Teachers are paying up to £3,800 out of their own pockets for training to help pupils with dyslexia, Tes can reveal.
As local education authorities across the country cut back on support for pupils with dyslexia, many teachers are under pressure to go on self-funded training courses in their own time, according to the British Dyslexia Association (BDA).
It says there are around three or four pupils in every class who have dyslexia, which affects 10 to 15 per cent of the population, and that teachers can lose confidence when using all their skills to teach children who are not making any progress.
Exclusive: Council won't back down over dyslexia
BDA chief executive Helen Boden said: “Teachers want to know what do. They want the knowledge and the skills – but they are having to pay for them. Why is this training not available in schools?”
She added: “You’ve got pressure from both your headteacher and from parents saying, 'Why are these kids not progressing?' But within your teacher training you haven’t been taught about [dyslexia]. You get probably half-a-day within your teacher training on all of special educational needs so you are completely ill-equipped to deal with it.”
Teachers 'need support to tackle dyslexia'
The BDA, which is one of several providers of dyslexia training to teachers in England, says it currently has “several hundred” teachers in training, including those undergoing standard awareness training and level 5 training, as well as those becoming specialist teachers through level 7 training, which is a two-year course of several hours a week costing £3,800.
The BDA is now calling for every school to have a specialist dyslexia teacher, who could train teachers and identify pupils who need support.
The cost of this would be around £100 million per year – which is the amount already being spent by local education authorities in legal costs fighting parents who want dyslexia support for their children, says the BDA.
“It makes no sense," said Ms Boden. "Instead of being spent on meeting pupils' needs, that money is being spent on fighting children and families and parents. If you think of what you could do with that money in terms of putting in place some support, it would be a completely different story.
“We know that having a specialist teacher in every school is a model that works. When you have someone embedded in a mainstream school who can identify these children and put in place support and carry out assessment and can train other teachers in that school then on the whole their needs will be met by having just that resource.
“In some cases, it wouldn’t be teacher in every school because some schools are so small but it would be one teacher in every cluster of schools.”
The NEU teaching union's annual conference in April heard how teachers were spending their own salaries on classroom resources to "keep the school system running."
Ros McNeil, the union's assistant general secretary, called on the government to invest in fully-funded additional training for teachers who are striving to support pupils without the relevant specialist support.
She said: "Pupils only get one shot at their education – they need more than empty promises to ensure they reach their full potential.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said schools were expected to pay for any additional training that teachers may need to help them provide extra support for their pupils – on top of what is provided through initial teacher training.
But they added: “The prime minister has made clear that we will increase minimum levels of per-pupil funding in primary and secondary schools. He has also committed to funding special educational free schools.”
The government has announced £700 million extra funding for children with special educational needs and disabilities in 2020-21 as part of an overall extra funding package of £7.1 billion between 2020 and 2023.
The DfE has also launched a major review of SEND support.