Making the decision to attend further or higher education can be daunting. For individuals with dyslexia they may wonder will they receive the supports they need in order to successfully complete their chosen course. It is a good idea to know your strengths and weaknesses and to choose courses that will provide an opportunity for you to flourish.
It can also be useful to understand the National Framework of Qualifications (http://www.nfq-qqi.com). This will guide you as to what level your course is accredited at and can help you plan your education.
If you are unsure as to which course might be best for you, it is wise to seek some advice before making an application. You can speak with a guidance counsellor in your school, or for adults try your local Education and Training Board (ETB) Centre, free of charge.
If you are having difficulty getting an appointment with a guidance counsellor through the ETB you can contact the National Council for Guidance in Education (NCGE) for information on your nearest provider (https://www.ncge.ie/guidance-further-education). Qualifax has lots of information on courses and support organisations (http://www.qualifax.ie/).
Making an Application
Once you have chosen the course you are interested in, you are required to make a formal application to the college.
All applications to third level colleges are processed centrally through the CAO system (https://www.cao.ie), including those of students with disabilities such as dyslexia who may be seeking additional support or alternative entry.
A student’s disability should be noted when making application on the CAO form. This notifies the colleges that the student is applying to, and gives them time to contact each student to find out what special requirements or considerations they may need.
In the case of students with dyslexia, the colleges (through the CAO) will ask the student to submit an educational psychology report. If the report is older than five years, the applicant will need to submit attainment scores either from school based testing or from testing administered by a qualified psychologist. These scores must be no older than two years.
There are a number of routes you can choose from when making an application, including;
Disability Access Route to Education (DARE)
The Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) is a third level alternative admissions scheme that offers reduced points places to school leavers who, as a result of having a learning difficulty, have experienced additional educational challenges in second level education.
The eligibility criteria has slightly changed for the 2023 entry. Instead of a disability category entitled Specific Learning Difficulties (that covers both dyslexia and dyscalculia) there are now two separate categories, and separate eligibility criteria for each.
The eligibility criteria for Dyslexia / Significant Literacy Difficulties can be found here. The difference for 2023 is that students who do not have an psychological report confirming a diagnosis of dyslexia can still apply if their school can confirm persistent literacy difficulties by completing a Section D School Statement form – which will then suffice as Evidence of Disability. (The requirement for two literacy attainments at or below the 10th percentile, as part of the Educational Impact criteria, remains unchanged.)
The eligibility criteria for Dyscalculia / Significant Numeracy Difficulties can be found here. The main difference for 2023 is that there is now only a requirement for one numeracy attainment at or below the 10th percentile, as part of the Educational Impact criteria. (Previously two such attainment scores were required). There is no change for the requirement for a psychological report confirming dyscalculia as part of the Evidence of Disability requirement.
For more information about the DARE scheme please go to http://accesscollege.ie/dare.
Higher Education Access Route (HEAR)
This route is a scheme that offers places on reduced points and extra college support to school leavers from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds who are resident in the Republic of Ireland. For more info see http://accesscollege.ie/hear/
Universities run what they call ‘access’ or ‘foundation’ programs which provide an opportunity for a student to sample university life before they embark fully on a chosen course. There are various entry requirements to these courses so you will need to carry out some research to find which suits you best. Below you will find links to some of these programs:
Irrespective of the route you take to college, all of the universities have access and disability officers, who can be contacted directly for information about supports at college. Unfortunately, as yet, the Further Education and Training Sector do not provide such a robust service. In this case the Adult Education Officer at the ETB centre/college is often the most suitable person to address a query to.
You may also be eligible for funding for your chosen course. Check with your local INTREO office about your eligibility for funding at FE level and SUSI, Student Universal Support Ireland (https://susi.ie/) for funding at Third Level.
College Funds for Students with Disabilities
Study related support for students with disabilities is financed through the European Social Fund for Students with Disabilities. This funding is not means-tested and is available for undergraduate and postgraduate students studying on full-time programmes. Individual Further Education and Higher Education institutions assess the needs of each student with a disability on registration with their Disability (or Access) Service, and apply for funding in support of those needs, on the student’s behalf. The process for accessing funding for supports is as follows:
- Students must register with the college’s Disability Support Service as soon as possible.
- Students must provide evidence of their disability. In the case of students with dyslexia this usually means an educational psychology assessment report.
- A needs assessment will be carried out to identify the supports which will be needed, taking into account the nature of each student’s course of study.
Even if a student feels they may only need minor supports, it is still important to meet with the Disability Support Service early to ensure they are aware of your needs and that appropriate reasonable accommodations can be put in place.
We believe this information is accurate, but readers are advised to check all details with the relevant authorities as the situation may change.