According to a BBC Radio 4 ‘Today Programme’ report, 20% of pupils in independent schools received extra time to complete GCSE and A-level exams last year. This contrasts with only 12% of pupils in state schools.
This raises interesting questions
Is it that some schools in the independent sector are overzealous in their readiness to find students entitled to more time, as implied by the exams watchdog, Ofqual; or is it simply that independent school are better at screening for and tracking pupils with specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia and dyspraxia.
The answer is perhaps somewhere in middle
Pupils who have had dyslexia support in primary school can come into secondary school and appear to be doing alright because their literacy skills are now in the ‘average’ range. These pupils can then drop off the SEND radar, even though they may be eligible to extra time in exams.
Often symptoms of dyslexia are not picked up in primary school, especially if a pupil has developed basic reading skills. Bright dyslexic pupils can easily slip through the net. They appear to be ‘managing’, but are not reaching their potential because they struggle to organise their thoughts on paper quickly and they are frequently seriously slow to complete their work.
The point is, dyslexia is not simply about being able to read and write; it is also about the speed of processing. For a dyslexic pupil, an extra half hour in a two and a half hour exam, can make all the difference and give them the opportunity to show what they can do.
It is clear that schools providing not only systematic screening and tracking, but also diagnostic assessments, are much more likely to meet the needs of this vulnerable group of pupils.
So it seems that maybe the independent schools are doing us all a favour and providing a shining example to follow and support all our pupils better. It won’t do the attainment outcomes any harm either.
Have a think about what percentage of pupils have extra time in your school? Could this be time to start reviewing your procedures?
Get in touch with the One Education dyslexia team to talk through any of your concerns about extra time and to talk about how you can better support your pupils who might be struggling with persistent difficulties. Contact Jo Gray on 0844 967 1111.