The AAC Exams Access Working Group

The AAC Exams Access Working Group has representatives from across the AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) sector working together with the aim of improving access to assessments and exams for students who rely on AAC for communication.

The AAC Exams Access Working Group has met twice. At the first meeting members shared their experiences with exam arrangements for students who rely on AAC. At the second meeting the group began to draft a document which will form the basis of discussions with exam boards to standardise the criteria for students who rely on AAC to access assessments and exams. The next meeting of the group will be announced soon.

AAC Exams Access Working Group - Terms of Reference

What is AAC?

AAC supplements or replaces speech or writing for communication. AAC can take the form of low-tech communication systems such as pen and paper, objects, signing and books with pictures, symbols and/or text.

High-tech communication systems include systems that need some sort of power to work, for example, single or multiple message devices that you can record on to as well as other devices such as computers and tablets that can convert symbols, pictures and text to a voice output.

Why is the Working Group Needed?

Every child should have the right to demonstrate their academic ability using the most suitable access method.

Students using AAC may require independent access to tests and exams using a variety of access adaptations. The adaptations required will be unique to each individual student and must be reflect their normal way of working in the classroom.

This working group has begun to look at how these needs should inform exams access provision under the JCQ access arrangements and reasonable adjustments

The group is considering all other national testing guidelines and the impact they have on the young person on the access to all exams and testing from KS1 onwards for students who rely on AAC.

Aims of the Working Group

  • To identify and share good practice for test and exams access across all key stages
  • To produce a guide to good practice for schools on exams access arrangements for AAC users
  • To engage with exams boards with a view to develop a shared agreement on appropriate access arrangements for students who rely on AAC
  • To develop guidance for schools on developing normal ways of working that involve the easiest physical, time-efficient access and developing working-memory skills
  • To produce guidance for special schools in developing programmes that may lead to students accessing assessment, testing and exams
  • To look at alternative routes to gaining equivalent to national qualifications
  • To promote good practice for access to testing and qualifications through study day seminars and conferences
  • To provide training opportunities throughout the education system on AAC exams access.

(Hester Mackay - KM CAT, Marion Stanton and Saff Murphy-Mann- CandLE and Laura Baggley – Cornwall Council AAC team)