:21

Would you be able to afford a private autism assessment? (Asking because of how long the waiting lists usually are.) If she is on the autistic spectrum than a diagnosis will help with getting support at university and also help her in understanding herself.

Anamarav Thu 03-Sep-20 15:48:16

Hi PetCheeta

That’s looking like a more attractive option as time goes on. I guess it would depend on how much a private assessment costs. And how reliable it is to an institution like University or Employer.

OP’s posts: |
PetCheetah Thu 03-Sep-20 16:26:39

I paid about £1700 for my DD's but prices do vary a bit. DD's still at secondary and I've had no problems getting it accepted by the LA but I did check this first as I know people sometimes have problems. I used a company that specialise in diagnosing girls and women, partly because I was very aware how much less obvious my DD's autism is than her brother's.

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