New Scheme to Benefit Leaving Cert Students

There's severe disruption to some students who face a new unqualified teacher every week.

Around 1,000 more Leaving Certificate students will benefit from recent changes to the Reasonable Accommodation at the Certificate Examinations (RACE) scheme.

The changes came following controversy outlined in a report from the Office of the Ombudsman for Children Niall Muldoon which was critical of the way that some students who received reasonable accommodations for Junior Certificate were not getting them for Leaving Certificate.

The provisions of the scheme aim to allow students to complete their exams without their disability preventing them from demonstrating their true academic ability, while at the same time not being given any unfair advantage. Dyslexia dyspraxia and dysgraphia are some of the most common disabilities catered for. The State Examinations Commission began a review of the RACE scheme in 2015 which is now complete.

Two significant changes arose as a result. Firstly, from 2017 onwards, reasonable accommodations provided to students at Junior Certificate will carry through to Leaving Certificate based on confirmation by the school of the continuing need.

Secondly, the category of ‘Specific Learning Difficulty’ will now be known as ‘Learning Difficulty’, meaning students will no longer be required to provide a diagnosis to avail of RACE. The SEC will accept the school’s judgement meaning schools will not need to undertake additional testing. This will result in candidates with general learning disabilities having greater access to the scheme.

Deadlines have also been put in place to prevent young people not receiving a final decision about whether or not they will receive accommodations until very close to the exams. The closing date for schools to apply for the RACE scheme is the 9th December, with a decision being given before the end of February 2017.

In order to ensure all schools are treating students fairly and consistently, the SEC will check a sample of schools each year. The SEC have also been involved in bringing details of these changes to schools with the National Educational Psychological Service, meeting with over 2000 school staff  in over 750 second level schools, briefing them on changes to the scheme for this year.

A long running perceived shortcoming of the RACE scheme has now finally been addressed as a result of the recently announced changes.

Ciara Moran

Image Credit: King Hospital

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