SATs can be difficult for children with dyslexia. Trying to spell words dictated at speed, working under timed conditions and having to complete tasks that rely on memory are a challenge for them. We know that dyslexia does not reflect a child’s intelligence. SATs do not measure creativity, problem solving ability or entrepreneurial thinking – areas in which dyslexic children often excel.
Under the Equality Act 2010 schools have a duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for children with learning difficulties which includes dyslexia. Schools must also put in place Exam Access Arrangements. These arrangements should minimise the impact of the child’s disability on the exam results without placing them at an unfair advantage over others or affecting the integrity of the exam.
It’s important to be aware that schools must be able to justify the arrangements they make for your child to the government’s Standards & Testing Agency. You will need to work in partnership with your child’s teacher, the SENCO and the headteacher to ensure that your child receives support that is both fair and reasonable.
1. Scribe or reader
A person can write down your child’s SATs answers for them or read questions to them as long as it doesn’t undermine the test itself. During the English reading and English grammar, punctuation and spelling test ‘No help may be given with reading or understanding the questions or passages of text on which questions are based’, Key Stage 2 Tests: 2019 access arrangements guidance, Standards & Testing Agency, p. 24.
Before considering using a scribe or reader schools are required to consider other resources:
‘Before deciding to use a scribe schools should consider whether the pupil should use a word processor, or making a transcript of the pupil’s writing after the test,' Key Stage 2 Tests: 2019 access arrangements guidance, Standards & Testing Agency, p. 17.
Your child can use a scanning pen to help them to read and comprehend text in the SATs. Using a scanning pen levels the playing field and will raise your child’s confidence so that they will want to try hard to do the very best they can. They could also use a word processor or voice activated software to record their answers.
However, schools have to make sure your child doesn’t receive an unfair advantage through the use of technology.
‘Word processors or other technical or electronic aids may be used to record pupil’s answers in the English reading test. They must not be used to provide reading support, other than to read the general instructions on page 3 of the reading booklet. Inappropriate use of equipment may lead to a maladministration investigation…’ Key Stage 2 Tests: 2019 access arrangements guidance, Standards & Testing Agency, p. 22.
3. Extra time
Your child is entitled to up to 25% extra time in all exams including SATs, but it’s up to your child’s school to decide how much time should be accorded based upon your child’s particular needs.
‘If a school allows a pupil additional time inappropriately this could lead to maladministration investigation and could lead to the pupil’s result being amended or annulled,' Key Stage 2 Tests: 2019 access arrangements guidance, Standards & Testing Agency, p. 10.
4. Rest breaks
During the test your child may feel tired or have difficulty concentrating. Schools can give your child rest breaks between sections by stopping the clock, but the test must be completed in the same day. When resting the child must have no opportunity to talk to other children, and adults must not discuss the test.
5. Separate room
Your child can complete their SATs in a separate room from the other children if it helps them to relax and focus. If your child needs a scribe or to be able to read their answers aloud to themselves then this is also justification for sitting tests in a separate room.
6. Behaviour and self-esteem
If your child is displaying challenging behaviour at the moment consider that it might be due to SATs anxiety. Talk to your child to find out if that is the case. Build your child’s self-esteem by encouraging them to focus upon their strengths and achievements. What are they good at? Why are those skills prized? Explain that SATs only measure literacy and numeracy skills – that is all. Show your child videos of famous dyslexics talking about their struggles and subsequent successes.
If your child is feeling anxious introduce them to stress management techniques so that they can help themselves. Learning to cope with stress and overcome obstacles is what makes dyslexic children resilient individuals.
Talk to your child’s teacher and to the school SENCO so they know your concerns and do all they can to support your child.
Does your child need more help?
Our sister company, TutorMyKids, can find your child a specialist dyslexic tutor who will support them in the run up to their SATs. An experienced tutor will nurture your child’s confidence, helping them to develop a range of strategies that will help them to excel both now and throughout their school life.