What a difference two hours make

29th September 2000 at 01:00
Research concludes that regular weekly sessions of teaching by specialist staff offers great benefits to dyslexic pupils. Sarah Cassidy reports.

EARLY findings of a major Government-funded study show that specialist teaching for dyslexic children boosts their reading, comprehension and spelling skills.

The results come less than halfway into a 24-week programme investigating the benefits of giving pupils two hours a week of specialist teaching.

And education junior minister Jacqui Smith this week said baseline assessment schemes, introduced two years ago, should be changed to enable teachers to identify dyslexic children as early as possible.

She told a Labour party fringe meeting: "We may achieve our target next year (of getting 80 per cent of 11-year-olds to the required literacy standard). But we cannot forget the other 20 per cent."

The research, conducted by Dr John Rack of York University, is based on a study of 235 dyslexic children in 12 local education authorities.

It split the pupils, aged on average seven-and-a-half, into four groups. One received specialist help, another was supported at home by their parents following a structured plan, the third used both methods and included jus one hour a week of specialist teaching and the final group was a control.

Specialist teaching helped pupils much more than the home support or control groups. Results for the hybrid scheme are not yet available.

Meanwhile, further research has shown that primary pupils with dyslexia may be losing out through whole-class teaching methods used in the literacy hour and early intervention programmes, writes Kay Smith.

It highlights the serious concerns of teachers about the effects of the literacy hour on both the quantity and quality of teaching for pupils with special educational needs.

Researcher Mike Johnson, senior lecturer in special education at Manchester Metropolitan University, told delegates at the Scottish Dyslexia Association conference in Edinburgh that many teachers felt guilty that needs of the few were being disregarded in the interests of many.

Mr Johnson, who carried out the research in conjunction with the British Dyslexia Association said: "There was little time to consolidate and revise work with special needs pupils."

There are, on average, two or three children with mild to moderate levels of difficulties and one with severe difficulties, for every class of 30.

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