Just for the record on Access Arrangements article

 

When the EOA is approached over various issues by the media, like all organisations one does try to be sensitive and helpful, while making it clear that any information and comment reported, should be both accurate and in context. So, just to add some clarity.

 

This is the EOA response to an article in Schools Week – ‘Schools struggle with rise in special provision requests’ by Billy Camden (05/12/2016).  The EOA needs to put the record straight on just what the whole Access Arrangements issue is, and to correct some of the information and referencing in this article which suggested that the EOA was attacking the JCQ and Ofqual.

 

There is an Access Arrangements (AAs) problem in terms of growth and sustainability in centres across the country and this was confirmed in the joint Association of Colleges and EOA survey this year. Every oganisation involved with education, that the EOA have spoken to confirm AAs is a concern, and it is expected to continue to grow next year. If one accepts that basic reality, the EOA’s key focus in doing the survey was to explore some of the solutions to help centres and the system cope with this future growth.

  1. It was picked up in the survey that some centres were struggling with the interpretation of the existing JCQ publications and practices.
  2. This concern over appropriate documentation has been a focus for the EOA for many years. However, in recent meetings with Ofqual and the JCQ, it became clear that the over emphasis on JCQ documents being blamed in some way 'by centres' struggling with Access Arrangements delivery, was in fact not the key element in trying to provide a solution.
  3. The issue over delivery of AAs in some centres is more about how key points of reference, found in government policies, are reflected in JCQ documentation. This change in focus by the EOA, away from JCQ documentation, was shared with Ofqual and the JCQ.Therefore, the EOA has been focusing on the wrong part of the system, the JCQ documents and practices. They have served us well in the past, but because of the growth in AAs and especially for students with learning difficulties the question being posed was, is not time to review them in the light of changing need?
  4. It was raised by Ofqual that there seemed to be a need to relook at those points of reference, which was last undertaken in 2012, and so the EOA put in a request to follow that up with some sort of consultation, review or whatever was necessary to address the growing AAs problem of delivery in centres.
  5. From an exam office community point of view, it is the role of the EOA to lobby and promote activity to help its members. By getting Ofqual to do some sort of review, it is hoped that JCQ documents will then reflect more closely what is happening in centres, so the exams office community can get on with their job of AAs implementation.
  6. Exam office staff who must make sure that all AAs requested and agreed by their SENCo colleagues are implemented correctly, want to remove this anxiety of battling continually with other people's interpretation of AAs, so they can apply concise guidelines which can be operated cost effectively in exam rooms and halls.
  7. The EOA has also raised this issue on behalf of the students with needs In this article it was stated that -‘The JCQ said it did not recognize the EOA’s concerns’. If the JCQ do not feel there is a need for review, and wise to ignore the evidence, then that is their choice. And if it is accepted that there is no problem, despite the evidence, then Ofqual with whom the JCQ communicate, may not respond to our request for a review.
  8. However, if this is their stance, how can the EOA community make that JCQ directive which sits at the heart of AAs policy - 'normal way of working', work effectively. The EOA totally accept this principle and are striving to make it work, and only seek cooperation and understanding to make this work for students and staff in centres.
  9. But if this request is ignored nothing will be done, and so many students across the country may find themselves unserved by an exam system with which they are dependent on for life choices. In turn, how can ignoring this situation help the exams office community solve its delivery problems?
  10. How can establishment therefore say that the exam system is an ‘even playing field’ when key areas of policy and practice, that drive exams delivery, are not fully in line with contemporary teaching and learning practice, putting student’s needs first, before the protocols of exams delivery. One part of the system should feed into the other.

The EOA is asking for all interested parties to sit down and look at this issue so one can make the system more accessible and sustainable for everyone concerned. The EOA is aware that this is a very complex issue, but if we can deal with it now, we can avoid problems in the future.