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A-level results news - are our disabled students being let down?

Cher_ScopeCher_Scope Posts: 4,417

Scope community team

edited August 2020 in Coffee lounge
You might have been keeping up with the news over the last week about the release of A-level results in England.  The BBC website tell us there has been a lot of anger because:

Nearly 40% of A-level grades awarded on Thursday were lower than teachers' predictions.

In England, 36% of entries had a lower grade than teachers predicted and 3% were down two grades, in results after exams were cancelled by the pandemic.

People were particularly angry because the results more negatively impacted people from working-class areas and non-private schools leading to public protests outside government.  You can read more about this quickly changing news story on the BBC's Coronavirus Webpage.

What does this mean for disabled students?

Disappointingly, there has been little information shared about how disabled students were impacted by the recent results.  This information was important because disabled students have historically experienced lower levels of attainment than non-disabled students.  More information about this is available in this 'Higher-attaining pupils with SEND fall behind as they progress through school' article.

Are disabled students being let down?

The lack of attention given to disabled students and their overall lower attainment raises an important question asked by our own @Chloe_Scope.  

In her blog Chloe Tear asks us:
Are needs being fully met for disabled students?

So, what do you think?  Do you believe school's and universities are doing enough to support disabled students?  Do you know anyone impacted by the recent A-level news?  Comment below and let us know.

Picture of a crowd of students throwing their graduation caps up in the air outside a university

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  • Cher_ScopeCher_Scope Posts: 4,417

    Scope community team

    I wonder if one reason disabled students have lower attainment is teachers having low expectations about what they are capable of?

    For example, @WeCanAccess posted this on twitter after the a-level announcement and it got me thinking:
    Listening to BBC Any Answers & heard a teacher say "we have students from the very highest grades down to SEN students"!

    How are the #SEN students in her school going to ever succeed? What can we do to turn these attitudes around?

    Have you come across any unhelpful teacher attitudes about what you could achieve in school?

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  • WestHam06WestHam06 Member, Scope Volunteer Posts: 1,376 Pioneering
    Hi @Cher_Scope
                                 Thank you so much for asking the question 'Are schools and universities do enough to support students with disabilities'? It is a really important question and one which has a very complex answer in my opinion. Generically, in my view, the answer to the questions is no. I feel too many students with SEND do not have equal opportunities during their education compared to students who don't. However, like with most things, it does come down to individual experience. I was quite lucky at my secondary school, they had a great support unit which enabled students with a wide range of SEND to integrate into the school community. That said, I don't feel I had the same opportunities or experiences that my peers who didn't have SEND had and I recieved the message from some that we should be grateful that we were allowed to be part of the school community. I also feel that it was only the people in the support unit who enable us to have experiences and opportunities along with a few teachers. If I may, I please will give you two examples. In Year 9 my tutor arranged for my tutor group to have an end of term trip, we were all really excited. The day came and the letter was handed out, we were going paint balling. I could not wait to go home and ask my Mum to sign the consent form. When I gave my Mum the letter she explained that in the letter it clearly states that people with physical disabilities could not join in with this activity. I was so upset and when my Mum spoke to the support unit they agreed and said, due to insurance, the school were unlikely to allow me to go. I had been in the tutor group for 3 years and yet my tutor failed to recognise my needs. I missed out on that trip whereas students who had misbehaved all year got to go. My tutor promised me a treat all of my own, it ended up being lunch in a classroom- it felt more like a detention than a treat. Another experience was that I wanted to take PE at GCSE but I was told I would not 'cope' with the subject and therefore missed out on doing this. I would also argue that PE at my secondary school was not always inclusive, particularly for students in wheelchairs. However, I did have the opportunity to go swimming once a week during one of my PE lessons, which I was very fortunate to experience. I can remember at primary school having a teacher who told me off and sat me out for falling over. On the other hand, I had some really positive experiences and I think a lot of it is down to individuals and how they view disability. We need to educate teachers at all levels of education to be more inclusive and aware of students needs. I cannot personally comment about university but have heard mixed experiences. Educational settings will argue it is down to a lack of funding and though funding is a key element, it is not the only element and arguably may not be the most important, it is down to understanding and there needs to be far more education and training. You can read a few slides and tick the box that you have done inclusion training, but surely hearing real life experiences would better equip people for understanding the need for inclusion. There also needs to be more disabled role models in schools so that students and teachers will be able to see that they can achieve their goals. I feel there is a general message within the education system that SEND students can't achieve. I am really passionate that there needs to be more understanding and want to see change.  Every single student is important, unique and has something to offer but I'm not sure all schools promote and support this, particularly where SEND pupils are concerned. That said, we do need to fly the flag of teachers and schools out there who are inclusive and to continue to support and spread the message. I do worry, particularly with the current situation, that students may get left behind though I am no expert. Change is needed, of all the students who have been spoken to in the media, how many of them have had SEND and how much has the performance and results of SEND students be mentioned? My Mum fought hard to get me the same education as my siblings. We have come along way but we have a long way to go. I am sorry for the long, long post and it is just an opinion. Thank you. 
  • Cher_ScopeCher_Scope Posts: 4,417

    Scope community team

    Thanks for telling us about your experiences @WestHam06.

    I agree with you.  Sometimes integration in schools is happening rather than inclusion, so that means disabled students are going to school and expected to fit in and manage problems themselves.  Also what you said about being left out of extra-curricular activities and day trips is something I've come across before and so unfair.  Disabled students have every right to the same experience as their non-disabled peers including the fun bits of school life.  
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  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Scope Posts: 10,653 Disability Gamechanger
    Here is some information taken from a post I wrote about support at university:

    Disability Student Allowance

    Disability Students Allowance (DSA) is support from the government for your studies. Yes, unfortunately this is another form that required filling out alongside your Student Finance, yet that just sums up what having a disability is like! Despite this, the support that can be gained can actually be extremely helpful and is aimed at getting you the best support, rather than getting you to fight for what you deserve.

    You provide evidence, attend a needs assessment and they recommend what would be beneficial. Once this is approved by Student Finance England you contact the suppliers and it is delivered to your house or university halls.

    What DSA can pay for

    You can get help with the costs of:

    • specialist equipment, for example a computer if you need one because of your disability
    • non-medical helpers
    • extra travel because of your disability
    • other disability-related costs of studying
    Here are some links which you might find helpful: 

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