Jars┬áRecently, two SQA representatives visited Preston Lodge to clarify Alternative Assessment Arrangements. They discussed possible ‘adjustments or changes to published assessment arrangements for exams for candidates identified as having disabilities or additional support needs’.

The overarching message relating to a Scottish audience is that there is no need for a label – of dyslexia for example – to be assigned to an individual student in order for her or him to be entitled to alternative arrangements during their exams.

As long as there is plenty of evidence to demonstrate that the student will be at a ‘substantial disadvantage’ without such adjustments, then changes may be made, whether or not the pupil has a label.

There was some impassioned discussion about the difficulties of accruing evidence which related largely to deployment of human resources. This is clearly something we need to address.

It was comforting for me to hear, though, that we can focus entirely upon the needs of the individual and what provision we can make for her/him without the distraction of terminology: e.g. ‘dyslexia’/’dyslexic type difficulties’. Standardised, norm-referenced test will only add value in conjunction with dynamic, formative assessment and cannot stand alone as evidence in a claim for enhanced provision or arrangements.

Of course, parents frequently ask for the label. We need to respect this perceived need. Parents and professionals together need to navigate through the various sets of jargon to enable us – and of course the children and young people themselves – to come to a greater understanding of the specific learning differences of an individual. More importantly, we need to work collaboratively on how best to address the needs and develop the strengths of those whose learning style and profile fits less comfortably into the curriculum and traditional methodology.

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