Skip to main content

Exam bureaucracy hits most vulnerable resit students

Vulnerable learners who were allowed special assistance in exams at school cannot bank on automatically getting the same help at college

News article image

Vulnerable learners who were allowed special assistance in exams at school cannot bank on automatically getting the same help at college

College leaders have called for a change in exam arrangement to avoid thousands of GCSE resit students having to repeat the process of applying for access arrangements. These arrangements, granted by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), allow students help such as more time to do exams, scribes to write down answers or people to read out questions.

But the arrangements only last for 26 months and are not simply transferred over when students leave school for another education establishment, in a situation prompting college leaders to demand a change in the rules.

Bill Watkin, chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said: “Additional support is made available to those who require it in their exams at 16. But if they then go to a college and take a resit in maths or English three months later, they have to be re-assessed to secure the same additional support the second time around.

“This is costly and time-consuming. And – to make matters worse – it has to be done very quickly because arrangements must be in place for the first examinations in November.”

Deemed non-transferable

This situation had arisen because the original arrangement had been made between the school and the exam board and was deemed non-transferable to the college, according to Watkin.

“This seems absurd,” he said. “If a young person with a chronic diagnosis needs help in June, it is safe to say he or she still needs it in November, even the following June. Surely we can address this bureaucratic barrier and remove the requirement to re-assess students’ needs for special arrangements in exams.”

The current situation was “an illogical administrative burden,” according to Jerry White, deputy principal at City College Norwich. “We have three full-time members of staff working non-stop year round just on this – that equates to them doing around 550 of these assessments a year,” he said.

Neither the Department for Education nor Ofqual holds data on the number of access arrangements for FE students doing GCSE resits, but the latest government data for the FE sector shows that 21 per cent of students taking GCSE and A levels in 2015-16 had access arrangements.

Precious funding and time

Colleges often need to reassess students, according to Catherine Sezen, senior policy manager at the Association of Colleges. This is something that “wastes both precious funding and time, as well as being stressful for the young people”, she says. “AoC would like to see a simple electronic system for the transfer of such information, whereby students agree for their data to be shared with colleges.”

A spokesperson for JCQ said: “JCQ is currently reviewing the access arrangements for candidates undertaking GCSE resits in FE colleges and will make an announcement in due course”.

An Ofqual spokesperson said: “We agree the arrangements for applying for a reasonable adjustment should not be unduly burdensome. We will continue to talk to the International Exam Officers’ Association, JCQ and others about the issues that have been raised.”

This is an edited version of an article in the 23 March edition of Tes. Subscribers can read the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click hereTes magazine is available at all good newsagents

Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow Tes FE News on Twitter, like us on Facebook and follow us on LinkedIn

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you