‘Let GCSE resit students keep access arrangements they had in school’

Having to apply from scratch for special access arrangements for GCSE resit students wastes colleges’ time and resources, argues Andrew Otty in Tes.

To date, most of the FE sector’s lobbying on GCSE resits has focused on calling for them to be abandoned altogether, rather than asking for proper funding. Consequently, the policy has not been adequately resourced and the learners have suffered for it.

At the same time, learners have had to face the bell-curve-driven, bewildering grade boundary shiftsthat mean answers worth a grade 4 in the June exam have already been devalued to a 3 in the November exam. Meanwhile, there has been no effort to highlight the national fiasco with exam access arrangements that ruthlessly strips students of the entitlements they had in school.

A significant number of students entered for GCSEs and A levels are entitled to special exam-access arrangements to cater for their individual needs, but these are not carried over between school and college. For example, 15.7 per cent of all entrants are permitted 25 per cent extra time and 1.2 per cent of all entrants have their exams printed on coloured paper.

I suspect that there will be a minority of people reading this who disagree with access arrangements on some sort of “principle” and who so far have little sympathy. This is completely missing the point: these students were granted the arrangements in school last June. A few months later, they arrive at a college that wants to help them improve their grade with less funding than the school had and someone has hit the reset button on those entitlements.

The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) confidently advises that “schools should be able to process applications at the start of, or during the first year of, a two-year GCSE course, having firmly established a picture of need and normal way of working during Years 7 to 9” – which, of course, is no help to a college that has to assess students who are aiming to enter the exam just weeks later on the basis of a few hours in class. I suspect that, nationally, many students with recognised needs are denied fair access to the November exams because of this absurd system and because our sector’s lobbyists don’t know they exist.

For education secretary Damian Hinds and apprenticeships and skills minister Anne Milton, ensuring that entitlements automatically carry over between school and college would demonstrate sympathy for the disadvantaged and the vulnerable. It would be popular with 16- to 19-year-olds and teachers: two demographics they need to gain ground with. It would support those of us who are taking an inclusive approach to these qualifications and this policy. It would be a really quick win.

Read the full article ‘Let GCSE resit students keep access arrangements they had in school’

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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