Examination Support

'Access Arrangements' is the term used to describe additional support for students in their GCSE and A Level examinations.

Key personnel:

Mrs P Wright: Exams Officer

Ms H Worrall: Acting SENCO. Student Development & Support Lead. Access Arrangements Assessor.

Rational for Access Arrangements

Access Arrangements support students who are unable to demonstrate their ability in an assessment due to a learning and/or physical difficulty, a medical condition or other disability, in accordance with the Equality Act 2010. These students would be at a substantial disadvantage to their peers and as such, reasonable adjustments are made to support.

Reasonable adjustments must not:

  • Change the demands of the assessment
  • Compromise the validity or security of the assessment
  • Give students any unfair advantage.

Access Arrangements must:

  • Reflect a student’s normal way of working
  • Reflect the demands of each subject [thus students may have different arrangements for different subjects]
  • Be awarded according to evidence of need. This must be a history of need and current need from teachers first and foremost, supported by assessors’ data and/or medical practitioners. It is stressed that medical letters will prompt an investigation, but do not automatically override the evidence seen in school. Thus, a student with a diagnosis of ASD does not automatically qualify for Access Arrangements purely on the basis of diagnosis. Teacher evidence of need must be in place for an arrangement to be applied for. 

Access Arrangements Available

There are a wide range of arrangements available for students in need. These include, but are not restricted to:

  • Extra time
  • Reader [live or computer reader]
  • Scribe or speech recognition software
  • Supervised rest breaks
  • Sitting the exam in a separate/smaller room
  • Exams printed on coloured paper
  • Word processing exams
  • Prompter

All Access Arrangements are tailored to the individual student.

Access Arrangements cannot be granted in assessments where they will directly affect the focus skills being assessed. For example, a student cannot receive extra time in a practical examination with a timed component [eg a 2 minute Drama monologue], or a live reader for an English paper assessing reading. 

Identifying the Need for Access Arrangements

Stage 1: Early Screening & Intervention

  • Students who may qualify for formal Access Arrangements during KS4 are preferably identified early in KS3 from Year 7 onwards. At this stage students are screened and needs identified, rather than formal assessment taking place.
  • Adjustments to teaching within lessons are made according to need, to enable a student to access their learning and make progress. All staff are involved in monitoring these adjustments.

Stage 2: Formal Testing

  • Teachers refer students to SDS if they believe they would benefit from a formal assessment. We cannot assess students who have no difficulty in the classroom.
  • Formal assessments for Access Arrangements are done in school by the Student Development and Support Lead who is appropriately qualified according to the JCQ guidelines. There is no cost to parents. Please note that these are not full diagnostic assessments and should parents require their child to be investigated for Dyslexia or other conditions, we will make a referral to external agencies accordingly.
  • Formal assessments usually take place during Year 9, Year 10 and Year 12, however they may also be undertaken in Years 11 and 13.
  • Permissions for Access Arrangements expire after 26 months and so we do not assess formally in Year 7 or Year 8 to avoid the need for re-testing later on. If students have undergone a formal assessment elsewhere during this time, or earlier at primary school, they will need to be re-tested when they reach Year 9 to comply with JCQ regulations. This is also the case for students with a diagnosis of Dyslexia.
  • Students with medical needs and diagnoses do not necessarily need to undertake formal testing.
  • New for 2021 2022: the JCQ regulations have changed this year and criteria for permitting 25% Extra Time is now more rigorous. This means that Year 12 students who were in receipt of 25% Extra Time for their GCSE examinations, may no longer be entitled to it for their A Levels. We will investigate their needs thoroughly at the start of the academic year and advise each student on the most appropriate level of support available to them within the new guidelines.

Stage 3: Formal Application for Access Arrangements

  • The outcomes of the formal assessments are recorded and summarised on JCQ Form 8 Part 2 by the assessor. These are then analysed and scores interpreted before making a decision to apply for an Access Arrangement.
  • Before the online application can be made, students must sign a Data Protection notice to give us permission to use their name, date of birth and assessment scores on the Access Arrangements Online portal.
  • The online submission is carried out by our Examinations Officer. Feedback is instant and permission for the Access Arrangement is recorded and held by us in the student’s digital folder.
  • The student and parents/carers are notified in writing of the arrangements in place for the PPEs, other mock assessments and final examinations. We require these to be signed and returned to us, acknowledging that the arrangements may adjust according to any evidence of change of need.

Stage 4: Ensuring Access Arrangements are the student’s ‘normal way of working’

  • Where formal Access Arrangements are awarded, the SDS Lead in collaboration with teaching staff, will monitor and ensure that they continue to be normal working practice for the student. This means that the agreed Access Arrangements should be taken into consideration in everyday teaching and formally applied in any internal or external assessments.
  • If a student chooses continually not to use the agreed access arrangements, either because their needs change, or they do not feel it aids their learning or achievement, then Access Arrangements can be removed.
  • It is the responsibility of the SDS team to ensure that all required information is collated and accessible to the Examinations Officer and wider staff body.
  • The SDS Lead and Examinations Officer will ensure that all paperwork required by JCQ is in place for inspection purposes. 

Moving from GCSE to Sixth Form

  • OPGS students that received Access Arrangements for their GCSE examinations do not normally need to undergo another formal assessment for 6th However, due to the changes in JCQ criteria for 2021-2022, we may need to reassess. Additionally, for the arrangement to continue, we will require:
    • evidence from teachers that there is still a need
    • evidence from assessments and mock examinations that their arrangement is not giving unfair advantage

Please note that students’ existing Access Arrangements may adjust or may no longer be required, dependant on their subject choices.

Students joining us from other schools, that received Access Arrangements at GCSE may need to undergo another formal assessment, dependant on the following factors:

  • Whether or not their previous assessment covered the Access Arrangements now required.
  • Whether or not their previous assessment scores fulfil the new JCQ criteria.

In all cases, we will speak to the SENCo at the previous school to establish what support was in place.

Exceptional Circumstances

Temporary Arrangements

Temporary Access Arrangements may be required for a student suffering from unforeseen illness or injury. In these cases, the school must be informed at the earliest possible opportunity, and a letter from a GP, consultant or other professional detailing the problem should be obtained as soon as possible. OPGS will make every effort to accommodate these arrangements.

Special Consideration

Special Consideration is a post examination adjustment to a candidate's mark or grade to reflect temporary injury, illness or other indisposition at the time of the examination/assessment. The candidate will have been fully prepared for the exams, but due to some unforeseen circumstance could not demonstrate what they knew.