Hi Jackie,

The timing for the evidence needed for Access Arrangements at GCSE depends on the type of Access Arrangement required. If it is the type that needs to be applied for from the Exam Boards (eg scribe, reader, use of word processor) then the report requesting access arrangements needs to be done within 2 years of the start of the exam series (the report therefore lasts for 2 years, so for exams taken in Years 10 and 11 the assessment can be done in the June at the end of Year 9, in which case the student will have to be assessed again for exams taken in Years 12 and 13). For GCSE/GCE you only need to prove that the student has a history of need caused by a Learning Disability and the Access Arrangement must be their 'normal way of working'. In practice this means that if the student has a history of need and if, for example, they have below average reading skills (which can be either accuracy, speed or comprehension) on one of the approved tests, then a reader can be applied for, if it is their normal way of working. A reader cannot be used in English or Modern Language exams. For a scribe, the same principle applies, but the student has to have either illegible writing, or such poor spelling that the work is illegible, or very slow writing speed, or incomprehensible grammar. A scribe can be used in English, but no marks are awarded for spelling or for punctuation (unless the punctuation is dictated), and a scribe cannot be used in Modern Languages unless the foreign words are dictated letter by letter. A word processor can be used instead of a scribe, but no spellchecker is allowed to be used. In practice, I find schools do not like using word processors, because of the difficulty in setting them up and training the student to use the word processor correctly in exams. Unless a student can type reasonably fast it is better to use a scribe, in my opinion. Another option allowed by JCQ is Voice Activated software (has to be applied for from the Exam Board).

As regards, extra time, this is awarded by the school, provided it is up to 25% extra time,  and is not applied for from the Exam Boards, unless it is over 25% extra time, and so the JCQ regulations are not as explicit about extra time as they are about scribes, readers etc. However, an underlying principle is that the student must not be given an unfair advantage by being given the access arrangement. The same principles apply as to access arrangements awarded by the Exam Boards ie student must have an established history of need and it must be their normal way of working. For up to 25% extra time a Psychologist's or Specialist Teacher's report, which confirms a learning disability must have been done during the Secondary School period. In practice, if the student has such a report, I usually do an assessment update within the 2 years of the exams to ascertain exactly what percentage extra time is required, bearing in mind that the JCQ regulations are quite explicit this year that the 'Centre must assess the needs of the candidate' based on the the Psychologist/Specialist Teacher's report and 'Privately commissioned reports must give a clear indication that there is an evidence of need. The Head of Centre must be satisfied that there is a history of need and provision.' It may be, for example, that the student only requires 10% extra time (they must not be given an unfair advantage), or they may need a reader on the basis of their reading speed. Extra time is applied for before the exam is written. Readers/scribes etc have to be applied for a long time before the exams are written (dates are on the JCQ website).

As regards, SATs exams, extra time is harder to get than in GCSE/GCE. The access arrangements are arranged by QCA and the criteria are on their website, including the figures laid down for writing speed. The regulations are similar for both Key Stage 2 and 3.


Jackie Drew wrote:
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I really want to get my 2 boys tested. Dad is not keen as we will have to 
do it privately. All I want is answers--what exactly is causing their 
difficulties & some pointers to what will help. ( I know this is an ongoing 
saga & its about time we got on with it ) It is not likely to get us any 
extra help at school (primary yr5 or secondary yr8) other than more 
understanding from the teachers as they are both bright & doing OK as far 
as the schools are concerned. 

One of their main problems is writing, especially speed. The Yr5 teacher 
specifically told me son #2 will not do himself justice on the Yr6 sats if 
he can't write faster & even queried if his level from last year wasn't too 
high. So with that in mind I looked up how you get extra time for Sats & 
discovered its quite strict.

I'm also concerned for the older one. The school actually did some testing 
last year which wasn't comprehensive but showed poor auditory memory & slow 
writing speed. The very overstretched SENCO kindly showed me how to tutor 
him at home as he can't have help at school, which we did for about 6 
months last year til he started to resist it. The writing problems are 
affecting his levels in timed class tests --he has difficulty finishing 
longer written questions. To make things worse, the school is putting all 
Yr8 in for KS3 this year & they will start GCSEs next year. 

So whilst extra time for SATS is probably not going to happen, I would like 
to find out about GCSEs. 

Somewhere I heard you need a paper trail going back to show difficulties 
over time?? I've looked at the jcq site & tried to read the relevant parts 
of their access document but still a bit confused on timelines & what 
evidence is needed. Is now the right time to test them ?

Any-one know or point me to the information? (think I need the dummies 
guide !)

Sorry about the essay--just helps to write it all out.