All students at The Priory School will sit public examinations during their time with us. These exams, for example GCSEs, are set by a central examining board and are standardised across the country.
Under certain circumstances, we are able to provide non-standard access arrangements for students who may need additional support. We operate in line with the current legislation and practice advised by the Joint Council for Qualifications, and as such adhere to their specific requirements in these cases.
If your child would be substantially disadvantaged in an examination environment, in comparison to someone who is not disabled, then we can apply for suitable access arrangements for exams. Evidence is required, and the case would be subject to approval by the Joint Council for Qualifications. We would need significant notice to make an application, and ideally this should be discussed when your child joins our school.
The school receives a number of requests each year regarding Access Arrangements for students in public examinations. Over the last few years the Joint Council for Qualifications has changed both the requirements for, and the evidence needed in order that Access Arrangements can be granted.
We have created this document in order to try to give parents a useful brief outline as to what is required for Access Arrangements to be granted and the evidence the school needs to provide to the Examination boards in order to support this claim.
Access Arrangements are non-standard arrangements approved before the examinations take place in order to enable candidates with special educational needs, disabilities or temporary injuries to access assessments. The Equality Act 2010 requires awarding bodies to make reasonable adjustments where a candidate would be at a substantial disadvantage in comparison to someone who is not disabled.
The examination boards will not consider applications in respect of long-term conditions that are submitted only weeks before the exams. It is essential therefore, that we are informed of existing circumstances that might justify Access Arrangements as soon as possible, preferably on joining the school. Arrangements can then be made to accommodate the particular needs of students in internal exams. This will allow us to test the effectiveness of such arrangements, and will provide grounds for their implementation at GCSE and A Level.
When applying for Access Arrangements we are obliged to work within the framework laid down by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ). These regulations are very complex, and there have been major changes in recent years. The current guidance for 2015 to 2016 can be viewed on the JCQ website.
In particular, some parents choose to provide the school with either a private report from an educational psychologist or/and a letter from a GP.
It should be noted that neither of these on their own is a guarantee that a student will receive the Access Arrangements requested.
In particular, when looking at any student’s needs, the school must always consider granting supervised rest breaks before making a request for extra time, as the former will often be a more appropriate response. Extra time can never be given if there is any possibility that the student would thereby be given an unfair advantage over other students.
An outline of evidence needed for the most common request of Extra Time
As extra time is the Access Arrangement requested most often we will look at some of the associated regulations. JCQ lay down similar guidance for each of the other possible arrangements.
In order to maintain the credibility of GCSE and GCE qualifications, the JCQ [Joint Council for Qualifications] defines the parameters as to what constitutes a ‘substantial disadvantage’. To this end they have defined eligibility for up to 25% extra time as follows.
The specialist assessor’s report must confirm that the student has:
• At least one ‘below average’ standardised score of 84 or less relating to speed of processing which has a substantial adverse effect on speed of working.
• In exceptional cases, up to 25% extra time may be awarded to students where the assessment confirms that the candidate has at least two ‘low average’ standardised scores between 85 and 89 relating to processing speed.
• In very rare and exceptional cases, students with a cluster of scores within the ‘average’ range of 90 to 94 may be considered if the awarding body deems there is sufficient compelling evidence for eligibility.
• In all cases, supplementary compelling evidence will be required for inspection by the awarding bodies.
A recommendation from an Educational Psychologist alone does not guarantee eligibility for extra time. In the past, a large disparity between Verbal and Performance IQ could be used as an indicator for eligibility for extra time. This is no longer the case. Students must meet the above criteria before applications can be made to the awarding bodies.
Furthermore, the JCQ has also advised that where a student has been awarded extra time for his or her GCSEs, there is not an automatic right for eligibility to continue to GCE. New applications for GCE examinations must be made to the awarding bodies and standardised scores must meet the above criteria in order to be approved. This will mean that some students who were awarded extra time in Year 11 may not now qualify for extra time in Year 12 & 13.
It is not normally appropriate to grant more than 25% extra time in examinations. In exceptional cases, the awarding bodies may allow additional time where speed of processing is substantially below average i.e. a score of 69 or less may be considered, or where a candidate has multi-sensory impairment that substantially hinders speed of processing. In such circumstances, an up to date assessment will be required immediately before GCSE examinations and GCE examinations.
Extra time with a private report
The school has to present a ‘compelling’ case that the student’s learning difficulty has ‘a substantial and adverse effect’ on the student’s performance in exams. Any private report will only form part of the school’s evidence and the school will still have to carry out testing on the student. It is the results of the testing carried out by the school that will be used in the application with reference made to the scores within the private report that has been submitted. In addition to the testing the two paragraphs below will also need to be considered. Applications for extra time will generally require statements/feedback from subject staff that a student is under performing in classroom tests, as well as evidence in the form of incomplete mock examinations or similar.The student must also have made use of extra time over a substantial period of time in both classroom tests and mock examinations before the arrangement can be used in external examinations.
Extra time with a letter from a GP
In order for a student to be granted extra time on medical grounds, the school has to:
• Show that a student has an impairment which has a substantial and long term adverse effect on his/her speed of processing
• Confirm that he or she has persistent and significant difficulties when accessing and processing information
• Show evidence of how the disability/difficulty has impacted on teaching and learning in the classroom
• Show the involvement of teaching staff in determining the need for extra time of up to 25%
• Confirm that without the application of extra time of up to 25% the candidate would be at a substantial disadvantage
• Confirm that extra time of up to 25% is the candidate’s normal way of working within the centre as a direct consequence of their disability.
An outline of evidence needed for the use of a word processor (netbook/laptop)
Under certain circumstances a student may be allowed to use a word processor in exams. This will normally be a laptop with Spellcheck disabled.
The principal criteria when the school is deciding whether to grant the use of a word processor are that it should be the candidate’s normal way of working and that it should be appropriate to their needs.
In assessing the latter, the school will need to have observed that the candidate has, for example:
• a learning difficulty which has a substantial and long term adverse effect on their ability to write legibly
• a medical condition
• a physical disability
• a sensory impairment
• poor handwriting
• planning and organisational problems when writing by hand
In all cases the school’s decision will be final.
What does the School do to provide evidence for such claims?
Access Arrangements TestingThe Learning Support (SEN) Department carries out testing of students in all year groups in consideration for Access Arrangements. Testing is carried out on admission to the school which comprises literacy based tests, this is then used as a baseline for the students and the information shared with staff.
Year 9 students will sit a test which will provide the school with an indication as to whether further testing may be necessary for specific students. This will also involve the gathering of information from teaching staff to check the student’s normal ways of working in lessons. When making an application the school utilises all previous years’ testing as evidence of the student’s difficulties as well as being able to demonstrate the normal way of working within the classroom and during test situations, which is a JCQ requirement. Any application we make requesting Access Arrangements needs to include school based evidence of need.
Once students have been tested and it is deemed that they are entitled to Access Arrangements then the school will contact home to notify parents
Other testing opportunities within the school
The Learning Support (SEN) Department will also carry out testing at planned points in the year as a result of students either being referred by teaching staff based on their concerns over performance in class/test situations over an extended period or through concerns raised by parents.This testing again includes literacy tests as well as other specific tests, depending on the need which can include working memory, phonological processing and others.
JCQ set specific guidelines regarding the standard scores that enable a student to be eligible for Access Arrangements; these are not set by the Learning Support (SEN) Department. A student may find, for example, completing tests in a fixed time period difficult but without the appropriate evidence or scores below a certain level, they will not be eligible for Access Arrangements.
Private Educational Psychologist Reports
If under the schools testing system, as we are only able to carry out certain tests within school, a student does not qualify for Access Arrangements parents can, if they wish, obtain a Private Educational Psychologist (EP) Assessment. If parents wish to submit an EP report as part of their request for the school to consider their child for Access Arrangements parents should be aware that the school will require to see:
• A full copy of the report and original copies of all the tests completed. This will enable the School (who under JCQ guidelines, can be the sole referrer for Access Arrangements) to have full confidence in the testing that has been undertaken and ensure that testing has been robust and valid and fits the testing interval criteria. Even in this instance the report will only form part of the school’s evidence when applying for Access Arrangements and may not guarantee that concessions will be awarded.
• There are recognised intervals of time which need to be adhered to between testing opportunities, as ‘a procedure would introduce practice effects’ and ‘there is a danger that an artificially high reliability will be obtained’. (Educational Testing, J Boyle & S Fisher).