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New principles for special examination modifications

We’ve now updated this information, and you can find it over on our new website: Disability provisions

The Board of Studies has been considering the recent Disability Standards for Education issued under the Commonwealth Disabilities Discrimination Act (DDA) and any implications the Act might have for the Board's syllabus, examination and registration processes.

The Board has approved a set of principles to guide decisions about the types of arrangements to enable students with a disability to best access the School Certificate tests and Higher School Certificate examinations. The principles were developed to ensure that the Board complies with the Disability Standards for Education.

The new principles are based on the good practices the Board has employed for many years to give all students fair access to its examination papers. The principles help ensure that reasonable and fair measures are taken to help students with disabilities access examinations on the same basis as other students.

Once a student's application for disability provisions is approved, the principles are applied to ensure that:

  • Every effort is made to provide reasonable adjustments and access arrangements to a student with a disability needing such adjustments.
  • The same academic standards are applied to all students.
  • Adjustments and access arrangements are made without giving an unfair advantage.

If you have any questions about the Board's principles, please contact: Kevin Ford on (02) 9367 8298 or email kevin.ford@bos.nsw.edu.au

10 principles for special examination modifications

  1. The same academic standards must be applied to all students. Any adjustments or access arrangements made must maintain the academic rigour of the examination and the integrity of the credential.
  2. Adjustments and access arrangements must not confer an advantage on the candidate. If a required adjustment is considered to confer an unfair advantage an alternative adjustment may be offered depending on the circumstances. The nature of an adjustment need not be made if it would cause unjustifiable hardship to the Office of the Board of Studies. The principle of non-discrimination must be balanced with the maintaining of rigour and integrity and equity for all students.
  3. The adjustments made to an examination will be designed to facilitate access rather than remove the requirement to demonstrate a skill being tested by the examination.
  4. Access arrangements are intended to increase access to assessments but cannot be granted where they will directly affect performance of the skills that are the focus of the assessment. All inherent requirements of the course are to be maintained at the same standard for all candidates.
  5. If required and approved, reasonable adjustments will be made to the examinations themselves, and/or the procedures for conducting the examinations. Support to the candidate through assistive technologies and other means may also be made available as long as equal rigour and challenge are maintained.
  6. The individual needs of candidates who apply for and are granted disability provisions in examinations will vary. Every effort should be made to provide reasonable adjustments and access arrangements to a student with a disability needing such adjustments. A standard approach to determining any adjustments should be used for all students. The adjustment must be an effective one that can reasonably be provided taking account of any technical or other difficulties that can arise in making the adjustments while maintaining equal rigour and challenge.
  7. A proposed adjustment may not be put in place if to do so would impose unjustifiable hardship on the Office of the Board of Studies in any way, including the cost, the resources required or the degree of expertise required to achieve the change.
  8. In the development phase of the examination, committees will consider ways to develop inclusive questions that are appropriate for all students and reduce the need for making adjustments for students with a disability without reducing or limiting the rigour or integrity.
  9. Adjustments that are not considered routine need sufficient time for the adjustment to be made. Examination committees and others involved in the adjustment process must be given reasonable notice of requirements for adjustments, except where exceptional circumstances exist.
  10. Consistent with the above Principles, access arrangements may include using greater proportions of school-based assessments or flexible examination scheduling.
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