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What do I need to know as a teacher?

Exam Access Arrangements

Dyslexia can have a substantial and long term adverse effect on normal day to day activities, and therefore can be a recognised disability under the Equality Act 2010. The Act states that schools and higher education institutions have a duty to make 'reasonable adjustments' for disabled students (including students with learning difficulties, such as dyslexia).

As well as reasonable adjustments in the classroom, schools must put in place Exam Access Arrangements, which are reasonable adjustments for candidates who have the required knowledge and skills, but who can’t demonstrate this knowledge or skills due to their disability. These arrangements must not affect the integrity of the examination or give the learner an unfair advantage.

Access Arrangements can include:

  • Extra time
  • A reader
  • A scribe
  • The use of an exam reading pen, a word processor or assistive software (screen reader/voice recognition)
  • Exam papers printed on coloured paper
  • Supervised rest breaks
  • A separate room to take the test in

See the JCQ Access Arrangements webpage for more information.

JCQ have published an information sheet to share with parents to help their understanding of Access Arrangements: JCQ Parent guidance information sheet 2024

National curriculum tests

Phonics test (Year 1)

Few children with dyslexia will have been diagnosed at this stage and this test may help to identify those at risk. Schools can adapt the test materials for pupils who cannot access the check, for example, changing the font or font size. Using coloured overlays, having rest breaks or rephrasing instructions are allowed if this is the pupil’s normal way of working.

For children who are working well below the level of the screening check (for example, if they have shown no understanding of letter-sound correspondences), there will be a disapplication process so they do not have to take part. Parents should be informed if a child is disapplied.

Key Stage 2 (Years 3-6)

National Curriculum Tests (known informally as SATs) are administered at the end of Key Stage 2 at 11 years. Permission to use some Access Arrangements, for example, extra time, must be granted by the Standards and Testing Agency (STA). Schools can decide on using other Access Arrangements such as a reader, prompt or rest breaks without applying to the STA.

The latest information can be found on the webpage National curriculum assessments: Key stage 2 tests.

GCSEs and A-Levels

The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) oversees Exam Access Arrangements for GCSE and GCE (A-Level) qualifications.

Decisions are based on:

• The school’s knowledge of the student’s needs and the support put in place in the classroom - their normal way of working
• Findings of an assessor’s assessments
• The requirements of the subjects they are taking

A learner does not need a diagnosis of a learning difficulty, including dyslexia, to receive Access Arrangements.

A diagnosis of dyslexia will not mean automatic Exam Access Arrangements - it is the evidence of the student’s needs in their normal learning situation which is most important.

The JCQ regulations are very clear that an independent assessment carried out without prior consultation with the school cannot be used to award Access Arrangements. However, an independent assessment report may be used to build a picture of the student’s needs which will inform decisions made by the school about Access Arrangements.

Visit the JCQ Access Arrangements, Reasonable Adjustments and Special Consideration webpage for more information.

Apprenticeships and Functional Skills

Access Arrangements for Functional Skills Tests no longer come under JCQ regulations. For information visit the relevant awarding body website.