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Help in Exams and Statutory Tests

Five people in an educational setting.


Pupils who have learning difficulties and disabilities may qualify for help in exams. This is known as access arrangements. This includes during public examinations and national curriculum tests. This is commonly known as Standard Assessment Tests, or SATS. Access arrangements allow learners with SEND or temporary illnesses to show skills and knowledge.

The most common arrangements include extra time, the provision of a computer, or a person to read or write for the pupil. The exception for this are exams that specifically test these skills, such as English. There are other possible arrangements for pupils with other difficulties. This includes visual or hearing impairments.

Access Arrangements allow learners with SEND or temporary injuries to access the assessment without changing the demands of the assessment. Evidence must be provided in order for Access Arrangements to be agreed. This should show that the need and normal way of working of the learner meets the criteria for the access arrangement.

If the evidence demonstrates that the access arrangement is required, then the responsible body of a school has a duty not to discriminate against that learner. The bodies are the board of governors or the proprietor in the case of an Academy. The examination board has a duty to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate for that pupil’s disability. This is a legal duty set out in sections 85 and 96 of the Equality Act 2010.

How Will the School or College Decide Who Qualifies for Help?

The school decides whether this support is needed. This is done by referring to the guidance and rules set out each year. 

Key stage 1 and 2 National Curriculum Tests

For each type of access arrangement the Standards and Testing Agency set evidence requirements which must be met by the pupil to qualify. School can then apply when the application window opens.  School are moderated to ensure the evidence requirements are followed. The rules set are updated each year.

Secondary school and college examinations 

For each type of access arrangement, the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) sets evidence requirements which must be met for the pupil to qualify. The JCQ inspects schools to check that the evidence requirements are strictly followed. The JCQ rules are lengthy and detailed and are updated every year.

The rules can be seen on the JCQ website:

When a school believes that a pupil may need access arrangements, it should gather the necessary evidence of need from class teachers. Evidence can also be sought from parents, the pupil and any other staff and external professionals involved. The school may need to carry out assessment tests. This can include reading, spelling, comprehension, writing or processing speed.

Documents may be supportive but do not automatically entitle a pupil to access arrangements. They may also need corroborative evidence from the school. Documents may include an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or a report from a professional such as an educational psychologist (EP).

The school should apply for permission to put the access arrangements in place. This should be for all assessed parts of the course, not only the final exam. It is best if the school applies before the pupil begins the exam course. The window of application for access arrangements is outlined in the SATs arrangements publication each year. This is the case for Key Stage 1 (KS1) and KS2 SATs.

How Do I Explore the Possibility of Access Arrangements for My Child?

The first step is to speak to the class teacher and Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo).  You can discuss what your child needs, and if appropriate, when and how this can be applied for.

You can also discuss any evidence that you could use to support the need for access arrangements. Be prepared to show evidence that the help is needed. The best evidence will be the fact that the child or young person has needed, and received, help of this kind in the past. For example, if they have received help in the past reading exam papers or have had extra time during tests because they are slow at reading exam papers.

If you have any other evidence from reports that set out the child or young person’s difficulties and provides for them to have help in class or with tests, this is important supporting evidence. For example with reading, spelling or writing.

If the child or young person has an EHCP then this may strengthen your request. It doesn’t create a legal obligation on the school to arrange this extra help with exams. However, if the EHCP specifies help with reading texts, this will be important evidence that this is how the child or young person normally works. It also shows that they are going to need the same kind of support to do their best in public exams.

It may be that there is not enough evidence that an access arrangement is the child’s ‘normal way of working’. This may be because they have only recently arrived at the school, or because this need has only recently become apparent. If your experience (and your child’s) is that they are only able to show their full potential when given the necessary support, you should ask that the school carries out the relevant assessment tests. This will then allow them to make an application for the access arrangement.

Additional Help and Support


Amaze SENDIASS (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Service) are a local charity. They offer free, independent, and impartial advice for all matters relating to SEND. Contact Amaze SENDIASS by:

Visit the Amaze SENDIASS web page.

East Sussex Local Offer directory of services

You can visit our SEND-specific online directory, hosted on East Sussex 1Space. The directory lists many different services both throughout the county and online. Services cover many topics, including:

Visit the East Sussex Local Offer directory.

NHS - Health A to Z

The East Sussex Local Offer aims to provide as much information as possible. There may be some conditions that aren't covered in thorough detail. The NHS website has pages that list all conditions. These pages provide information and advice on how to get extra support:

Visit the NHS Health A to Z web page.

Glossary of East Sussex SEND Terms

We explain some of the terms used on this website on our page, Glossary of East Sussex SEND Terms.

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