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Exams - coronavirus info for families of deaf children

Published Date: 25 May 2021

What’s happening with exams in 2021?

Exams for GCSEs and A-Levels in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, and National 5s and Highers in Scotland, have been cancelled.

What does cancelling exams mean for deaf young people?

Your child will be given a grade by their school/college based on teacher assessments.

Your child’s school or college should inform them what evidence they are using for grading such as mock exams, tests, coursework or classroom activities. The school or college must have made sure that the assessments used for grading were accessible (e.g. that a deaf student had sufficient time to read and understand the questions they were being asked in a test).

If you or your child believes that any situations where they were being assessed were not fully accessible, you should raise this with the school/college and ask them to take this into account when grading. That might mean choosing to disregard a test result if your child did not fully understand what was being asked of them and grading on alternative evidence.

If your child has a Teacher of the Deaf, ask them if they have been involved in discussions about making sure the teacher assessments are fair.

Can we challenge grades if we are not happy with them?

Yes - in England and Wales. There are expected to be appeals processes in Scotland and Northern Ireland but we are still awaiting details.

In England and Wales your child can choose to appeal a grade if they believe they have been graded incorrectly or unfairly.

They first of all, need to contact their school or college to ask a grade to be checked, giving reasons why they believe the grade to be incorrect. For example, if your child has done well with coursework and normally has extra time for exams but this was not provided for in a teacher assessment used for grading.

It is important to note that school or colleges can only increase a grade if there is evidence that your child was performing at that grade. For example, if they have no evidence to show that your child has produced work of grade 6 (or grade B) standard then they cannot award a grade 6.

If the school or college decline to change a grade then you can ask them to take your appeal to the exam board. The exam board will then consider whether the school or college made the right decision. If you are not happy with the decision of the exam board then the final option will be to take the appeal to the Exam Procedure Review Service (EPRS) for your nation.

If reasonable adjustments were not made for assessments you also have the option of reporting a school or college to the exam board, claiming that malpractice has taken place. Exam boards should all have details of how to complain about malpractice on their websites.

Our helpline can provide further information and advice on this topic. 

I’m worried that my child has missed out on too much teaching and won’t now get the grades they deserve

Deaf young people might have missed out on more of their education compared with hearing young people because of remote learning being inaccessible or social distancing measures. Schools and colleges are expected to support young people to catch-up, and we expect them to seek advice from Teachers of the Deaf in this area. You or your child should ask your school and college about what extra support could be available to help catch up. Also, you can talk about this with your child’s Teacher of the Deaf if they have one.

Can my child repeat a year?

In light of the disruption to education this year, some deaf young people may be thinking about repeating a year, particularly if they’re concerned they will not get the exam results they deserve. Though we recognise this may not be an appealing option for many deaf young people, we believe that the UK Governments, local authorities and schools should ensure this option is available to deaf young people.

You should discuss this with your child’s school at the earliest possible opportunity to explore if and how this can be done. This may also be a chance to discuss other options for your child – for example, such as additional catch-up support or, if they are moving onto to further education, extra support in English and Maths next year.

What about other national assessments and tests?

In England, all national standard assessment tests (SATs) have also been cancelled.  

What about vocational qualifications?

There have been many changes made to how vocational qualifications are assessed this year. These changes will vary depending on the qualification being taken. Reasonable adjustments must still made to make sure any assessment is accessible. If your child has had to take an assessment that has been adapted (e.g. put online), it should have been fully accessible. If not, please contact our helpline for further advice.