Evidence Check 1: Early Literacy Interventions - Science and Technology Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by Dyslexia Action (LI 07)

  1.1  Dyslexia Action is the working name of the Dyslexia Institute Limited and is a national charity and the largest independent provider of educational services for those with dyslexia and specific learning difficulties (SpLD's) in the UK. The organisation has a 37 year history of providing a leadership role in developing evidence based cutting edge provision to help people with dyslexia/reading difficulties to reach their potential. Dyslexia Action has 25 centres and 110 teaching outposts around the country, works with mainstream schools, colleges, universities, local government, prison and probation and employers. The organisation undertakes research both national and international and is one of the largest providers of post graduate training in dyslexia and literacy. Dyslexia Action works to increase understanding of SpLDs and campaigns for improvement in services.

  1.2  Dyslexia Action outlined in detail, in its submission to the Education and Skills Select Committee's inquiry into Special Educational Needs (SEN) in 2005 its concerns regarding the often poor and patchy services for children with SpLDs in England. In that submission we highlighted what we believe to be sustainable and long term solutions to ensuring that all children receive the help they need to be successful at school and in later life. As a result of that committee's report there have been a number of policy changes related to children with SEN, including those with dyslexia/SpLDs.

  1.3  In 2006-07 as a result of the select committee's conclusions about the lack of SEN training for mainstream teachers, the Government commissioned the Inclusion Development Programme (IDP). This is a basic training programme, available for current teachers in both primary and secondary schools to learn more about SEN. The first issues to be covered in the IDP programme were speech, language and communication difficulties (SCLN) and dyslexia. The materials for the IDP were based on evidence based practices for what works for children with literacy difficulties/dyslexia. Although the materials were available for all schools in England and we participated in a pathfinder programme to try and embed the training in four local authorities, as yet we do not know how many local authorities have effectively used the programme or its impact on children with dyslexia/literacy difficulties. If this programme were used everywhere it would significantly improve the level of basic knowledge in mainstream education.

  1.4  Dyslexia Action welcomed the 2006 independent Review of the Teaching of Early Reading by Sir Jim Rose on which the current policy of the teaching of reading is based. The conclusions of this report were based on international evidence which shows that children who have difficulties learning to read (for whatever reason) are more likely to acquire reading skills with a synthetic phonics approach. He also concluded that children who continue to struggle after "quality first teaching" will need additional expert help and support. We support the introduction of "letters and sounds" but have some concerns about its implementation across the country.

  1.5  As a result of the advocacy of parents, evidence of poor outcomes for children with SEN, the lack of progress in literacy and the continued growth of school exclusions, the Secretary of State at the DCSF asked Sir Jim Rose to lead an independent review on teaching children with dyslexia as an addition to the Primary Review.

  1.6  Dyslexia Action, along with other voluntary sector organisations whose mission is to improve the lives of those with SpLDs, has warmly welcomed the June 2009 independent report from Sir Jim Rose, Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties. We are also pleased that the Government has acted immediately upon the Report's recommendations and allocated some funding for the training of 4,000 new specialist teachers along with other initiatives. Training and funding adequate numbers of specialist teachers each year needs to be a priority if we are to improve outcomes. We have long argued that the lack of expertise in schools is leading to educational failure for many children with SpLD's. Teachers with a certificate or diploma in dyslexia and literacy are able to support other teachers in the school, cascade training, develop individual learning plans and support senior management and governors.

  1.7  The recommendations of the Rose Report are clear and comprehensive and if they are implemented effectively in mainstream schools they would make a significant difference to student outcomes, especially to those who are most disadvantaged. The recommendations are based on the most current international evidence on what works for children struggling with literacy/dyslexia. There has been universal acclaim and agreement on the definition of dyslexia contained in the report. This definition has now been adopted by all the dyslexia organisations.

  1.8  It is vital for policy and practice that dyslexia should be viewed as a continuum, not a distinct category as indicated in the Report. Good quality first teaching of reading will help all children, including those with dyslexia and the different levels of support described in the report reflect a practical and cost effective approach for schools, ensuring that individual children get the support they need. The key to success of this policy is that teachers receive the appropriate training at all levels in the system. A concern for us is to ensure that the recommendations from the report are implemented across the country and that there is political support from all political parties for this aim.

  1.9  A major gap in ensuring that good evidence based policy is enacted is that modules on SEN and on dyslexia are not currently mandatory in Initial teacher training (ITT). We believe that this needs to change urgently. Inclusive education is not possible without trained staff.

  1.10  Although there is a good evidence base related to children struggling with literacy difficulties and dyslexia, there is a need for research into the co-occurring specific difficulties such as dyspraxia, dyscalculia and Attention Deficit Disorder. Researching the inter relationship of all the SpLD's would help to develop improved educational interventions.

  1.11  Dyslexia Action welcomes the strengthening of OfSTED's role in inspecting support for children with SEN. It is important that all inspectors receive training on SEN in order to carry out this role and that some inspectors have enhanced training.

October 2009

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