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I understand and sympathise with the new dilemma of who is eligible for a reader in the English Language GCSE exam.
Can I suggest two lines of thought: firstly, if you are recognising many more candidates need help with some words, then they become eligible on the grounds of ‘normal way of working.’ If this help is with isolated words, then these candidates could be helped either through the use of a reading pen or by being grouped in a separate room where they are required to raise their hand and are helped by one individual servicing the whole room. The exam reading pen is expensive but provides independence to the candidate. One reader for a group of candidates would definitely be the cheaper option.
Secondly, I think I hear some anxiety about a wider application of the reader access arrangement. But you acknowledge that ‘average’ candidates are now disadvantaged without help. I think it is justified to say that the current GCSE syllabus is far more concerned with discriminating between grades 7 and 9 than between 3 and 5. With the disappearance of the Higher and Foundation papers, it has become impossible to set one paper that can adequately do both jobs. So if you are to try to be fair to your school’s candidates, you should be creating that wider application of the access arrangement.
At least there will now be no necessity for standardised testing by a qualified person and a significant reduction in paperwork.
Is it possible to stop worrying about it and instead welcome the change with open arms?