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Exams - coronavirus info for professionals supporting deaf young people

Published Date: 25 May 2021

2021 examinations

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

Implications for deaf young people

Deaf young people will be given a grade based on teacher assessments. It will be important to ensure that any assessments are done fairly and take into account young people’s ability. For example, if any particular assessments are being used by teachers, it will be important to ensure that these are accessible and appropriate for use with deaf young people. Teachers of the Deaf will have a key role to play in providing advice to schools and colleges on this.

If mock exam results are being used to inform teacher grading, it be important that the appropriate access arrangements were put in place, for example, 25% extra time or BSL interpretation if these are required. Our factsheet for parents on exams has more information on access arrangements. If these were not put into place, teacher grading should take into account that the mock exam may not be a fair reflection of the deaf young person’s ability.  

Catch-up support

Schools may have catch-up programmes or individual tuition in place. It will be important for Teachers of the Deaf to be involved in advising on any such catch-up support or tuition for individual children, particularly if this support is being provided by someone who has not worked with a deaf child before.

Vocational qualifications

Many changes have been made to how vocational qualifications are assessed this year. These will vary depending on the qualification being taken. Reasonable adjustments must still made to make sure any assessment is accessible. For example, provision of subtitles or BSL interpretation if any assessments are moved online.

Appealing grades

In England and Wales, a student can choose to appeal a grade if they believe they have been graded incorrectly or unfairly. There are expected to be appeals processes in Scotland and Northern Ireland but we are still awaiting details.

Students, firstly, 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 they did well with coursework, normally have extra time for exams but this was not provided for in a teacher assessment used for grading, leading to a poor grade that did not reflect their ability.

It is important to note that school or colleges can only increase a grade if there is evidence that a student was performing at that grade. For example, if they have no evidence to show that your student 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 the student can ask them to take the appeal to the exam board. The exam board will then consider whether the school or college made the right decision. If the student is 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 their nation.

If reasonable adjustments were not made for assessments there is also 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 if support in this area may be helpful.

Repeating 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 are 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 and that any necessary support is provided.

Other national assessments and tests

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