Year 12 final exams are enough to make even the most relaxed students lose sleep. But for students who have disabilities or learning difficulties, the added stress of special examination arrangements can make their final year of high school a real uphill battle.
This was certainly the case for 17-year-old Mitchell, who has autism, epilepsy, dyspraxia, a processing delay and suffers from anxiety. Mitchell studied five Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) subjects at high school and throughout his studies he has been afforded an additional 10 minutes per hour to complete tests and assessments. But when it came time for Mitchell to sit his Year 12 WACE exams in November, he and his mum, Sue, were informed that Mitchell was not able to sit the exams alongside his peers at school, and would instead have to go to a special examination centre.
“People who know about autism understand that most students with autism struggle to sit in a different seat or classroom, let alone in a different school in a foreign environment,” Sue said.
“Mitchell was very distressed by the thought of completing his exams separately and told me that the stress of completing them at a different venue would be too much on top of the stress of the actual WACE exams themselves. He wanted to sit them at school with his peers of course.”
In fighting for Mitchell to complete his exams at school, just like his classmates, Sue made contact with the Department of Education Standards and Integrity Branch. The Department agreed to support Mitchell’s school to lodge an application for special examination arrangements that allowed Mitchell to sit his exams at school and have the extra working time he was used to.
To apply for the special arrangements, Sue had to compile documentation from the school, school psychologist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, paediatrician and Mitchell himself.
“Mitchell had to write a paragraph outlining how he would be affected by sitting his exams at an alternative venue and not having extra work time. He had to complete two timed essays, changing the colour of the pen after a certain amount of time and undergo a hand writing speed test, which showed that he was well below average and would be at a disadvantage if he was not given the extra time he needed,” Sue said.
Sue’s perseverance paid off and to the family’s relief Mitchell received a letter from the School Curriculum and Standards Authority approving the special examination arrangements. Mitchell successfully completed his WACE exams in November and is now eagerly awaiting his results. He is hoping to study a Bachelor of Science at Curtin University next year, with support from the Curtin Specialist Mentoring Program (CSMP).
Sue hopes that other students who require special examination arrangements can gain insight from Mitchell’s experience.
“Despite the initial setbacks, I really appreciate the Department giving Mitchell the right to sit his exams at his school, with his peers. He’s really excited about finishing school and is looking forward to starting university,” Sue said.
For more information about special provisions for WACE candidates visit the School Curriculum and Standards Authority website.