Dyslexic pupils close reading gap;Briefing;Document of the week;News amp; opinion

5th November 1999 at 00:00
Inspectors say early intervention is the key to progress, reports Karen Thornton

DYSLEXIC children are helped most when their condition is identified early and is known to all their teachers, a new report from the Office for Standards in Education has said.

The OFSTED survey found most dyslexic children at mainstream primaries and secondaries were making good progress.

But children whose condition had not been identified or addressed until late in their primary careers did less well than peers who had systematic support from an early age.

Between 4 and 10 per cent of the population is estimated to suffer from dyslexia.

Sufferers struggle to learn to read, write and spell using conventional teaching methods, but can make good progress once the problem is identified and specialised teaching programmes put in place.

Children whose problems are not identified can become frustrated at their lack of progress, leading to disaffection and sometimes exclusion, as well as educational failure. Recent research (see the special needs supplement in last week's TES) has suggested that dyslexia rates are much higher among young offenders than in the general population.

The OFSTED survey - based on visits to 34 primary schools and 20 secondary schools in ten education authority areas - found most dyslexic pupils were making satisfactory or better progress in all their school work, relative to their previous, limited attainment.

Some - thanks to well-targeted support - were exceeding the reading standards expected for their age. One pupil's reading age went up more than four years in only 18 months.

The report highlighted the better progress made by pupils in schools where all their teachers were aware of their learning difficulties, and had adapted their teaching practices. It also found that "multi-sensory" teaching programmes - using sound,

pictures and touch - proved particularly effective with such children.

But it found progress was less good in spelling, and, particularly, in writing. And despite satisfactory or better teaching and support in more than 90 per cent of lessons, two-thirds of the

oldest junior pupils and half of those in their first year at secondary school were doing less well in these skills than expected for their age. Given most were of average or higher ability, that represented "a significant degree of under-achievement," noted the report.

Some parents were critical of how long it had taken for their children's needs to be met, and felt this had damaged their confidence. OFSTED inspectors also found some authorities were making very restrictive interpretations of the special needs code of practice - adding to delays in getting support for children, despite early intervention being so crucial.

Pupils with Specific Learning Difficulties in Mainstream Schools, OFSTED publications centre, telephone 0207 510 0180


* Special needs co-ordinators' training should include guidance on dyslexia and multi-sensory teaching programmes.

* Children with significant reading and spelling problems should get well-structured support as early as possible.

* Primary schools should give more attention to the formal teaching of writing skills.

* Different approaches to the literacy hour may be needed by some primary pupils, to match their particular strengths and weaknesses.

* Dyslexic pupils need continuing support at secondary school, particularly with "higher" literacy skills such as skimming and scanning text.

* Dyslexic pupils should not be expected to do as much reading and writing work as other pupils - alternatives include group-reading and discussion, and using video material.

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