As I write this, thousands of students at universities across South Africa start writing their mid-year examinations, undoubtedly with much anticipation and anxiety! And how much more for a student with a disability or who experiences a barrier to learning.
Exam concessions and accommodations in schools and universities
Examinations as an assessment method are still typically the standard form of assessment at all major universities and colleges, both public and private. Although the principles of Inclusive Education (introduced in the White Paper 6 on Education, 2001) have slowly made their way into our basic and tertiary education system, it is reported that up to two thirds of students with disabilities express that they have difficulties with standard assessment methods.
The Department of Basic Education’s Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support Policy supports early identification of learning barriers and encourages learners to apply for a concession before they get to Grade 10. A concession (also known as an accommodation) may be granted for a reader, scribe, prompter, or personal assistant, as well as things like additional time, spelling and handwriting.
This movement in schools towards supporting inclusive education through assessment differentiation, has an implication on universities and raises the question: How are universities accommodating the growing number of students who have been granted a concession for tests and examinations?
The University of Johannesburg supports students with exam concessions
The Centre for Psychological Services and Career Development at the University of Johannesburg (known to many of us as UJ), headed up by Educational Psychologist Leila Abdool-Gafoor, has a professional team designated to supporting students with assessment concessions. According to Dr Abdool-Gafoor, concessions aim to level the playing field for those with and without disabilities. “My vision is to support our students at the University of Johannesburg, such that their disabilities do not hinder or act as a barrier to them achieving their goals.”
BrightSparkz recently conducted formal concessions training with 15 carefully selected staff and students at UJ’s Auckland Park Campus. The training upskills staff and students to effectively fulfill the duties of a reader and scribe; to maintain exam integrity throughout the process; and create a consistent experience for the student. It was encouraging to interact with such a committed team, and see a major South African university willing to invest in the development of its staff – the students with barrier to learning studying at UJ are in good hands!
The BrightSparkz’ Exam Concessions Team
Since 2017, BrightSparkz’ concessions team have supported students and learners with over 2200 examinations and have trained over 160 individuals to act as readers, scribes, prompters and personal assistants. 18 Schools and 10 University campuses across Gauteng and the Western Cape currently rely on the BrightSparkz team to fulfill these roles and support their in-house team of support professionals. If you’d like to get more information or contact us about your needs in the area of concessions, please get in touch with our Concessions Team at BrightSparkz: firstname.lastname@example.org or find out more about our Concessions Facilitators.
Written by: Dominique Oebell, BrightSparkz Tutors