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Power to pupils with tool for life

Dyslexia can inhibit progress through a child's life. A new support pack could improve their chances, Miranda Fettes reports

In a class of 30 pupils, there are likely to be three children with dyslexia. Four per cent of the population has severe or significant dyslexic difficulties and a further 6 per cent have mild to moderate dyslexia.

"A phenomenal 75 per cent of prisoners have some form of dyslexia," says Ewan Aitken, the executive member for children and families at Edinburgh City Council. "That's how devastating it can be in terms of restricting your life chances, so that's why it's so important."

Mr Aitken is talking at the launch of Edinburgh's new dyslexia support pack for secondary schools.

"It's not just about tools for getting through exams, but tools for getting through lives," he explains. "There is a disproportionate number of people in jail with dyslexia. There is a disproportionate number of people in low-paid jobs with dyslexia."

He goes on to emphasise all the extremely successful people with dyslexia.

"So much of what we're talking about here is a sense of self-belief and self-worth. The role it plays in your life can be dealt with. Power can be given back to young people."

The resource pack provides information for secondary school teachers, dyslexic pupils and parents and satisfies the Education (Additional Support for Learning) Scotland Act 2004 code of practice. Comprising 16 booklets, it is designed to give a good practice framework of support for dyslexic pupils and provide advice for subject teachers, pupils and parents, to help them remove any barriers to learning that might be experienced by dyslexic pupils.

Eleven of the booklets are subject-specific, indicating barriers to learning in those subjects, identifying subject strengths shown by dyslexic pupils, suggesting support strategies and considering assessment arrangements.

There is also information about technology, support materials and a cross-curricular teachers' guide, which deals with classroom management strategies and the underpinning reading, writing and number skills required to access the curriculum.

The guide for parents and pupils outlines what dyslexia is, detailing indicators, giving homework tips and exploring the important transition from primary to secondary education, which, for some dyslexic pupils, can be difficult.

Moira Thomson, principal teacher of support for learning at Broughton High and the council's development officer for dyslexia, is co-author of the pack.

"It is important that there is a recognition that many pupils with dyslexia find the transition to secondary school difficult," she says.

"Pupils are moving from a familiar supported environment to a new place where they have lots of different teachers. We need to make sure they are not abandoned to failure as very often used to be the case.

"If people don't believe in themselves, they're not going to learn as effectively as otherwise."

The pack acknowledges the wide diversity of need among young people with dyslexia and spells out the importance of tailoring support to each pupil's particular needs. It argues the quality of education for everybody, including those delivering it, is improved by providing support for young people with additional needs.

Mrs Thomson emphasises the importance of a whole school approach, appropriate curriculum, framework of support and opportunities to celebrate the success of dyslexic pupils.

"All teachers have a responsibility to recognise the range and diversity of difficulties pupils may experience," she says.

Lesley Johnston, the headteacher at Broughton High, says: "It's about strategies to help youngsters overcome difficulties."

"I think it will be helpful because it's good to know your teachers know what they can do to help you," says S5 Broughton High pupil Craig McCreath.

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