My son’s school has turned him down for extra time in exams, what can we do?

My youngest son is 15 and has just been diagnosed with ADHD. His older brother also has ADHD, he is 22 and was diagnosed at 16 years old. I did not believe the school handled my middle son's ADHD very well.

My youngest son, is now on medication and I have approached the (Independent) school with a view to seeing if he would be allowed extra time as he spends so much time on tasks at home and prep/homework that he has no downtime at all.

He works extremely hard but recent tests at school- one literacy-based and one which explores a student’s ability to ‘process’ information - said neither test result provided scores which were significantly low enough to qualify for exam access arrangements.

The school said they knew my son was anxious about his studies and offered weekly Curriculum Support sessions to maximise a number of skills including organising and completing work; time-management; revision and memory work for exams. They offered help to prepare for his forthcoming French controlled assessment and show him how to use a technique called ‘over-learning’.

My question is ... How can I see a way to seeing that Charlie can be assessed again, if appropriate, we don't agree, we know him better and to be denied when he really needs this to me is criminal especially as they let my other son down so badly. This will be the difference for a B grade to an A or A* for my son. Can you please help or advise me as to where I can go or what I can do?

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Julie Replies

Pupils who have learning difficulties and/or disabilities may qualify for help (called ‘access arrangements’) in public examinations.

It is the school who decides whether this support is needed by reference to rules laid down by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) on behalf of the exam boards, overseen by Ofqual. For each type of access arrangement, the JCQ sets evidence requirements which must be met by the school for the pupil to qualify. JCQ inspects schools to check that the evidence requirements are strictly followed.

The JCQ rules are updated every year and can be accessed on the JCQ website here: http://www.jcq.org.uk/exams-office/access-arrangements-and-special-consideration/regulations-and-guidance/access-arrangements-and-reasonable-adjustments-2015-2016.

When a school is aware that a pupil may need access arrangements, it should gather the necessary evidence of need from class teachers and others (such as parents, the pupil and any other staff and external professionals involved). The school may need to carry out assessment tests (e.g. of reading, spelling, comprehension, writing or processing speed) unless the  necessary information is already available.

It appears that the school has already assessed Charlie’s literacy and processing skills, but conclude that his scores are not low enough to trigger access arrangements. In the first instance we suggest you ask the school for an explanation of the scores and how this means they will not apply to the JCQ for access arrangements.

If you are not satisfied with the explanation you could ask if the school will assess Charlie again and explain your reasons for doing so. However, the school may decide that to test Charlie again so soon is likely to give an unreliable result, particularly if the testing is identical to the assessment he has just had. If the school refuse you should put the request in writing and send it to the school, copying in the proprietor of the school. It would be useful if you could provide the school with as much evidence as possible concerning Charlie’s difficulties and do include your own views.