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Exams - coronavirus info for professionals supporting deaf young people

Published Date: 06 Jan 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

Though the details are still being worked out, it is likely that 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 assessments, 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 assessments 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

There may be changes 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

If deaf young people or parents have any concerns around the fairness of any assessments or exams, our advice to them is to think about what evidence they can collect to demonstrate this, so that they can appeal at a later point. Issues to consider may include:

  • What evidence the school/college has used to come up with grades?
  • Did the school/college seek and take on board a Teacher of the Deaf’s advice?
  • Were mock exams accessible to your child?
  • Did young people get the support they needed to complete any coursework?

Given the time it takes to gather evidence, we suggest that deaf young people and parents proactively begin this process if they fear their child is being disadvantaged. 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.