Formal tests and examinations can present significant challenges for dyslexic candidates. Speed of processing, organising information, sequencing, short term and working memory, reading accuracy and automaticity, and fluency in writing can all be particular issues which can prevent the candidate with dyslexia from achieving their potential. Visual difficulties in reading on-screen, or tracking from one piece of paper to another, can cause further problems. Some learners with dyslexia may have difficulty producing legible handwriting. In addition, they can be prone to stress under time pressures, which in turn may exacerbate their difficulties.
Some dyslexic candidates in tests and examinations [SATs, GCSE, GCE ‘A’ Level, GNVQ, Entry level, Basic and Key Skills, Vocational and Vocationally-related skills] may, if eligible, benefit from access arrangements in order to level the playing field with non-dyslexic candidates. However, any adjustments made should not confer unfair advantage. The main types of access arrangements available include: extra time [+25% is usual], supervised rest breaks, readers, scribes, use of word processors and/or assistive software, transcripts, prompters and oral language modifiers. However, with JCQ’s permission, other reasonable adjustments may be implemented, as appropriate to an individual’s needs.
Not all individuals with dyslexia will necessarily be eligible for access arrangements, only those who meet the The Joint Council for Qualifications’ [JCQ] current criteria. Each autumn, the JCQ publishes a revised document setting out the ‘Regulations & Guidance Relating to Candidates who are Eligible for Adjustments in Examinations’ for the forthcoming academic year. A diagnosis of dyslexia is no longer sufficient to allow a candidate extra time. The awarding bodies now require ‘evidence of need in the normal working arrangements’, i.e. the candidate uses extra time in class and for tests and internal examinations.
Schools offer assessment to provide the evidence required for access arrangements, and you should first seek advice from the Special Educational Needs Coordinator [SENCo] at your child’s school.
Before an on-line application for access arrangements is made to the JCQ, a ‘Form 8’, or similar, is completed for each student by a ‘named assessor’ [a qualified educational psychologist or specialist teacher with a Level 7 qualification or equivalent]. These provide results of recent standardised tests undertaken, a background history of need and provision, and the assessor’s recommendations for access arrangements.
- The decision to provide access arrangements in examinations always rests with the Head of Centre (Headteacher), usually delegated to the school SENCo and the Examinations Officer. A private assessment may provide evidence to support this decision, but the school cannot be compelled to accept an independently commissioned report for the purposes of access arrangements;
- Examination access arrangements should reflect the normal study behaviour of your child. For example, if your child has dyslexia, and has mastered reasonably accurate reading skills but always reads out loud to process information they are reading, then it is reasonable to ask for the ‘read aloud facility’;
- Extra time for examinations is not always the answer for students with dyslexia who tire easily. Extra time could reduce the rest breaks between exams on heavy exam days, particularly at GCSE. Think carefully about which exams require the extra time. Would your child benefit more from the rest between exams? Seek the advice of your child’s school during and after mock exams;
- What evidence is there of the quality of work and marks gained when extra time is offered?
Ask the SENCo at your child’s school about the access arrangements that may be suitable for your child. If you do not get the response you are seeking, or if the school does not have the expertise required to provide in-house assessment for access arrangements, please contact Dyslexia Lincs for advice.
The report provided as part of an independent Full Diagnostic Assessment may [depending on results] support a request for exam access arrangements, and most schools would give proper consideration to such a report when deciding which access arrangements [if any] may be appropriate for your child. However, it must be remembered that there is no obligation for a school to accept an independent report when awarding examination access arrangements.