The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Gareth D Morewood

Access arrangements: an additional exam stress

One of the biggest stresses for SENCos is the assessment and application of access arrangements. What examples of best practice do you have of handling the process? Gareth D Morewood outlines the system at his school.

In practice

We are fortunate to have a full-time PhD student working in partnership with the University of Manchester at our school. Her detailed analysis and assessment of the current regulations, and our ability as a school to try and ensure we deliver, is a fascinating insight into a very murky area of the modern SENCo role. One SENCo reported to her, ‘It takes me about 3 hours per student to do a full AA assessment and write up Form 8’. Multiply this by the number of candidates who need to be assessed and the time taken to collect and collate evidence of a normal way of working and you have a substantial investment in both time and money. Then, add in the cost of the tests themselves and you can see why one headteacher said this had become ‘an industry’!

For us it has been particularly challenging. We have 69 students out of a cohort of 240 entitled to some form of AA. That is almost 29% of the student body. I am very confident that anyone entitled to AAs has been processed, and offered appropriate provision. However, working on the estimated time allocation above, this equates to roughly 207 hours of my specialist assessor’s time, or, in effect, about 6 weeks of dedicated work!

This is clearly ludicrous and doesn’t even start to consider the application of AAs during exams themselves. If the SENCo in a school is also the specialist assessor, as JCQ suggest, (JCQ, 2014b) then it is a challenge for the assessment centre to see that everything can be delivered when the SENCo’s role is already so wide. It must not be forgotten that many SENCos are class teachers and may also have other roles. Schools will be faced with employing additional staff to support or replace the SENCo in part of their role as we do, or, fail to deliver the school’s statutory obligations under the Equality Act (2010).

Find out more about practical strategies for supporting pupils with speech and language difficulties

What the guidance says

Let us remind ourselves about what regulations and guidance say about access arrangements.

Section 7.2 of the Joint Council for Qualifications Regulations and Guidance – Access Arrangements, Reasonable Adjustments and Special Consideration (to August 2013)

'The duty for an awarding body to make a reasonable adjustment (s20) will apply where a disabled person would be at a substantial disadvantage in comparison to someone who is not disabled. In such circumstances, the awarding body is required to take reasonable steps to avoid that disadvantage.'

Section 6 of the Equality Act 2010

Disability (1) A person (P) has a disability if -

(a) P has a physical or mental impairment, and

(b) the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on P's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Section 20(1) and (3) of the Equality Act 2010

Duty to make adjustments

(1) Where this Act imposes a duty to make reasonable adjustments on a person, this section, sections 21 and 22 and the applicable schedule apply; and for those purposes, a person on whom the duty is imposed is referred to as A.

(3) The first requirement is a requirement, where a provision, criterion or practice of A's puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in relation to a relevant matter in comparison with persons who are not disabled, to take such steps as it is reasonable to have to take to avoid the disadvantage.

Section 85(2) of the Equality Act 2010

(2) The responsible body of such a school must not discriminate against a pupil —

(a) in the way it provides education for the pupil;

(b) in the way it affords the pupil access to a benefit, facility or service;

(c) by not providing education for the pupil;

(d) by not affording the pupil access to a benefit, facility or service;

(e) by excluding the pupil from the school;

(f) by subjecting the pupil to any other detriment.

Section 96(6) of the Equality Act 2010

(6) A duty to make reasonable adjustments applies to a qualifications body

Answers on a postcard

Whilst I am unable to offer anything more in this post apart from a sharing an acknowledgement of the pressures associated with AAs, I can reassure colleagues, young people and parents and carers, that through the research we are currently involved with and my personal determination to make this system more manageable, further SENCology posts will support and explain our developing systems and the results of lobbying for a better and more manageable system.

Please do add your comments and thoughts and message me directly @gdmorewood or email me at Hopefully, together we can change this current system to ensure equal opportunity for young people.

Further information


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