Under equality laws across the UK, every school has to make reasonable adjustments to help any child who might have a disability, which includes type 1 diabetes, from not getting the grades they deserve because of it.
Although parents and children might not consider diabetes as a disability, they are still covered under these equality laws. In England, Scotland and Wales these laws come under the Equality Act 2010 and in Northern Ireland they come under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.
If your child has left school, we also have information on university and further education exams.
Who is responsible for agreeing reasonable adjustments?
The responsibility for agreeing reasonable adjustments depends on the adjustment required for the exam that a child is taking.
Some adjustments, such as allowing access to food and drink during an exam, can be authorised by the school. But some will need to be agreed by the relevant awarding body, usually several months before sitting the exam. Access to diabetes tech typically needs to be discussed and agreed with an awarding body. If your child will need access to diabetes tech during an exam, you should speak to the school and they'll be able to contact the relevant awarding body.
What type of reasonable adjustments are there?
The two main types of help which might be available for a child with diabetes are access arrangements and special considerations.
Access arrangements are agreed before sitting the exam and involve arranging reasonable adjustments to make exams more accessible for students with disabilities, temporary illness or special educational needs.
Some examples of access arrangements are:
- Being allowed to take drinks and snacks into an exam to prevent or treat a hypo or hyper.
- Being allowed to bring in their blood sugar monitor and insulin treatment into an exam.
- Taking a supervised rest break to treat a hypo or hyper. Supervised rest breaks are where the clock is paused while a student treats themselves. The clock restarts when they’ve recovered.
Special considerations are requested after a student has taken an exam and involve seeking an adjustment to a mark or grade because a student's performance was affected by temporary illness, injury or personal circumstance.
Getting special considerations can be difficult to get because there must be evidence showing what happened, for example, a record of the child’s blood sugar levels.
Students with type 1 diabetes might be able to apply for special considerations if their blood sugar has been low or high and it has affected their performance in an exam.
The process for requesting special considerations and access arrangements are the same in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
In Scotland, there is a slightly different process. An exceptional circumstances service will be in place later in the year for students who are unable to sit the exam or whose results may be impacted by personal circumstances. You can find out more on the SQA website.
For both special considerations and exceptional circumstances it is important to find out ahead of the exam how the awarding body apply these. In some instances, starting or finishing the exam may be taken as implied confirmation that you are well enough to complete it.
So, it is important to talk to the school and ensure everyone is clear on the most appropriate approach if a child feels unwell before or during an exam and thinks this will impact their performance.