Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) is the umbrella term for a variety of disorders in which an individual can struggle to listen, understand and communicate. It is thought to be one of the most common disabilities amongst children. Not only do children with SLCN often struggle in the classroom but they also struggle in tests and exams.

What are Access Arrangements?

Access Arrangements (AAs) fall into two categories; reasonable adjustments and special considerations. Reasonable adjustments are considered when a disabled learner is at a substantial disadvantage to others when taking an examination or assessment test. This judgement is made prior to the exam, whereas a special consideration is made if the learner is temporarily affected by illness, injury or another indisposition and will therefore be unable to complete an assessment to their ‘normal’ capability. This judgement is made post-exam.

There will be some children who require support during tests and examinations but they may not be on your SEN Register because they do not require anything that is additional and/or different to their peers, due to the daily adjustments made as part of the differentiated, high quality teaching in the classroom. However, they may require a scribe, use of a laptop, a reader or extra time which is provided as the students’ ‘normal way of working’ within the classroom and during internal tests.

What are Reasonable Adjustments?

The Equality Act 2010 requires an Awarding Body to make reasonable adjustments where a disabled person would be at a substantial disadvantage in undertaking an assessment. A reasonable adjustment for a particular person may be unique to that individual and may not be included in the list of available Access Arrangements. How reasonable the adjustment is will depend on a number of factors including the needs of the disabled candidate/learner. An adjustment may not be considered reasonable if it involves unreasonable costs, timeframes or affects the security or integrity of the assessment. There is no duty on the Awarding Bodies to make any adjustment to the objectives being tested in an assessment.

When first identifying a pupil’s needs, it is really important that schools (no matter what the age of the pupil) think about what Access Arrangements might be needed later in the year at the point of a test or exam. This will enable them to evidence the ‘normal way of working’ in everyday classroom practice during the year. Schools should then refer to the relevant documentation (STA for KS1 and KS2) to ensure that they understand which arrangements are at the discretion of the school and which need to be applied for.

Access Arrangements for Key Stage 1 and Key Stage

Each year the Standards and Testing Agency (STA) produces two documents setting out the Access Arrangements for those children participating in the key stage 1 (KS1) and key stage 2 (KS2) national curriculum tests.

The 2019 guidance can be found on the STA website

KS1 GuidanceKey Stage 1:


KS2 GuidanceKey Stage 2:


Due to the diversity of pupils’ needs, this guidance does not list every circumstance where it would be appropriate to use access arrangements. When planning for the tests, schools should think of any needs their pupils have and whether they receive additional support as part of normal classroom practice. Some pupils may not be able to access the tests, despite the provision of additional arrangements.

During a monitoring visit, local authorities may ask to see evidence that any additional support provided in the tests is also regularly provided as part of normal classroom practice. Evidence will vary according to the type of arrangement and the tasks it is required for. Evidence may include notes recorded in teaching plans, individual pupil support plans or a pupil’s classwork, to demonstrate the type of support provided in the classroom.

Access Arrangements for children with SLCN

There are a number of arrangements that can be used for children with SLCN at the end of KS1 and KS2. These need to have been used within the classroom on a regular basis and evidence of how they are used should be recorded and kept:

  • Additional time
  • Rest breaks
  • Scribe
  • Transcript
  • Word processors or other technical or electronic aids
  • Reader
  • Prompters
  • Administering the test in another location (1:1 or small group)
  • Use of accessibility objects in the mathematics test

What about EAL Learners?

The candidate must have an impairment in their first language which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect. A candidate does not have a learning difficulty simply because their first language is not English, Irish or Welsh.

It is really important that we give every child and young person an equality of opportunity, even though they may have a learning difficulty or disability. This doesn’t apply just in tests and exams, but throughout their educational life. In reality, Access Arrangements are not just for Year 2 and Year 6 but should be applied daily in every classroom as this is what will ensure that each individual pupil can access their learning across the whole curriculum.

If you have any questions for Lorraine regarding access arrangements, please send them to office2@speechlink.co.uk and she will answer them in October’s Q&A Blog at www.speechandlanguage.info

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