In this section

Exam access arrangements

3 mins read

The information on this page is for families in England only. I live in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales.

In this article

Can my child have special arrangements for tests or exams?

If your child has a special educational need or disability that puts them at a disadvantage for tests and exams, it may be possible for special arrangements to be made to level the playing field.

These are known as ‘access arrangements’ and would come under the broad category of reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act. Access arrangements might include:

  • Extra time to complete the exam.
  • Rest breaks.
  • Sitting the exam in a small room rather than the main hall.
  • Use of technology such as a laptop or exam reading pen.
  • Modified test materials, e.g. large print or braille.
  • A scribe or reader.
  • A prompter to help keep the candidate on task.

Public exams

The Joint Council on Qualifications (JCQ) has produced guidance on access arrangements for public exams such as GCSEs, A levels and vocational qualifications.

Some arrangements, such as rest breaks or using a smaller room, are at the discretion of the school. Others need to be approved in advance. Full details are in the guidance.

For extra time, a candidate will need evidence such as an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan or a recent assessment showing slow speed of reading, writing or processing.

In all cases the access arrangement must reflect the pupil’s normal way of working. For example, your child won’t be allowed a laptop for GCSEs if they have never used one in school. The school should also put arrangements such as extra time in place well in advance for mocks and internal exams.

National curriculum assessments (SATS)

These take place at the end of year 2 (Key stage 1 assessment) and year 6 (Key stage 2 assessment).

Key stage 1 assessments are flexible anyway, so the child’s documented normal way of working is the only evidence needed for any special arrangements. The school does not have to put in a formal application.

For key stage 2 assessments, the school can provide similar access arrangements as for public exams. However, it isn’t usually necessary to formally assess the child’s needs. The school’s own evidence of speed of working should be sufficient for awarding extra time.

If your child is working below the level of the tests they will not have to take them, and their performance will be based on teacher assessment over time.

Other exams and tests

Some children take other exams, for example the 11+ for selective schools or other entrance tests. The duty to make reasonable adjustments still applies, but the exact nature will depend on the examining body – they may have their own guidance. Check well before the exam and make sure you have the necessary evidence.

Schools have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for internal exams where necessary. Generally these would be similar to the access arrangements for public exams.

Further information

Information for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Read our information about education in Wales.

Find out about the system of support for children with special educational needs in Northern Ireland on the NI Education Authority website or Senac (special educational needs advice centre).

In Scotland, the system of support for children with additional support needs is called additional support for learning. You can read more about it on the Enquire website.