Pupils being granted more time to finish exams, official figures reveal


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Pupils are increasingly being granted extra time to complete GCSE and A-level exams, official figures showed today.

Ofqual statistics reveal that 128,744 requests were made this summer for candidates to be given up to 25% longer in an exam.

This is a 5% increase on the year before, when 122,214 requests were made.

The latest data shows that the majority of requests were granted - a total of 123,248 were approved this summer, compared with 117,169 the year before.

Under current rules, schools are allowed to ask for reasonable adjustments to be made for candidates who have particular needs, such as a disability, medical condition, illness or whose first language is not English, Irish or Welsh.

These adjustments could include extra time to complete an exam, a reader or scribe, exams on different coloured papers, a bilingual dictionary or a sign language interpreter.

The latest data shows that overall, 255,145 requests were made for special access arrangements this year, up from 248,850 in 2010/11.

Of these, the largest number of requests by far was for up to 25% extra time in an exam.

The figures come the day after Ofqual raised concerns that some candidates were being given extra time to help improve their grades rather than to deal with a specific disadvantage.

In a report, the exams regulator said an increase in candidates being given extra time may be down to better diagnosis of disability, and more understanding in schools on how to create a "level playing field" for their disabled students.

But the report adds: "We are concerned that in some cases extra time is being given to candidates to help them improve their grades rather than to address a significant disadvantage."

The report says that candidates who are not entitled to a "reasonable adjustment" should not be given extra time to help them achieve a higher grade.

"Many candidates might improve their performance if they had more time to complete their exams," it says.

Exam boards will be asked to review their approach to the extra time rule, and asked to identify schools and colleges that are requesting special requirements for pupils who are not eligible.

The latest figures show that in total, around 93% of requests - 237,065 in total - were approved this summer.

After extra time, the most common requests were for a reader (60,696 requests) and a scribe (35,620 requests).