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GCSE spelling changes 'will penalise dyslexic pupils'

Ministers have been accused of discriminating against dyslexic pupils by announcing plans to award 5% of marks in GCSE exams for spelling, punctuation and grammar as part of a drive to improve communication skills.

Dyslexic pupils could be penalised for poor spelling.

Ministers have been accused of discriminating against dyslexic pupils by announcing plans to award 5% of marks in GCSE exams for spelling, punctuation and grammar as part of a drive to improve communication skills.

The new rules on marking, announced by the Department for Education last month, have prompted dyslexia experts, educationists and teachers' unions to claim they will penalise thousands of students with a genuine spelling disability and make it more difficult for them to reach target grades.

Last month, Ofqual announced that 5% of marks in GCSE English literature, geography, history and religious studies courses would be awarded for performance in spelling, punctuation and grammar, beginning in September.

A spokesman for Ofqual confirmed there would be no special exemptions from the marking regime for dyslexic pupils. However, a pupil with a statement of special educational needs can gain up to 25% of extra time in exams. This can also be made available for a pupil with an evidence-backed recommendation from a suitably qualified teacher or psychologist. But the process of attaining extra time is difficult for many pupils and parents, particularly when expert help is not on hand in schools.

One headteacher of a large state comprehensive school said the change could mean that a pupil who had shown a good knowledge and understanding of, for example, history – but who had spelling problems due to dyslexia – could well end up with a worse grade than a good speller who had done less well on the history questions.

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