Dyslexics 'now left to drift'

The British Dyslexia Association says the Audit Commission report highlights vast discrepancies between areas for those awaiting statements of special educational need.

Paul Cann, the association's director, says: "Two years ago, the Code of Practice offered children with special needs a ray of hope. Now we see that they are still being left to drift without the right help at the right time. If LEAs like Newcastle and Southwark can process their cases on time, with all the challenges they face, why are so many others routinely breaking the law? Councils must take responsibility for protecting this vulnerable group of children."

The commission looked at the percentage of draft statements prepared within the code's recommended 18 weeks, and found no council prepared all its draft statements within the target period. The report concludes that "large numbers of councils are still failing to provide an adequate service".

The BDA points to the success of Newcastle, which has improved its performance from less than 40 per cent of draft statements processed within 18 weeks last year to a highly creditable 99 per cent, top of the table for metropolitan councils.

Peter Jones. the council's assistant education officer for special needs, says: "At the point when the code was drafted, we invested in dialogue with schools, health forums and parents. Most of the professionals involved now know who they're dealing with - and that sense of personal relationships really speeds up the process."

The result has heen the dramatic rise in the number of statements processed within the target period. The record so far is a draft statement for Dean Wilson at Kenton Lodge Special School in Newcastle. His mother received it within 62 days and says she is delighted.

The council carried out an audit of all its special needs provision three years ago, with the aim of raising awareness. It is also part of a pilot project for the early diagnosis of dyslexia problems, and is running a course to train teachers in recognising dyslexia.

Towards the bottom of the scale comes Kingston-upon-Thames. This London borough, which comes 26th among the 31 London boroughs is processing only 15 per cent of its draft statements within the target period.

Parents like Lorena Crowley face a heart-breaking wait. Her 11-year-old son James is severely dyslexic. His problem was first identified by teachers in his reception class at mainstream school - but he has still not received his statement.

"We're not far off now," says his mother Lorena, who has two other sons with dyslexia. "I received the letter about his statement over two years ago and the council's promised me it won't be long now. But it's been one long delay for reports after another - and James is due to move to secondary school in September and I'm terrified he won't get the support he needs."

A council spokesperson said: "We do acknowledge there has been a delay in this case, but we are waiting for a report from the head of the Learning Support Unit."

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