Academic Special Consideration and Special Entry Access Scheme (SEAS) for VCE.

The journey through VCE (Victorian Certificate of Education) and University studies are challenging for many students, often involving a rigorous and demanding academic schedule. While many students navigate this period with well, some face unique challenges due to life circumstances and psychological distress that can significantly impact their academic performance. Recognising these challenges, the Special Entry Access Scheme (SEAS) for VCE was introduced to provide deserving students with special consideration.

SEAS applications

Life Circumstances and Psychological Distress: The Impact on Academic Performance

Every individual’s life is a unique tapestry woven with experiences, challenges, and milestones. Certain events or life circumstances such as trauma, familial responsibilities, financial difficulties, or health issues can deeply affect a student’s mental and emotional well-being. Psychological distress stemming from these factors can manifest in various ways, from anxiety and depression to cognitive challenges and decreased motivation.

Such distress can lead to:

– Reduced concentration levels, impacting memory retention and understanding.
– Increased absenteeism from school due to medical appointments or familial duties.
– Lower motivation to participate or engage in academic tasks.
– A heightened state of stress, leading to burnout and exhaustion.

The Merit of Special Consideration

Understanding that academic potential is not solely defined by exam results or assessments is crucial. External factors can skew these results, not truly reflecting the student’s capabilities or potential. Offering special consideration is about levelling the playing field, ensuring that every student has a fair shot at success, irrespective of the challenges they might face outside of the classroom.

SEAS Categories: A Psychologists Perspective

The SEAS covers a range of categories that take into account various circumstances affecting students. For psychologists, particular attention should be paid to:

1. Personal Information and Location: This includes factors like remote locality, under-represented schools, or challenging personal circumstances.
2. Disadvantaged Financial Background: Financial hardships can lead to psychological distress, making it essential for psychologists to understand and highlight.
3. Disability or Medical Condition: This can range from physical disabilities to mental health conditions. Psychologists play a pivotal role in assessing, diagnosing, and providing support for such students.
4. Difficult Circumstances: Events like trauma, family disruption, or natural disasters can lead to considerable psychological distress.

Providing Supporting Documentation: A Psychologist’s Role

Psychologists have the expertise and authority to provide a comprehensive understanding of a student’s mental and emotional well-being. When providing supporting documentation for SEAS, here’s what they can consider:

  • Detailed Assessment: Offer a clear, thorough assessment of the student’s psychological state, emphasising how it impacts their academic capabilities. If a student has an ongoing relationship with a psychologist, the psychologist will have a clear idea of the students circumstances. If a student presents to a psychologist for the specific purpose of obtaining documentation for special consideration, a thorough assessment lasting two or more sessions will be needed.  Some psychologists may decline to provide such documentation if they’ve just met a student.
  • Context: Explain the life circumstances or events that led to the current state of psychological distress.
  • Duration and Severity: Offer insights into how long the student has been experiencing distress and its intensity.
  • Recommendations: Suggest accommodations or considerations that can assist the student in their academic pursuits.

The Special Entry Access Scheme (SEAS) for VCE recognizes that academic performance is a multifaceted attribute influenced by more than just classroom activities. Psychologists, with their in-depth understanding of human behaviour and mental processes, play a critical role in supporting these deserving students. Through their expertise, they can provide the necessary documentation and insights, ensuring that every student gets a fair opportunity to showcase their academic potential.

Applications for Special Consideration for VCE: A Psychologist’s Guide

The Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) journey, while rewarding, can also be demanding and stressful. For some students, circumstances, including cognitive, psychological or personal issues, might add to this stress, hindering their academic performance. Recognising this, the Special Consideration process was established to ensure all students receive a fair and equitable opportunity to showcase their abilities. As psychologists, we play a pivotal role in this process. Here’s a detailed look at how to navigate applications for special consideration for VCE students.

The Assessment Process:

The VCAA encourages schools to engage with the VCAA as early as possible to discuss any issues relating to managing students completing secondary level studies (Years 7–12) who may require special provision.

Understanding the Need: Before delving into the formalities, it’s essential to understand the student’s individual circumstances. This understanding forms the basis of the assessment process.

Clinical Assessment: The student’s psychological and emotional state should be thoroughly assessed. Tools, tests, and clinical interviews can be employed to gauge the severity, duration, and implications of the distress. This might include an cognitive assessment (also known as an IQ test).

Documentation: Proper documentation is crucial. This might include medical reports, psychological assessments, and any other relevant evidence that underscores the need for special consideration.

Recommendations: As a psychologist, it’s not just about highlighting the problem but also suggesting solutions. What accommodations might benefit the student? How can they be best supported through their VCE journey?

Accommodations Indicated:

Extended Time: One of the most common accommodations, extended time can help students who, due to anxiety, cognitive issues, or other challenges, require a slower pace.

Rest Breaks: Allowing students scheduled or unscheduled breaks can assist in managing fatigue, anxiety, or medical needs without eating into their exam time.

Alternate Format: Students with visual or auditory impairments might benefit from exams in Braille, large print, or even audio format.

Use of Technology: In some cases, using a computer or specific software can level the playing field. For instance, students with dyslexia might benefit from spell-check tools.

Separate Examination Room: A distraction-free environment can be beneficial for those with anxiety disorders or ADHD.

Assistance: Some students might need a scribe or a reader, particularly if they have physical disabilities that prevent them from writing or reading the exam paper.

Special Consideration in Assessment: If a student faces unforeseen circumstances, like a sudden illness or traumatic event close to or during the exam, they might be eligible for special consideration in marking. This doesn’t mean they’ll be given additional marks, but their situation will be considered when marking their paper.

The VCE is a significant milestone in a student’s academic journey, and ensuring that every student gets a fair shot is paramount. As psychologists, we’re in a unique position to offer insights, support, and guidance in the special consideration process. Through thorough assessments and judicious recommendations, we can ensure that every student’s needs are met, allowing them to perform to the best of their abilities.

Will ADHD be part of the assessment?

Yes, if indicated. ADHD  and academic troubles often co-occur often, making it important for the clinician to identify both during the assessment process. An ADHD assessment can be completed as part of or separately to the assessment and will involve more assessment sessions.

Is an IQ test part of an assessment?

Typically we will not administer an intelligence test for SEAS applications, but may for special consideration, though in some cases this is indicated. A cognitive assessment called a WISC-IV can be completed as part of or separately to the assessment, and will involve more assessment sessions.

The first steps in getting an assessment

To begin the assessment process, contact us and ask for an Assessment, and we’ll book in the initial session.