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Some Background History


The Disabled Student Allowances SpLD Working Group was convened to clarify what would constitute acceptable evidence of SpLD in order to qualify for the Disabled Student Allowances (DSA). Set up in 2003 to review the arrangements for identifying and assessing SpLDs in higher education students, the group was asked to produce a report recommending a framework for ensuring the quality of assessments which diagnose specific learning difficulties. The report was intended to be a guide for those assessing SpLD in Higher Education students and a statement of what is considered to be an acceptable standard expected from those carrying out assessments.

The final report of this Working Group was released on 27 July 2005. [Click links on the side of this page for the Final Report].  

The overall aims of the Working Group were:

§  to provide an equitable DSA system that is simple to administer, enabling quicker and easier access for the student customer

§  to establish evidential requirements that LEAs could confidently regard as providing a reliable professional judgement that a student has SpLDs

§  to provide a DSA system that is giving value for money.


The following functions were identified as priorities:

1.    to identify a selection of tests that can be used by appropriately trained and qualified professionals

2.    to arrange for the list of recommended tests to be updated by an appropriate body

3.    to propose ways of enabling those with appropriate qualifications to obtain and maintain the skills and expertise in administering and interpreting the tests

4.    to propose standards and a code of practice for all those involved in assessments including the production of reports in an agreed and accessible format

5.    to produce clearer guidance for Awards Officers and students in order to minimise local variances

6.    to provide advice about identifying, assessing and referring students with any of the named SpLDs

7.    to provide some advice on dealing with complex and borderline cases, including those where English is an additional language.


It was agreed that for the purpose of this group SpLD should include the following:

§  Dyslexia

§  Dyspraxia, Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD)

§  Dyscalculia

§  Attention Deficit Disorder

The SpLD Assessment Standards Committee, SASC was founded from various subcommittees as a not-for-profit company in February 2008. SASC works to support implementation and updating guidance under the framework. The Memorandum and Articles of Association are downloadable from this page.

History of introduction:

The recommendations of the new framework were gradually introduced over a three year period as follows:

  • SpLD assessments conducted after the start of academic year 2006/07 should use the report format and tests recommended in the report;
  • SpLD assessments conducted after the start of academic year 2007/08 should be accepted from Psychologists and suitably qualified Teachers holding a current Practising Certificate in SpLD assessments issued by their professional association; and
  • from academic year 2008/09 all training for assessing SpLDs should follow the report recommendations.

So the first recommendations were implemented at the start of the academic year 2006/7.

Until the start of academic year 2006/07, Local Education Authorities were requested to continue following the existing guidelines as contained in the 2005/06 DfES guidance chapter ‘DSAs'.


Lynn Greenwold  (Chair)  
Anwen Jones (Deputy Chair)
Julia Kender  (Hon Treasurer) - Independent
Katrina Cochrane  - Independent
Joanna Currie - Independent
Caroline Holden - Independent
Katherine Kindersley - Independent
Jennifer McDermott  - representing Patoss
Bernadette McLean  - representing OCR
Katherine Plowden-Roberts - representing Helen Arkell Centre
Anna Smith - representing RealGroup/DyslexiaAction
Mark Turner - Independent
Jane Warren - representing ADSHE