Written Answers. - Down's Syndrome Students.

Seamus Brennan

Question:

143 Mr. S. Brennan asked the Minister for Education if secondlevel students with Down's Syndrome will be given the same concessions for examinations as other students with a disability; if her attention has been drawn to an interpretation of her Department's recent circular which would seem to exclude students with Down's Syndrome from such arrangements; the number of students with Down's syndrome who sat, or are expected to sit, for public examinations in each of the years from 1995 to 1998; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8655/96]

My Department has for many years made special arrangements in the certificate examinations for candidates who would have difficulty in communicating what they know to an examiner because of physical and sensory disabilities, including visual and hearing impairments, or because of a specific learning difficulty.

The special arrangements are intended to remove, as far as possible, the impact of the disability on the candidate's performance and thus enable the candidate to demonstrate his or her level of attainment. They are also intended to ensure that, whilst giving candidates every opportunity to demonstrate their level of attainment, the special arrangements will not give the candidate an unfair advantage over other candidates in the same examination.

Special arrangements are not in general approved in the case of pupils who are assessed as being slow learners or as being mentally handicapped where the learning difficulties of such pupils arise solely from their level of general intellectual ability and are not due to specific difficulties in reading or in writing.

Applications for special examination arrangements in respect of students with Down's Syndrome are considered on their merits and within the terms of the scheme.
A school which is not satisfied with my Department's decision regarding special arrangements may appeal to the special arrangements appeals committee. This is an independent body of five persons, consisting of two officers of my Department and three members from outside my Department, including the Chairperson.
My Department does not maintain statistics on the number of students with Down's Syndrome who sat, or are expected to sit, for the certificate examinations in 1995 to 1998. I am advised that where applications are made for special examination arrangements in respect of candidates with Down's Syndrome, such applications are generally put forward on the grounds of their particular presenting disabilities (e.g. impaired hearing, specific learning difficulty etc.) rather than on the grounds of the underlying syndrome.