Don't throw anyone away

17th December 2004 at 00:00
his is a respectable, middle-class dormitory town with a respectable, middle- class civic amenity site. But it would make you weep to see what is thrown out - good quality three-piece suites, curtains, tables, toys, bikes. It seems easier to chuck out stuff than phone a charity and give it away. If it is not perfect, it gets the heave.

Some pupils might be considered less than perfect - but if you work with kids with special needs, you learn there are lots of different kinds of perfect around.

Part of my job involves reading and scribing for those with dyslexia, or specific learning difficulties, when the actual reading and writing takes so much effort that it leaves no space to think about content. It's a total joy to do it with a bright child. Not just because you know that it means the exam result will reflect their knowledge, but because it lets the kids themselves recognise they are smart even if they can't read or write well.

It's a bit less joyful when you are working with someone who isn't so able.

It's the hardest thing in the world not to put words into their mouths, not to let your face show they've got it wrong or right. It's even harder when you know that even with help, the information is sometimes not there.

To sit with a polite, hard-working, caring child who did all he or she was asked to do in the classroom, who did revise, yet who can't remember, is heartbreaking.

Some mainstream staff resent the use of a reader-scribe because they think it's an unfair advantage. That's so untrue when you consider how hard everyday learning is for these kids.

Some employers and college staff must resent it, because there is now no requirement to say a reader-scribe was used. Yet the youngster, with a creditable spread of Standard grades, might not be able to read or write well enough to do mundane administrative tasks.

More and more children are being identified with specific learning difficulties. It seems likely that, in our childhood, these pupils were just considered thick, and put in the bottom stream.

Giving a child a reader-scribe in tests and national exams is expensive, and it can be difficult to assess who qualifies. We need clear, objective guidelines to make that decision.

Reader-scribes must be properly trained and, if used, this should be clearly marked on the pupils' results. It is nothing to be ashamed of.

Perhaps one day we'll have computers to do it.

The link between the town dump and dyslexic children is tenuous. Except it's a terrible waste to chuck away furniture when so many folk could use it, and it's a terrible waste to have a child fail in school when all they need is help to access the curriculum.

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