Reducing disadvantage

28th January 2005 at 00:00
Caroline Read gives a teacher's perspective on the new access arrangements for GCSE, GCE and GNVQ

The regulations for adjustments in examinations are now much easier to understand, following significant changes last September in a redrafting exercise by the Joint Council for Qualifications. The term now covers access arrangements (previously known as special arrangements) and special consideration. The changes also give access to a slightly wider range of students.

Access arrangements fall broadly into two types: those which can only be granted with permission from the appropriate awarding body (type A) and those which the centre can allow without seeking permission, as long as the appropriate evidence is kept on file (type C). (See below for the most widely used arrangements for each type.) The requirements and evidence for allowing both these types are necessarily rigorous. Awarding bodies must protect the validity of their qualifications, and cannot allow arrangements which undermine the assessment criteria for each component. The intention is to reduce disadvantage - candidates in receipt of arrangements should not be given an unfair advantage.

Perhaps one of the most significant changes is the removal of an indication on the certificate of a candidate exempted from part of the criteria.

Previously, marks from other sections of a subject were boosted to cover those lost due to the exemption, but candidates can now be awarded marks only for skills they are able to perform.

All arrangements must be a continuation of the normal working arrangements in the centre. They shouldn't be put into place at the last minute for the purpose of the exam.

Increasingly, the emphasis is on evidence of need, as opposed to a named diagnosis. The centre must also demonstrate evidence of the need for additional time, and a history of provision of such time within the centre.

Failure to comply with the regulations may lead to a review of the candidate's grade or the centre's position as an exam venue.

Deadlines for application are clearly set out in the regulations and centres will benefit from having an agreed timetable for processing their arrangements (see right). Many schools find that screening candidates at the end of Year 9, and making applications in the autumn term of Year 10, saves time and stress later on in the course if early modules are to be entered.

A range of forms are provided to simplify the application process. For those making type A applications, forms are available for access arrangements or modified papers for candidates who have a physical disability, sensory impairment or learning difficulties. In the latter case, the form must be completed by the centre and by an educational psychologist or specialist teacher who holds an extra qualification recognised by the JCQ. This must be done within two years of the start of the exam series - MayJune of Year 9 for a candidate taking papers in Year 11.

With type C arrangements, for candidates with learning difficulties, the centre must have evidence available in the form of a report by an educational psychologist or teacher with a JCQ-recognised qualification, completed since the beginning of the candidate's secondary schooling, or a statement of special educational need relating to secondary schooling must have been in place.

Though the bulk of the work involved in assessing candidates and making applications is likely to fall to the Senco and the exams officer, the support of form and subject tutors is essential. Tutors who are aware of the regulations will be able to help identify candidates who need access arrangements and ensure that these arrangements are made in class and test situations so that candidates have the practice they need.

l Regulations and Guidance Relating to Candidates who are Eligible for Adjustments in Examinations is now on the JCQ website:

Dyslexia: Assessing the Need for Access Arrangements during Examinations. A Practical Guide. Second edition, by Gill Backhouse, with Elizabeth Dolman and Caroline Read.

Published by PATOSS. pound;7.50 plus pp.

Caroline Read provides training in access arrangements


This suggested schedule covers assessment, report writing and application.

Centres should agree the appropriate timescale.

* Administer tests to groups of candidates as a screening process.

* FEsixth-form: check disability replies on student application forms.

* Select potential candidates and collate their background information.

* Complete section A of the profile of learning difficulties.

* Educational psychologist or specialist teacher carries out individualsmall group tests according to need.

* Discuss arrangements with the candidate.

* Score tests; Senco educational psychologist specialist teacher discuss results.

* Complete the profile of learning difficulties (Form 8, section C).

* Complete recommendations in section B and submit to exams officer.

* Applications for type A submitted to each awarding body (keep type C assessments on file).

* Collate replies as they come in.

* Inform students and parents of the decision.

* Arrange appropriate practice and training.

* Arrange resources personnel accommodation for each examination.

* Keep careful records of arrangements used and submit forms as required.

* Inform awarding bodies if any access arrangements authorised have not been used in order to avoid marks being lost unnecessarily.

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