Last year, some home educating candidates were left having to struggle through their exams without appropriate Access Arrangements in place, because they had been assured by their centre that they could be arranged at the last minute. This is not actually possible, except in the case of a true emergency, and only then if the AAs are available to be used. A centre which has no more space, for example, can’t magic up another room, the day before the exam. So, if your child needs AAs, you need, as always, to plan well in advance.
This year, the JCQ representative emphasised the importance of the 'Five Conditions' being confirmed and signed by the centre SENCO, in addition to there being adequate primary evidence (report from qualified professional etc.). These are that the SENCO must:
1. confirm that the candidate has persistent and significant difficulties when accessing and processing information and is disabled within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010;
2. include evidence of the candidate’s current difficulties and how they substantially impact on teaching and learning in the classroom;
3. show the involvement of teaching staff in determining the need for 25% extra time;
4. confirm that without the application of 25% extra time the candidate would be at a substantial disadvantage; (The candidate would be at a substantial disadvantage when compared with other, non-disabled candidates undertaking the assessment.)
5. confirm that 25% extra time is the candidate’s normal way of working within the centre as a direct consequence of their disability.
Obviously, none of this was written with home educators in mind and those parents seeking AAs will need to contact the centre now (for next summer) and discuss with them how these conditions may be met in the home education context.
Because the SENCO is now the lead professional (as opposed to the Exams Officer, in the past) and s/he has to sign a statement confirming these conditions being met, some centres may run a mile from private (external) candidates requiring AAs. If you find a gem of a centre willing to work with your child's needs, do remember that they are under no obligation to do so and they are doing you a favour. Please treat them well, so that they will be happy to help other home educators in the future.
The HE-Exams Yahoo Group is the best place to ask questions about exam-taking as a home educator: