Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Dyslexia Institute

  This document is the Dyslexia Institute's written evidence to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Education and Skills' Inquiry into Special Educational Needs. The initial part of our submission outlines information about the Dyslexia Institute, the facts about dyslexia from the international research base and highlights the needs of children with this common "hidden disability". The second part of the document gives our response to the topics highlighted by the Select Committee.


  1.1  The Dyslexia Institute (DI) is a national charity and the largest independent provider of educational services for those with dyslexia and specific learning difficulties in the UK. The DI has a 33-year history of providing a leadership role in developing cutting edge, evidence based provision to help individuals with dyslexia reach their potential. The DI has 27 centres and 140 teaching outpost throughout the UK, teaching over 10,000 students of all ages and assessing 7,700 individuals, last year.

  1.2  The DI has recently merged with a dyslexia teacher training organisation (the Hornsby International Dyslexia Centre) and together with its own training service now trains over 1,500 teachers and teaching assistants both in the UK and abroad supporting children and adults with dyslexia/ SpLD. The DI also undertakes national research, develops teaching products and works to improve public policy and practice through pilot programmes. The DI works in partnership with a number of primary and secondary schools, LEA's, FE colleges, universities, work based learning providers, public agencies, employers and other voluntary sector organisations to improve the quantity and quality of provision for individuals with dyslexia.


  The following facts are the result of international research into dyslexia and reading difficulties through neurological/cognitive and intervention studies.

  2.1  Dyslexia is a brain based developmental disorder with consequences that persist from the pre- school years through to adulthood.

  2.2  It is a life long condition, which can be ameliorated by appropriate identification and specialist teaching.

  2.3  Biological in origin, dyslexia tends to run in families although environmental factors can also contribute. Many families affected assume that their educational failure is due to other reasons such as low ability and poor aptitude. These parents often have low expectations of their children. If a child's specific difficulty is identified early, there is potential to break what can be a cycle of deprivation.

  2.4  Dyslexia can occur at any level of intellectual ability and is characterised by phonological deficits, the skill that underlies the acquisition of literacy.

  2.5  Dyslexia is a dimensional disorder, which means that children can be mildly, moderately or severely affected.

  2.6  Dyslexia causes difficulties in learning to read, write and spell, it can also affect short-term memory, concentration, personal organisation and the development of skills such as sequencing, speech, mathematics and the learning of a foreign language.

  2.7  The result of unidentified dyslexia is frequently loss of self-esteem and unrealised potential.

  2.8  Dyslexia is the most common of the learning difficulties affecting one in 10 children to some degree, an estimated 1.2 million children across the UK and an average of two to three children in every classroom.

  2.9  The number, type and severity of the characteristics vary from one dyslexic child to another.

  2.10  Early intervention is critical for early reading difficulties to prevent the downward spiral of dyslexia, leading to disaffection.

  2.11  Dyslexia often co occurs with other disabilities such as dyspraxia, and attention deficit disorder.

  2.12  International studies have shown that children with the highest risk of dyslexia can be identified as early as five or six years of age and that specialist, structured, multi-sensory teaching is the optimum approach to improve educational attainment for those with the most severe dyslexia.

  2.13  Dyslexia occurs regardless of race, intelligence and socio- economic status. However those who are most disadvantaged are likely to be most affected over their lives.


  3.1  There is a great deal of evidence that if children with dyslexia/SpLD are not identified early and do not get the appropriate educational support, their chances of educational and workplace success are limited. Given the large numbers of people affected by this issue, it is less costly both for the individual and society to provide appropriate help at the earliest possible time. If a child cannot learn to read, then it follows that they cannot read to learn and their difficulties affect every aspect of their educational experience.

  3.2  If dyslexia is not diagnosed early and a pattern of reading failure has set in, children become frustrated and depressed and are often labelled as either "lazy", "stupid" or both. Many children lose confidence in their abilities and frequently become school failures. A lack of skills for education and employment, combined with a loss of self-esteem results in individuals with undiagnosed dyslexia being over represented in all areas of poverty and disadvantage. The cost to the economy may be as much as £1 billion per year.

  3.3  The latest figures (DfES June 2005) show that 9,290 school children are permanently excluded, 64% of these are identified as children with special needs, at least 80% of these children will have dyslexia/ SpLD, so that over half the children who are permanently excluded might have been in school had their difficulties been identified in the early years. The National Foundation of Educational Research (NFER) noted that the cost of provision for a child who is excluded is £9,900 per annum. The cost of supporting children with SpLD who are excluded is over £50 million per annum. This funding would have been better used to provide appropriate early support in school.

  3.4  Undiagnosed dyslexic children also contribute to the large numbers of poor readers who do not have the requisite skills to get a job after leaving school and who the Confederation of British Industry refer to in their concerns about lack of basic skills in the British economy. The Government has estimated that adults with poor literacy and numeracy skills could earn up to £50,000 less over their lifetime and are more likely to have health problems. In the Skills for Life Annual Review 2003-04 it is estimated that poor skills cost the country's economy £10 billion every year.

  3.5  There is robust evidence that individuals with undiagnosed dyslexia/SpLD and other hidden disabilities are over represented in the offending population. In 2004, the Dyslexia Institute conducted a national research project to find out the incidence of hidden disabilities in the prison population. The study revealed that 20% of prisoners had dyslexia and related learning problems, some 13,660 individuals (HM Prison Service 2004-05 reports that there were 68,300 inmates—this has since increased) this is exactly double the number of dyslexics that we would expect to find in prison. In this case at least 10% of the offenders might have been prevented from crime and its costly outcomes by early intervention. The cost of keeping an individual in prison in 2003-04 was £27,320 and there could have been a potential saving of £186m per annum if these offenders had been identified and helped earlier in their lives.

  3.6  Drawing on similar statistics in the probation service where there are 190,000 clients at any given time, 38,000 individuals will have some specific learning difficulty. Early intervention might have saved 19,000 individuals from offending and saved the public purse around £76 million per annum. The same arguments can be made with respect to the long term unemployed.

  3.7  The purpose of highlighting these compelling numbers is to show that there are long term and significant social and economic costs associated with not taking a strategic and comprehensive approach to educating children with dyslexia/Spld.


  4.1  Early intervention can prevent children with dyslexia/SpLD from needing more intensive and costly support throughout their lives. There is evidence that many educational settings are providing appropriate support for children with dyslexia. Guidelines and policy have offered opportunities for good practice to be developed. However there are still major gaps in effective provision for children with dyslexia as highlighted in a series of reports by the Audit Commission and Ofsted.

  4.2  The Dyslexia Institute believes that a comprehensive and strategic approach to supporting children with dyslexia is critical, as children who do not acquire literacy and numeracy skills will be left behind. We would recommend a staged approach to support at different tiers as outlined under "different levels of support" on page 7 of this submission.

  4.3  The Select Committee on Education and Skills report in April 2005, showed that almost 20% of 11 year olds were not reaching the standards expected of their age group. According to the DfES in 2004, 41,873 children left primary school in England without having basic literacy skills. There is still a large cohort of children who despite the best efforts of the national primary strategy are still failing. Many of these children will have specific difficulties with reading related to dyslexia. The Dyslexia Institute recommends that using evidence based practices to teach reading (outlined on Page 7 of the submission) will not only reduce the number of failing readers but also will reduce the numbers of children requiring specialist help later.


5.   Provision for SEN pupils in "Mainstream" Schools

  5.1  Most children with dyslexia/SpLD, with and without statements of SEN are educated in mainstream schools.

  5.2  The extent to which individual children are fully included in mainstream education is very variable. There are a number of factors at work:

5.3  Policies and Funding in mainstream schools

  There are no standard policies related to dyslexia provision across LEA's and this has resulted in a postcode lottery in terms of provision. Too many children are receiving inadequate support. In March 2002 the then HM Chief Inspector, Mike Tomlinson referred to LEA support for SEN as "weak." The Audit Commission and Ofsted report "LEA support for School Improvement 2001" clearly indicated that "provision of SEN was the weakest aspect of the work of the LEA's, in fact 48% of all LEA's were judged to be performing unsatisfactorily and 37% gave less than satisfactory value for money".

  5.4  Delegated funding for SEN to individual schools has, in many cases, had a detrimental effect on the provision of specialist services and the quantity and quality of provision for children with dyslexia/ SpLD. As this funding is not "ring fenced" for SEN pupils, schools have used the money for other purposes according to the Ofsted report, "Inclusion: the impact of LEA support and outreach services", July 2005.

  5.5  As dyslexia is a "hidden" disability, information from parents across the country indicates that theirs are often the children least likely to receive adequate support, as their problems are not obvious to those without knowledge of the issue. In consequence many children are failing who should be thriving in the mainstream environment.

  5.6  Another unintended consequence of delegated funding is that although the funding to individual schools ought to help schools choose from a wider range of providers, staff do not have the information or expertise to know what the appropriate evidence-based services are for students with dyslexia/SpLD. There is a need for improved awareness and training about dyslexia in schools.

  5.7  Delegated funding has also diminished the capacity of LEA's to monitor the progress of pupils with SEN and It has been our experience that it has also reduced the numbers of staff with specialist dyslexia expertise who previously offered advice, guidance and support to mainstream staff.


  6.1  One of the single most important barriers to achievement for children with dyslexia is the lack of expertise on the issue in the education system. We would recommend improving awareness and understanding of dyslexia across the system and providing a tiered system of support delivered by qualified professionals

  6.2  At the initial level, there needs to be a whole school understanding of dyslexia, so that the leadership and Governors are aware of the needs of pupils. The head teacher has a pivotal role in policy and allocating resources to special needs so that the children are fully included. It is our experience that Head teachers who have a good understanding of dyslexia have better support in place.

  6.3  Initial teacher training does not cover the issue of special needs in any breadth or depth and new teachers are mostly unaware of evidence-based practices to support dyslexic learners. There is a great need to ensure that all teachers are aware of the warning signs and "at risk" factors so that they can refer children to appropriate support at the right level. Classroom teachers have a role in delivering the curriculum in ways that support those with dyslexia; many of these strategies are helpful for all pupils.

  6.4  Research has shown that children with dyslexia/SpLD are not fully engaged in classroom learning and develop work avoidance strategies (only fully engaged 24% of the time) When children are getting the help that they need they are "on task" for 90% of the time. Children who are frustrated and distracted are disruptive in the classroom, make it difficult for their class teacher and impeding the learning of their peers.

  6.5  Children with moderate/severe dyslexia need access to a teacher who has specialist training in dyslexia and literacy, who is trained to meet their learning needs. At the present time there is a shortage of qualified staff to support dyslexic learners. Classrooms are not resourced to support the numbers of children with difficulties. An April 2004, National Union of Teachers Survey of Special Needs Coordinators (SENCO's) revealed that there were long waiting lists for support and that any support available was focused on advice rather than direct support to children in need.

  6.6  We need to match up children's need to the appropriate resource if children are to be included. Parents indicate that the specialist dyslexia teacher is a scarce resource and that many children are not receiving appropriate teaching even if they do have a statement of SEN, which requires them to have a specific amount of support. Sometimes it may be necessary to modify the curriculum to leave space for additional work on foundation and key skills and to work in small groups on in individual sessions.

  6.7  There needs to be an audit of the number of qualified specialist dyslexia trained teachers in both primary and secondary education. If we know how many well trained specialist teachers are currently practicing in the education system then we can begin to plan to bridge the gap between need and resource.

  6.8  There has been little statutory funding available to train specialist dyslexia teachers and many teachers who have chosen to obtain their certificate or diploma in Dyslexia and Literacy have had to pay for their own training. If we want children to be included, funding must be made available to support the training of specialist teachers and to train professionals at every level in the system.


  7.1  The Dyslexia Institute would recommend a tiered system of support for learners with dyslexia/ SpLD. These tiers of support need to be standardised across the country, implemented and audited through existing inspection channels. The tiers would meet different needs at different levels. We would also recommend a programme of whole schools awareness (dyslexia friendly schools) as outlined above.

  7.2  Level One: Good preventive programmes in the early years in all schools. Well-trained staff should teach reading using evidence based practices. There is consensus in the scientific community that learning to read depends on phonological (speech) processing skills. Children who start school with poor phonology are at high risk of dyslexia. These children have difficulty learning letter sounds, developing phoneme awareness and therefore in acquiring the alphabetic principle (phonics). The phonological skills that underpin reading are heritable and play an important role in determining how easily they will learn to read.

  7.3  Reading programmes that target the development of phoneme awareness and letter-sound knowledge, in conjunction with reading practice from texts pitched at the appropriate level of difficulty are effective in preventing the downward spiral of reading problems. Recent research suggests that 75% of children identified as at risk of reading problems in Year 1 respond positively to such programmes.

  7.4  Level Two: An enhanced level of support, guided by specialists, delivered by learning support assistants and/ or class teachers providing more individualised support in small group settings. In this case the use of more specialist teaching techniques and resources may be required and regular reviews of progress made. If the child does not make progress with this level of support then they require more intensive and individualised support

  7.5  Level Three: Specialist support: Children who fail to make progress at Level Two will frequently require a programme of structured, multi sensory teaching geared to their own needs. This should be provided by a dyslexia trained teacher who is able to recommend the intensity and length of support needed. Close collaboration with parents and class teachers will be necessary to ensure the best possible support for the child.

  7.6  The decision regarding level 3 provision should be preceded by a diagnostic assessment to understand the barriers to learning and achievement at the individual level. Once the nature of need is clearly understood an effective system of support can be implemented.


  8.1  Level One support should be delivered by the class teacher and learning support assistants once they have received appropriate training in the teaching of reading using evidence based approaches. This should be standard practice in all primary schools in the UK.

  8.2  Level Two support can be delivered by teachers and learning support assistants (LSA's) with guidance from a specialist teacher. Often this will involve the use of specialised programmes. Accredited training in Dyslexia and Literacy is available at Level 2 and Level 3 for LSA's and mainstream teachers. It is recommended that at least one member of the professional staff of each primary school receives this training

  8.3  Level 3 supports should be delivered by a dyslexia specialist with a Certificate or Diploma in Dyslexia and Literacy. For optimum support there should be a specialist available on a regular basis to each primary school.

  8.4  There is increased demand for reading, writing and good organisational skills as children transition from primary to secondary education and this is a pivotal time for many dyslexic students. It is vital that this transition is managed and that support services are available in secondary schools.

  8.5  LEA's and individual schools need to consider how to provide appropriate specialist support. This can be through training their own staff or outsourcing the role to specialist providers..


  9.1  Only when a child has the most severe dyslexia with complex and co-morbid difficulties should there be a requirement for a special school. Parents of children with severe dyslexia who are not having their needs met in mainstream school often argue for a special school placement for their child.

  9.2  Specialist schools should be given the mechanisms through which to share their expertise and good practice with mainstream schools.


  10.1  Examples of good practice in supporting pupils with dyslexia in mainstream schools do exist but as the Ofsted report of July 2005 concluded,"the quality and quantity of services were too variable across the country" Pupils with similar levels of need received different levels of support depending on where they lived, in part this is because LEA's choose in consultation with schools whether funding for support services is delegated to mainstream schools. The DI hears frequently from parents that schools have deemed their dyslexic child "not bad enough" or "not far enough behind" to receive specialist services. This perpetuates a "wait and fail" policy for many children.

  10.2  The DI recommends that national standards need to be set regarding quality provision for dyslexic children.

  10.3  There is little evidence available with which to compare the achievement (or inclusion) of children with SEN in different schools or settings. In order to track achievement levels of SEN pupils, accurate data would need to be collected. At present the results for children with dyslexia are included in the results of all children and there is no benchmarking of achievement. We do however have some information from universities that more students with dyslexia are not only achieving places in higher education but that they are also attaining good degrees.


  11.1  At the present time it is clear that the statementing process with respect to children with dyslexia (and all children with SEN) needs to be reviewed.

  11.2  Creating equality of entitlement to provision for all children with SEN. At the present time there is a huge variation between geographical areas, between LEA's and individual schools in the criteria and severity of dyslexia that is required to trigger a statement. The proportion of statements varies between LEA's and children with similar level of difficulties may be entitled to a statement in one authority but not in neighbouring one.

  11.3  In the Audit Commission's report on "statutory assessment and statements of SEN, July 2002, they concluded that statements are ineffective for the 3% of pupils who receive them and are `no guarantee of help'". Our experience across the country would indicate that many children with dyslexia who do have statements are not receiving appropriate support and in many cases are not receiving the quantity or quality of help outlined in their Individualised Education Programme (IEP). Over the last year, 50% of the children supported for teaching on bursaries at the Dyslexia Institute had a statement of SEN but were not receiving appropriate help at school.

  11.4  Support depends on where children live, their specific school and the persistence with which parents seek appropriate provision. This is an unacceptable situation in a society committed to equality of opportunity.

  11.5  Reducing cost and bureaucracy will be essential in a new system. The Audit Commission's 2002 report highlighted that of the £3.6 billion special needs budget, 69% is spent on the 3% with statements. This is an inequitable and unsustainable allocation of valuable resources, which could be used for improved support for many more vulnerable children. The statementing process is cumbersome, often combative and still fails to ensure that children receive the help that they need to flourish. The system is also extremely slow and extends the concept of "wait and fail" policy.

  11.6  Our experience is that Individual Education Programmes (IEPs) are not always well used to plan and monitor special provision. Evaluation sections are rarely completed and many parents who contact the Dyslexia Institute have not been consulted or involved in the IEP. We would recommend that IEPs be more focussed on learning outcomes and have the status of a learning contract agreed by all parties. Currently decisions about the adequacy of progress made under IEPs are taken mainly by school staff and parents often perceive that standards and expectations are low. National standards and benchmarks based on research evidence and best practice would help schools and staff.

  11.7  Creating a system with the child's needs at the centre, with automatic access to appropriate support would be welcomed. The statutory assessment process should be efficient, effective and parents should know that good quality provision will be provided for their child.


  12.1  The Dyslexia Institute acknowledges that education policy over recent years has greatly improved the role of parents in their child's education. The Code of Practice for SEN, increased information and the development of support groups have all been positive developments. The Dyslexia Institute supports advocacy and information services that enable parents and carers to be well informed about educational provision.

  12.2  Parents of children with dyslexia are often frustrated at the lack of recognition of their child's learning problem and the lack of adequate provision. Common complaints experienced by parents who approach the DI are related to poor access to services including assessment of their child's difficulty. As a consequence, the "hidden disability" of dyslexia is the subject of the majority of Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal cases and in 2003-04 record numbers of parents appealed to try to get their children support.

  12.3  The DI recommends that more information and resources are made available to families and that school staff receive training in supporting parents whose children have special educational needs. Improved awareness and understanding about dyslexia amongst teachers in mainstream schools would help collaboration with many families.

12.4  How special educational needs are defined

  The code of practice places SEN into four broad bands, however the criteria for differentiation between the bands of need are not sufficiently defined. This results in a non standard definition of need and great inconsistency across the country. There is no way to benchmark the bands at the present time and therefore little quality control. As funding is allocated on the basis of these broad bands there is a need for clear and consistent categories. Improved clarity and inspection of the bands is necessary if there is to be equality of opportunity and provision.


  13.1  A child with moderate to severe dyslexia will only be fully included in school if their difficulties are identified early and appropriate high quality provision is available, as in the tiers of support highlighted in this submission. This will require a solid national framework of "best practice" including clear policy, whole school awareness and well-trained staff at different levels. There should be high expectations of children with SEN to enable them to reach their full potential.

  13.2  Removing Barriers to Achievement (February 2004) highlighted the need for models of effective, inclusive practice in dyslexia and advocated for pilot programmes and partnerships with the voluntary sector. There is no sustainable funding to ensure that initiatives that are known to work for children with dyslexia are adopted on a wider basis. Significant pilot programmes are needed to develop the most effective practices, which will then need to be disseminated widely. Partnerships between LEAs, the national primary strategy and the voluntary sector are needed to ensure that evidence based practices for children with dyslexia are implemented.

  13.3  There is evidence that undiagnosed dyslexia and its resulting frustration and disaffection is linked to EBSD and this indicates yet again the need for good early intervention practices in schools.


  14.1  The Dyslexia Institute welcomes the extension of the DDA to cover education and believes that providing legal protection for children with SEN is essential. There is both a moral and legal imperative to ensure that all children have equality of opportunity in their schooling. However, if LEAs and schools do not have a standard policy and good educational practices for children with SEN, there is a risk that parents will feel they have no option but to seek legal recourse. LEAs should be spending money on providing services and not on defending legal cases brought about by aggrieved parents. Providing the right support in the first instance is cost effective for the child, the family and the education system.

  14.2  The DI believes that establishing the right of all children to attend mainstream school was an important step forward and welcomes the theme of "removing barriers". Children with dyslexia cannot be "fully included" unless there is appropriate support for them in mainstream schools and at the present time there are still many pupils who do not have access to the curriculum due to their specific learning difficulty.


  Section 3.3:  DfES Permanent Exclusions from Schools & Exclusions Appeals in England 2003-04 (Statistical First Release 23 June 2005) and National Federation for Educational Research (NFER).

  Section 3.4:  Confederation of British Industry, Skills for Life Annual Review 2003-04—progress in raising standards, provision and learner achievements.

  Section 3.5:  HM Prison Service Sustainable Development Report, March 2005.

  Section 3.6:  Probation Service Statistics England and Wales 2002.

  Section 4.1:  Audit Commission and Ofsted.

  Section 4.3:  The Select Committee on Education and Skills, April 2005 and DfES 2004.

  Section 5.3:  HM Chief Inspector, Mike Tomlinson March 2002.

    The Audit Commission and Ofsted report "LEA Support for School Improvement 2001".

  Section 5.4:  and Ofsted—Inclusion the Impact of LEA Support and P9, Section 10.1 Outreach Services July 2005.

  Section 6.5:  National Union of Teachers Survey of Special Needs Co-ordinators (SENCOs).

  Section 7.3:  University of York, Centre for Reading and Language 2004.

  Section 10.1:  Ofsted report July 2005.

  Sections 11.3/11.5:  The Audit Commission Report on Statutory Assessments and Statements of SEN, July 2002.

  Section 13.2:  DfES "Removing Barriers to Achievement, February 2004.

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