A Leaving Cert student who suffered a seizure during her history assignment was denied the opportunity to retake a deferred exam which takes place this month.
Rachel Langan (18) from Athenry, Co Galway, has only partially completed the exam as a result of the crisis and fears she will miss the points required to study her first-choice university course.
While State Examinations Commission (SEC) rules state that candidates who suffer from a serious medical condition are eligible to take deferred exams, this does not apply to those who have started an exam. .
However, an exception was made last month for a Leaving Cert student who was rushed to hospital with appendicitis during his history exam following an intervention by government ministers.
Ms Langan was diagnosed with epilepsy in October 2021 after suffering seizures. She was allowed to take her exams alone in a room at Presentation College Athenry under the SEC’s “reasonable accommodation” rules.
The exams were uneventful until her penultimate exam on June 15, when she had a seizure midway through the ordeal. This turned into a ‘tonic-clonic’ seizure, where a sudden burst of electricity in the brain causes the body to jerk and shake. By the time she emerged from the crisis, she felt nervous and exhausted.
“My hands were particularly bad – they were shaking a lot,” she said. “You’re not just mentally tired, you’re also physically tired. After a tonic-clonic seizure, every muscle shakes… My thinking slowed down. Everything took so much effort, like the sentences; just forming one took a lot of effort.
The school was told by the SEC that they could not leave the room if they wanted to complete the exam, but would be allowed a scribe and 20 minutes beyond the official end time to catch up.
In the end, Ms Langan said she failed to complete the exam and only completed one of the two required essays.
His frustration grew after learning that another student with appendicitis had been allowed to take a delayed test.
“I am very happy for him. I think that’s really fair. But I think if they can bend the rules for one student, why can’t they do it for the others?
“Why wasn’t I contacted and offered to take the exam again? Certainly, if someone has a medical emergency or a problem that prevents them from completing an exam, they should be allowed to retake it, just to keep it fair.
The SEC said it was unable to comment on individual cases, but it plans to review rules regarding access to deferred exams.
He said the principles of access to deferred exams are “safeguarding the integrity and maintaining confidence in the leaving certificate to ensure fairness and fairness for all candidates”.
He added that he approaches all requests for access to deferred examinations in a “humane and consistent manner and with due regard to issues of fairness and justice”.
However, Epilepsy Ireland criticized the restrictive nature of the SEC rules, published just days before the launch of the Leaving Cert.
“Any student who has a seizure during an exam should have access to a deferred exam. Fairness and justice are all we seek. This is what the SEC preaches,” said Paddy McGeoghegan, advocacy and communications manager at Epilepsy Ireland.
Ms Langan said she was worried about missing her first-choice college art course at NUI Galway.
“I need all the points I can get because I can’t remember anything I studied between October and February due to a previous crisis. I had to relearn everything,” she said.
“It always weighs on me. I’m afraid that I won’t take the course I want, or that it will impact my future or prevent me from achieving what I really want to do.