Exams and Special Educational Needs

Claire Walley
January 16, 2024

Exams are anxiety inducing for any child, especially those with special educational needs (SEN). Schools can support SEN students through the process using exam concessions, also known as access arrangements. These arrangements are series of supports that aim to make the exam more accessible to the student. You do not need to have severe special needs to be entitled to them, you just need to be able to demonstrate that a child’s ‘normal way of working’ is only possible with a concession. This is reasonably easy to demonstrate – for example, if your child never finishes a question in time, demonstrate that by changing pen colour when the timer runs out. All evidence is good evidence.

Exam concessions cover a wide range of accommodations that can be put in place. Readers, scribes, extra time, use of a computer etc. Concessions can also be put in place without assessment. Rest breaks for example can be given to those students who find exams overwhelming or housing the exam in a smaller, quieter room they can curate themselves to put them at ease. There are many ways of being creative with the exam experience to ensure children have the best chance at success. Here are our top tips:

Ten Top Tips for Exam Concessions:

  1. Your child may be eligible for an exam concession if they have a special educational need, be that diagnosed or not.
  2. If a child’s ‘normal way of working’ in school is with a concession, they are entitled to it in their exams.
  3. When your child is completing work, get them to change pen colour at the point they go over the allocated time for that piece of work. To evidence the need for extra time.
  4. Children with Education Health Care Plans (EHCPs) do not need to be assessed for exam concessions, they automatically receive them, based on their needs.
  5. All children are entitled to ‘rest breaks’ in exams if they are their normal way of working. This means they can pause the clock take a break and resume their work when ready.
  6. Exam concessions can be put in place at any point during a child’s schooling. They do not need to wait to be seen by an exam’s concession assessor.
  7. If children are medically diagnosed with anxiety, they can complete their exams out of the main exam hall, in a quiet space.
  8. If your child is entitled to exam concessions, such as a reader or a scribe – this person can be a member of staff from school they know. So, they can feel more comfortable.
  9. If you child is entitled to sit their exams out of the main hall, they can set up the room as they wish – to make them feel at ease.
  10. Schools assess students for exam concessions in Year 5, 9 and 12. This is organised by the school SENCO so if you feel your child word benefit make sure you are in contact with them.

The SEN Expert offers a range of services for young people, families and schools. We offer support for parents to help navigate the complex world of Special Educational Needs. We will work with you closely to ensure the best for your child.

The SEN Expert was set up by Claire in 2021 following a successful career spanning 12 years in school improvement, special educational needs, safeguarding and the arts.

Claire has worked as a Deputy Headteacher, Assistant Headteacher, Consultant and SENCO in both state and private schools in inner city London, the Southwest, the Midlands and the USA.

Throughout her career, Claire has ensured solid outcomes for the young people she has worked with. Be that a set of good exam grades, a placement in specialist setting or getting a part time job.

Claire is a working mother, and understands the challenges parents face trying to ensure their children are happy and successful. We aim to provide young people with a creative route to the personal and professional adult life they deserve.

Claire sits outside a café with a laptop

SEN consultancy
with a difference.

We offer support for families, children, and schools to navigate the complex world of SEN.

Check out our full list of services at our website www.thesenexpert.co.uk or follow us on Instagram @senexpert for daily advice on special educational needs.

The SEN Expert is a company registered in England and Wales with company number 13523478.