Exam access arrangements for deaf teens (part 2)

Hayley’s upset and Tiger Mother’s frustrated because the exam access arrangements that were promised for Hayley haven’t been put into place.

The blazer is slung across the kitchen table, the school bag’s dumped on the ground, Hayley is slumped on the floor beside it. The pretence is that she’s cuddling the dog – who is lapping up this unexpected attention – but I know she is upset.

“Come on, how bad was it?” I ask, not daring to mention the maths test by name.

Silence. Nothing given away by the top of her head.

“You can tell me, I know how painful maths is…” I use my best jolly, coaxing voice.

Her face lifts up to me, a picture of long suffering stoicism as she shakes her head with doom laden portent.

“No you don’t! You don’t know what it’s like. Not when you don’t even half-finish the stupid test and get only five out of 45 correct, and Jonathan is calling you a simpleton and kicking you when you try to walk by.”

Hmm, situation does sound grim.

Hang on a minute – why is Jonathan in the special quiet room she gets for exams due to her eligibility for exam access arrangements?

He wasn’t in the quiet room, it turns out, and neither was Hayley – she was in the classroom with everyone else. And it seems she’s had an English test and geography test too, with no special arrangements.

Grrrrr. Really?

I spent the end of the summer term battling to get these exam access arrangements nailed down. When the Senco told me that Hayley didn’t need any special arrangements because her literacy levels were fine, I requested (having gleaned information from NDCS’s helpline) that she test Hayley’s processing skills.

Sure enough, like many deaf children, Hayley’s skills were slower than average, which meant she should have 25% extra time and a quiet room in which to do all exams, practice papers and teacher assessments.

This autumn term, the new Senco started and assured me that he had added Hayley to the school’s access arrangements list to ensure she received this entitlement from then on.

New Senco, new hope? Pah. Poor Hayley, who’d been left so confused up until this point, had finally been assured she’d be allowed extra time and a quiet room. I thought we’d finally sorted it.

Fighting down the familiar frustration, I contacted him asking why the arrangements hadn’t been put in place. He said that all staff had access to the list and that he would contact Hayley’s subject teachers to ensure it wasn’t overlooked again, as it was important that it became Hayley’s normal way of working.

I forwarded his emailed reply to Hayley so now she can see for herself what should happen, and will hopefully have the confidence to speak up or alert someone if it happens again.

It’s not a moment too soon, seeing as she is starting her two year GCSEs course – in fact she’s just been informed she has a BTEC exam later this month.

I’ll consider myself reminded that there is no room for complacency when it comes to my deaf child getting the support she needs at school.

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