The introduction of a ‘hard deadline’ to the online application of GCSE Access Arrangements has changed the first half of this academic year from busy to frantic for the specialist assessor. Until this year, the deadline was ‘soft’ and late applications were accepted.
IDENTIFYING YOUR EAA REQUIREMENTS
As crucial exams approach, schools, with the students’ interest in mind, may become over cautious about borderline students; those that may qualify one day and not the next. A solution is to apply with a cluster of ‘low average’ scores and re-assessing, before the deadline, may also reveal the required evidence. Parents understandably apply pressure on schools. As they hear about other students’ entitlement to extra time, it can trigger thoughts about their own child’s entitlement.
71% of students reported ‘running out of time in at least one examination’ and ‘86% believed they would have gained at least one or two extra marks if they had been allowed extra time’ (‘Dyslexia: Assessing the need for Access Arrangements during Examination’, Patoss, First Published 2007, Third Edition)
But is it fair? The argument for and against access arrangements rages on, but anything removing barriers to expose a student’s knowledge has got to be a good thing’
Whatever your views about access arrangements, for the foreseeable future, they are here to stay and, having spent a number of years assessing the needs of students, I’m pleased that it is. Access to a reader may appear to be a luxury; but why should poor acquisition of literacy prevent a student from fulfilling their potential in other areas? It is easy to adopt a dismissive stance, whilst peering up from a William Faulkner novel.
Early Assessment for Exam Access Arrangements
So how can we ease the congestion and ensure that access arrangements target the correct students? Early assessment, as early as year nine, is the preferred model. Most schools, quite rightly, do this as a matter of course. The ‘normal way of working’ is a crucial component of application and putting arrangements in place early is central to the process. There’s no doubt it is a big ask of school budgets; in 2015/2016 there were almost 100,000 readers approved and almost 50,000 scribes, but the benefits far outweigh the costs.
And what if a student’s needs change? A student at the beginning of year nine can be a very different student by the end of year 11. Different teachers, interventions, peer groups, can all influence the way a student learns. Ongoing assessment of a student’s needs is crucial and achieving independence must always remain the goal. Students can improve to the point that that their needs no longer meet entitlement, others can plateau, meaning in year 11, they meet the criteria.
There will always be students with barriers to their learning and early identification of their needs is key, but for now, the deadline for access arrangements is hard.