DYT’s Jules Daulby gives an update on exam access arrangements, supported by key findings from a recent school consultation…

Form 8s, Access Arrangements Online, JCQ…

It’s that time of year when SENCOs and Exam officers begin to think about exam access arrangements for year 11s and sixth formers. If you’re really organised, you might be thinking about your year 10s…

I recently visited Ark Bolingbroke Academy with SENCO, Lucy Widdowson and team for a morning’s consultation on Exam Access Arrangements.  It was a useful session and I wanted to share our findings and give you some useful links.

How do we process access arrangements for learners with an EHCP?

Schools are no longer required to use any other assessments for learners with an Educational Health and Care Plan (EHCP) if the arrangements are broadly in line with the student’s learning requirements and fit with their ‘usual way of working’. You are not required to fill in a Form 8 but should add a file note on the school’s letter headed paper with details.  Thomas Hardye School’s assessor, Rachael Killoch says ‘As you must include so much information about the student’s needs, I find it simpler to fill in a form 8’.

A school must fill in Access Arrangements Online for these learners however –  there is a box which asks you if the student has an EHCP.  If this is ticked, you can request any arrangements and they will be accepted.

What should I do with a student who has come from another school with no information?

Firstly, gather as much information as possible from your teaching staff.  Here is a form I recommend using to collect evidence from teachers.  Then build up a picture of usual way of working as quickly as you can.  While you’re doing this, if you can keep badgering the previous school it is worth it if their information is detailed for historical purposes.  Unless you have the assessor’s details and a good Form 8, I’m afraid you will need to retest to gain scores and apply online.  If you do have the correct information, you can apply online using the scores the old school has given you.  Do check they’re from year 9 onwards though, any earlier assessments will be invalid.

Do I need to reapply for exam access arrangements for year 12s?

Yes, you can submit another application with new academic years and also tick (or add if they need to retake GCSEs) the GCE box.  Regarding Form 8s, the front section needs to be updated to include usual way of working in sixth form, their GCSE results and teacher comments.  The assessor section will be the same however as it’s valid from year 9 onwards.  There is no need to retest these students.

Which tests can I use to prove eligibility for access arrangements?

There used to be an agreed list of tests, but now in the JCQ handbook that ‘any nationally standardised test’ is acceptable.

Who can be used as an assessor and what proof does the school need to hold?

JCQ prefer an internal assessor but will also accept, LA approved assessors, educational psychologists, assessors who hold a Level 7 qualification related to standardised tests or an assessor holding a practising certificate in testing from associations such as PATOSS, the British Dyslexia Association of the British Psychology Society.  These practising certificates are only valid if they are updated regularly through associate membership.

As a school, you should have copies of all assessors who are on your form 8s with their qualifications. In addition, you will need to add their names onto Access Arrangements Online.

How often should I train adults involved in invigilation, readers and scribes.

This should happen yearly, and the scripts given to all those involved. You can do this yourself, but I’d recommend a 75 minute online course which can be taken by an unlimited number of staff.  It’s very reasonable at £65.

Are there access arrangements I don’t know about?

An Oral Language Modifier (OLM) is extremely useful for students who have poor receptive language skills.  This is like a reader, but the OLM can change carrier language and break down tasks to make the exam more accessible (they cannot change the subject language).  For a student to be eligible for an OLM, they need low language scores in their EHCP or a standardised score of below 70 from a reading comprehension test or from a Speech and Language test (this would usually be provided by your Speech and Language Therapist who incidentally is automatically eligible to be an OLM in exams).

You can train to be an OLM.

We don’t use computer readers, should we?

The simple answer is yes. Especially for the English Language paper where they are not allowed a human reader.  Implementation and training is key however,if you want more information on this, I am happy to offer a morning’s consultancy on this. 

Here is ReadWriteGold, Clicker and Claroread.  The three main computer readers set up for exams.  There is ReadAloud in Word and PDF reader which could be used in class but as far as I know, they are not set up for exams yet.

Also, don’t forget reading pens which can be used by any students, not just those eligible for a reader.

A few thoughts

  • Do you have students who use a laptop but due to poor spelling do not use a wide vocabulary? It may be worth letting them type with the spellchecker on and forgo the spelling marks in their exams.
  • Do you use rest breaks? They are extremely useful and may be more beneficial to some students than extra time. A student could let the invigilator know, turn their paper over and just stop for a while – this may help those learners who are too embarrassed to get up and leave in front of their peers.
  • Don’t forget prompts, another useful addition to access arrangements.
  • There are no longer transcripts available so for those with illegible writing the only options are laptop or scribe.

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