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
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.
2. THE FACTS
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
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
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. SYSTEMIC FAILURES
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 inmatesthis 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
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"
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
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
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
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. DELIVERY OF
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
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. RAISING STANDARDS
FOR SEN PUPILS
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. THE SYSTEM
FOR SEN PUPILS
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
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. THE ROLE
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.
SEN, INCLUDING EMOTIONAL,
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
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. THE LEGISLATIVE
SEN PROVISION AND
2001, WHICH EXTENDED
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
Section 3.4: Confederation of British Industry,
Skills for Life Annual Review 2003-04progress 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
The Audit Commission and Ofsted report
"LEA Support for School Improvement 2001".
Section 5.4: and OfstedInclusion
the Impact of LEA Support and P9, Section 10.1 Outreach Services
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.