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Friday 22 June 2018

1 in 7 students will get special needs help to take exams

Cindy O’Shea of Samaritans
Cindy O’Shea of Samaritans

One in seven Leaving and Junior Cert students sitting exams from tomorrow are getting support to overcome a special need such as a learning difficulty, physical disability or behavioural condition.

More than 120,000 candidates will sit the exams, including 58,543 for the Leaving Cert.

The 61,654 entered for the Junior Cert are a reflection of population growth that will continue through to the Leaving Cert in coming years.

This year sees a further increase in applications by Leaving Cert students to sit maths at higher level, fuelled by the provision of bonus CAO points for a minimum 40pc mark.

Rising demand for what is known as a "reasonable acc- ommodation" - which allows a student with special needs to access the exam on an equal basis with their peers - has accelerated since an easing of the rules in 2016 and 2017.

The State Examinations Commission provides a range of support such as a magnifier for visual impairment, a spelling waiver for candidates with dyslexia and setting up an exam centre in a hospital.

There has been particularly large growth in demand for word processors, often sought by students with a learning difficulty, such as dyslexia.

Just over 1,800 were provided last year, compared with 1,530 in 2016 and 726 in 2014. Such students no longer have to produce a diagnosis, and eligibility is based on attainment in spelling tests.

The number of accommodations to be provided during this year's exams will not be known until they are over because emergencies may arise, but the figures show a clear trend.

Last year, 17,661 students sought a reasonable accommodation, nearly 15pc of all candidates, up from 16,764 in 2016 and 15,574 in 2014. In 2010 the figure was 10,025.

Emotional

Samaritans Ireland issued an appeal for students, parents and teachers to put well-being ahead of grades.

Cindy O'Shea, regional director for Samaritans in Ireland, said: "We would urge anyone involved in exams and supporting young people to ensure students look after their emotional health.

"That way they are likely to cope better with the stress of exams and achieve better too."

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