Dyslexia specialists have warned that the education of a fifth of all pupils is being jeopardised because too few teachers leave training institutions able to diagnose the condition, or with any knowledge of what teaching methods to use.
Local authorities might also be defaulting in their legal duties to help children with dyslexia as many were taking too long in identifying the problem and others refuse to acknowledge the condition exists, a conference heard.
The conference, organised by East Berkshire College, brought together educational psychologists and teachers to discuss the implications of a court ruling last year against the London borough of Hillingdon. The judgment found that the north London council had failed to exercise a duty of care in assessing as dyslexic former pupil Pamela Phelps.
Dr Peter Hatcher, of the University of York, who works with Cumbria council, said the authority was systematically training all of its teachers to ensure every child received a high standard of literacy teaching. A greater awareness by teachers removed the necessity for statementing, enabling affected pupils to be integrated into the mainstream, he said.
Elizabeth Chacksfield, one of the conference organisers, said initial teacher training should include a compulsory component in dyslexia awareness. "This should be the basis of ITT, given that an estimated one in five children are affected. The Government does not seem to be tackling the scale of the problem," she said.
She added that provision for dyslexics was "patchy" around the country, with some children receiving effective help while teachers and psychologists in other parts were less well-informed.
Elizabeth Henderson, head of Oldfield school in Maidenhead, Berkshire, said only one in six of the teachers she recently interviewed for a post admitted to having any knowledge of dyslexia. She said: "There are some Government guidelines that this should be included in initial teacher training but they are fairly sketchy. The colleges and universities just do not seem to be covering this aspect."