Equitable Assessment and Special Consideration

All students must have equal opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge, skill and learning outcomes. Teachers have to be sensitive to, and supportive of, students' needs during all educational experiences including assessment periods, whether it is in class assessment tasks, assignment work, major end of semester tests or the ACT Scaling Test (AST). This page considers students with special needs or disabilities. These needs are formally identified and documented to support modification or adjustments that are subsequently put in place. It is essential that students with special needs are supported throughout Years 11 and 12, to access and participate in education and training opportunities on the same basis as students without disabilities.

It is NOT a question of giving these students something extra – it is a question of giving them what is rightfully, and legally, theirs – an equal opportunity to demonstrate their full capabilities.

Provisions that are made for students with disability or special need are underpinned by the Disability Discrimination ACT (1992) and the Disability Standards for Education (2005).


The Disability Discrimination Act (1992) defines disability very broadly to include: physical, intellectual, psychiatric, sensory, neurological or learning disabilities and special needs. It includes physical disfigurement, the presence in the body of a disease-causing organism (eg the HIV virus) and any other chronic or short term illness.

Disability standards for Education (2005) aim to ensure that: students with disability are able to access and participate in education and training free from discrimination, and on the same basis as other students.

Special Needs students are those where the disability or impairment impacts on their capacity to function un-impeded.

The World Health Organisation defines disability and impairment as follows:

DISABILITY: Any restriction or lack of ability (resulting from an impairment) to perform an activity in a manner or within the range considered usual for a human being. For example, for a person with a visual impairment, the loss of the ability to see effectively is a disability.

IMPAIRMENT: Any loss or dysfunction of a psychological, physiological or anatomical structure or function. For example, the damage to the eye or optic nerve is the impairment.

If a student has an impairment which makes it difficult to study, complete assignments and do his/her best on an assessment task, then the student has a disability which may affect his/her ability to demonstrate achievement.

Short Term Misadventure

Special consideration may apply to situations where a student's ability to demonstrate achievement is impaired by a circumstance of a short term temporary basis. This includes situations such as bereavement, depression, illness or injury. In these situations a student could be entitled to one or more of the following:-

  • alternative assessments
  • extensions on submission of work
  • sitting assessments at times different to other students
  • extra time allowed for assessment items
  • exemption from completing items (status for individual items)
  • status for a semester or half-semester unit

In these circumstances a student needs to apply for Special Consideration and must supply appropriate and current documentation to the college.

Special Consideration For Assessment Requirements

Where a student's disability or special need impacts significantly on their ability to complete assessment items or tasks required as per the unit outline, the student may apply through the college Student Services team for Special Consideration. This process formally records the circumstance and decision making in accordance with OBSSS guidelines.

Examples of special provisions which may be used to support students include:

  • Technology – use of laptop for writing tasks, voice activated software for students with low literacy skills, assessment items in electronic form for students with visual impairment,
  • Alternative assessment formats – practical tests, oral presentations, electronic forms of presentations, all allow demonstration of knowledge for students who have difficulty in writing
  • Assessment requirements - extra time for reading and completing examination papers, extension of assignment  due date, reasonable reduction in word limit required for assignment, use of a separate room for test
  • Assessment supports - signing interpreters, scribe/note taker, built in relief breaks

Reasonable Adjustments

Reasonable adjustments are measures that the education provider may implement to enable a student to participate in the learning experiences (including the assessment and certification requirements) of the course or program, and any relevant supplementary course or program, on the same basis as a student without a disability.

Alternative Assessment

Alternative assessment is any alteration to the standard form of assessment (examinations and/or assignments) or conditions relating to the assessment, which is put in place to offset the impact of the disability or special need.

Alternative assessment seeks to provide equity, not advantage. The same requirements and standards apply to all students; however it is reasonable that assessment items are adjusted, in a timely fashion, to meet the learning needs of the student and address any disadvantage in the student's learning resulting from his or her disability.

What can individual teachers do?

Teachers see students completing assessment tasks and operating in the classroom on an almost daily basis, and so are most aware of students' needs. Teachers can make adjustments to their teaching and assessment practices to support students' special needs as part of their daily practice and planning.

Special Consideration for the ACT Scaling Test (AST) 

Students with disabilities/special needs should apply for assistance in undertaking the AST. Some of the special provisions mentioned before may be applicable to the sitting of the AST.

Students should discuss their needs and eligibility for assistance with the school counsellor and/or the Special Needs Team and the AST Coordinator early in the year they will be sitting the AST.

Note: All decisions regarding eligibility for Special Provisions in the AST or eligibility for the Second Sitting are the sole responsibility of the Office of the Board of Senior Secondary Studies and because of the nature of the AST some support given for college assessment may not be relevant/granted for the AST.

Forms for special case consideration are available from the AST Coordinator in your school. These forms comprise two parts. Part 1 consists of a student application and a confidential college report requiring the Principals support based on recommendations from the school counsellor or special needs team. The AST Coordinator will send this to the Assessment Officer of ACT BSSS. Part 2 consists of a confidential medical report to be sent directly by the students health professional to the Assessment Officer with relevant current documentation. In some cases further functional evidence may be required (e.g. a recent handwritten essay). This application MUST be submitted by the due date. (Check this with your AST co-ordinator).

Who to contact for advice

  • Psychologists
  • Class teachers
  • Student Welfare Teachers
  • Special Needs Co-ordinator/Team
  • Year Advisors/Supervisors/Coordinators
  • Careers Advisors
  • School Heads of Department
  • Disability Education Partners
  • Hearing and Visual Impaired Consultants