Hundreds of thousands of students with disabilities could face unfair grades this year, charities warn

Hundreds of thousands of students who would normally qualify for additional assistance exams could be disadvantaged in the classification this year, disability relief organizations have warned.

GCSE, AS and A-level exams have been canceled for the second time in a row Coronavirus pandemic, with grades derived from teachers' assessments instead.

Ofqual and the Ministry of Education (DfE) launched a consultation last month on how the assessment should be done – with the assessment scheme to be determined shortly – after a controversial discussion last year about how the results were handled.

However, four charities have raised concerns about the lack of provisions for students with disabilities, special educational needs or temporary injuries in new assessment modalities.

They warned that around 300,000 students could face unfair grading that could put them at a disadvantage later in life. If teachers' assessment is based on previous performance, such as mock exams or classwork, these students run the risk of being assessed without the usual assistance or adjustment to exams.

Typically, such students receive adjustments such as extra time, rephrased questions, or sign language translation, while visually impaired children receive modified papers in large print or Braille.

The National Deaf Children's Society, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), the Professional Association of Visually Impaired Education and the UK Association of Teachers for the Deaf are calling on Ofqual to ensure that disabled students are aware of the new regulations Don't forget to be set.

In 2019, more than 297,800 students were given additional time on exams, of which 5,500 were either deaf or partially sighted.

"These students are already facing the challenge of their educational lives, catching up and a lot of work to do," said Martin McLean of the National Deaf Children's Society. "We have to give each of them the chance to be successful."

RNIB's Caireen Sutherland said: "Young visually impaired people need to be given the same opportunity as their sighted counterparts to get the grades they deserve.

"These results could have an impact on their lives for years, so it is important that accessibility policies and the views of specialists are taken into account when making these assessment decisions.

An Ofqual spokesperson said: "We absolutely recognize and understand the issues raised and have addressed them in various ways over the past year.

"For students with special educational needs and / or disabilities (sending), we asked schools and colleges to make judgments, provided that the students continued to receive the usual additional learning support."

They added, "If disabled students had an agreed reasonable adjustment for their exams, schools and colleges were asked to consider the likely performance with the adjustment.

'We also suggested that teachers should reach out to other educational professionals who had worked closely with their Send students to see if they could provide additional information that could be taken into account when setting an assessment grade for the center. "

The spokesman said Ofqual was actively looking for evidence of the potential impact of proposals on students during the consultation on agreements for 2021.

The exams were canceled last year due to coronavirus and a new grading system was set up to give students calculated grades. Students were allowed to take their teacher-predicted grades after a backlash via the system and a controversial algorithm after it was found that tens of thousands of grades had been downgraded in moderation.

After announcing that GCSE, AS, and A levels will also be canceled this year, Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, said it had been agreed that no algorithm would be used to set student grades in a or automatically standardize letter to Ofqual.

In response to the disability charities warning earlier this year, a DfE spokesperson said: "Fairness towards young people has been and is fundamental to any decision we make on these issues.

"We know how important this is for teachers, parents and students. That is why we have made sure that everyone can have a say in our examination advice."

They said the consultation closed with over 100,000 responses – making it the largest division ever.

"We are working closely with the sector and Ofqual to take into account all of these views and ensure that young people receive a grade that reflects their hard work and enables them to make progress," added the DfE spokesman.

Additional coverage by the Press Association

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