The Secondary School and SEND

Access Arrangements for support in external examinations

These provide adaptations to tests and exams and in the case of our young people could include extra time for an oral. Parents and young people should ideally discuss these with subject tutors at the beginning of the examination course if it seems that help will be needed for the pupil in the oral exams.

Modern Foreign Languages (MFL)

The oral exam for these is conducted by a subject tutor from the department who may not necessarily know the pupil. Questions are asked by the tutor in the foreign language and the pupil responds; the session is recorded and sent to an assessor to mark. Within the school a request could be made that an MFL subject tutor known to the pupil conducts the oral to ensure a more relaxed atmosphere.

Access arrangements

The process of securing these from the Examination Board is complex and has to be carried out by the SENCO and/or the Examination Officer well in advance of the actual test. It is advisable to make initial enquiries at the beginning of year 10 or Year 12 for Sixth Formers. All Examination Boards follow as a minimum the requirements of the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), but they all apply these according to their assessment of the evidence on the need for an adaptation. This evidence is provided by the school.

What evidence does the school have to submit when applying for access arrangements?

The school must be able to prove that there is evidence that stammering has been diagnosed by a speech and language therapist and is a special educational need; that any adaptation used, such as the common one for our pupils of extra time, must have been the normal way of working for that pupil on oral tasks for some time. We have known of exam boards that want to see the evidence; requiring a letter from a therapist and school evidence of normal working and we know of one board, AQA, which does not ask schools to send in the evidence. The situation is variable as boards do seem to act individually in making a judgement.

BSA Advice

A pupil is most likely to need access arrangements for MFL, parents are advised to ensure that they and the pupil discuss them with the form tutor/SENCO at the beginning of year 10, or Year 12 for Sixth Formers. Then the SENCO/ Exam Officer should contact the Exam Board for advice. Any access arrangements being considered should be the pupil’s way of working throughout the course, and be included in the Plan of interventions to build up skills.


Speaking and listening is assessed by the subject tutor for GCSE according to the criteria set by the exam board. The English teacher should be supporting the pupil with the Plan of interventions and outcomes which is reviewed annually if one is in place. The completed mark for oral tasks does not contribute to the final grade for the subject. Speaking and Listening does not count towards final grades in GCSE English and English Language. Instead, it will be recorded separately on certificates as an endorsement to the qualification. It is placed on the certificate as a separate mark from 5-1, where 5 is the highest.

We know that occasionally schools have been encouraging pupils who stammer to be exempted from the speaking and listening component. This is a decision for the pupil, ideally after taking advice from a therapist, but in most circumstances we know that pupils who stammer can communicate effectively and perform well in the oral assessment.

The BSA is not aware of any syllabus for English at Advanced level that requires an oral.


Special circumstances apply as explained in this resource.

SEND encourages the meeting of needs as they emerge. Sometimes, the stresses of the examination course can trigger stammering in a pupil who previously stammered, but after therapy was managing well without support. When the stammer is causing problems with learning it is important that a therapist is contacted again and the Graduated Cycle of Support used to give support to the pupil.