Warwickshire County Council has been heavily criticised in the House of Lords for saying that a dyslexia diagnosis is "scientifically questionable" – a stance that one peer compared to denying global warming.
The council’s guidance states that “research in the field of dyslexia lacks consensus” and that "the techniques used to teach reading to children diagnosed with dyslexia are the same as those used to teach any other struggling reader".
“A diagnosis of dyslexia does not provide any additional information that is useful for addressing the difficulties nor does it predict the rate of progress,” Warwickshire Educational Psychology Service said in guidance published this year.
"It is widely accepted that the diagnosis of dyslexia is scientifically questionable and can be misleading," the guidance added.
Labour peer Lord Watson called for the government “to ensure that this misguided policy and guidance is withdrawn as a matter of urgency” during a debate yesterday.
“Warwickshire County Council’s guidance to parents ignores the science and refuses to recognise that dyslexia is a medical condition,” he said.
“One wonders if perhaps they have also advised their residents that the earth is actually flat and there’s no such thing as global warming.”
Minister for the school system Lord Agnew said he supported the need for early intervention and that the council should "consider carefully" advice from the British Dyslexia Association.
Families in legal battles over dyslexia support
The British Dyslexia Association said the council's policy "is a first and sets an alarming precedent that cannot stand".
Chief executive Helen Boden said schools in the area have interpreted the policy as meaning that the local authority will not assess children for dyslexia.
Several families had been forced to mount legal challenges to get support for their dyslexic children as a result – one of them five times.
“The document makes no sense. It’s full of contradictions and it makes no sense,” she told Tes.
“There are clear responsibilities for a local authority around identifying individual needs, around acting if a parent comes and says their children are dyslexic.”
According to the NHS, about 10 per cent of the population, or an average of three children in every classroom in the UK, are thought to have dyslexia.
Recent research by the Driver Youth Trust found that a third of local authorities face a shortage of dyslexia teachers, and government plans to train more dyslexia specialists are “in tatters”.
Other research has found that support for students with special educational needs varies dramatically across England, with a child in inner London 50 per cent more likely to get sufficient help than a child in the North or Midlands.
Warwickshire currently has 3,509 young people with special educational needs (SEN) statements and education, health and care plans (EHCPs), according to official statistics, which do not show how many have dyslexia.
A council spokesperson said: "Warwickshire County Council does, and always has, recognised dyslexia along with the many other needs we see coming through our schools.
"We are confident that the guidance produced by Warwickshire County Council Educational Psychology Service, and followed by schools and services, is sound and the needs of children and young people are being met."