Education Committee - Pre-legislative scrutiny: Special Educational NeedsWritten evidence submitted by The Driver Youth Trust

1. The Driver Youth Trust is a charity dedicated to improving the life chances of children and young people with a focus on those who struggle with literacy, particularly children with dyslexia. We work in partnership with other organisations to help children to access education, build their confidence and realise their goals. We campaign for policy change so that all children, including those with dyslexia, get the right support to learn to read and write and reach their full potential.

2. We have answered the questions in the committee’s inquiry that are most directly relevant to our research and educational work.


3. The government has rightly identified many problems with the current system of provision for children with special educational needs. There is much to welcome in the draft clauses, such as the provision of better information and more integrated working.

4. The Driver Youth Trust is concerned, however, that the White Paper completely fails to address the current lack of provision for children with dyslexia. It is worth reiterating that one of the main aims of primary education is to teach children to read and write, and yet about 1 in 7 pupils (15%) leave primary school struggling to read and write.i Without a proper focus on the needs of those who struggle to read and write, children will continue to leave full time education without these vital skills. The White Paper could be a golden opportunity to improve the level of support offered to children with dyslexia. Without further changes, this opportunity could be missed.

5. While the provision of further information is to be welcomed, the Driver Youth Trust is concerned that it will not be enough to transform current service provision so that fewer children will need to seek the guarantee of an EHC plan. 10% of the population, that is 3 children in every class of 30, are dyslexic. 4% are severely so.i i

6. The following changes are also vital to the success of these reforms:

Further training for teachers, teaching assistants, SENCos, school leadership teams, governing bodies and education inspectors in the identification and support of children with including dyslexia.

A stronger focus on the attainment of children with special educational needs, so that every child makes the right progress to reach their full potential.

Stronger duties to be placed on schools and local authorities to identify and support children with dyslexia who do not receive an EHC plan.

Schools and local authorities should be supported to develop provision based on the latest research and evidence of best practice in the identification and support of children with dyslexia. This research should be readily available through the Department for Education.

General Questions

1. Does the draft Bill meet the Government’s policy objective to improve provision for disabled children and children with special educational needs?

7. The development of the Code of Practice along with further regulations and guidance will provide a vital opportunity for further detail on how children with dyslexia can be identified and supported. There is, however, more that could be done to strengthen the Bill to ensure that this support is put in place.

Teachers are not able to identify pupils with dyslexia in order to refer them to Local Authorities

8. Clauses 3 and 4 outline the process by which children with special educational needs will be identified and the responsibility of the local authority to provide support will be outlined. A local authority is responsible for identifying when a child has special educational needs, and for providing appropriate support when that child has been identified. We know, however, that many children with dyslexia go through school without having their needs identified, due to a lack of knowledge and understanding of this condition within the education system. While the government has introduced limited measures to increase the number of specialist placements in initial teacher training and the training of specialist teachers, there is no comprehensive strategy to ensure that all classroom teachers are able to identify children in their classrooms who may have dyslexia and ensure that these children get access to appropriate specialist assessment.

There is inadequate training for teachers about dyslexia

9. The Driver Youth Trust believes that the government must review the provision of initial teacher training and continuous professional development training in this area, so that all classroom teachers know how to: spot dyslexia, how to help dyslexic pupils in the classroom through dyslexia friendly teaching, and when to refer them for further assessment and intervention. There should be mandatory training for all teachers in this area, either in their initial teacher training, or as part of their induction process. All schools should have access to a dyslexia specialist teacher to provide further support. The government should also review resources currently available to initial teacher training providers on dyslexia training to ensure all providers are able to offer high quality training in this area.

10. In order to demonstrate the current level of training provided to beginner teachers in this area, the Driver Youth Trust has undertaken some as yet unpublished research. We are happy to share the results with the committee on the understanding that this will not be published before December 2012, which will allow time for the publication of our report. The results of our survey of initial teacher training providers were very worrying, as they identify not only a lack of training on dyslexia, but also on how to teach children who struggle with literacy:

Seven out of 10 providers spent less than a day training students how to support children with dyslexia.

A third of providers spent less than a day training students how to support children who struggle with literacy.

One in five did not specifically assess their trainee’s ability to teach children who struggle with literacy.

11. This contrasts with the recommendations of the government’s own review into support for children with dyslexia:

“All teachers of beginner readers should have at least a working knowledge of what to look for that suggests a child may be at risk of dyslexia and know where to seek advice on what steps are needed to help them. This working knowledge should be a normal constituent of initial teacher training of those destined to teach beginner readers, and updated through in-service training”.i i i

Local Authorities need to have clear responsibility for children with dyslexia

12. The above evidence demonstrates that it would be all too easy for local authorities to be unaware of those children with dyslexia who need support in their area and therefore to have no responsibility to provide support to these children. As well as the reforms to teacher training which we have outlined above, the Driver Youth Trust is calling for the draft SEN clauses to be strengthened so that local authorities have a clear responsibility to work with schools to ensure they have robust mechanisms for the identification of children with dyslexia and to work with parents who have concerns about their children’s needs to ensure that these are appropriately assessed. Currently, children with dyslexia are often only identified if their parents can afford private diagnostic assessments. It should never be the case that children can only access support if their parents can afford a diagnosis.

7. Is there anything missing from the draft Bill?

More robust obligations on Local Authorities

13. Clause 11 outlines that local authorities will be required to publish a “local offer”. The Driver Youth Trust believes that there should be a requirement on the face of the Bill for local authorities, as part of their local offer, to assess current provision in their schools, identify and meet service and training needs, share best practice amongst local schools and publish details of the specialist support they will provide. Regulations should require that all local offers include specific reference to dyslexia.

More focus on the child as an individual

14. Clause 15 states that a child with special educational needs should be included in mainstream school activities as far as is reasonably practical and sets out situations where this may not be the case. This clause could be strengthened to state that, where a child is not included within school activities together with other children, this should not affect the quality of the teaching provision they are offered and that there should be a strong focus on the child’s individual progress and attainment.

Schools need to be under a stronger duty to provide appropriate support

15. Clauses 39—42 cover the duties imposed on schools to provide special educational needs services. Schools will be required to use their “best endeavours” to ensure that relevant special educations needs provision is made. The Driver Youth Trust welcomes this, and the fact that these clauses will apply to academies, and to pupil referral units. We would, however, like to see a stronger duty on the face of the bill to require schools to provide the right support for these children. This would reduce the need for parents to seek an Education, Health and Care plan for their child and require school leadership teams to focus further attention on this vital area.

SENCos need to be properly trained

16. We welcome the provision in clause 40 for all schools to have a SEN Coordinator. It is essential, however, that SENCos receive appropriate training. The current training is administrative, and there is no mandatory specialist training on dyslexia. We would like to see a review of training for SENCos, and stronger requirements in regulations for all SENCos to have high quality, specialist training in the latest research and evidence of best practice on identification and support of those with dyslexia.

Schools need to publish attainment levels and more information

17. Clause 42 covers schools’ publication of special educational needs information. The Driver Youth Trust believes that schools should be required to include the publication of attainment levels for all SEN pupils and set out proposals for improving levels of attainment. Similarly, in subsection (8) of Clause 43, the Secretary of State should be required to publish levels of attainment for children with special educational needs at a national level. In addition, regulations should require there to be a duty on schools to provide parents with specific information on dyslexia.


18. The draft clauses are only the start of the process to reform the way children with special educational needs in this country are supported. Much more remains to be done to ensure that the code of practice and regulations which will accompany the new legislation produce the right legal framework to encourage a step change in special educational needs provision in England. We look forward to the opportunity to continue to influence the development of these regulations to ensure they meet the needs of children with dyslexia. We will also continue to seek to influence the development of wider policy on workforce development to ensure teachers have the right skills to identify and support children with dyslexia in their classrooms. Nevertheless, the Driver Youth Trust believes it is vital that the current draft clauses are further strengthened as outlined above, to ensure that the opportunity to revolutionise special educational needs provision in this country is not missed.



ii British Dyslexia Association

iii Rose Review, 2009

October 2012

Prepared 19th December 2012