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Extra time in exams: does your child qualify?



With the run up to external exams starting this term, it’s important that your child has the best possible chance of getting the qualifications that will be the basis for their future careers.


If your child has a learning difficulty, they may qualify for additional time to complete their exam papers.  This can be as much as an extra 25% of the total exam time.


If the school is aware that your child has been diagnosed with a learning difficulty such as dyslexia or dyspraxia, they will usually apply for this additional time. 


However, there are a range of other possibilities.  For instance if your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, ADD or is on the autism spectrum, it may be possible for exams to be conducted in a separate room and possibly for breaks to be taken during the exam period for children who have concentration issues.  They may also get a prompter to remind the student where they’re up to on a page.


Readers or scribes can be provided for students that have been proven to need this kind of help, for example students with visual challenges.  In some situations a computer reader or word processor may be provided.


Coloured overlays (dyslexia) or enlarged print (visual challenges) can help some children too. All these aids will need to be requested.


These are all known as access arrangements and must be applied for before your child can qualify.  It is the school’s responsibility to do this, but you, as the child’s parent, are responsible for ensuring the school is aware of your child’s challenges.


If your child is taking Key Stage 2 SATs, it is likely that the school can make the decision on a pupil by pupil basis.  However, for GCSEs and A levels, an application will need to be submitted to the Department of Education – usually early in the February preceding the exam. 


In order for a child to qualify, they will need to have had a formal assessment and produce medical evidence from a paediatrician, psychologist or other relevant medical specialist.


Access arrangements are not just for poor performing children.  Bright children can suffer from many issues that prevent them from tackling exams on the same level as the others in their year.


If your child has not yet been assessed and you suspect that they may need that extra time to overcome their challenges, take them for assessment sooner rather than later.  If they have been assessed previously, they may need a reassessment no earlier than the year prior to the exams taking place.


Talk to your child’s teachers and/or contact the Department of Education for more information.