'Fit to teach' code for dyslexics

10th October 1997 at 01:00
Students with dyslexia may conceal their disability to enter teacher training, the General Teaching Council has warned. Candidates must be encouraged to disclose their condition and assured they will receive fair treatment from a training institution, the council says.

But in an interim policy statement the council insists that students must be able to show they are "fit to teach".

Tony Finn, education convener and head of St Andrew's High, Kirkcaldy, said the council had to apply the same entry standards as for a visual or hearing impairment. "This is a particularly delicate topic and the education committee wishes to be as supportive as possible of the needs of dyslexic students, " Mr Finn said.

The council was considering the issue only days after judges south of the border awarded damages to a former pupil who claimed her school had failed to identify dyslexia and provide special tuition. Her legal team was led by Cherie Booth, wife of the Prime Minister. Councils are worried it may trigger a number of copycat cases.

Mr Finn said large numbers were not involved but the council had to improve access for a group that had often been unable to make appropriate educational progress. "Dyslexia takes many forms and it is difficult to form a response which takes account of the needs of all students who might wish to teach. However, there has certainly been considerable progress in recent years in understanding the general needs of those who have dyslexia, as well as in providing support for their learning.

"In consequence, it is already common for both primary and secondary schools to make special provision at all ages and levels for dyslexic students. More recently, there has been a corresponding and most encouraging increase in access to higher education for students with dyslexia."

Many students used scribes or advanced technological equipment to help them understand and present language more accurately.

Mr Finn said: "In teaching, however, the need to show evidence of learning is only one aspect of relevant training. The skills required of prospective teachers are not limited to an ability to learn and to show evidence of learning. They also include the ability to teach and to show evidence of their fitness to do so, which itself involves a range of skills and professional competences. This requirement applies to all teachers, whatever their background or individual needs."

The "fitness to teach" test of dyslexic students would vary from stage to stage and from subject to subject. Student teacher applicants would have to show they were fit to teach the subject they intended to specialise in.

Students with dyslexia accepted for teacher training after being deemed fit to teach should undergo a similar assessment during their two-year probationary period, prior to full registration.

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