Assessing students, access arrangements and changes to JCQ requirements

This week, we have a guest blog from Caroline Read, Senior Course Tutor at Communicate-ed, who tells us about the impact for this year on the changes to JCQ qualification requirements and what measures schools can take in the interim before the new qualification requirements come fully into force in September 2017.

Schools and Colleges (centres) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who offer general qualifications (such as GCSEs and A Levels) to their students, should be aware that changes to the process of assessing candidates with learning difficulties for access arrangements[1] have been made by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ).

The challenge is that Access Arrangements Assessors will now need a Level 7 (postgraduate or masters level) qualification, covering at least 100 hours on the subject of individual assessment.  This means that in some centres existing staff will need to upskill, or the centre will have to source support from assessors not currently employed by the centre.

Whist the majority of assessors already hold a level 7 qualification in individual assessment there was an exception to this requirement which has now been withdrawn. Previously SENCos could carry out assessments if they had relevant assessment experience, a postgraduate qualification in SEN or 12+ hours training (but no qualification) in individual assessment.

Back in September 2015, the JCQ regulations made clear that this would no longer be the case. Thankfully a ‘grace’ period of a maximum of 2 years is currently in place.  At the end of this time, anyone wishing to continue in this role would need to have gained the appropriate qualification. So by September 2017 all assessors will be required to hold a Level 7 qualification covering at least 100 hours on individual assessment.  

How should assessors without the qualification in individual assessment sign off Form 8 for this year, as there isn’t an appropriate section for those who are not fully qualified to complete anymore?

Form 8 or ‘The Profile of Learning Difficulties’ is the format for evidence showing a candidate’s background history (Section A) and the results of assessments carried out by the qualified assessor (Section C). Assessors are required to indicate their qualifications on the final page of the form. 

The recommendation is that the assessor who meets the criteria outlined above signs off Section C of as if they already have a relevant Level 7 or equivalent post-graduate qualification and also produces a signed statement which indicates to the JCQ Centre Inspector that:

  • s/he does have a qualification which met the previous JCQ requirements 
  • s/he was approved by their head of centre to act as a assessor  
  • the head of centre was satisfied that the assessor met the then published criteria   
  • should indicate in their statement that he/she has enrolled on a course covering at least 100 hours on individual specialist assessment which is at or equivalent to Level 7

Specialist[2] assessors with a current SpLD Assessment Practising Certificate (APC) and qualified Educational Psychologists registered with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) are unaffected by this change. 

The best advice for professionals who are unsure about the ‘level’ of any existing award that they hold would be to refer to the body which awarded the qualification. The JCQ cannot confirm the level of a specific qualification. 

Where the qualification is below level 7 assessors must enrol on an appropriate qualification and successfully complete the course no later than 31 August 2017. 

Evidence of the assessor’s qualifications must be held on file, and will need to be presented to the JCQ inspector by the SENCo.

What should schools & colleges do that don’t have a qualified member of staff?

Schools and colleges that don’t have a member of staff who is suitably qualified will need to involve a local assessor who holds an appropriate qualification. In order to comply with the JCQ regulations the assessor should work alongside the school SENCo or Learning Support Manager liaising on each candidate’s history of need and support, preferably carrying out assessments within the centre. Communicate-ed ( and PATOSS ( hold lists of appropriately qualified assessors.

All centres should have a robust system of identifying, assessing and supporting candidates who may need help in their exams and assessments. The Equality Act 2010 requires centres to make reasonable adjustments for those students who have special needs and disabilities. Providing appropriate access arrangements is one small but essential way that centres can meet that requirement. JCQ inspectors will be visiting centres each year and will need to see evidence of a robust system of identification and support.


[1] ‘Access Arrangements and Reasonable Adjustments’ Joint Council for Qualifications publication, JCQ website September 2016. Hard copies distributed to centres September 2015

[2]‘Appointment of specialist assessors for candidates with learning difficulties’ Joint Council for Qualifications document, JCQ website October 2016

Communicate-ed, in association with their sister company Include-ed, offer a 120 hour Level 7 course which meets the JCQ criteria to assess for access arrangements: the Postgraduate Award of Proficiency in Assessment for Access Arrangements (PAPAA).  Please go to (click on the ‘PAPAA course’ tab) or email for more information.