Dyslexia summit breaks new ground

8th February 2008 at 00:00
Scotland has become a world leader in preparing teachers to deal with dyslexic children.

That was the claim after a landmark agreement was struck between the country's teacher training universities last week.

The universities will now prepare student teachers for dealing with dyslexia as part of a national plan, a development thought to be a world first.

Sir Jackie Stewart, who won the Formula 1 world championship three times despite his dyslexia, was at the Scottish Parliament last week to witness a "dyslexia summit" that also involved First Minister Alex Salmond. "I think this is a dramatic step forward to have all seven of the teacher training colleges coming to a new programme that I believe will be a first in the world of education," he said.

"It's tremendous that Scotland, as a small country, can be ahead of any other country I know in the world today.

"Every single teacher training college is going to have this as part of the curriculum. That's going to help immeasurably."

Sir Jackie - who left school "with great relief" aged 16 to work in his father's garage - is confident that the national plan will have direct benefits for dyslexic children.

"Educationally and socially they are going to be better citizens, because they are not going to be so aggravated and angry about their own inabilities.

"That frustration can lead to crime and addiction to drugs or alcohol, so I really commend this approach for what it's doing to overcome these types of issues."

Ian Smith, dean of education at the University of the West of Scotland, emphasised that Scotland's teacher training institutions had already done considerable work on dyslexia.

But the new agreement - which sets a number of targets to be achieved within two years - would ensure a consistency of approach, he said.

Myra Pearson, head of Aberdeen University's school of education, said: "You can't underestimate the importance of this - we have a national picture now and we are building on all the excellent work that has gone before."

It has been suggested in some quarters that early diagnosis and intervention is the best way to help dyslexic children, with the early years literacy programme in West Dunbartonshire held up as an example.

But Cabinet Secretary for Education Fiona Hyslop stressed that concentrating resources on teacher training was not leaving things too late, as it would make early years teachers better equipped to help dyslexic children.

The summit also recognised the need for training student teachers to deal with other special needs.

Mr Salmond said: "National and international assessments tell us that our schools are largely performing well.

"However, we know that there are situations where the system does not serve individual pupils well, and we have a duty to work together to do better."

He said that the dyslexia summit had helped bring about a "road map to inclusion" to ensure that teachers in Scotland had the tools for meeting pupils' needs.

It is estimated that 10 per cent of Scotland's population is dyslexic.


The two-year plan agreed at the summit will result in:

- The development of "A Framework for Inclusion", setting out requirements of teachers in supporting pupils with special needs.

- Guidance on specific issues such as dyslexia.

- Teaching materials to support teacher training.

- A review of postgraduate opportunities available to reflect the ideas agreed in the Framework for Inclusion.

- Better collaboration between universities.

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