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Exams - advice please

(62 Posts)
frazzledbutcalm Wed 04-Mar-15 21:49:56

Dd1 is sitting GCSE's in a couple of months. She's already sat GCSE maths last year as she was in fast track maths set, and part of GCSE science. She has sensory processing disorder, visual stress is a huge part of it. As she's bothered by noise (papers rattling etc) she sits her exams in a different room with other SN pupils. I've asked if dd is entitled to extra time for her exams but have been told she doesn't 'meet the criteria'. Explained to me in lamens terms 'because minifrazzleds grades are good and because she's not had this problem previously to set a precedent she's not entitled'. hmm confused

So basically, because dd wasn't dx until age 14 she hasn't been sn long enough to qualify for extra help!

Anyone have any advice? Do I just leave it or push it?

NoHaudinMaWheest Wed 04-Mar-15 22:22:11

I don't know the answer to all of it but the not had SN long enough is rot. Dd only developed some of her difficulties about a year ago and the school has had no problems in getting her all the accessible arrangements she needs.

frazzledbutcalm Wed 04-Mar-15 22:35:12

Thanks no
I thought it was rubbish also, but the senco seemed very definite. Dd sits exams in a different room and her papers are printed on cream paper with larger text. But they say she definitely can't have extra time. She said as dd has not shown struggles in the past they can't do anything now.
My view is dd has struggled massively, internally and has to work twice as hard as others to make sense of anything. She still can't retain information very well and can't 'read between the lines' which is causing big problems in English.

senvet Wed 04-Mar-15 23:15:55

Oh frazzled I wish I had good news
Well actually, the one idea I have that might help is asking for dc to do exams in a room on her own, as this may reduce the noise and the stress and cannot be very contentious - I'm not sure that the school would even have to know.

Having an invigilator would be part of the cost for them but if you have any friends who are qualified teachers who might volunteer, then that could help.

I had an ep report for dd at the end of year 10, and that showed two areas below the 25th centile and the fact that there are 2 of them was what triggered extra time.

I already knew that one of the key criteria was what the school had been doing over the last year(s) to give dd a fair chance, and that the exam boards are very wary of last minute claims of sn to get extra time.

dd has hypermobility as well and touch types, so already had a typing concession.

But if you can get new evidence of previously unidentified needs, and especially if you can get two things below the 25th centile then better late than never - if you don;t ask the board, you won't get.

Oh and one other thought - if your GP gives a doctor's note about a high level of stress caused by whatever then that can be sent to the exam board and be taken into account to a small extent in marking.

Hope this helps a bit

streakybacon Thu 05-Mar-15 09:53:05

I'm a home educator and I organised access arrangements for my son's exams as an external candidate.

First step is to look at Joint Council for Qualifications website for details of current access arrangements and qualifying criteria here.

The 'newly diagnosed' thing you mention above could be a misinterpretation of 'normal way of working' which has to be established in the exam centre if arrangements are to be granted.

When points needed clarifying, I contacted both the exam board and JCQ directly and once I was certain of the guidance I took all the information to the exam centre's SENCo, as they have to process applications even for external candidates like my ds.

It may be that the school has misunderstood how access arrangements work. If you can go to them with evidence of need (or how to go about getting it, either by further assessment or medical route, with written support from doctors) and relevant advice from the exam board and/or JCQ, they will be more likely to make the application.

frazzledbutcalm Thu 05-Mar-15 18:48:08

Thanks sen and streaky
She already sits in a separate room, and has her papers on cream instead of white and with bigger text and 'normal' font.
Now that I've been mulling it over a bit ... they've put these in place for her which obviously shows her special needs, so why the absolute no over extra time? They say her grades are good so that means she's not struggling confused Yet when dd was dx with SPD her senco said she's achieved and hidden her struggles VERY well, imagine how much further she can achieve with her coloured lens glasses and extra understanding etc. She's right. Dd is getting grade B's and C's ... she's more than capable of A's but has to work and struggle so hard. She finishes some mock exams with 2 minutes to spare, 1 mock exam she couldn't answer all the questions as she ran out of time. She has to read the questions 2 or 3 times before her brain makes sense of what it means.
I'm going to write all my points on paper then go to senco. I think that's my first organised port of call?

noblegiraffe Thu 05-Mar-15 18:54:08

They've just rushed through some last minute extra time requests at my school, teachers were asked to provide evidence of candidates needing extra time in lessons e.g. A test completed in the normal time in one colour with extra time in a different colour and the difference in grades recorded.
I'm not sure when the deadline is but our evidence had to be submitted before half term so the school might consider it too late to be able to organise an application now.

streakybacon Thu 05-Mar-15 20:01:52

According to JCQ, submissions have to be in by 21st March for summer 2015. If I were you, I'd read through the access arrangements document before you go to the SENCo, to make sure you know exactly what she could be entitled to. Good luck.

frazzledbutcalm Thu 05-Mar-15 20:38:30

Thanks noble .. I don't think it's a time issue as such, she specifically said dd grades are too high to be struggling and she's not had sn long enough to prove a need for extra time. I feel dd has been let down massively since she was dx a year ago. School have known about her problems for a year, surely that's time enough? Her grades have varied hugely in lesson tests over the past 6 months. dd2 and ds2 are at different schools and they get a lot of support compared to dd1.
streaky .. I'll do that, thank you. I just want to give dd the best chance.

blankgaze Fri 06-Mar-15 08:39:12

Hi Frazzled JCQ's criteria are very black and white about what does and what does not qualify, you need to read Streaky's link and go through the criteria and make a case.

School knowing about her problems and her variation in grades etc. isn't enough, this has to be done by the book to obtain any concessions that she meets the criteria for. Once you're sure you have a rock solid foundation, approach the member of staff who deals with JCQ and let them know they need to apply as a matter of urgency and give them your reasons.
Good Luck smile

streakybacon Fri 06-Mar-15 09:14:42

Yes, this. And if you've got email from JCQ to confirm entitlement it will strengthen your case with the school. They are very approachable and will advise on how to ensure you get the right evidence to qualify. Please don't rely on the school to find out on your dd's behalf - you've no guarantees they will get it right and she could lose out as a result.

senvet Fri 06-Mar-15 09:57:40

she specifically said dd grades are too high to be struggling and she's not had sn long enough to prove a need for extra time

This is utter bollocks. The point is not how high her grades are, the point is how high should her grades be if her SEN were met.

No exam board uses a test of how high grades are in deciding on extra time.

My ds had dyslexia and dyspraxia which gave 25% extra time. Not sure how much extra he would have had if it was dyslexia alone, but definitely some. Do you have anything from an expert saying how much extra time?

Can you get something from Dyslexia Society or somewhere?

Your school needs a kick up the backside, but of course I am going to tell you to write a nicey nicey letter, saying 'good news, I have done some research and the board says that they will give extra time for dyslexia on the basis of the expert reports attached, and as I know you are rushed off your feet, I have completed all the paperwork for you'

Good to see the expert info from MN SN doing you proud

streakybacon Fri 06-Mar-15 10:15:44

Also, given that there's a time limit and your school has to submit the application by 21st March, I'd contact your experts (if you have them) ahead of the game and explain that you will require a report from them to back up your application for exam access arrangements. Most will work with you to word it as you need it (JCQ and Edexcel told me exactly what my son's consultant needed to say, and he faffed it up with some medical-ese). Get those started now and you'll be more likely to have them for the deadline.

frazzledbutcalm Fri 06-Mar-15 18:28:28

Thanks everyone, this has REALLY helped me to get my head around how to do things! I really do appreciate ALL your help and advice. I wouldn't have thought of contacting JCQ directly. I'll keep you updated on my progress. Sending flowers to you all.

streakybacon Fri 06-Mar-15 18:34:23

I'll keep an eye on how you get on. Good luck smile.

TeenAndTween Sun 08-Mar-15 12:11:18

Just to say my y11 DD finally got a dyspraxia diagnosis in December. Following this I asked regarding extra time (not expecting it), they did a test, sent it off to JQC or whatever, and she now qualifies. The extra time is for processing and organising difficulties.

She was already in a separate room due to using laptop. She is now also allowed to stand and stretch part way through exams, and is hopefully getting some papers on blue paper.

I too think the 'doing well' is a bit of a red herring. After all a B could become an A with the extra time. But I do understand that extra time is harder to come by these days.

Lifeisfun91 Mon 09-Mar-15 11:02:54

Hi, my DD is only in yr 9 so got all this to come. My step mum runs a SN school and has dealt with lots of Access arrangement requests. What she says is most school SENCO's do not understand the JCQ rules themselves. There are different routes to go and most schools just go down the same route which is standardised scores. But when a child has needs such as your DD's then it is straightforward and just need to tick the box for 'medical endurance condition' and send proof of diagnosis. So many centres just tick the dyslexia, LD box which then requires all the scores and you need 2 SS below 75 to obtain extra time.

frazzledbutcalm Wed 11-Mar-15 16:48:29

Quick update, will post more later.
Rang JQC - They wouldn't speak to me as a parent, they only speak to school sad
Rang school to arrange meeting with senco ... Tuesday next week. Senco didn't sound happy that I wanted to discuss dd further. But she agreed to meet.
School nurse came to house yesterday to discuss further testing/assessment for dd. She's going to speak to primary mental health to see if there's grounds for assessment for dd. Also being referred to OT to get some official NHS assessment of sensory processing disorder.

Will post more tonight.

streakybacon Wed 11-Mar-15 18:48:10

Did you read through the access arrangements document? There are different routes to get arrangements in place - you can have assessments done (like the school nurse is discussing) or you can get medical evidence to support the need.

I'm surprised JCQ wouldn't speak to you. Who did you speak to? I emailed a chap called Nick Lait who was very helpful:

Nick Lait
Senior Manager, Examination Services
Sixth Floor, 29 Great Peter Street, London SW1P 3LW
Telephone: 020 7638 4137
Telephone: 0759 571 0790

I'd explain you're not getting reassuring responses from your school's SENCo and you just want to check your daughter is getting the access arrangements she's entitled to. It's worth a shot.

frazzledbutcalm Wed 11-Mar-15 21:18:39

Thanks streaky ... I didn't get the name of the lady I spoke to. She was pretty grumpy and very vague in her speech. Anyway, I'll email via your link, thank you. I've had a quick look at the guidelines and I think dd could get extra time. She already gets modified papers due to sensory issues, 25% extra time is also in the list for sensory issues. I think the only problem is that she's not been given extra time in mock exams so there's no precedent to show she needs extra time iyswim. But, she got a grad G in English literature shock yet 1 mark off a grade A in English language. I've spoken to English teacher today, who was not best pleased with dd, she couldn't understand how the 2 grades could be so different. I told her dd can't understand inference based questions/reading between the lines. She just doesn't get it, never has. So when one question asked what the furnishings in the room said about the characters feelings dd was at a complete loss! So would I be to be fair! She didn't quite finish 1 mock and only finished 2 others with 3 minutes to spare, so no time for checking over etc. She was only dx with SPD a year ago so we're still learning ourselves. She got to the age of 14 not realising that what she sees on a page is not normal. All words move around and she had to read every line 4-6 times for it to make sense. She thought this was how everyone read. She couldn't understand how others would finish their work so quick.

frazzledbutcalm Wed 11-Mar-15 21:21:54

Oh, and senco said candidates who were allocated extra time were specifically not allowed extra time in English. We talked about how stupid that is, it doesn't make sense. Only I've just read on JCQ site that candidates do get extra time for English! hmm

senvet Wed 11-Mar-15 21:50:33

Senco would do better to talk out of a different orifice.
I think meeting SENCo may be time better sent if you have a head of year there or someone like that.

streakybacon Thu 12-Mar-15 07:12:30

If you've got access arrangements in place they apply across the board in all subjects. I think this is what you need to say to JCQ - that your SENCo doesn't seem to understand how access arrangements work and you'd like some solid information to give to her so that she can process your daughter's application fairly and properly.

I agree, little point in having a 1-1 meeting with the SENCo if she is adamant she knows what she's doing. You're running out of time for involving other agencies like parent partnership (and they're not always helpful - very much a postcode lottery) so I'd try asking JCQ for advice first.

Firsttheyignoreyou Thu 12-Mar-15 07:19:25

I think the mocks are your evidence of need - she couldn't finish because she didn't have enough time. So, that is one argument for granting extra time.
Teacher opinion is another - they should know if there is regularly a difference between what she can produce under timed conditions and what she does at home, for example, when she can work at her own pace. Normally, you need a consensus of teachers saying this child would benefit considerably from extra time or flipped: this student is at a severe disadvantage without that extra time. However, there is often a split because in some subjects: typically none essay ones, timing is often not an issue.
Normal way of working - it is too late to prove that.
So, you are looking for scores on processing, working memory, speed of writing that show her need. The usual tests are CTOPP, Tomal 2, Dash - the school should be able to do these or bring in a specialist assessor but it is now urgent. If she types, she still may need extra time for thinking.
Good luck fighting her corner.

frazzledbutcalm Fri 13-Mar-15 17:18:42

Thanks everyone. streaky ... I've emailed the man you recommended. He's emailed back to say he's sorry but he/JCQ can't talk to parents. He recommends I talk to Assistant/Deputy Headteacher. I've already asked dds head of year to attend the meeting I have with SENCo on Tuesday. Fingers crossed but I doubt I'm going to get anywhere. There's a bit of hope though as her head of year is absolutely lovely and has a very good rapport with the students, dd likes him a lot.

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