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Special Educational Needs, Disabilities and Access Arrangements for Home-Educated Students

Access Arrangements are 'reasonable adjustments' put in place to assist students who have special educational needs, disabilities or other difficulties. Arrangements can include use of technology such as a laptop or reader pen, extra time, opportunities for breaks during the exams, a separate room, a scribe or a reader.

Private candidates, such as home educated children are entitled to access arrangements if they have special educational needs, but it can sometimes be very difficult to arrange as it involves extra work for the exam centre.

Home educators have raised the need for easier routes to access arrangements at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Home Education and in more recent meetings between the Home Educators Qualifications Association and the JCQ, but the current situation is that external candidates can only obtain such arrangements with the agreement of an exam centre. This can be very difficult. The JCQ ruled recently that the implementation of AAs should NOT cost candidates any extra than the centre's usual exam fee, which is welcome. However, one unintended consequence of this is that fewer centres are now willing to assist with the process.

This is also a good reason for considering very carefully before removing children with SENDs from school just prior to exams where Access Arrangements are already in place.

Schools do not have to take external candidates in any situation and the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 do not compel them to offer access arrangements to external candidates, so our approach to exam centres has been one of asking for a favour, rather than demanding a right.

The Rationale for Access Arrangements

Who? They are for candidates with the required knowledge, understanding and skills, who are unable to demonstrate these in an examination due to a difficulty or disability. Why? They exist to ensure that barriers to assessment are removed for a disabled candidate, removing any substantial disadvantage. They must meet the particular needs of the disabled learner without affecting the integrity of the assessment.

Terms used on this page

AAs - Access Arrangements. Reasonable adjustments put in place to assist students who have special educational needs/disabilities or other difficulties. These can include use of technology such as a laptop or reader pen, extra time, opportunities for breaks during the exams, a separate room, scribe, reader, etc. Students who think they may need such arrangements must discuss their needs with their exam centre as early as possible in the process; some centres are more helpful than others.

EHE - Elective Home Education: The child has been deregistered from school or has never been registered at a school. The parent has chosen to take full responsibility for the child's education.

EO - Examinations officer. The person responsible for making the centre's exam entries and who is also responsible for ensuring compliance with the regulations.

EOTAS - Education Otherwise Than At School - where the child remains on-roll at a school or other unit and education is provided by the school or Local Authority, who remain responsible for that child's education. The child has not been deregistered from school even though they may do all their studying at home. See EOTAS page for more.

JCQ - Joint Council for Qualifications. The body which oversees administration of most UK school examinations. Joint body formed by the main exam boards.

SENDs - Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

SENDCO - Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Co-ordinator for an exam centre / school. Sometimes the older term, SENCO, is used.

Access Arrangements procedures for home-educated candidates

The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) regulations on Access Arrangements (AAs) for examinations relates to all of JCQ regulated exams. The complete regulations are on the JCQ site. Cambridge (CAIE) has their own rules which, in some cases, differ from the JCQ regulations. They may be found here.

The starting point for AAs is evidence-gathering by teachers in the centre of a history of need and provision which, of course, is where home educating families are likely to encounter some difficulty.

Evidence of the history of need, eg teachers habitually allowing the student to complete work at home that s/he had no time for in class, will be gathered over a long period and kept in the candidate’s file. This file may be inspected at any time by both the exam board and the JCQ inspector, after an application for AAs is processed by the centre.

Because SENDCOs and Exams Officers are rightly concerned about violations (which could include insufficient evidence of the history of need within the centre) which could lead to their centres being sanctioned or having registration removed, and because centres have to bear the cost of the AAs, we are now seeing fewer centres offering to help with AAs for HE children. The difficulty of providing JCQ inspectors with sufficient centre-based evidence of need may be too great for many Exams Officers and SENDCOs to wish to deal with.

Access Arrangements Flowchart

This is courtesy of Faregos Home Education Exam Centre, but similar procedures will apply to other centres. Click on the image to see a larger version.


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How can you assist your child's request for Access Arrangements?

1. Approach a potential exam centre early on in the process. A year before the exam, in the June – September before, is not too early, and say that your child may need AAs.

2. Ask if you may submit a report of an assessment which you have paid for privately or whether the centre has anyone qualified and able to complete the assessment.

3. If the report you have is by a medical consultant or a professional who meets the Specialist Assessor criteria, then make sure that you state this.

4. If you use any tutors for any part of your child’s education, such as a home education group being taught by a qualified teacher, or a music teacher etc, or anyone who can support the request by supplying evidence of need for an AA, then ask them to write a letter outlining how they have to adjust their teaching to meet your child’s needs. This may help the centre to establish a history of need. Or the centre may not accept it and decide to establish the need through assessment .

5. Be prepared for your child to be reassessed by the SENDCO or for them to have to complete a mock exam at the exam centre. This may entail extra costs.

For Information about some of the types of Access Arrangements available to disabled candidates, see this page.

Links on Access Arrangements and Home Education

JCQ regulations for Access Arrangements 2021-22

Cambridge regulations regarding Access Arrangements are in the Cambridge Handbook

Don't really want to home educate? If your child is too unwell for school, or is refusing to attend school, and you don't really want to home educate but don't see an alternative, read about EOTAS provision from local authorities before you deregister.

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