Call for dyslexic students to get extra exam time: 'It's just levelling the playing field’

"They know that with the dyslexia, they're at a disadvantage ... it's really frustrating."
Michael Staines
Michael Staines

12.54 25 Jan 2024

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Call for dyslexic students to...

Call for dyslexic students to get extra exam time: 'It's just levelling the playing field’

Michael Staines
Michael Staines

12.54 25 Jan 2024

Share this article

School students with dyslexia should be given more time in exams to ‘level the playing field’ and help them reach their full potential.

TDs and Senators will today consider a petition calling for dyslexic students to be given extra time while sitting their Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate exams.

The petition from the Dyslexia Association of Ireland warns that dyslexic students face significant challenges with extended reading and writing – and can often run out of time in exams.


It notes that Irish colleges and universities already offer extra time as standard – with many other countries offering the option in their state exams.

With one-in-ten people in Ireland impacted by dyslexia, the petition notes that the change could benefit tens of thousands of students each year.

On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Waterford mother Monica Grant said her twin daughters Síofra and Bláthnaid do very well in school – but really struggle when it comes to the exams.

“I have two great girls and I’m very proud of them,” she said.

“They're both dyslexic – Síofra has an official diagnosis and Bláthnaid is waiting for hers.

“They do very well in school. They’ve always had lovely school reports, they’re interested in the world, they're interested in learning – they're lovely.

“Last year, they did the Junior Cert and it was a very stressful year for them because they wanted to do well and they knew that with the dyslexia, they were at a disadvantage.

“So, for schoolwork and assignments during the year, they'd always score very highly.

“They would get like 95% or 100% in a lot of schoolwork for homework – but then when it comes to exam time, they will always get about 45% or 50%, so it's a big dip.”


Monica said the girls find the exam system extremely frustrating.

“They try hard and they know they're clever - you know, they're not full of themselves, but they know they're able to do things - and it just doesn't reflect well in the exam,” she said.

Monica explained how her daughters deal with their dyslexia at exam time.

“Particularly Síofra can’t spell very well, so if she wants to write a sentence, she has to make the words look like what they are,” she said.

“So sometimes if she wanted to say something was ‘devastating’, but she can’t spell devastating he'd have to think of another way of saying devastating, like it was ‘very sad’ – which simplifies the answer and doesn't make it look very sophisticated, but at least she can spell it.

“So, she's wasted time thinking of an alternative.

“Also, her brain and her hand, they’re connected but when she is writing the flow doesn't come out as fast as it should do, so if she was given more time … the information is in her head, but she just can't get it down on paper.”


Monica said the petition is about raising awareness and helping people to understand that rather than looking for advantage, it is all about “levelling the playing field a little”.

The Waterford mother said she can already see her girls picking Leaving Cert subjects based on their ability to pass the exam rather than their interest in them.

She said she is really hopeful the petition can bring about change on a national level.

“It's just so important,” she said.

“I mean, my girls did their Junior Cert last year and when they got the results, they were just so disappointed and it was so demotivating for them.

“Like, what's the point of trying hard? What's the point of putting in your best effort? If you're just not going to get the results, why bother trying?

“So, I really just do hope that they listen because these are lifelong decisions.

“Like, my girls have to lower their expectations of what college course to get into … not because they're not clever, but just because they can't get the points.”

The petition has now been signed by nearly 24,000 people.

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