Deputy Bruton's amendment seeks the inclusion of a new section in relation to examinations. There is merit in the Deputy's suggestion in the context of students with special needs. This area cannot be overstressed in the legislation, not only from a statutory point of view but also in terms of underscoring the House's commitment to facilities for people with special needs.
Paragraph (a) of the amendment states that the Minister shall ensure that examinations are a fair test of a student's competence in the subject being tested. This resurrects the debate on dys-lexic students and what provision should be made for such students when they are sitting examinations. I have misgivings about the proposal for this year. When the examination papers of such students are being corrected it is necessary, to ensure fairness and equity, that the people marking the papers are fully aware of the various difficulties experienced by students with the condition. The bottom line is that the students' knowledge should be tested, as the amendment suggests, in a fair way.
Nobody could have any problem with paragraph (b) of the amendment which states that examinations should be conducted in a way that is equitable to all students taking the exam. Paragraph (c) states that candidates should be permitted to have their performance in an examination reviewed independently of the marking made by the original examiner. In the context of an appeal, if fairness and equity are to apply, the paper should be evaluated in full by someone other than the original examiner.
It may appear on the face of it that the amendment is stating the obvious to some extent. However, it is worth including so it is clear that there is a commitment to fairness, equity and a proper appeals system in terms of papers which are re-evaluated. Most importantly, it would be clearly stated in the context of examinations that the special needs of students will be addressed.