Students with dyslexia must have access to assistive technology during standardised tests – Lombard
Students with dyslexia must have access to assistive technology when sitting standardised Drumcondra Tests, a Fine Gael Senator has said.
Senator Tim Lombard has repeatedly raised the need for supports for students with dyslexia and has said situations where technology that these children have been depending on is removed for exams cannot continue.
Senator Lombard said, “Approximately 10% of our population is dyslexic, with around 100,000 students with dyslexia across our primary and secondary schools. A very high percentage of these students use technology to help them in their learning.
“Assistive technology includes reading pens and iPads, and it has been an absolute gamechanger for those with dyslexia over the past few years.
“However, despite the enormous benefits these tools provide, students are in a terrible situation where the technology they have been depending on throughout their education is removed for exams. This has a massive impact on the confidence of a student, with children being put through such high levels of stress that they’re not able to do anything for two hours in an exam environment.
“This is akin to taking glasses away from a child who is visually impaired and asking them to then sit their exams.
“Schools up and down the country are taking different approaches to help students with dyslexia avoid stressful exam situations. Some principals are making the decision that dyslexic students don’t have to sit exams at all and are fighting the Department of Education on it. Others are requiring children to sit one exam with the use of assistive technology, and another exam without.
“The Department is saying that principals have a degree of flexibility when it comes to this issue, but yet are not providing them with any criteria. A lot is being left to the ethos and initiative of the principal and this is putting exceptional pressure on our educators.
“I understand from speaking to Minister Madigan that an investment programme of €210m has been delivered to schools under the Digital Strategy for Schools 2015 –2020. An additional €50m through the successor Digital Strategy for schools to 2027 has also recently been issued to schools.
“We must ensure that this funding will continue to give children access to the technology they need, including children with dyslexia.
“Funding is available to schools under the assistive technology scheme for the purchase of specialised equipment such as computers and software to assist children with special educational needs, including children with dyslexia.
“I know that Minister Madigan has launched a review of the assistive technology scheme at the start of this year and this is very welcome.
“But in relation to exams, the Department of Education must take a definitive line on this issue and immediately update guidance to schools. The bottom line here is that our children sitting exams must have access to the technology they rely on to succeed in education,” concluded Senator Lombard.