Equality legislation in the UK means that any students who have a Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD) such as dyslexia, which is hindering them in their academic work at school or college and in public examinations (such as GCSEs and A Levels), should be considered for appropriate arrangements in exams to level the playing field and enable them to access learning and complete exam papers to the best of their ability. Having an SpLD does not mean you automatically need or qualify for Access Arrangements, There has to be a sustained and evidenced history that it negatively affects work.
(N.b Access Arrangements are also available as appropriate for students with documented medical or emotional needs.)
Schools and colleges have a regulated process for identifying students who need Access Arrangements. It is a school’s responsibility to identify the nature of support required and to keep a record of evidence of the need for and the established use of that particular support. They are required to use assessors with whom they regularly work to collect standardised test scores as part of this process and cannot use independent reports as supporting evidence.
There are several different Access Arrangements hat can be awarded, depending on need, Where a school or college (a “centre”) collects relevant evidence from teachers and test scores, a student who reads very slowly may qualify for 25% additional time in exams where a lot of reading is involved. A centre may collect evidence that a student’s slow processing means they need extra time to finish maths papers or papers with lots of long written answers. Or a centre may collect evidence that a student needs to use a computer reader in exams, so they understand the questions being asked of them. Similarly, a centre may document evidence that a student struggles to write legibly, or to spell legibly, and will then apply for appropriate Access Arrangements for these difficulties. In all these cases, evidence would be needed that the school provides equivalent support for identified difficulties on a regular basis in class and in school tests and exams. That is, they need to prove that it is the student’s “normal way of working”.
In all these cases, evidence of need must be built up over time, not just before exams. And if a student does not do better consistently with that particularly arrangement (for example, if they do not use their extra time when it is given to them), they would not continue to qualify for it.
It is important to understand that independent diagnostic assessments of dyslexia or other SpLDs cannot be used as evidence by a centre of need for Access Arrangements. Assessors can highlight potential need for such arrangements in their reports, and parents can show teachers such reports, so they better understand a situation, but then it is up to the centre to look at the evidence of need they have and decide, if they have not done so already, whether they need to do their own screening tests and build up a picture of need towards an arrangement such as extra time or reading support.