Memorandum submitted by Derrie Clark (LI 29)
What is dyslexia?
Assessment at word level shows gaps in skills and alphabet code knowledge. The boy needs at least one hour daily systematic linguistic phonics input to develop his word level skills and understanding that there has not been time to teach him through KS1. If he had one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon of systematic linguistic-phonics (in a group with the other pupils in the class also at his level) then he would be able to catch up with his reading in one term. Instead he has continued at this literacy level through Years 5 and 6 and has just recently transferred to secondary school with a reading age of less than six years.
So why does this intervention not happen?
- No one is trained to provide the pupil with what he needs so he (the most needy of pupils) is left with a TA (the least trained of adults) who thumbs through boxes of worksheets or who attempts to delivery Letters and Sounds (which is not an intervention programme) as advised by the Advisors, at Stage 1 where he listens to and discriminates sounds in his environment (despite being in Year 4).
- The teachers are trained by their colleges to focus on delivering the curriculum rather than to focus on ensuring that every child leaves their class with at least the basic skills in literacy and numeracy. By Year 2 (sometimes Year 1) the assumption is that these basic skills are in place. PLEASE we don't need to go down the route of trained 'specialist dyslexia' teachers. No one knows what this means! ALL teachers should know how to teach reading and writing. They should not be made to feel disempowered or de-skilled.
- The school argue they do not have the resources (to teach literacy???)
- The school believe literacy difficulties/delays are due to within child problems rather than something that can be changed through teaching. This is perpetuated by the use of the term 'dyslexia' in government documents and training. (You can almost hear the sigh of relief when responsibility is placed once again with the child and outside of their powers.)
- The child's parents are not articulate and cannot find a way through or to understand the system.
- The parent is unable to teach the child to read as she has poor literacy skills herself.
For every boy like the one in this referral there are often as many as six others in the same year group/class with the same levels of literacy. The teachers do their best to differentiate the presentation of the curriculum, leaving the TA's to help these pupils as best they can.
Evidence base: All secondary schools carry out reading and spelling tests on all pupils in Year 7. I recommend this data is collected to inform literacy levels rather than the SATs.
A further anecdote:
A boy in Year 11 in secondary school. He is taught to read through a systematic linguistic phonic approach. He asks his teacher: Why didn't they teach me this in Junior School Miss?
Ruth Kelly, partly in response to the concern of CBI and Universities around literacy levels of young people, decided to go down the route of Reading Recovery. Unfortunately she did not wait for the outcome of the Rose Review which was taking place at the same time. By the time Rose's findings were published, public funding had already been injected into rolling out Reading Recovery. Now it seems to be assumed that Reading Recovery and synthetic phonics are compatible when they are not.
Through Reading Recovery there is an underlying assumption that children acquire 'reading' naturally as they do spoken language. Only limited use is made of phonics as there is an emphasis on pre-teaching vocabulary that comprises the text of the RR readers. When children come across a word that they have not previously been taught they try to guess at it from the picture, or from reading on in the sentence (even though they may not be able to read the following words). Eventually the adult tells them the word. This leaves the pupil with a learned helplessness that they don't have when they are taught to decode systematically.
Many children plateau as their visual memories become 'full' and they have no other word attack/decoding strategies. This also happens for children across the school who have been brought up on a diet of whole language/ whole word and multi cuing approaches (through such things as the Search Lights Model and the cascading through Better Reading Partnership BRP). There is typically a dip in Year 3 and then in Year 7 as children do not have the strategies to access the demands of the printed vocabulary in the curriculum.
The evidence base for RR is collected through the
I have been working with two schools who are happy with the systematic and cumulative linguistic phonic approach which they are using across the school. These schools though have just been offered extra resources through RR which they feel they cannot turn down. They have not been offered the choice to use the money to continue to build on the interventions for their chosen linguistic phonic approach. This leads to the issue of mixed messages where Central Government a promotion conflicting strategies for the teaching of reading resulting in confused children and confused teaching practitioners. This is despite the Rose Review which recommends consistency and fidelity to the chosen phonic programme.