Allow students their right to a Western Australian Certificate of Education

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From 2014, it became a requirement that students in Western Australian Secondary Schools must either pre-qualify by reaching band 8 in their Year 9 NAPLAN test or pass an Online Literacy and Numeracy Assessment (OLNA), in order to receive their Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE) in year 12. This is an additional requirement for students, not taking in to account if they have passed these core subjects already with their relevant secondary school. 

Here are some quotes from comments on a post I put on the Western Australia and Perth Dyslexia Support Group on Facebook on the 24/10/18, inquiring about the NAPLAN / OLNA requirements in WA for a WACE certificate:

-Parent: "I had my daughter crying today as we received the official letter to say she will not get her year 12 certificate tomorrow as she didn't pass the reading and writing in OLNA".

-Parent: "I just don't know what to do...She probably tries harder than all the other kids, puts in so much effort, follows every instruction, is never rude or disrespectful, totally committed to school but just can't pass the OLNA".

-Student: "I just got my OLNA results and I didn't end up passing and that was my last attempt, as I have just finished year 12. Now I'm not getting my WACE, even though I have passed English with a C".

People with dyslexia and other learning difficulties, (such as, dyscalculia and dysgraphia), makes up an estimated 15% of the population. People with dyslexia are neurologically different, using the right (creative) side of their brain. Dyslexia effects the left temporal lobe (language) side of the brain. This results in difficulties with reading, spelling and grammar and also may effect such aspects as auditory processing, comprehension, writing and processing speed.

Dyslexia and other learning difficulties are not a disease or a defect, nor is it caused by brain damage. It is simply an alternative way of thinking. Dyslexics think predominantly with pictures, not with the sounds of words, and are therefore, "visual spatial learners" or "picture thinkers". Due to teachers using a variety of teaching methods to suit all learning styles, many dyslexics and students with other learning difficulties are able to pass their core subjects in secondary school, in order to pass the national curriculum.

However, many of these students are not reaching the required NAPLAN band and are going on to fail their OLNA tests, thus being deprived of receiving a Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE) - as these tests do not account for their learning and processing needs. Furthermore, due to not receiving this WACE certificate, this is preventing many of these students the pre-requisites to enter in to TAFE or University courses. .

This equates to indirect discrimination, which occurs when "an unreasonable rule or policy is the same for everyone, but discriminates against a specific group of people". Additionally, The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 requires that "all public authorities to have due regard to the need to:

-promote equality of opportunity between disabled and other persons

-eliminate discrimination that is unlawful under the Act

-take steps to take account of disabled person's disabilities, even when that involves treating disabled persons more favourably that other persons"

I, and other parents of children with learning difficulties, understand the need for minimum literacy and numeracy standards in Australia. I accept the desire for standardised testing. However, we do not understand if students pass their subjects, why they cannot be awarded a WACE certificate.

My son is dyslexic and currently studying in year 7. I can predict from the improvement in his results from year 5 NAPLAN to year 7 NAPLAN that he is unlikely to reach the required band in NAPLAN to pre-qualify in year 9. This will give him 6 attempts at OLNA over years 10-12 in secondary school to pass, in order to receive his WACE certificate. Despite all the hurdles he needs to overcome, my son is determined, studies hard and has a team of support around him - including myself as his tutor and advocate. He has never failed a class subject and is currently on a B average. Please don't let my son, and other students with learning difficulties, be another 'fail' statistic by reaching (and passing) the end of their studies only to not receive a WACE certificate, based on a test that doesn't accommodate their needs. 

The Hon. Sue Ellery MLC, we call on you to CHANGE the requirement for students with dyslexia, learning difficulties or other neurological conditions, (e.g. Autism Spectrum Disorder and ADHD), to have to pass OLNA to receive their WACE certificate - their class grades are enough, and all will see if you allow them this chance, they will bring more than enough to society when they reach their goals in TAFE, University and their careers, bringing out their intelligence, creativity and enormous capability.