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School students with SEND must have their needs considered when grades are assessed

RNIB has called for the specific needs of young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) to be taken into account when planning assessments and grading this summer.

Rows of students sitting at tables, doing an exam.

We’ve joined forces with the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS), Vision Impairment Education Workforce (VIEW) and the British Association of Teachers of the Deaf (BATOD), making a joint statement to the Department for Education (DfE) and Ofqual, which regulates qualifications, examinations and assessments in England.

Adjustments can be essential

Under normal circumstances, students with SEND often receive adjustments like extra time or rephrased questions for exams, giving them the same chance to perform to their potential. Blind or partially sighted young people may need access to modified papers, in alternative formats like large print or braille.

Lack of support can lead to artificially lower grades

However, with students not sitting GCSE, AS or A-Level exams this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, over 300,000 young people could be assessed without that extra support in place. We fear this could lead to many being disproportionately disadvantaged, resulting in artificially lower grades. This could have an impact on their future life opportunities.

Specialist teaching staff must be involved

Ofqual and the DfE must work closely with specialist teaching staff to take the needs of students with SEND into account when deciding on assessment rules and grading for 2021. For example, Qualified Teachers of Children with Vision Impairment (QTVIs) and Teachers of the Deaf will be crucial in helping to make assessments and grading fairer for children with sensory impairments.

Read more about our work for children, young people and education.