Closed consultation

Ofqual's consultation on specifications on reasonable adjustments

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Original consultation

This consultation ran from to


A consultation on proposed changes to reasonable adjustments to qualifications for disabled students.


Consultation description

We are seeking views on our proposals for amendments to the specifications on reasonable adjustments for disabled students.

Awarding organisations have a duty, under the Equality Act 2010, to make reasonable adjustments for disabled students. Each year many adjustments are made to the way disabled students take their assessments, to remove or reduce the disadvantage they would otherwise experience.

The Equality Act gives Ofqual the power to limit the extent of the duty on awarding organisations to make reasonable adjustments, for specified general qualifications in England.

We have been given this power so we can make sure that reasonable adjustments do not:

  • prevent a qualification giving a reliable indication of a student’s knowledge, skills and understanding
  • damage public confidence in a qualification


We use this power by making ‘specifications’. These prohibit or limit the extent to which awarding organisations must make or allow reasonable adjustments to some qualifications.

We are committed to keeping these specifications under review and are now seeking views on proposed amendments and additions to them. In addition to the specifications themselves, we are also seeking views on the qualifications our specifications apply to and how awarding organisations indicate an exemption on students’ certificates.

In 2011, we made eight specifications:

  1. An exemption must not be used as a reasonable adjustment, except where no other reasonable adjustment is available to the candidate.
  2. An exemption must not be used as a reasonable adjustment where it would form more than 40% of the available (weighted) marks of a qualification. In a GCE, at least one A2 unit must be completed. For Principal Learning, 40% of the qualification should be taken to mean 40% of the guided learning hours.
  3. An exemption to part of a component must not be used as a reasonable adjustment. Exemptions must only be provided for whole components where a candidate cannot access any part of that component.
  4. Awarding organisations must not make reasonable adjustments for disabled candidates in relation to grade boundaries and pass marks, also known as ‘cut scores’.
  5. Human readers must not be used as a reasonable adjustment where a candidate’s reading ability is being assessed.
  6. Human scribes and voice recognition systems must not be used as a reasonable adjustment to demonstrate written skills where those written skills form part of the qualification’s assessment objectives.
  7. British Sign Language must not be used as a reasonable adjustment where candidates are required to demonstrate their ability to speak or listen in English or a Modern Foreign Language.
  8. Practical assistants must not be used as a reasonable adjustment to carry out physical tasks or demonstrate physical abilities where those physical tasks or abilities form part of the qualification’s assessment objectives.

Qualifications covered

The specifications cover:

  • 14 to 19 diploma principal learning
  • advanced extension awards
  • Cambridge international certificate
  • Cambridge pre-university qualification
  • certificate in adult literacy
  • certificate in adult numeracy
  • entry level certificates in GCSE subjects
  • extended projects
  • foundation projects
  • free-standing mathematics qualifications
  • functional skills
  • general certificate of education advanced level (AS and A levels)
  • general certificate of secondary education (GCSE)
  • general national vocational qualifications (GNVQs)
  • higher projects
  • international baccalaureate diploma
  • key skills
  • Welsh baccalaureate qualification
  • core certificate