Written Answers. - Special Educational Needs.

Question:

1056 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will confirm that, in the awarding of the junior or senior certificate, children who require assistance during the course of their exams as a result of one form of disability or another have this fact recorded on a certificate which they ultimately receive in passing such exams; if he believes this practice to be in keeping with the Government's commitments to help persons with disabilities; if he has had consideration given to changing this procedure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20258/00]

This year the concept of modification of the national standard assessment was introduced in order to accommodate the requirements of special needs students. This was a significant advance in the inclusiveness of our examination system. In essence, it allowed us to depart from a situation where a special needs student could be penalised by being required to undergo assessment in an element of an examination which was beyond his or her physical capacity. For example, the aural component of a language examination is clearly problematical for a deaf candidate and the new special arrangements mean that exemption from that component is possible in the case of such students.

Where this greater flexibility and responsiveness means that an element of the examination is not assessed, as with all matters relating to the certificate examinations, this must occur openly and transparently. In the present year, the provisional results issued to students were annotated in accordance with these principles.

I can assure the Deputy that neither the leaving nor junior certificate results contained any reference to a candidate's disability. These provisional results did no more than provide factual information on the actual assessment.

Decisions in relation to special arrangements are taken having regard to the circumstances of each individual case. My Department takes these decisions in the first instance within a published framework of principles. I should stress that I have also ensured the availability of an independent appeal forum where a student is unhappy with any aspect of my Department's decision.