Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Xtraordinary People

  I run a charity initiative called Xtraordinary People that raises money to train teachers to support children with Specific Learning Difficulties/Dyslexia. We are supported by some very well know dyslexics from businessmen like Sir Richard Branson and Lord Harris of Peckham, to celebrities such as Robbie Williams and Jamie Oliver. We have brought together all the dyslexia organisations to work as a united front. We have some very exciting "work in progress" and plan a media launch later this year.

  I am dyslexic as is my son. I have first hand experience of the lack of training teachers have and the problems that this causes. I'm lucky because I was sympathetically educated so knew what was possible and could pay for my son to have that education too, most people can't.

  At Ralph Tabberrer's suggestion, I have made an appointment to see you next week as I believe that the Education Select Committee need to hear the "real picture" that we are uncovering by working with schools and LEA's around the country.

  Ruth Kelly's first pledge in the Government's White Paper is that they will "tailor education around the needs of each individual so that no child falls behind" but how will the government deliver this when 96% of teachers don't have training to teach children with specific learning difficulties?

  So we've got a big problem. The media is full of the alarming stats of the numbers of children falling behind, and if teachers aren't trained to support these kids properly, this is never going to change. Clearly what is needed is a huge teacher training programme. Xtraordinary People are keen to work with the DfES to help that happen.


  We're awaiting news from the DfES on plans to match funding to support our work. Clearly this teacher training is a vital part of the solution to ensure our teachers have the skills needed to get all kids to be effective learners.


  I've had meetings with Jim Rose. He is in agreement that teachers need training. I spent the day with Jim at Millfield School, a private school with a world renowned reputation for supporting children with learning difficulties so he could see an exemplar of provision. Every September the school have an intake in Year 7 of children who have failed at primary or private schools, arriving unable to read and write properly—all are successfully supported—many helped within a matter of weeks. Millfield are working with Xtraordinary People free of charge. Yesterday, Jim visited Lyndhurst Primary School in Southwark where we have developed a unit to support children with SpLDs. The impact of the unit has been reflected across the school with 95% of children reading at level 4 at KS2 rising from 83% in the previous year. Increases are seen across all subjects, science for example increases from 88% to 97%. I would be delighted to arrange visits to either of these schools if your committee, I'm sure you'd find it very informative.

  I have also had meetings with Ralph Tabberer, Chief Executive at the Teacher Development Agency, who is very supportive of our aims and to work with XP and the Department to expand this training. We are also working with the TDA on their modules for SEN in ITT.


  Research for Xtraordinary People has found:

    —  96% of teachers felt they didn't have enough training to teach children with specific learning difficulties;

    —  four out of five had had less than an hour dedicated to Specific Learning Difficulties during their training;

    —  yet one in 10 are dyslexic and approximately 1/3 of children will need expert learning support at some point during their education; and

    —  a recent skills audit across 28 schools only one teacher had training in Specific Learning Difficulties—this type of trend will be reflected nationally.


  Whether we label children as having dyslexia, learning difficulties or as poor readers, these teaching methods help all falling behind because we're providing well trained teachers who can properly assess a child's learning problems and develop a individual leaning support to ensure the child is taught appropriately. It also goes much further than reading to cover support through the whole learning process, and is the right teaching approach for all SEN—so represents a very broad solution.


  We are at a pivotal moment in education with reviews in reading and SEN provision—the key to solving learning difficulties in both these issue lies in the training we advocate as can be demonstrated by the 30 years experience of the dyslexia organisations and schools like Millfield. We hope you can help us to ensure that children with Specific Learning Difficulties finally get the start they deserve.

  I'm delighted that Shirley Cramer from the Dyslexia Institute is giving evidence on the 15th which no doubt will reflect our views. I think it would be very valuable for the committee to hear the views of the parents of dyslexic children, something I would be very happy to put across.

  In closing I would like to share with you a story about a boy called Sam. Sam had problems with early speech and language which fortunately meant his school organised an educational psychologists report in 2000—this found him to be dyslexic. He has been having minimal literacy support from his school, but none of the Sencos, teachers or LSAs have any qualifications in SpLD. His mum had applied twice for a statement but was turned down on both occasions because his needs were not considered to be serious enough. He is now 12 and he has a reading age of six and after appealing again (this time with the help of the local MP) Sam has finally been awarded a statement. But here's the rub, the support he is getting is from an untrained LSA! My son Ted is also 12 and was diagnosed with moderately severe dyslexia in 2000 when he was nearly two years behind. With support from a trained teacher he achieved Level 3 and above at KS1 in 2001 and now has a reading age of 16.4. Ted now receives minimal learning support for maths and study skills. It should be Ted's story not Sean's that is echoed by thousands and thousands across the country.

February 2006

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