What are Access Arrangements?
Access Arrangements is the name given to the more than 30 different kinds of support available for young people who have a learning disability such as dyslexia, dyspraxia or ADHD in order that they are better able to demonstrate their knowledge in public examinations at GCSE, A level as well as Degree level. Examples of the most commonly used Access Arrangements include 25% extra time, a reader, a scribe or taking the exam in a smaller, quieter and less distracting environment.
The regulations governing Access Arrangements.
The regulations governing Access Arrangements for GCSE and A level examinations are administered by JCQ (Joint Council for Qualifications) on behalf of all the different Examination Boards and the rules ar their administration are set out in the document “Adjustment for Candidates with Disabilities and learning Difficulties - Access Arrangements and Reasonable Adjustments”. These are updated annually. The updated 105 page long document has just been published. For the third consecutive year there are many changes in the new regulations; although the Access Arrangements themselves remain the same, the regulations governing their administration has changed significantly.
If you would like to discuss how Access Arrangements may be helpful, telephone me on 01434 605486
The February 19th, 2016 issue of "Varsity" Cambridge University student newspaper identified weaknesses with the university's Access Arrangements for students with illegible handwriting
The "Varsity" headline read, "This system potentially punishes anyone who doesn't have very neat, legible handwriting".
A first year undergraduate described how JCQ allowed her to use a laptop for her A-level examinations as it was her "normal" way of working. Cambridge University however, required an assessment either by an Occupational Therapist or an Educational Psychologist. She describes the assessment as taking three or four hours and costing £400. Her complaint was that the university was judging her by the neatness of her handwritng rather than the quality of the ideas she expressed in her exams. She suggests that in the future undergraduates should be allowed to use a laptop without being forced to medicalise their handwriting difficulties.
The Ofqual Report about the use of Access Arrangements by different types of school.
This new report is provided in response to requests for further information, particularly about use of access arrangements by different types of school. Access arrangements are designed to allow students with particular requirements to perform to their best ability and this report details the number and type of access arrangements made during the full 2014/15 academic year. The most frequently granted access arrangement was the allowance of 25% extra time, for which around 180,000 were approved (52% of all access arrangements). The collected data is incomplete and not sufficiently conclusive: we will be seeking further data and information and discussing emerging trends with exam boards and those representing schools and colleges.
An increase in Access Arrangements has caused unforeseen complications
Increases in requests for exam access arrangements have led to a rise in the instances of schools having to find overnight accommodation for pupils, the chief executive of the Examination Officers’ Association has said.
Andrew Harland told "Schools Week" that rules preventing pupils from sitting exams for more than six hours a day had resulted in more requests for extra time for pupils with additional education needs. This meant schools having to isolate pupils overnight.
The latest Ofqual figures show the number of requests for access arrangements has risen in recent years from 250,150 in 2009/10 to 271,850 in 2013/14.
Mr Harland said pupils who were granted the arrangements, which includes 25 per cent more time to complete exams, were more likely to need accommodation.
“A student is only allowed to spend a certain number of hours taking an exam and, as a result, certain students would not be able to sit their exam on the same day as others. In some cases they would have to be looked after that night because they’d still be under exam conditions.”
The 2013 - 2014 regulations are 105 pages long and contain the regulations governing the 28 Access Arrangements that schools and colleges can provide for students. 15 of these Arrangements are given at the discretion of the school or college, the other thirteen, which are the most frequently used, and which are arguably the most useful, require permission from JCQ. Permission is requested online by the school or college and JCQ will immediately grant permission for a student to use Access Arrangements provided the criteria as set out in the Guidelines are ulfilled. The usual route to obtaining permission for these Arrangements is through an assessment of the student by an appropriately qualified and experienced Educational Psychologist who will then write an appropriate report.
Once permission has been granted by JCQ for Access Arrangement it lasts for two years from the date of assessment. After two years a reassessment is required and a new online application must be made to JCQ.
How can STEPS Psychology help?
If you are a student soon to take public examinations or the parent of a student soon to take public examinationsand are concerned to ensure that the most appropriate Access Arrangements are in place, STEPS Psychology can help you in 3 ways.
• First, we can offer advice as to whether Access Arrangements are likely to be appropriate and helpful.
• Second, we can undertake the required assessment.
• Third, we can complete the necessary paperwork for JCQ to ensure that the most appropriate Access Arrangements are provided.