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Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, we have some extra time as the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, cannot be here to speak.

Lord Annaly: My Lords, in terms of working together, the recognition in the Green Paper of the place of speech and language is good news, as is the breaking down of barriers between different agencies. This needs to come from the Government, as the funding issues are so fraught that it will not happen otherwise.

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Finally, I refer to inclusive education. The policy of inclusion is a good principle, but cannot easily be imposed on all mainstream schools. Many pupils need the specialist provision of the special schools. Those with special educational needs do not form an homogenous group. There needs to be a range of provision. Perhaps I may give the example of withdrawal teaching. In my daughter's class, every day five of the 15 children are taken into the room next door, where they are given specialist teaching for a period. It has to be carefully timed because the teachers do not want them to miss the lessons that they are good at as that might mean that they become demoralised. That is an important point. It is useful that such teaching takes place in a group, and not individually.

Parents increasingly expect choice to be available. Some special schools do not currently meet the potential of certain pupils who have been placed in them, but this could be addressed by some of the measures mentioned in the Green Paper.

9.3 p.m.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth: My Lords, I too thank my noble friend Lady Masham for giving us the opportunity to question the Government on their plans to improve educational provision for people with dyslexia. My noble friend gave an interesting portrayal of the problems associated with dyslexia.

I very much enjoyed the excellent and witty maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester. The erstwhile toddler has now definitely become a most experienced maiden, having given birth, as it were, on the way to the 1970 Act which was the first ever to mention dyslexia.

I am only sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, cannot be here tonight. In 1994 she spearheaded through this House the code of practice which is so important for children with special educational needs, clearly setting out a system involving identification, provision, monitoring and evaluation. I hope that the Minister will give us an assurance that there will be no weakening of the provisions of the code of practice.

Much has been said by noble Lords about the importance of early identification. I am very conscious that many noble Lords know a very great deal more about dyslexia than I do. The noble Lord, Lord Newby, gave a graphic description and the point was mentioned also by the noble Viscount, Lord Allenby. I warmly support the call for all teachers to be able to identify specific learning difficulties and for the adequate provision of trained teachers. Ideally, all children with special educational needs should be educated in mainstream schools--that aim is expressed in the Green Paper--so, there should be no need for a statement. After all, the necessity for a statement depends rather more on the degree of provision available locally than on the degree of special educational need of a particular child. But until we reach that ideal situation, the statement offers the only assurance that children with special educational needs will obtain the special educational provision that is required. The noble Lord, Lord Annaly, has just highlighted that point. So,

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whatever legislation is forthcoming, I very much hope that it will either leave the code of practice in place or incorporate its provisions.

Since the 1970 Act, the parents of children with dyslexia have had to overcome two hurdles. It is those who have had to cross the second hurdle on whom I should like to focus. The first hurdle was the refusal to acknowledge the existence of dyslexia by many psychologists and teachers. Parents were deemed pushy and middle-class, unable to accept that their children were "backward", and so the development of teaching techniques and materials to help children with dyslexia was seriously held back until research into brain functioning provide convincing evidence of the condition. Broadly speaking, this barrier has been overcome. As has been said, there are still problems. There are instances of dyslexia being picked up too late and the BDA talks of "widespread tolerance of under-achievement". The noble Lord, Lord Newby, and the noble Viscount, Lord Allenby, referred to that.

The second hurdle is the refusal to acknowledge that dyslexia could also be the reason for children with low average or below average IQs failing to read. Perhaps because it was initially the more articulate and educated parents who pressed for recognition of dyslexia, it was regarded as a condition which applied only to children with above average intelligence, despite the fact that research had identified causal factors in terms of memory and perception which could clearly affect children regardless of their intelligence. So, for many years specialist provision was withheld from dyslexic children with lower IQs despite their continued failure to benefit from traditional literacy teaching and despite their showing many of the classic signs of dyslexia. The noble Lord, Lord Annaly, has just spoken of the classic signs of dyslexia in children.

It was only in the code of practice in 1994 that professionals and LEAs were given specific guidance that dyslexia should not be regarded as affecting only children of above average intelligence. Parents of children with average or lower IQs often have particular difficulty in obtaining specialist provision. Certainly, as late as 1995 the publicly stated policy of one LEA was that children with dyslexia had to be of average or above average intelligence before the county considered that they had dyslexia. I very much hope that the Minister will ensure that the needs of this group of children are understood and that they receive the appropriate educational provision to enable them to reach their maximum potential.

I turn now to the other end of the spectrum: students with dyslexia in further and higher education. The numbers of dyslexic students in higher education have been growing. According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency there were 7,305 in 1995-6--a record of which we should be proud. Nevertheless, dyslexic students in further and particularly higher education still come up against the assumption that dyslexic people are less intelligent and able than others. They are still routinely turned down unseen for courses in teaching and medicine by academic staff who assume that dyslexia debars them from these careers.

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If a qualified person were turned down for a job as a teacher or doctor on the ground of his or her dyslexia, recourse could be had to the employment provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act for protection. Because the Act does not cover education some people are prevented at the training stage from pursuing careers to which they may very well be suited. Will the Government consider amending the DDA to cover further and higher education or will subsequent anti-discrimination legislation include education?

My noble friend spoke of the special help needed by dyslexic children when undergoing exams. Those students with dyslexia who enter college and university can have problems at exam time. Many institutions continue to turn down requests, for example for extra time in examinations or the use of a computer to help a dyslexic student, even though it would be available at work and would not prejudice the integrity of the examination or the quality of the qualification. If education were included in anti-discrimination legislation, institutions would have to take seriously students' right of access not only to the education provided but to the related qualification.

I hope to hear a positive response from the Minister when he replies on plans to ensure early identification of specific learning difficulties, increased provision in particular for those with average or below average IQs and an assurance that the provisions of the code of practice will not be weakened by any imminent future legislation. I also hope that the Government will consider including further and higher education in anti-discrimination legislation.

9.11 p.m.

Lord Addington: My Lords, I have listened to this debate with both interest and frustration. The frustration arises because many of the areas on which I intended to speak have been covered well by previous speakers. This is a debate in which I have the cheerful task of congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Morris, on a very good and humane maiden speech which dealt with many of the problems of and approaches to dyslexia and disability in general. It is the kind of speech that should be heard more often in this Chamber. It reminds us that we have a duty to bring people fully into our society. The noble Lord began a tremendous tradition in regard to such legislation back in 1970. I also feel a degree of comradeship with him. Nearly 11 years ago I made my own maiden speech on an Unstarred Question on dyslexia at the end of business. However, I was not quite as polished in my delivery as the noble Lord.

The background to this debate can be seen in the consultative paper Excellence for All. Everyone who knows anything about education to whom I have spoken agrees that the document makes all the right noises. It speaks about the early recognition of disabilities, bringing people into the classroom and adopting good practice. But it will have to be resourced. It will require a degree of will behind it that will not be dictated first and foremost by Treasury convenience.

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None of the legislation in this area would ever have become law, as the noble Lord, Lord Morris, has described, if it had not had sufficient will behind it to tackle the problem and tell the Treasury what needed to be done. I believe that the noble Lord quoted Robert Lowe, the first speech of the first education Secretary. I believe that he also said of his new voters, having opposed the second Reform Bill, that his new masters should at least be taught how to read. I suggest that that attitude should be carried through to the last and biggest disabled group in this country--approximately 10 per cent. of the population--who should be given support.

I belatedly declare an interest. I am vice-president of the BDA and vice-president of the Adult Dyslexia Association and I am dyslexic. So I think that I should be given all the support that I need. I was given most of what I needed through the state system, parental persistence and good luck. Many did not make it. I was always just a step ahead of the legislation that gave support, until the 1983 Act.

By being able to convince people that there was flexibility within the process, I was given support. I could give noble Lords a series of anecdotes but that would be self-indulgent. Apart from anything else, I am sure that Hansard has already recorded most of them. For instance, one of my history teachers said, "I cannot have him in my class because I dictate notes and everyone takes notes in my class". As my final degree was in history I am glad that that recommendation was overruled.

As an adult, one's problems do not end, as all speakers in the debate have said. In some ways they are only just beginning. Once one has managed to convince a teacher that there is a problem with a child in school but that the child can be helped, support will be given. The teachers want to extract the information from the child. That does not exist in the workplace.

We have already heard anecdotes about someone trying to fill in a form in front of a busy official in an employment office. That causes tremendous pressure. I have made half of my political career out of admitting that I am dyslexic, but it is still difficult for me to admit that in public. It is difficult for me to ask for three forms to fill in by myself quietly because I am likely to make a mistake. I have had to accept a few snide remarks over that. People do not realise what dyslexia means. When I say that I am dyslexic people even now say, "What is that then?". One needs support. A large part of the work of the Adult Dyslexia Association is taken up by members saying to people, "Don't worry. It's not your fault. You have a disability".

I do not claim to be totally up with the scientific claims, but parts of my brain that deal with the speech process have different levels of electronic activity from other people's. We are talking about a differently constructed brain. The problem is that fundamental.

People who say, "Oh, he has got over it", or, "I used to be dyslexic", are talking garbage. It is a disability which is with you for life. You will need support throughout your life, or at the very least, understanding. If you do not have that you will be fighting an uphill battle. If one considers that that level of disability will

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always exist, it is not surprising that people with dyslexia do not like admitting it. The squiggles on pieces of paper to which we have given an abstract meaning--that is, writing--will always be difficult for someone suffering from dyslexia. We are talking about the ability to translate a series of arbitrary symbols in an organised pattern to convey information. We are talking about that whether it is on a piece of paper or a screen. Dyslexics will always find writing difficult.

I return to the document Excellence for All. I should like to emphasise, as other speakers have, the current obsession with league tables. League tables giving exam results--most of the exams taken in the conventional manner with pieces of paper with squiggles on them--will mean that dyslexics will always be a liability. It is like selecting a football team with a goal keeper who has only one arm. He may get by, but there is a good chance that he will let you down.

Unless some form of value-added points is offered to the system, something the Government could easily do, for taking on people with disabilities, there will always be a disincentive. That is something that the Government could achieve easily, and, dare I say it, at no extra cost to the Treasury. I hope that we get a favourable response to that suggestion, if not tonight then in the foreseeable future.

If we are to stop the future flow through the system of people whose problem is not recognised, or who receive insufficient support, we shall have to ensure that all teachers, not just the new ones, are trained. Days should be put aside to train teachers in how to recognise dyslexia.

We must try to cut down on the amount of paperwork. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, that it is a pity that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, is not here today. The 1994 Act took a great step forward. It provided the statement; the legal document which showed that one required help and that it must be given. It may have been done slightly over-bureaucratically, but the provision must remain. With the best will in the world, we will occasionally need it.

Teachers must recognise the problem and pass it on to others who can act upon it. We must also give them sufficient resources to do so. The statement is still required. Greater integration in the classroom can be achieved with correct teaching and back-up procedure, but that cannot be achieved overnight. I advise the Government to have an easy hand with special schools. It is more important that a person acquires an education in a certain way. I hope that the Government can give an assurance about that because it is true of all disabilities.

I am slightly overrunning my time, but 10 minutes is much too short for a subject such as this. Unless we have an open attitude towards people with dyslexia being able to learn throughout life--that is, having support during junior, secondary and higher education--we will miss people. Furthermore, there must be support from the social services, because with the best will and the best teaching in the world there will always be a problem that has not been met.

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9.21 p.m.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, for initiating the debate. It has been impressive and moving because dyslexia causes much distress to many children and adults. We are all the better for hearing the experience of many noble Lords tonight. I congratulate my noble friend Lord Morris of Manchester on his maiden speech. In a debate of this kind, I do so with diffidence because my noble friend has made such a large contribution to tackling disablement in general. He has an understanding of the problems faced by those with various forms of disablement. He has such a long and distinguished record that I shall not rehearse it today. I am sure that all noble Lords in the Chamber are aware of it. I am glad that he is now able to give the benefit of his experience to this House.

We heard a number of moving speeches, one being from the noble Lord, Lord Addington. Other noble Lords outlined their own experience, that of their children or others they have known. It is clear that dyslexia is a major problem in our education system and in our society as a whole. I begin by assuring the noble Baroness and others of the Government's awareness of the problem. Our understanding of the condition is in no small part due to the work of the Dyslexia Institute and the British Dyslexia Association. Coincidentally, both organisations celebrate their silver anniversaries this year.

Perhaps I may deal first with the situation of schoolchildren. The noble Baroness asked how many children we can identify who are afflicted with dyslexia. We consider that 350,000 children are afflicted with some degree of dyslexia; that is, 20 per cent. of all special educational needs. It is not always easy to define and identify the problem and, as several noble Lords have said, it varies in severity. It is true that the term is still occasionally misused. There are still serious problems of identification. After all, children learn to read at different stages and early identification is not as easy as it sometimes sounds. I assure the House that the Government, local authorities and schools recognise the need to engage in early identification and recognise the importance of special attention to dyslexia among schoolchildren.

It is part of our general priority to raise the standards achieved by pupils in schools, and we have made clear that our vision is excellence for all children, including those who are disabled. We know that a lack of understanding about dyslexia and late diagnosis have meant that some children have not been given the extra help they need in order to achieve in the early stages of schooling. I argue that the general initiative that we are introducing to raise standards, taken together with new requirements--in particular, for the courses of initial teacher-training, which is vital, as the noble Baroness said--and the clear targets we have given for special educational needs in the Green Paper and elsewhere give a much higher profile than before and should ensure that many children with dyslexia and other reading difficulties have their problems addressed at an early stage.

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In relation to the teacher training curriculum, we have introduced a first national curriculum for initial teacher training which greatly heightens the attention of SEN issues. But we recognise that there is not time in initial training to develop the full range of skills required to deal with dyslexia or similar problems. Therefore, we attach importance to special educational needs in the induction year for teachers and in subsequent professional development for all teachers. In addition, we have asked the Teacher Training Agency to develop standards for special educational needs co-ordinators in all our schools.

We expect many children with special educational needs, with that kind of support, to meet our national targets for literacy and numeracy. We have proposed a substantial programme of initiatives to equip schools to meet that challenge and we are providing some resources for them to do so. Overall, some £2.5 billion per year is spent on special educational needs--one-seventh of local education authorities' budgets. So far as possible, we want to encourage the shift in resources from expensive and often very late remediation to cost-effective early intervention.

The noble Lord, Lord Morris, and others referred to the link between dyslexia and behavioural problems. I assure my noble friend that we accept that problems associated with basic literacy, including dyslexia problems, can lead to problem behaviour and sometimes to delinquency. The cost of such behaviour is obviously high and is an eloquent argument for the early identification of dyslexia and determined action to respond swiftly. I accept also what the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy, said, and that recently a link has been identified in some cases between dyslexia and other learning difficulties and low IQ. It is important that we recognise that a differential or disparate cognitive co-ordination applies at all levels of IQ and not simply to differentiate other above-average achievement as compared with reading achievement.

As part of the national literacy strategy this year, the pilot programme of summer literacy schools helped some 16,000 year six pupils whose reading age level was below level 4. That included a number of dyslexic children.

Our policies for pre-school children and those just beginning their school careers aim also to identify early problems. Children who later go on to develop dyslexia often have very early speech and language difficulties. Good communication skills are a prerequisite for literacy skills. Therefore, the Government have proposed research into effective provision of speech and language therapy for those children and are committed to looking at ways in which to improve the delivery of that service to children. Some of the dyslexic pilot schemes referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Newby, are directed to that end and we shall certainly give a commitment that we shall sustain those projects and, where they are successful, try to generalise best practice from them.

The introduction of a nationwide baseline assessment from September 1998 will also enable pupils and schools to benefit from a clear and consistent assessment

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of children as soon as they first enter school. Baseline assessment will help teachers to identify those pupils who may need, for example, a targeted teaching strategy or further classroom-based assessment. Schemes must link effectively with the more detailed assessment of children with dyslexia and other special educational needs--processes which are suggested by the code of practice. I assure the noble Baroness that we shall be maintaining and, on the basis of the consultation, strengthening the existing code of practice.

In relation to baseline assessments, evidence from those assessments, together with other observations or assessments made by teachers, will help with the early identification of those with reading difficulties. Action is needed in that context also to feed back to children and in particular to parents what that assessment means and what needs to be done.

What is of paramount importance is that we ensure that specialist help is available for those who need it. In the Green Paper which the noble Viscount, Lord Allenby, and the noble Lord, Lord Annaly, have welcomed, we set out a fundamental review of special needs provision. We have proposed ways of moving resources currently spent on bureaucracy into the classroom. As a result of research commissioned by the department, we shall provide primary teachers with effective teaching, assessment and intervention strategies to help children with dyslexia.

Both the British Dyslexia Association and the Dyslexia Institute have done valuable work in these areas. The Dyslexia Institute has produced Units of Sound Multimedia, a CD-rom version of Units of Sound which is a proven multi-sensory learning resource with a 20 year development history. Another example is a joint Association for All Speech Impaired Children with the British Dyslexia Association project in collaboration with the UCL department of human communication sciences which is funded by Glaxo Wellcome plc. The project aims to provide professionals and parents with the means to improve language and literacy skills of pre-school and school age children. In addition, there are now a number of useful developments in information communications technology, which some noble Lords have mentioned, which provide new motivating and reward materials for pupils with dyslexia.

I now turn to the problems faced by adults with dyslexia. As many noble Lords have said, this is the area where frustration is really evident as the education system has failed to deal with such people. That is causing major social and personal problems. Obviously the needs of adults affected by dyslexia will be variable. Some need considerable help in basic skills while others may need relatively little additional support within the programme they are following.

As regards students, at present many further education colleges up and down the country are working hard to deliver the aim of inclusive learning which emanates from last year's Tomlinson Report. I illustrate that with an example of good practice at the East Berkshire College of Further Education. The college has great experience and expertise in dyslexia. It undertakes college-wide screening of new students for dyslexia

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on entry. At any one time the college uses a team of 150 part-time tutors to provide learning support for approximately 650 of its own students. It also undertakes assessments of dyslexia validated by external educational psychologists. Another institution with an excellent reputation in this area is Blackburn College. There are no doubt others which are familiar to noble Lords.

The Government also recognise the problem that students with learning difficulties can face when entering higher education. That is why the disabled students' allowance exists. This enables students to study with the support they require. Currently students who are eligible for the mandatory award can receive three allowances for specialist equipment and non-medical helpers and a general allowance of up to £1,275 a year. Dyslexic students are eligible for help from those three allowances. Last year around 6,000 such allowances were awarded to students and the majority were for help with dyslexia. The disabled students' allowance provides real help for students. We plan to extend that help next year to even more students. We have accepted the Dearing Committee's recommendation that the means test for the allowance be abolished from next year.

There is also the question of the Employment Service. It is important to note that the Government have introduced the New Deal for the long-term unemployed. Special help will be available within that context for the disabled, including unemployed dyslexic people. People

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with disabilities will receive help from the Employment Service in the New Deal project. Noble Lords have asked about amending the legislation of the DDA. Undoubtedly this is a question which my colleague, Mr. Alan Howarth, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, may well address in the recently announced disability task force.

Dyslexia is, of course, now recognised as a disability. Many adults also receive help through local specialist disability services which are part of the Employment Service. Disability employment advisers have specialist disability training and they have close links to provide assessment and employment rehabilitation, if required, through organisations which are able to provide help for people with dyslexia. To address the problem identified by the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, many people will be able to take up a career which is presently closed to them because of the immediate identification of their writing or reading needs.

Many other points were raised during the debate to which I do not have time to reply. I am sure the whole House will thank the noble Baroness, as I do, for tabling this Question, and other noble Lords for their contributions. We sincerely believe that the Government's proposals and the strategy that I have outlined will improve the quality of life of those afflicted by dyslexia and the many others who have special educational needs.

        House adjourned at twenty-five minutes before ten o'clock.

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