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The RAD seeks clarity on 'authorised absences' for exams

29 Mar 2018

The RAD seeks clarity on 'authorised absences' for exams
The RAD has called for better guidance on rules permitting students in England to take examinations in dance and creative subjects during the school day, and has received support from the Secretary of State for Education.

This represents vital and welcome encouragement for young people who are at increasing risk of being denied the opportunity to perform for an examiner and gain a qualification they have worked hard to achieve.

Seeing an increasing number of declined requests for authorised absences for exam candidates by schools, the RAD decided to lobby for this support on behalf of all awarding bodies offering exams in creative subjects. Due to the substantial numbers of entries, it is not always possible for the RAD to organise examinations out of school hours. Therefore, this has become an increasingly urgent issue since the Department of Education issued new guidance in 2013, outlining stronger repercussions for unauthorised absences, and stating that head teachers should only authorise absence in ‘exceptional circumstances’.


The RAD has found that this new guidance has often made it difficult for head teachers to authorise absences for external examinations, as there is currently no clear guideline as to what constitutes ‘exceptional circumstances’ (a point which has been previously raised in parliamentary debate).

The RAD is, therefore, calling for more to be done in order to support those students wishing to gain valuable qualifications in dance and other creative subjects. This could be achieved by further guidance being provided to head teachers as to what constitutes an ‘exceptional circumstance, especially with regard to external examinations.

Andrew McBirnie, Director of Examinations at the RAD, approached his MP, Ed Vaizey, in order to highlight this issue. This resulted in a letter from the Secretary of State for Education the Rt Hon Damian Hind MP, who expressed his support for students wishing to take exams.

Mr Vaizey welcomed the letter of support but called for further clarification: 'The supportive stance from Damian Hinds is hugely welcome – but greater clarity is still needed. I will continue to work with RAD on the issue and will write to the Minister for Education regarding new guidelines for schools.'

All-round education

Each year, nearly a quarter of a million candidates across the globe take RAD exams, which are recognised for their rigour and quality. They provide students of all ages and ability the opportunity to progress and achieve, by demonstrating technique, performance and musicality in dance. Achievement in dance also contributes to all-round development, as it helps to develop competencies such as motor control, self-expression, physical fitness and stamina, discipline, mental ability, confidence and self-esteem, all qualities that will prove invaluable for life beyond the dance studio.  

Photo by David Tett.

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