Support with exams and assessments

Support with exams and assessments

Some children with additional support needs need help in exams and assessments to make sure that they have an equal opportunity to demonstrate their skills, knowledge and understanding.

What does the law say?

There are two main pieces of legislation that apply when thinking about support in exams. First, the Additional Support for Learning Act, often called the ASL Act. The ASL Act says any child with additional support needs is entitled to support based on their individual needs. This includes support in exams and assessments.

Second, the Equality Act 2010. This law means that your child should not be disadvantaged in an exam because of their disability (or any other protected characteristic). This law talks about how ‘reasonable adjustments’ must be made to avoid disabled pupils being significantly disadvantaged. This means that where it is possible, practical, and financially viable, changes can be made to make sure no pupil is at a disadvantage.

  • Disabled pupils and the law

    Factsheet explaining the main laws that apply to support and adaptations for disabled pupils at school and nursery.

What kind of support can my child get in their exams?

There are lots of ways that your child might be supported. Their support should be based on their individual needs. This might mean that they receive different support in different subjects.

The SQA provides a list of examples of ways that your child might be supported in their exam or assessment, including:

  • adapted question papers (for example with larger font)
  • technology or ICT
  • extra time
  • a reader (someone to read out the question paper)
  • a scribe (someone to write down what your child says)
  • separate accommodation
  • supervised breaks
  • a practical assistant

The support your child receives should help them to demonstrate their skills, knowledge and understanding of the subject. It should help to remove any disadvantage that they may face due to their additional needs. It should not change the standard or level of what is being assessed.

The SQA has detailed guidance for assessment centres (schools) that says more about how different kinds of arrangements can be used. We know that some parents and carers find it helpful to look at this to find out more: SQA Assessment arrangements explained: Information for centres.

Who is responsible for planning my child’s exam support?

Your child’s school is responsible for planning your child’s exam support. You and your child should have the chance to share your views. You should be kept informed of the support in place – it should not be a surprise on exam day.

Your child’s school should have an exam co-ordinator who is responsible for the external exams and assessments. They should be able to tell you about the plans for your child’s support in their exams.

For external assessments, evidence is needed to show the SQA that your child needs the support being provided. This is because the SQA must approve the support arrangements to make sure that it does not affect the integrity of the qualification. To collect this evidence, your child’s school should be planning and trialling your child’s support as soon as they can. They can do this in class and during internal assessments.

I’m not sure what support my child will need in their exams

Your child’s school should help you and your child to work out what support they need in their exams. They should listen to your views and your child’s views when planning their support. The support they receive in their exams should be based on their individual needs.

The support your child receives in their exams should be similar, where possible, to the support they normally receive at school. For example, if your child uses a laptop in class, then it may be appropriate for them to use one in their exam, too.

Remember, support can be different for different subjects. For example, your child may need support with reading large amounts of text. Using an electronic reader for their English exam would be helpful, but this might not be needed in a Maths exam where there is much less to read.

If your child’s school are not sure what support will work, they should seek advice from other professionals or your local authority. You can also seek advice from your local authority if you would like to.

  • Identifying and assessing your child’s needs

    Factsheet explaining what local authorities, schools and nurseries must do to identify your child’s support needs, and your rights to request assessments of their needs.

  • Planning your child’s support

    This factsheet explains the different ways that your child’s support might be planned, including descriptions of the types of written plans that might be used.

My child has not been offered the support that they need, what can I do?

You should first talk to the person responsible for exam arrangements at your child’s school. This is the ‘exam co-ordinator’. It may also be helpful to talk to the person responsible for additional support for learning at your child’s school. You could ask for a meeting to discuss your child’s exam support.

At the meeting, you could:

  • ask what support your child is currently receiving for their exams and assessments – remember, this might be different for each subject
  • share your views and your child’s views about this support
  • ask what steps have been taken to trial the exam support – could your child use these supports in their next lesson or class test?
  • Avoiding and solving problems

    This factsheet explains the steps you can take if you are worried or unhappy about your child’s support, and some of the further steps you can take if you are in a disagreement with a local authority.

My child has missed a lot of school this year and isn’t currently attending. Will they still be able to sit exams?

Your child has the right to an education and to the support they need, even if they are not attending school. Your child’s school should support their learning in a way that meets their needs. This might mean sending work home, accessing online learning, or learning in a different setting. See our pages on Attendance and exclusion to learn more about their rights to still learn when absent from school.

Schools should work to meet your child’s needs as far as possible and help them to reach their potential. This can include support taking exams even if your child is not able to attend school. Your child’s school should work with you, and perhaps the local authority, to help your child sit their exams if they want to. You can discuss what setting they might be able to sit them in, and what support they’ll need with learning to help them prepare.

Watch our recorded Q+A session on exams to hear our helpline team cover key information and answer questions from parents and carers:

  • Extra support in exams Q+A webinar

    Recorded Facebook Live session on extra support in exams for children and young people with additional support needs

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