11.  Assessment and Student Circumstances


11.1   Disability is a protected characteristic that is protected under the Equality Act 2010. Schools should have procedures in place that anticipate the support needs of students with a disability (e.g. a school disability coordinator who will liaise as required if a disability is disclosed).

11.2   A competence standard is defined within the Equality Act 2010 as: ‘the academic, medical or other standard(s) applied for the purpose of determining whether a person has a particular level of competence or ability’. It therefore may not be possible to make reasonable adjustments to aspects of some assessments because they constitute a competence standard.

11.3   Schools and Faculties must ensure that competence standards are ‘genuine’. Competence standards should be the subject of regular review to ensure they remain genuine.

11.4   Where the competence standard can be shown to be genuine, the duty to make reasonable adjustments does not apply; however, where competence standards cannot be demonstrated as genuine, the duty to make reasonable adjustments remains.

11.5    Where competence standards do not apply, Schools must be prepared to implement reasonable adjustments to teaching and learning such that students with disabilities are not disadvantaged.

11.6    Schools must ensure there are mechanisms by which students are able to disclose a disability throughout their programme of study and that students are aware that deciding not to disclose a disability may adversely impact on the school’s ability to make any reasonable adjustments.

11.7    Any student who discloses a disability such that additional support may be required, should be signposted to Disability Services. A disabled student is not obliged to contact or use Disability Services; in these cases, schools still have a responsibility to make anticipatory and reasonable adjustments.

11.8    When a student does contact Disability Services, and there is evidence of a disability, Disability Services will draft a ‘Disability Support Summary’ (DSS). The DSS is devised in consultation with the student. Where the support required is complex, new or unusual, the student’s Faculty/ School will also be consulted. The DSS will state what support the student requires, including adjustments to assessment where appropriate.

11.9    For students with a DSS, the ‘Examinations, timed assessment and in class tests’ section acts in lieu of an Alternative Examination Arrangements (AEA) form and they are not required to submit an AEA form in addition to having a DSS.

11.10  Where a student requires an adjustment to their assessment and either does not have a DSS or it is not specified in the DSS, they should either: (i) complete and submit an Alternative Examination Arrangements (AEA) form at the earliest opportunity and before the stipulated deadlines; or (ii) contact Disability Services such that a DSS can be created or amended. Students must be made aware that if their application for AEAs (either, the AEA form and supporting evidence or the DSS) is not submitted before the deadline, this may affect the School’s decision in terms of what it considers reasonable and practicable to arrange within the time available.

11.11  Disability Services is responsible for securing agreement about the reasonable adjustments that are made for each student, considering representations from the School/Faculty on matters of academic integrity, academic judgement and discipline-specific requirements or constraints and from Education Services relating to implementation.

11.12  Where a disability is not disclosed prior to the assessment, examiners are not obliged to retrospectively consider the effect of a disability on a student’s performance.

11.13  Programme and unit directors are encouraged to consider the accessibility of assessments on an on-going basis.

Discrimination by association

11.14   It is direct discrimination if an education provider treats a student less favourably because of the student’s association with another person, who has a protected characteristic[1]. However, this does not apply to pregnancy or maternity.  Discrimination by association may occur in various ways, e.g. where the student has the relationship of parent, child, partner, carer or friend of someone with a protected characteristic.

11.15   Schools should consider making adjustments for students because of their association with someone who has the protected characteristic of disability.  In relation to assessment, this could mean that a student will request an alternative assessment date due to their role as a carer of a disabled dependent.  Consideration to adjustment of an assessment (e.g. timing) would have to be given if the request is due to the student’s association with a disabled person.

Religious observances

11.16   Where it is practicable, reasonable and fair to all students, assessment tasks should be designed to accommodate the religious observances of the students and staff involved. The Examinations Office and schools should work together, with advice from the Multi-faith Chaplaincy when necessary, to try to ensure, as far as it is practicable so to do, that the examination timetable does not conflict with the observance of religious festivals and other holy days.

11.17   Schools should make clear to prospective applicants and current students, at the outset of their studies, that it is their personal responsibility to inform the faculty office about their religious beliefs where there is potential for conflict with the setting of assessment. Students should be reminded of their obligations through an appropriate entry in school / programme handbooks.

11.18   Some programmes include mandatory requirements, often but not exclusively, related to the need to demonstrate certain knowledge, skills and competencies required by professional, statutory or regulatory bodies. These may require students to undertake study and assessments on days associated with religious observance.

Pregnancy/maternity or paternity

11.19   If it is likely that a student’s pregnancy might affect her ability to meet coursework deadlines or sit examinations, consideration must be given to implementing measures to support her in meeting the requirements of the programme.

11.20   If a student is due to give birth near to, or during assessment deadlines, or the examination period, but she wishes to complete her assessed work or sit her examinations, she should not be prevented from so doing.

11.21   Schools should ensure that the needs of pregnant students are addressed during assessments, including offering the opportunity to sit the examination in a location separate from other students.

11.22   If a pregnant student is concerned about sitting examinations or meeting assessed work deadlines, or if she has a pregnancy-related health condition that is exacerbated by stress, she should be advised to seek medical advice. If her midwife or doctor advises against her sitting an examination or trying to meet the assessed work deadline, an alternative method of assessment should be explored.

11.23   If a pregnant student is unable to undertake an alternative method of assessment, or if she experiences significant pregnancy-related problems in the course of an examination or while undertaking assessed work, the school should make arrangements for her to sit the examination, as a first attempt, at the earliest possible opportunity or agree to an extension to the deadline for the submission of coursework.

11.24   If a student is likely to be absent due to their partner giving birth, and where the due date conflicts with any scheduled assessments, staff should endeavour to offer flexibility wherever practicable so to do. However, in such circumstances automatic dispensation from examinations will not always be possible. This provision also extends to cover same sex couples.

[1] The protected characteristics for higher education are: age; disability; gender reassignment; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation. More information on the protected characteristics can be accessed at: https://www.bris.ac.uk/equalityanddiversity/secure/act/