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Will AQA’s latest poll be the final push towards digital exams?

Improving education outcomes for early years education after Covid-19

The largest provider of GCSEs and A-Levels board, AQA polled 3,000 school staff via Teacher Tapp revealing that three out of four teachers believe that introducing digital exams in England would be successful dependent on school resources

School resources remain a key issue in the realisation of digital exams and assistive technology across the board in schools. In the poll, AQA demonstrated that 84% of teachers stated that they would need to “evolve” their school’s teaching methods, while 68% warned their students didn’t have access to sufficient tech at home.

As such, the poll demonstrated a clear positive direction towards the use of assistive tech in exams for school. However, we must reflect on the later point further. How can we ensure that all children can take digital exams at home? What assistive technologies could the Department of Education roll out nationwide? Will such technologies overcome all classroom challenges?

Impact on neurodivergent students

Nevertheless, other teachers expressed concerns that the move to assistive technology may widen the gap to educational inequalities. Some teachers have expressed concerns that the move to technology-based exams, will negatively impact children at homes where no such technology exists.

Despite this, in the survey other teachers mentioned that if such technology scarcity at home was overcome, it would be a good idea. Some teachers in AQA’s poll extended this by affirming that the move to tech-based exams was not only a good idea but were “inevitable”.

However, despite this recent polling’s positive reflections amongst the teaching staff for tech-based exams. The argument for increased technology in the classroom prior to exams has been and continues to be championed by neurodivergent groups and technology firms. Disability Rights UK are one of the cornerstone organizations that have championed this cause to “ensure people have the right support in place” to combat anxiety, shame, and misdiagnosis in the classroom setting.

However, without a wide sweep direction across various strata of society towards championing this goal, children will continue to go without this vital technology in class. The consequences of this will not only be a missed opportunity to move towards the “inevitable.” Neurodivergent children will continue to be failed in the current classroom setting.

More social deprivation?

During the second inquiry of the Dyslexia Commission focusing on the co-ordination of care, it was consistently apparent that access to technology at the earliest opportunity in schools was single handedly one of the strongest interventions to combat educational inequalities for neurodivergent children.

A considerable number of neurodivergent children have or have requested for additional resources in schools. In short, assistive technology can be defined as a device that helps bypass a pupil’s hurdles to educational attainment due to their SEND needs. This typically spans from tools that can help pupils with difficulty processing and remembering spoken language or tools that translate written text to spoken language, thereby helping pupils who struggle with reading.

To ensure that a classroom is truly inclusive, assistive technology provides an equaliser for children living with dyslexia and other SEND requirements. However, as emphasised, several hurdles stand in the way for children who need such resources to be provided with this technology.

Socio-economic deprivation, namely attending schools that are oversubscribed and underfunded not only reduces a child’s ability to have a healthy classroom environment. Such deprivation ensures that children typically go from Key Stage Two to Four without getting the necessary equipment they need in classes.

Unfortunately, the ramifications of resource deprivation leads to children who are dependent on assistive technology not being able to sit crucial exams and ultimately leaving school without substantive educational attainment.

Final Thought

Thus, the vicious cycle of resource scarcity, shame and missed opportunity ensures that the educational system peddles underconfident and often undiagnosed neurodivergent pupils.

How can the aims of the SEND review, School’s Bill and White Paper truly be achieved if funding isn’t put behind the policy stances expressed in each legislative instrument?

Assistive technology is a single key leveler to this, yet one must ask how long can we ignore resource deprivation in our schools? We must encourage the uptake of new technology in schools, by ensuring they are easily embedded in ITT (Initial Teacher Training) for teachers. Thereby, ensuring that the curriculum and output of teaching staff are capable of delivering a neurodivergent friendly education to pupils.

To find out more about the Commission and to get involved, please contact Policy and Research Analyst Ann-Marie Debrah or visit: https://chamberuk.com/dyslexia-commission/ 

To find out more about the Commission and to get involved, please contact Policy and Research Analyst Ann-Marie Debrah or visit: https://chamberuk.com/dyslexia-commission/ 

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