Access Arrangements for English Language GCSE

Computer Readers are allowed!

Did you know that computer readers can be used for GCSE English Language Exams if it is your normal way of working?

See 'My thoughts' at the bottom of this BLOG.

Why is this?

A computer reader is allowed in English Language GCSE exams, as opposed to a human reader, because a computer reader does not use intonation which can help infer meaning.

JCQ have simplified the process to have these Access Arrangements implemented in exams.


The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) have simplified this important access arrangement for dyslexics. They have removed the assessment and completion of 'FORM 8' parts of the application process for those needing a reader in Access Arrangements and Reasonable Adjustments 2019-2020.


It is hoped that this will encourage schools to maximise their use of technology and invest in providing more laptops for dyslexic pupils, establishing text-to-speech as part of their normal way of working.

What are the benefits for the school and pupil?

  • It will reduce the administrative burden on the school.
  • It will save money by reducing the need for a human reader.
  • It enables pupils to gain independence and reduces the stigma of having to rely on others to access the written word.
  • The pupil will get to work in a way that is reflective of the workplace, where text-to-speech software is mainstream.

What does the SENCO have to do?

The SENCO must be satisfied that the candidate has an impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect, giving rise to persistent and significant reading difficulties; and (the candidate is disabled within the meaning of the Equality Act) there is a genuine need for the arrangement.

If this is the case they must produce a short concise file note on centre headed paper, signed and dated, confirming the nature of the candidate’s impairment and that the use of a computer reader and/or a reader reflects his/her normal and current way of working within the centre.

What has the BDA to say?

Helen Boden, CEO, British Dyslexia Association, said: “This announcement is great news for young people with dyslexia and schools. It is simpler whilst maintaining standards and is more reflective of the world of work."

“Being able to use computer technology more easily in exams we hope will see it become more mainstream, embedding technology in all educational settings leading to greater equality and higher attainment levels for those candidates with learning difficulties like dyslexia."

“The British Dyslexia Association has worked with JCQ and its awarding body members for many years to reduce the bureaucracy and burden for schools and colleges. They have been leaders in recognising the pressures SENCOs in particular are under, and ensuring pragmatic and common-sense solutions.”

My thoughts......

There is limited knowledge that computer readers can be used for English Language GCSE exams. The software that is used also has to be 'exam compatible' with no access to the internet, so whilst Microsoft Office is including some wonderful accessible features in its software, it is not as simple as being able to use this in exams.

Schools need to invest in software and hardware, and whilst there is some great commercial software out there, this can be quite costly. The good news is, there are some low cost options available. The support of the management is needed so that SENCO's can provide this option easily for students. The cost benefits can be gained from the reduction in the need for human readers. Although computer readers may not be a suitable option for all pupils.

If you require more information regarding technology for pupils with literacy difficulties you can CONTACT ME.

What could I do as a parent?

  • Ask if your SENCO knows that a computer reader can be used for English Language GCSE and what the latest Access Arrangements from JCQ are (these change annually).
  • Ask if the school is able to make provision for your child in this way.
  • Approach the Senior Management / SENCO governor at your school to raise awareness of this issue.