Wondering if your child’s special educational needs (SENs) will be taken into consideration during school entrance exams? This blog outlines who may be eligible for exam concessions, which arrangements can be made to assist your child in their exams and how to get your child the best support available for them to succeed.
Exam arrangements, or concessions, are available to assist students with special educational needs (SENs) in their entrance exams. However, as not all independent schools subscribe to the SEND Code of Practice (you can read more on this by clicking the link at the end of this post), ensure that you check the policy of each school you are applying for to see what arrangements can be made for the exams and, of course, for their daily school life should they succeed in obtaining a place.
According to The Good Schools Guide exam arrangements and assistance can only be granted if they are a child’s ‘normal way of working’ and they have a ‘history of need’. This means any arrangements for the Entrance exams must reflect the support that your child has had in the past few years, in combination with their previous school assessment test results and reports. You will likely be asked to show reports and/or EHC (Education, Health and Care) plans drawn up by your current school’s SENCo or Educational Psychologist. These must show that your child has a significant and long-term need.
For example, the Westminster School website states that: ‘…pupils will usually only be considered eligible for extra time if they have at least one standard score of 84 or below relating to speed of processing. A covering letter from the school will also be required to confirm that extra time is being offered to the pupil as a result of a substantial and long-term impairment which has been shown to affect speed of working.’
Extra time: The most common arrangement that can be made is giving the student extra time to complete the exam papers. This is normally a maximum of 25% more time. This will need to be discussed with the school in advance of the date of the exam.
A reader: For students who have visual impairments or a disability that affects their ability to read accurately themselves, a reader can be used. However, in an exam that is assessing reading ability, a human reader is not allowed. In some cases, a computer reader will be allowed.
A scribe: Scribes can be allocated to students who have a disability or injury that affects their ability to write legibly.
Modified papers: These are papers which must be ordered well in advance of the exam in different sizes, fonts, colours, braille, or modified language.
Assistive technology: If the candidate uses assistive technology as their normal way of working they will be able to continue this for exams. Some of the most common requests are for word processors, exam reading pens, computer text readers, and voice processors.
Separate room: Candidates who have SENs such as autism can be given a separate quiet room to take their exam.
Rest breaks: Supervised rest breaks (which do not count as part of the extra time allowance.)
Each school has a slightly different procedure but most state that parents must make specific learning needs known to the school when they complete the online exam entrance form.
It is often best to try to speak to the SENCo (Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator) at the schools you are applying for. This will also give you an idea as to the SEN provisions given at the school you are applying for. Asking some of the following questions can give you an idea as to whether the school can offer your child what they need: Can the school give specific examples of how they can assist your child’s needs? Do they offer good pastoral care packages? How do they support transitions? Do they offer one-to-one support on a regular basis? Will they get classroom support?
To sum up, contact the SENCo of each school when you are applying to explain the needs of your child and to check the possible provisions offered during entrance exams and beyond. Start preparing the evidence (reports, cover letters, EHCPs) which schools are likely to request.