SEN: Cuts threaten to derail dyslexia scheme

18th September 2009 at 01:00
Course providers in recruitment frenzy as Government's pound;10m pledge for specialist teacher training set to end after two years

Original paper headline: Cuts threaten to derail dyslexia scheme

Funding for the first government-run dyslexia training scheme is unlikely to continue, even though the project has already been curtailed by the recession, experts have said.

Courses start this month after Sir Jim Rose, head of the Government's curriculum review, recommended that 4,000 teachers become dyslexia specialists - which would mean that most pupils will have access to a professional if they suffer from the condition.

But the pound;10 million for the training will only be paid by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) for two years, and those running the courses say they are working on the assumption that no more money will be available.

This is despite the fact that the scheme has been lauded by ministers. Ed Balls, Schools Secretary, has said he was "personally committed" to tackling literacy problems, while Sir Jim has stressed the importance of specialist support.

Course leaders are urging teachers to sign up for training now while it is free. The recommendations were only made in June, and dyslexia charities are concerned that many don't know about the courses yet.

As The TES has reported, Sir Jim wanted one-to-one support for pupils. He said that practice had to be "strengthened", and stressed the need for well-trained teachers.

At first the courses are all being coordinated by The Dyslexia-SpLD Trust and run by existing providers. Next year the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) will take over.

Around 500 people are expected to start courses this year, either in September or later in the term. It is hoped that places will be available next year for the rest of the 4,000.

But charities, who make up most of the providers, are concerned about taking on extra staff and expanding, only to find themselves without the same income in the future.

John Rack, director of the trust, said: "Everyone is gearing up to train as many people as possible now, because there is a risk that the funding will be withdrawn after two years. Everybody is concerned that two years' funding is not enough. We are going to put on a major push to recruit for January 2010 courses.

"It's unlikely we can get 4,000 trained within two years, but we are confident we can get that many started within the time. Enquiries for courses have actually dropped slightly this year, as people are waiting to see what funding is available.

"Everyone has worked hard over the summer to get structures in place. In the longer term, providers will need to recruit more tutors. We also need to make sure schools are on board and to get information to them about how this will work."

Sir Jim also recommended to include dyslexia courses within initial teacher training. The trust has invited 23 providers to run them.

A DCSF spokeswoman said: "We are currently working with the trust to encourage the uptake of specialist training from September to December this year and we are funding that.

"We will also continue to fund the trust for longer-term promotion and marketing, and for running the dyslexia helpline, as well as funding the training placements themselves.

"We are working with the TDA to finalise arrangements for it to take the recruitment forward from January 2010."

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