Dyslexics need better support

31st October 2008 at 00:00

Fiona hyslop, the Education Secretary, has warned authorities to raise their game when they provide support to children with dyslexia.

She pointed to parents' concerns about delays in assessing learning difficulties and putting provision in place, reminding authorities that the Additional Support for Learning Act meant they "must identify, meet and keep under review" the help required by pupils with dyslexia and other support needs.

Ms Hyslop spoke at the launch of an HMIE report which found that, despite considerable progress and some innovative practice, there was still much room to improve support for dyslexic learners.

She announced that major plans for the improvement of inclusive education in initial teacher education and continuing professional development would be published in April in A Framework for Inclusion. Consultation would start next month.

The areas for improvement identified by HMIE in the report, Education for learners with dyslexia, included: guidance on dyslexia; consistency in and across local authorities; pre-school awareness and expertise; professional development for primary and secondary teachers; and the use of resources such as ICT.

Parents and children reported a lack of consistency of support, and it was "vital" that non-specialist teachers and lecturers received better professional development, said Ms Hyslop. An improvement in the knowledge of pre-school staff about dyslexia could "lessen the impact for vulnerable children in later years".

There was a prevailing "mix of views" as to what represented dyslexia among schools, colleges and universities, which could "cause confusion" for teachers. Few authorities knew how many children had dyslexia in their area or could provide detailed information about the numbers of teachers with appropriate experience and specialist qualifications, which "hindered education authorities' capacity to deal with dyslexia strategically".

The Scottish Qualifications Authority's Patricia McDonald, who deals with exam plans for candidates with special requirements, said the use of digital exam papers had received universally positive feedback from candidates with dyslexia. Their self-esteem and sense of independence had been boosted by not having to rely on a scribe, it was easier to go back over what they had written, and IT gave them skills that would be useful after they left school.

Margaret Glasgow, co-ordinator at Rosepark Learning Centre in Glasgow, which supports children with dyslexia mainly on the south side of the city, said there had been a realisation that it was crucial to provide support that would help make the transitions from nursery to primary and from primary to secondary.

There was also a greater focus on early intervention and, in areas such as IT, learning had become a two-way process where teachers could learn from the expertise of children.


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