Awarding F for failure to exam bodies on access for deaf children

It’s the time of year again when lots of expectant young people find out how they did in their A Level and GCSE exams. So we thought it would be a good idea to remind the media about how the exam system is stacked against deaf children.

Legislation requires disabled candidates to be given the necessary support they need during exams. Yet we repeatedly get emails from parents with horror stories about their deaf child being unable to access an exam. Examples include transcripts of audio and video tapes not being provided on time, deaf children being asked questions in English about music and being asked to remove hearing aids in case they whistled during the exam (despite the fact this would cause tinnutis for the affected child).

If deaf students can’t access exams, then they’ll be less likely to get the qualifications they need for a good job that reflects their abilities. There are no excuses for not getting it right.

Exam bodies have very bad form on access to exams. Our bad beef began back in 2005 when the regulator suddenly decided to withdraw all support available to disabled candidates, apparently on the basis that this was unfair to non-disabled candidates. It was around two years, after a big campaign led by NDCS, before this support was reinstated. Since then, exam bodies have continued to grumble. They still don’t seem to really grasp their responsibility to design exams in a way that disabled candidates are able to demonstrate their abilities.

We think a fundamental overhaul is needed and, when Parliament returns, we’re going to be doing some lobbying work on the Equality Bill to try and drag exam bodies into the 21st century.


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