What are access arrangements?

Access arrangements are agreed before an assessment.

They allow candidates with specific needs, such as special educational needs, disabilities or temporary injuries to access the assessment and show what they know and can do without changing the demands of the assessment.

The intention behind an access arrangement is to meet the needs of an individual candidate without affecting the integrity of the assessment.

Access arrangements are the principal way in which awarding bodies comply with the duty under the Equality Act 2010* to make ‘reasonable adjustments’.

When should access arrangements be put in place?

Access arrangements should be processed at the start of the course. Schools, for example, should be able to process applications at the start of or during the first year of a two-year GCSE course having firmly established a picture of need and normal way of working during Years 7 to 9.

The key principle is that the SENCo, or the assessor working within the centre, can show a history of support and provision. The arrangement is not suddenly being granted to the candidate at the time of his/her examinations

The arrangement(s) put in place must reflect the support given to the candidate in the centre, for example:

  • in the classroom (where appropriate)
  • working in small groups for reading and/or writing
  • literacy support lessons
  • Literacy intervention strategies
  • In internal school tests/examinations
  • Mock examinations.

This is commonly referred to as ‘normal way of working’.

In the event of a temporary injury or impairment, or a diagnosis of a disability or manifestation of an impairment relating to an existing disability arising after the start of the course, access arrangements should be applied for as soon as is practicable.

What are Reasonable Adjustments

The Equality Act 2010* requires an awarding body to make reasonable adjustments where a candidate, who is disabled within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010, would be at a substantial disadvantage in comparison to someone who is not disabled. The awarding body is required to take reasonable steps to overcome that disadvantage.

An example would be a Braille paper which would be a reasonable adjustment for a vision impaired candidate who could read Braille.

A reasonable adjustment may be unique to that individual and may not be included in the list of available access arrangements.

Whether an adjustment will be considered reasonable will depend on several factors which will include, but are not limited to:

  • the needs of the disabled candidate;
  • the effectiveness of the adjustment;
  • the cost of the adjustment;
  • the likely impact of the adjustment upon the candidate and other candidates.

An adjustment will not be approved if it:

  • involves unreasonable costs to the awarding body;
  • involves unreasonable timeframes; or
  • affects the security and integrity of the assessment.

This is because the adjustment is not ‘reasonable’

When should Reasonable adjustments be arranged?

Centres who wish to apply for a reasonable adjustment in a vocational qualification must make an application to the relevant awarding body at least six weeks before the date of the series in which the assessment is to be taken.

To apply for Braille papers, modified enlarged papers, modified language papers or papers adapted for the purpose of using a recording, please submit Form VQ/EA no later than ten weeks before the date of the assessment.

What is Special Consideration?

Special Consideration is not an access arrangement, is a post examination request to adjust a candidate's mark or grade to reflect temporary injury, illness or other indisposition at the time of the examination/assessment.

Exam board links

JCQ (AQA, Pearson, OCR, WJEC)
Cambridge International