Julie Barker, the support teacher at Pontybrennin primary school, has a vested interest in improving the identification and teaching of dyslexic pupils. Her nine-year-old son is dyslexic and he is not keen on reading.
"Early intervention is so important. Disaffected adolescents are not going to play games to improve their rhyming skills," she says dryly.
Pontybrennin is one of around a dozen Swansea schools that are trying out different assessment and teaching techniques for young pupils with dyslexic-type difficulties. Julie's classroom is crammed with colourful teaching materials to stimulate the children. A vivid magenta backdrop is festooned with padded, sequined detachable letters which the children can take down and feel. A Humpty Dumpty frieze is covered with rhyming words. Animal puppets loll against a wall. Using a screening test, Julie has identified six pupils aged four to six who are havig significant difficulties with reading and writing. All are struggling with rhyming and alliteration skills, which are markers for dyslexia. Together with the early-years class teachers and the SENCO, Julie Barker has devised strategies that will develop a sensitivity to rhyme and alliteration. The children get three intensive sessions with Julie every week, but the class teachers are also using similar techniques with all their pupils.
"We're using rhymes, games, poems and puppets to practise the most common sounds," explains Sharon Dennis, a reception teacher. "This project has really made us look at what we're doing and improve it. It's good to bounce ideas off each other."
Staff at Pontybrennin meet regularly with teachers from other schools so that they can share and evaluate different methods. Eventually, the aim is to compile a teaching pack that can be used by all Swansea schools.