Practitioner views on current and future access arrangements
A recent increase in the number of access arrangement requests for GCSE, AS and A-level exams has prompted an investigation into what is working well in the current system and what may need reforming in the future. The current study sought to gain insights into the attitudes and concerns of special educational needs coordinators and exams officers via interviews and focus groups.
Participants were particularly concerned about the increase in access arrangement requests for students with social, emotional and mental health needs. They also highlighted issues around access to resources, both at the student and the school level, and the influence that parents can exert. Looking to the future, practitioners recognised the potential benefits of on-screen exams, especially in terms of allowing greater independence for students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). However, they also anticipated that new accessibility issues may arise with the integration of technology into assessment.
A key message that arose from all the interviews and focus groups was that the needs of a student are unique to the individual, and access arrangements cannot be based on diagnosis alone. Rather, the focus must be on the support that each student needs to overcome the impact of their condition.
With a move towards greater digital assessment, ensuring adequate access and preparation for all learners must be paramount. It is crucial that the challenges that digital screens and accompanying functionality may bring for learners with SEND are considered alongside the benefits of integrated accessibility features.