By James Kenny is a retired Guidance Counsellor and has taught at both primary and second level.
The CAO system opens for applications on November 6th. However there are two other programmes which run parallel to CAO. These are the DARE and HEAR schemes. I would like to begin with the DARE scheme this week and cover the HEAR scheme next week.
The Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) is a third level alternative admissions scheme for school-leavers whose disabilities have had a negative impact on their second level education. DARE offers reduced points places to school leavers, who because of having a disability have experienced additional educational challenges in second level education.
You should apply if your disability has had a negative impact on your educational performance or you may not be able to meet the points for your preferred course due to the impact of your disability.
Some indicators of the educational challenges are: have you received intervention or support in secondary school or has your attendance been impacted. Has it affected your school experience and well-being or has your learning or exam results been impacted or have you experienced any other educational impact?
Over many years counselling DARE students, I have never encountered a student whose education has not been impacted in some way.
Prior to the opening of applications to CAO, students who are potential DARE applicants can make some preparations now. Firstly, you should download the DARE Handbook for 2024 and consult the accesscollege.ie website. These will give you a detailed explanation of the process and list the various date and deadlines which must be adhered to and all documents which are required.
Its also prudent to alert your guidance counsellor who will guide you through the process. The process is somewhat complicated and time consuming; the sooner you begin the better. One key document is the Educational Impact Statement, which is completed by you together with one of the teaching staff, probably the guidance counsellor. Other documents are needed such as evidence of your disability. Your school will probably download these for you if you dont have access to a printer. When filling your CAO form you will need to complete online a Supplementary Information Form.
This may appear somewhat confusing, but the DARE handbook clearly outlines each step and with the support from school you will manage the process.
My advice is to begin the process now as you are facing some busy times ahead.
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