Thursday, 12 May 2022
Department of Education and Skills
96. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if her Department has engaged with the State Examinations Commission to ensure that reasonable accommodations be made at State examinations for a particular provision for students with epilepsy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23544/22]
The State Examinations Commission (SEC) provides a scheme of Reasonable Accommodations at the Certificate Examinations (RACE Scheme) to support candidates with a complex variety of special educational needs including learning difficulties as well as permanent or temporary physical, visual, hearing, medical, sensory, emotional, behavioural or other conditions. In common with similar schemes which operate in other jurisdictions, the focus of the RACE scheme is on the need to remove examination access barriers, while retaining the need to assess the same underlying skills and competencies, and to apply the same standards of achievement, as apply to all other students.
Under the existing provisions of the RACE Scheme, every possible effort is also made by the SEC to accommodate candidates who experience accidents, serious illness or other trauma either immediately before or during the examinations.
There are arrangements that can be made between the SEC and the school in the best interests of an ill or injured candidate to enable the candidate to proceed with their examination on the scheduled date. For candidates who suffer from epilepsy, these arrangements might include supervised rest breaks during the examinations; access to a smaller special examination centre; and alterations to the start and end time of the examinations.
It is acknowledged that students experience many forms of trauma and adversity, such as serious illness and bereavement, around the time of the Leaving Certificate examinations. The issues arising here are complex and must be balanced against the absolute need to maintain integrity and public confidence in the examinations system.
Deferred examinations were held for the first time in 2019 for students who had experienced bereavement of a close family member. The SEC had commenced a comprehensive review of the broader issue of how best to support students experiencing other forms of trauma and adversity at examinations time which included consultation with stakeholders as well as research into practices in other jurisdictions.
For the 2022 Leaving Certificate, I have announced that there will be a deferred sitting of the Leaving Certificate for students unable to sit one or more papers in the main sitting in June due to serious medical conditions or close family bereavement. It is intended that the deferred sitting will commence shortly after the conclusion of the main sitting.
Epilepsy Ireland was among the organisations which submitted a response to the SEC’s consultation in early 2020 noting that this process was halted due to the pandemic. More recently, officials from the SEC met with Epilepsy Ireland on Friday the 29th April 2022 in relation to access to the deferred examinations series.
Further details of the deferred sitting of the Leaving Certificate will be issued by the SEC in due course.