No confusion over dyslexia;Letter

12th June 1998 at 01:00
I WAS dismayed to read the report "Concern at poor dyslexia training" (TES, May 29) because it does not accurately represent provision for dyslexics.

New government guidelines on what primary teachers should cover in initial teacher training are far from "fairly sketchy". The Department for Education and Employment's circular 1097 states that newly qualified primary teachers must know about "multi-sensory approaches, onset and rime, alliteration, common letter clusters, grapho-phonic knowledge, mnemonics and the study of word families, roots and derivations etc".

For the first time the content of training for primary English has been specified and this should be heralded as a great leap forward. It is well known that dyslexics respond best to structured, direct teaching, which is precisely what the new English curriculum for initial teacher training advocates.

In addition, all newly qualified primary teachers will be expected to "identify and teach pupils whose difficulties in acquiring literacy skills arise out of a particular learning difficulty, including those with specific difficulties".

It is unrealistic to demand a greater depth of knowledge during training courses, since it is only by actually teaching literacy acquisition to a whole range of pupils that teachers become adept at detecting patterns of difficulty.

Postgraduate teacher training for dyslexia is well-established and has been widely available for more than 12 years. Approximately 1,000 practising teachers a year undertake the RSA Diploma and Certificate in SpLD and cascade this specialist knowledge back to their schools.

SpLD-trained teachers are already accustomed to working at the word, sentence and text levels with dyslexic pupils, using the variety of strategies outlined in circular 1097.

It was baffling to read that "some local authorities refuse to acknowledge the condition (of dyslexia) exists". While this may have been true more than 10 years ago, it is now rare to find teachers denying the very existence of dyslexia.

In the dyslexia arena the debate has moved way beyond issues of identification and terminology. Teachers are increasingly able to identify dyslexic pupils, but lack the time and resources to provide effective, specialist intervention.

Moreover, there is widespread concern that the intention within the national literacy strategy "to shift the balance from individualised work, especially in the teaching of reading, towards more whole-class and group teaching" will further disadvantage dyslexic pupils.

Prue Ruback

Teacher trainer in SpLD andAdditional inspector OFSTED Greenhill Harrow-on-the-Hill College

Middlesex

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