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Access Arrangements

What is an Access Arrangement?

Access arrangements are agreed before an assessment. They allow candidates with specific needs, such as special educational needs, disabilities or temporary injuries to access the assessment and show what they know and can do without changing the demands of the assessment. The intention behind an access arrangement is to meet the needs of an individual candidate without affecting the integrity of the assessment. Access arrangements are the principal way in which awarding bodies comply with the duty under the Equality Act 2010* to make ‘reasonable adjustments’.

Reasonable Adjustments

The duty for an awarding body to make a reasonable adjustment will apply where assessment arrangements would put a disabled candidate at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with a candidate who is not disabled. In such circumstances, the awarding body is required to take reasonable steps to avoid that disadvantage. Awarding bodies are not required to make adjustments to the academic or other standard being applied when conducting an examination/ assessment. (JCQ 2021/2022)

An adjustment will not be approved if it:

  • Involves unreasonable costs to the awarding body;
  • Involves unreasonable timeframes; or
  • Affects the security and integrity of the assessment.

This is because the adjustment is not ‘reasonable’. In most cases it will not be reasonable for adjustments to be made to assessment objectives within a qualification. To do so would likely undermine the effectiveness of the qualification in providing a reliable indication of the knowledge, skills and understanding of the candidate. There is no duty to make adjustments which the qualifications regulators have specified should not be made

When We Will Assess a Student

We will assess identified students with ‘persistent and significant difficulties’ (JCQ page 9 2021/2022) at the end of year 9 and the start of Year 10 in order to ascertain whether students meet the criteria and subsequently apply for access arrangements to be granted. Any application is only valid for 26 months and it is for this reason that we do not apply earlier.

In order for us to apply we need to provide evidence of an ongoing need and show that the access arrangement we apply for is the student’s normal way of working within our school. Therefore, throughout Years 7, 8 and 9 we may trial various strategies and conduct a number of different tests and assessments in order to make sure that we are not only meeting the criteria but that we can work out what might be the best provision for your child.

No access arrangement is formalised until the end of Year 9/ start of Year 10 and any arrangement made before that time is essentially part of the assessment process. This can be quite confusing for parents as we are aware that students have sometimes been granted an access arrangement for tests at primary school. Please also be aware that having an Education Health and Care Plan or diagnosis of a Specific Learning Difficulty, does not necessarily mean that a student will qualify for access arrangements, even if your child has regular in class support. Any external Students will again be assessed in year 12 to establish need and if access arrangements are granted they will then be able to access these during college. *All new starters will be assessed upon entry.


If a student is eligible they will have the arrangements in all internal tests and exams for year 10 and year 11. We will notify parents of the exam access arrangements for the academic year, by letter. Exam Access Arrangements are also noted on student’s EHCP’s and SSPP’s. All exam board delegated arrangements can only be given once a student has been tested in school. All arrangements must be submitted with evidence from teaching staff and be the candidate’s usual way of working.

A privately commissioned assessment carried out without prior consultation with the centre cannot be used to award access arrangements and cannot be used to process an application using Access arrangements online.

Access Arrangements and Reasonable adjustmentsJCQ 2020/2021 pg 83. 7.3.6
Below is a summary of the current access arrangements available.

Centre Delegated

  • These will be allowed where it is the candidate’s normal way of working.
  • Medical conditions – rest breaks can be agreed if you have a serious medical condition, examples of this are type 1 diabetes or a sensory need. Medical evidence is required. AD(H)D – if you have a diagnosis we will look at the recommendations and consider whether rest breaks will be helpful in exams. Evidence of your diagnosis is required.
  • Evidence (at consultant level) from CAMHs or FTB of current treatment for a condition that requires rest breaks. However, we do not accept evidence from this service if you have been discharged from treatment.
  • These must always be considered and thoroughly exhausted before making an application for 25% extra time. – JCQ 2021/2022 page 29 5.1

Please Note: We are not able or allowed to provide rest breaks in advance for anxiety/worry/ stress caused by taking exams. It is normal to feel stressed and worried about exams. Please feel reassured that our exam invigilators are experienced and trained to deal with students who are upset and worried on the day.

The SENCo must produce a short concise file note on centre headed paper, signed and dated, confirming the nature of the candidate’s impairment and that the use of a computer reader and/or a reader reflects his/her normal and current way of working within the centre. For candidates with learning difficulties assessment evidence and Form 8 is not required. However, The SENCo must be satisfied that:

  • The candidate has an impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect, giving rise to persistent and significant reading difficulties (the candidate is disabled within the meaning of the Equality Act); and
  • There is a genuine need for the arrangement
  • The reader CANNOT read for the candidate in the reading element of any exam where reading is being assessed

A computer reader/reader will be awarded on account of:

  • cognition and learning needs;
  • communication and interaction needs;
  • a medical condition;
  • sensory and physical needs;
  • social, emotional and mental health need

There is not a requirement to process an application for read aloud and/or the use of an examination reading pen using Access arrangements online.

Read aloud – It can make a significant difference to a candidate who persistently struggles to understand what they have read to read aloud. Where a candidate is reading difficult text, he/she may work more effectively if they can hear themselves read. The arrangement must reflect the candidate’s normal way of working in internal school tests and mock examinations. A candidate who reads aloud to himself/herself must be accommodated in another room, away from the main examination room. A candidate who would normally be eligible for a reader but is not permitted this arrangement in a paper (or a section of a paper) testing reading may read aloud with up to a maximum of 50% extra time.

Examination reading pen – A permitted examination reading pen will not have an in-built dictionary or thesaurus, or a data storage facility. The use of an examination reading pen, provided by the centre, might benefit those candidates who wish to work independently. It may increase the independence of candidates who needed a reader for accuracy rather than comprehension. The use of an examination reading pen might also benefit those candidates who only require occasional words or phrases to be read to them. An examination reading pen may be used in papers (or sections of papers) testing reading. However, the candidate cannot additionally be granted up to a maximum of 50% extra time in place of the reader.

Centres are allowed to provide a word processor with the spelling and grammar check facility/predictive text disabled (switched off) to a candidate where it is their normal way of working within the centre. For example, the quality of language significantly improves as a result of using a word processor due to problems with planning and organisation when writing by hand. (This also extends to the use of electronic braillers and tablets.)

A word processor cannot simply be granted to a candidate because he/she now wants to type rather than write in examinations or can work faster on a keyboard, or because he/she uses a laptop at home. The use of a word processor must reflect the candidate’s normal way of working within the centre. For example, where the curriculum is delivered electronically and the centre provides word processors to all candidates.

A prompter may be permitted where a candidate has a substantial and long-term adverse impairment resulting in persistent distractibility or significant difficulty in concentrating. For example, the candidate:

  • Has little or no sense of time (e.g. candidates with ADHD or ASD); or
  • Persistently loses concentration; or
  • Is affected by an Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder which leads them to keep revising a question rather than moving onto other questions.

In such instances a candidate may be assisted by a prompter who can keep the candidate focused on the need to answer a question and then move on to answering the next question.

The SENCo is allowed to provide a live speaker for pre-recorded examination components, e.g. MFL Listening examinations, to a candidate where it is their normal way of working within the centre. The candidate will have persistent and significant difficulties in following speech at normal speed.

The SENCo is allowed to provide a Communication Professional to a candidate whose normal way of working within the centre is to use Sign Language.

  • Amplification equipment
  • Braillers
  • Closed circuit television (CCTV)
  • Colour naming by the invigilator for candidates who are colour blind
  • Coloured overlays (this would also include reading rulers, virtual overlays and virtual reading rulers) Examination on coloured/enlarged paper
  • Low vision aid/magnifier
  • Optical Character Reader (OCR) scanners
  • Separate invigilation within the centre

The SENCo must make their decision based on:

  • whether the candidate has a substantial and long-term impairment which has an adverse effect; and
  • the candidate’s normal way of working within the centre.

Exam Board Delegated

  • In order to award 25% extra time the SENCo must determine the needs of the candidate based on one of the following:
    • A current Education, Health and Care Plan, a Statement of Special Educational Needs (Northern Ireland), or an Individual Development Plan (Wales), which confirms the candidate’s disability (supplemented by the required centre- based evidence – see paragraph 5.2.3); or
    • A fully completed Form 8 with an assessment (Part 2 of Form 8) carried out no earlier than the start of Year 9 by an assessor confirming a learning difficulty relating to secondary/further education (Form 8 must be supplemented by a detailed picture of need).

    Supplementary evidence will also be required but the amount of evidence required, the detailed picture of need, will vary according to the candidate’s standardised scores on tests of speed (see pg.35 Access Arrangements and Reasonable adjustments – JCQ 2020/2021)

    Extra time will not be allowed if a candidate’s literacy difficulties are primarily caused by English, Irish or Welsh not being his/her first language.

    *Supervised rest breaks must always be considered before making a request for extra time, since they may be more appropriate for candidates with a medical condition, a physical disability or a psychological condition. (See Chapter 5, section 5.1 for more detail.)

For further information please refer to Access Arrangements and Reasonable Adjustments:

If a word processor (with the spelling and grammar check disabled) is the candidate’s normal way of working within the centre, then it should be used in examinations to encourage independent working and access to marks awarded for spelling, punctuation and grammar (see section 5.8). A scribe must only be used where a candidate is not sufficiently competent or confident in using a word processor with the spelling and grammar check or predictive text facility disabled (switched off). Some candidates will be able to use a word processor in most of their subjects but may require a scribe in subjects such as Maths and Science.

A scribe or speech recognition technology software will not be allowed if a candidate’s literacy difficulties are primarily caused by English, Irish or Welsh not being his/her first language.


So as not to give an unfair advantage, a scribe will only be allowed where:

  • an impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the candidate’s writing; or
  • a candidate cannot write, type or Braille independently, or at sufficient speed to record their answers even with extra time allowed, because of a substantial and long-term impairment.

The use of a scribe must reflect the candidate’s normal way of working within the centre in the light of their substantial and long-term impairment.

Speech Recognition Technology

Where the centre has approval for the use of a scribe and where it reflects the candidate’s normal way of working within the centre, as appropriate to his/her needs, the candidate may alternatively use:

  • a word processor with the spelling and grammar check facility enabled; (NB This arrangement will not be permitted in ELC, GCSE and GCE Modern Foreign Language specifications. See paragraph 5.7.6.)
  • a word processor with predictive text/spelling and grammar check facility enabled; (NB This arrangement will not be permitted in ELC, GCSE and GCE Modern Foreign Language specifications. See paragraph 5.7.6.)
  • speech recognition technology with predictive text when the candidate dictates into a word processor. Software (a screen reader) may be used to read back and correct the candidate’s dictated answers; (NB This arrangement will not be permitted in ELC, GCSE and GCE Modern Foreign Language specifications. See paragraph 5.7.6.)
  • computer software, producing speech, which is used to dictate to a scribe.

However, the candidate will not have access to marks awarded for spelling, punctuation and/or grammar unless he/she has independently dictated spelling, punctuation and/or grammar, and this has been recorded on the scribe cover sheet.

A Language Modifier is a responsible adult who may clarify the carrier language used in the examination paper when requested to do so by a candidate. The Language Modifier must not explain technical terms or subject-specific terms. The ability to understand these terms is part of the assessment. If such terms are explained to the candidate then the demands of the question will have been compromised which may constitute malpractice.

A Language Modifier should be a rare and exceptional arrangement. It must only be considered for those candidates whose disability has a very substantial and long-term adverse effect resulting in very persistent and significant difficulties in accessing and processing information. A Language Modifier is an adjustment of the last resort. An application should only be made once all other relevant adjustments have been considered and found to be unsuitable or unworkable. There must be a very strong justification as to why a Language Modifier is required.

Where approved, the practical assistant will carry out practical tasks at the instruction of the candidate. (See The rules – the use of a practical assistant within this section.) For example:

  • A candidate with very poor motor co-ordination may need help in holding a ruler, placing a ruler in the correct place for a line to be drawn or turning the pages of the script. The candidate may also need help when using Mathematical equipment.
  • A candidate with a severe vision impairment may need his or her hand to be guided to the relevant page or section of text in a paper. Care must be taken not to direct the candidate to the answer.
  • A Blind candidate may require a practical assistant to record the position of points or lines indicated on a tactile graph by means of pins and elastic bands.

The candidate will be sitting his/her examination(s) at a residential address or at a hospital which is a non-registered centre due to, for example:

  • a medical condition which prevents the candidate from taking examinations in the centre; or
  • social, emotional and mental health needs.

The candidate has:

  • an impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect giving rise to persistent and significant difficulties; or
  • a temporary illness or injury at the time of the examination(s).

The SENCo, or a senior member of staff with pastoral responsibilities, must:

  • be satisfied that the candidate is able to take examinations;
  • produce written evidence confirming the need for an alternative site arrangement to a JCQ Centre Inspector upon request.