What is DSA?

Disabled Students’ Allowance is a government grant for university students with:

  • dyslexia, or another specific learning difference (SpLD), like dyspraxia or ADHD
  • a physical disability
  • a long-term health condition
  • a mental health condition

It helps them to study on an equal basis with other students. It isn’t based on your income and doesn’t have to be paid back.

DSA funding will usually cover part of the costs of a computer and specialist software and pay for extra printing supplies and support from a mentor or a study skills tutor, depending on your individual needs. You can apply for DSA when you apply for your student loan, or submit an application later on, and just need evidence of your SpLD or disability (in the form of a dyslexia assessment or doctor’s letter) in order to apply.

What is study skills tuition?

Study skills tuition helps students with skills like structuring essays, researching, proofreading and techniques for efficient reading. It works very flexibly, and sessions are led by the student, who has the freedom to decide what they want to work on on a week by week basis. Students are usually awarded a one or two hour session a week, but they can use their DSA-funded study skills hours as and when they like.

The study skills tutor guides the student and works with them on skills that maximise their ability to study independently. The tuition sessions also provide a space to try out new ideas and reflect on how the course is going. Most students find the tuition greatly enriches their experience of studying and is a genuine pleasure.

What should I look for in a Study Skills Tutor?

DSA-funded Study Skills Tutors must now be DSA-QAG registered to provide Non-Medical Help (NMH), as well as holding membership of an appropriate professional body. We are a listed NMH provider on the DSA-QAG register and have ADSHE QA status, as well as holding a Postgraduate Certificate in Professional Studies in Education (PGCPSE (Open)), and AMBDA FE/ HE status. It is also important to find a tutor with the ‘people skills’ to go with these qualifications! We pride ourselves on these skills and on providing a friendly, flexible and approachable service. 

I already get support from my university/ another supplier but it isn’t working out. Can I work with you instead?

You can contact your original Needs Assessor to request a change of supplier if you are not satisfied with your current one. Since working with the right tutor can make all the difference to maximising the impact of your DSA support, we advise that students find someone who they feel completely comfortable with, allowing them to work to their full ability. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you need further advice about switching supplier.

Will getting support from you cost me anything?

No, not a penny. The cost of your study skills support is claimed directly from your funding body – you don’t need to do anything and there is no additional cost to you.

Where do you work?

We are based in south east Essex, and have access to comfortable, confidential facilities in central Southend-on-Sea. Where in-home support has been recommended by your Needs Assessor, we cover:

  • Billericay
  • Wickford
  • Basildon
  • Rayleigh
  • Benfleet
  • Canvey
  • Hadleigh
  • Leigh-on-Sea
  • Westcliff
  • Southend
  • Thorpe Bay
  • Shoebury

Travel to you further afield in Essex, London and elsewhere in the south east is also possible. We also offer support via Skype (subject to recommendation in your Needs Assessment Report), which is a method many students find useful. This means we can support you wherever you live in the UK!

I would like to have support in my own home. Can you provide this?

Yes – as long as this has been recommended by your Needs Assessor, we can offer support sessions at home. Many students find that they benefit from their support much more fully when they receive it in their own home, and we are only too happy to provide this.

I’m really busy with other commitments – are you flexible with session times?

Yes! We like to make life as easy for our students as possible. That means being available at evenings and weekends, and even via Skype when they can’t make it in person (subject to recommendation by a Needs Assessor).

I already have DSA in place, but I’m unsure if one-to-one support is for me. What should I do?

Many students are unsure if one-to-one support will be helpful for them, or if it is worth the effort, particularly as it takes time out of an already busy timetable. In our experience, students find the support hugely helpful once they start it, and for this reason we offer taster sessions, where you can have a one-off hour of tuition to see if it is for you. Do drop us a line to make an appointment. Once you start receiving support from us there is no obligation to continue, and you can have your sessions as and when you choose.

I’m finding it hard to get help with applying for DSA – can you help?

Yes! We are a ‘one stop shop’ for DSA enquiries and will guide you through the process free of charge. Most universities will have student support staff on-hand who are experts in the DSA process, so it is always worth enquiring with your university first. However, if there is limited help available we can advise you on getting a dyslexia assessment and obtaining evidence of your disability, booking a Needs Assessment appointment and using your funding. Don’t hesitate to get in touch for an informal chat.

I’m struggling with my course – can DSA funding help me?

It’s worth finding out if you are eligible for DSA funding, as the support that it provides can be enormously beneficial. Not everyone who is finding it difficult to adjust to their course will be dyslexic, or have another specific learning difference, but in a UK study of over 100 institutions, 43% of the total dyslexic population were diagnosed as dyslexic only after admission to university. It is therefore worth thinking about being assessed for dyslexia if you score highly on an initial screening tool, like the Adult Dyslexia Organisation checklist or the Dyslexia+ Student Profiler, which also screens for traits of other related learning difficulties, such as dyspraxia/DCD, ADHD and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

If it turns out that you do have a dyslexic profile, or another SpLD, we can help you to secure DSA funding and provide you with the support you need. If you are a student with a physical disability, long-term health condition or mental health condition, and are struggling with your studies, you should consider the huge benefits of DSA-funded support – contact us for further advice on this.

I think I might be dyslexic – can you help?

Yes. We can advise you on arranging an assessment and offer practical strategies for working at university level in the meantime. The Adult Dyslexia Organisation has a useful dyslexia checklist which can indicate if you have signs of dyslexia and help you decide if you want to take things further. You may also want to take a look at the Dyslexia+ Student Profiler. Do get in touch and tell us more about your situation – we’re happy to help!

I’m in my third year of my degree – is it too late to get support?

No – you can apply for support at any time during your course. Many students only realise they need support when they start their third year dissertation. If you are in this situation contact us for free, informal advice.

I’m doing a postgraduate course – can I get support?

Yes! Even if you didn’t receive support as an undergraduate, you may well find that the big step up to postgraduate study means you will really benefit from support at this stage. If you struggled as an undergraduate, and suspect you may be dyslexic, if is well-worth being assessed to ensure you get the support you need at postgraduate level. Contact us to find out how you can get assessed through your university free of charge.

I’m doing an ITT course – can I apply for DSA?

Students undertaking Initial Teacher Training can get the same package of DSA-funded support as undergraduates and other postgraduates, and they may particularly benefit from this. Get in touch to find out how to apply and how we can support you during your training. If you are going to undertake an ITT course, and have not yet done your QTS tests (professional skills tests in literacy and numeracy for trainee teachers), we can also advise on the exact evidence you need to secure appropriate access arrangements in these tough exams. We can help you obtain this evidence and apply to the Department for Education for extra time, on-screen questions or a paper-based test. This advice is free of charge, so drop us a line today to discuss your situation further.