One in every ten children is dyslexic and many more struggle with reading and writing. Early intervention and a structured multi-sensory teaching programme can make all the difference. As a qualified teacher and member of the British Dyslexia Association, I have taught countless children to read and will help your child to become a confident and competent reader as well as helping them find ways to improve their writing and spelling.

Contact me today to find out how I can help you and your child.

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Is a dyslexia assessment needed to get help in GCSEs? And other important questions answered.

A lot of people ask me how they can get help for their children in their GCSEs. There is a very clear process but it relies on the school playing their part and on parents understanding the process. So, I've set out some frequently asked questions below, together with some answers.

Should I get my child assessed privately in order to get my child extra time and other access arrangements in exams? 

A private assessment will provide more information about your child's strengths and weaknesses and can act as a catalyst to get the school to address your child's needs. It should encourage the school to make their own assessments and shouldn't be ignored. However, please note, that schools do NOT take private assessment exam recommendations, e.g. for extra time, into account when arranging access arrangements unless the school were involved in the assessment. For this to happen, the assessor needs to contact the school SENCo/ALNCo prior to the assessment taking place. 

What sort of access arrangements are available for GCSE?

Access arrangements include lots of adaptations including exam papers printed on different coloured paper and extra time through to using speech to text software, a computer reader or having a scribe.

Who decides if my child needs access arrangements ? 

Ideally, it should be a decision made by parents, the child and teachers. Regardless of whether a child has been formally assessed, the school will decide if a child needs to be assessed for access arrangements based on their need. The idea of access arrangements is to create a level playing field so that a child is not disadvantaged by their disability. Once a child's needs have been identified, these measures must be put in place in the classroom. The JCQ ( Joint Council of  Qualifications) will then send an assessor to see if your child meets the criterion.

Do I need to pay the JCQ for the assessment?

There is no charge for a JCQ assessment. The assessor may be someone in the school who is suitably qualified.

How can I make sure that my child gets the access arrangements that I think she needs?

The short answer is: you can't. Having dyslexia, even if it has been formally diagnosed, is no guarantee that your child will get any access arrangements put in place. However, exam access arrangements are based on your child's 'normal way of working' in class. So, if they usually have beige paper handouts,  extra time in school exams or a computer reader, then they are likely to get these in the GCSE exams. It is important to get the school to follow these practices early on - ideally from the beginning of Year 10 or even earlier if possible. This means that the school have had a chance to find the right adjustments that work for your child and that they can clearly be described as being your child's 'normal way of working'.

What does 'normal way of working' mean?

Curiously, the JCQ don't expect children to be working in this way in every class and all the time as the phrase might suggest. For example, it might be that your child only uses speech to text software for essay writing. However, it has to be an established way of working that your child does regularly.

My child has been told she doesn't qualify because she has done 'too well' in her tests. What does this mean?

This is a bone of contention amongst many parents of very able children with dyslexia and why some children with dyslexia don't get any access arrangements. The school has to prove that a child is at a disadvantage without access arrangements. This involves looking at what the child's 'normal way of working' is but also involves looking at their standardised test scores. This means that if their writing, processing or reading speed is slower than would be expected for their age then the school can apply but otherwise, they can't apply for exam access arrangements. However, recently, the JCQ has begun accepting the use of a computer reader in exams for children for whom this is their 'normal way of working' - regardless of whether they have below average reading scores.

My child is set to do GCSEs next year and nothing is in place. Is it too late?

No, it's not - but you do need to get in touch with the school as soon as you can and request that they do the standardised tests and discuss what is - or should be - your child's 'normal way of working' in class. You then need to insist that they immediately put these measures in place.

I hope this helps. Essentially, the process of getting access arrangements relies on schools and parents working together. It is, of course, in a school's interest for your child to have all applicable access arrangements put in place; if they do better, it reflects well on the school. 

My tip would be to get everything in place as early as you can. Start by talking to the SEN/ALN co-ordinator. Talk about your child's needs and what they are doing to support your child. Have they done standardised tests? Can they do them? Then monitor the situation. Put things in writing - e-mail is great for keeping a paper trail. And keep reminding them about the need for access arrangements. High school can be a busy place and, sadly, children can slip through the net.

Want to know more? Contact me today to get your child the help and support they need to succeed. 

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