Section 96(7) Equality Act 2010

Specifications on Reasonable Adjustments in National Qualifications in Scotland

Section 96(7) of the Equality Act 2010 gives SQA as the appropriate regulator of general qualifications in Scotland a power to specify and publish where ‘reasonable adjustments’ to National Qualifications should not be made. Reasonable adjustments are steps taken to avoid a disadvantage to a disabled person. The relevant General Qualifications in Scotland covered by section 96 of the Equality Act 2010 are:

SQA consulted on its proposals to exercise this power. Having carefully considered the responses to the consultation, SQA is making a small number of specifications as set out below. They are also listed in the report on the outcome of the consultation (305 KB).

Curriculum for Excellence

National Courses that were developed under the Curriculum for Excellence programme were reviewed for accessibility following SQA’s Equality Review of Qualifications Process. Consideration of the reasonable adjustments which could be made to provide access to SQA qualifications for disabled learners was part of this process.

Where barriers for disabled learners were identified, consideration was given to whether these barriers could be removed or their adverse impact mitigated by the provision of reasonable adjustments. In some National Qualifications, a small number of adjustments were considered to be inappropriate because they compromised specific assessment objectives (i.e. the skills, knowledge and understanding being assessed by the qualification) and therefore undermined the meaning and value of the qualification.

Adjustments which cannot be made

Specifying and publishing these adjustments which cannot be made will provide clarity and certainty for candidates, parents, centres and others using the qualifications and will be helpful for candidates in making appropriate qualification choices.

In making the specifications set out in this document, SQA has taken account of:

SQA will continue to consider individual requests for other reasonable adjustments, determining what adjustments might be reasonable based on individual need and on the need to maintain the integrity of the qualification.

The specifications will be kept under regular review.

Specifications

All of the specifications will come into effect from August 2013.

Specification 1 - Course Assessment

In relation to National Courses at National 5 to Advanced Higher, exemption of an assessment component which comprises 30% or more of the total Course assessment will not be a reasonable adjustment.

Exemption can only be considered where no other reasonable adjustments are appropriate and SQA is satisfied that the candidate has demonstrated a level of competence consistent with meaningful certification and with maintaining public confidence in the qualification.

In order to achieve a National Course at National 5 to Advanced Higher, learners are required to pass a Course assessment. In the context of this specification, an assessment component is strictly defined as one of the seven agreed assessment methods (assignment, case study, performance, practical activity, project, portfolio, question paper) in the Course assessment.

An assessment component which comprises 30% or more of the total Course assessment is deemed to be a key component of the qualification. To allow such an exemption would compromise the assessment objectives and would not secure that the qualification provided a reliable indication of the knowledge and skills of the candidate.

In order to minimise the disadvantage faced by disabled candidates, exemption of an assessment component(s) could be considered where it comprises less than 30% of the Course assessment. The decision, as always, on whether exemption will be permitted, as a reasonable adjustment in any particular Course assessment, will depend on the needs of the individual candidate and on the need to maintain the integrity of the assessment/qualification.

Example

Learners studying National 5 French will work on two distinct Units — Understanding Language and Using Language — during their studies. Learners will also be required to pass the Course assessment. The Course assessment takes the form of a:

  • performance (30%) through which learners will demonstrate their talking skills in French
  • question paper (50%) through which learners will demonstrate their reading and writing skills in French
  • question paper (20%) through which learners will demonstrate their listening skills in French

As the performance comprises 30% of the total Course assessment, learners could not be exempted from this assessment component.

As the first question paper comprises 50% of the total Course assessment, learners could not be exempted from this assessment component.

As the second question paper comprises 20% of the total Course assessment, exemption of this assessment component could be considered, as a reasonable adjustment of last resort where no other reasonable adjustment is appropriate. The decision, as always, on whether exemption will be permitted, will depend on the needs of the individual candidate and on the need to maintain the integrity of the assessment.

 

Specification 2 - Set Question Papers

In relation to National Courses at National 5 to Advanced Higher, the explanation of words or questions to candidates in a SQA-set question paper will not be a reasonable adjustment.

SQA external examination question papers are specifically designed to assess candidates’ abilities to recall information, demonstrate understanding, interpret, apply their knowledge, solve problems, and in some cases, analyse and evaluate. Those responsible for setting SQA question papers carefully select particular words in questions to elicit particular responses.

The explanation of words and questions is not considered as a reasonable adjustment because it poses a real risk of changing the meaning or the intention of the set question in the question paper. This arrangement could potentially advantage or disadvantage a candidate and therefore compromise the integrity of the assessment and public confidence in the national examination.

 

Specification 3 - Literacy Units

In relation to the National Literacy Units at all levels:

(i) exemption from demonstrating any of the four assessed skills of reading, writing, listening or talking will not be a reasonable adjustment and (ii) using human readers and scribes will not be reasonable adjustments where reading and writing abilities are being explicitly assessed.

Literacy is defined as the ability to communicate by reading, writing, listening and talking. Learners are expected to be able to demonstrate these four skills for a range of contexts relevant for learning, life and work. It is explicit within the Unit Specifications that these four skills are of equal importance. To exempt a disabled learner from any of the assessed skills of reading, writing, listening or talking would undermine the fundamental assessment objectives and would not secure that the National Units in Literacy provided a reliable indication of the knowledge and skills of the candidate upon whom they were awarded.

(For listening and talking, it is accepted that candidates may use British Sign Language. The use of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) may be considered.)

In relation to the assessment of reading and writing skills in the Literacy Units, candidates are explicitly required to demonstrate the ability to read, understand and respond to word-based texts and to demonstrate the ability to write technically accurate texts.

The provision of a human reader and/or a human scribe would undermine the fundamental assessment objectives for reading and writing and would not secure that the National Units in Literacy provided a reliable indication of the knowledge and skills of the candidate upon whom they are conferred. It would not be possible to maintain public confidence in the National Units in Literacy if learners are given  credit for ‘reading’ and ‘writing’ when that process has been carried out by someone else. 

In order to minimise the disadvantage faced by some disabled learners in attaining the National Units in Literacy, the use of word processors and other assistive technologies such as screen readers, spell checkers or speech-recognition software would be acceptable as reasonable adjustments.

 

Specification 4 - Modern Languages & Gaelic Learners

In relation to National Units and Courses in Modern Languages and Gaelic (Learners) at all levels, human scribes or speech-recognition software will not be reasonable adjustments where the ability to write with technical accuracy in the target language is being explicitly assessed.

This specification reflects current practice, currently the use of scribes in the writing components of Modern Languages and Gaelic (Learners) qualifications is restricted to situations where the candidate is physically unable to write but is able to dictate and spell out words in the target language, letter by letter and this would continue.

Scribes and speech/voice-recognition software are sometimes used as reasonable adjustments where some disabled learners cannot write or type using a word processor. For most assessments the use of scribes and speech-recognition systems are appropriate reasonable adjustments. However, where an assessment explicitly assesses candidates’ technical knowledge of spelling and grammar such as in the writing components of Modern Languages and Gaelic (Learners) qualifications, the situation is more complex. The use of scribes and speech/voice-recognition software would undermine the assessment objectives for the writing components.

It is considered that placing such restrictions on the use of scribes and speech-recognition software maintains the integrity of the qualification by ensuring that it is the candidate’s skills and not the scribe’s skills or the computer software, which are being assessed.

Example

In the assessment of writing skills in National 5 Spanish, a human scribe or speech-recognition software should not be used as it would generate words and not allow the candidate to demonstrate their own ability to write accurately in Spanish. As a reasonable adjustment, a candidate, who is physically unable to write, could record their responses during the assessment and then could re-run the recording, spelling individual words to a scribe.

 

Specification 5 - British Sign Language

In relation to National Units and Courses in Gàidhlig, Gaelic (Learners) and Modern Languages at all levels, using British Sign Language (BSL) to demonstrate reading, writing, talking or listening abilities in the particular language will not be a reasonable adjustment.

British Sign Language is a visual-gestural language used by many d/Deaf learners. BSL is recognised as a language in its own right. National Courses in Gàidhlig, Gaelic (Learners) or in Modern Languages specifically require candidates to demonstrate their competence in reading, writing, talking and listening in the target language concerned. Using BSL would not secure that the National Courses in Gàidhlig, Gaelic (Learners) or in Modern Languages provided a reliable indication of the knowledge and skills of the candidate upon whom they are conferred.

Example

In a National 5 German listening assessment, the provision of a BSL interpreter would not be allowed. The provision of the BSL interpreter would mean that the candidate was not demonstrating the ability to understand spoken German, which is the assessment objective. Other reasonable adjustments such as a live presentation to allow the candidate to lip read may be appropriate. 

 

Specification 6 - Communication Units

In relation to National Core Skills Communication Units and to National Certificate Communication Units, exemption from demonstrating abilities in reading, writing, listening or speaking will not be a reasonable adjustment.

An award of a Core Skill Communication Unit indicates that the candidate has reached a level of competence in reading, writing, listening and speaking. The development of these four skills and the demonstration of their achievement are deemed to be of key importance to the award. Therefore, it is not possible to exempt a disabled candidate from demonstrating abilities in reading, writing, listening or speaking.

In order to minimise disadvantage, disabled candidates who are unable to decode written text are allowed to have a human reader or screen reader to enable them to demonstrate their ability to meet the assessment objectives of understanding, analysing and evaluating a piece of writing. Similarly, in the case of writing, disabled candidates who are unable to write, are allowed to have a human scribe or to use speech-recognition software to enable them to demonstrate their ability to meet the assessment objective of composing a piece of writing which is appropriate for purpose and audience.

Deaf candidates who are unable to speak and/or listen are allowed to use British Sign Language, Sign Supported English (SSE), lip speakers or any other appropriate augmentative and alternative communication to demonstrate their ability to respond and express themselves appropriately.