Getting Access Arrangements right for the future

At the recent Westminster Education Forum in London the issue of the Access Arrangements (AA) was raised because of centres concerns over growing pressures to accommodate and support the growth in requests year-on-year.


To help address this issue the EOA Board of Trustees have commissioned a survey on AA to find out just what is the reality behind the operation and implementation of AA in centres: how does the documentation which governs this process help or hinder that process, and then based upon feedback, suggest positive solutions in collaboration with all stakeholders on how best to take this invaluable process forward.


Over years there has been constant feedback from centres on the growing dissatisfaction over how the whole process operates, the documentation that’s supports the process and the ability for centres to meet the range of needs and expectations. For some time, there has been too much anecdotal comment from all sides of the spectrum on what works, and what does not work for centres, and the students they serve.


For the first time this survey tries to tackle the key questions which neither the awarding bodies or the teaching profession have attempted to address. Everyone in the exams office community is very aware of the pressure put on the public exam system to deliver all educational output. Therefore, this community feel the buck stops with them on exam day, as they try to meet all those expectations, for both student and their exam system masters.


So let’s ask some questions. Is the present AA system fit for purpose? Does the present documentation and processes work? If everyone feels the system is not broken, then let’s support it and work towards refining it in the interests of those operate it and for those most affected by its implementation. If they feel the present documentation being used is effective in meeting future demands then let’s support it and encourage greater transparency to avoid further misunderstanding in centres between the exams system, fronted by the exam office community and the expectations of students and staff from especially the SEND community.


The time has come to act. Centres need help now to cope with this rise in AA requests. The documentation on AA just gets bigger and bigger, and more and more complex. Many are beginning to suggest that AA will soon become undeliverable under the present delivery model. So what needs to change? Is it the whole process that needs reviewing, and the way in which the system perceives how AA is presently referenced within the existing exam system model, and then implemented within centres? The existing AA model was set up when access to the public exams system by SEND students was very small. Government legislation and the growing use of Assistive Technology by individuals and centres have changed all that.


And maybe the existing AA model we use today needs to be reviewed. Many exam office staff have expressed alarm over the thought that in some way – by fully implementing the existing practice of – ‘the normal way of working’ – it will in effect open the flood gates for even more AA provision and just overwhelm the system.  However, if the starting point for AA truly does start in the class room then the type of request, and the ‘pike’ in requests, during teh run up to exam periods, will be redistributed and couched in a different way.


Even the term AA may take on a new name because it is no longer associated with just exam practice. In the future it may simply be an extension of teaching and learning, which focuses on student’s individual progress and potential, unlike an exam system that can only capture a snap shot of that individual’s position under the existing AA model. Many at the Westminster Education Forum expressed a growing concern that the exam system was being put in an impossible position by having to meet criteria and expectation associated with education policy and practice and not just exams delivery.


But the exam system can no longer keep its head in the sand. This issue will not go away. Centres need these questions answered before it is too late and the whole system becomes unattainable. If the system does work then let’s not waste time trying to fix it, and just get on with supporting it and making it better. The exams office community can drive this debate in the interests of everyone concerned by leading the way on providing robust data based upon feedback from both EOA members and non-members, so no student is left without appropriate AA support and help in the future.