16th Jul, 2019

Education chiefs defend dyslexia policy

EDUCATION chiefs in Warwickshire have defended the way they deal with dyslexia after the issue was raised in the House of Lords.

Warwickshire County Council was criticised over its dyslexia guidance which questioned the science behind the definition of dyslexia and the need for actual diagnosis. It recommended county schools assessed reading and writing skills and intervened where any weakness was identified, rather than seek an actual diagnosis.

But the authority’s policy was challenged by the British Dyslexia Association (BDA) which called it ‘ludicrous’ and ‘demeaning’.

BDA chief executive Helen Boden said it was ‘almost’ universally agreed dyslexia was a ‘complex neurological difference’ affecting people in different ways including challenges with not just reading but spelling, writing, memory and other areas.

“To suggest it is just a reading difficulty demonstrates a lack of understanding of the depth and breadth of challenges that it can bring to an individual in education.

“The complexity of dyslexia, means diagnosing it is critical so that people with dyslexia can begin to understand the many ways it will affect them for better and worst, and get support to build individual coping strategies to manage the issues dyslexia presents – not to mention that a diagnosis helps them understand that dyslexia does not affect intelligence and that with the right support, they can achieve everything that their peers can.

“When we heard the ludicrous approach adopted by Warwickshire County Council on the basis of this minority view, going against decades of scientific consensus, we challenged them directly.”

But the BDA was unhappy with WCC’s response and the issue was raised in the House of Lords, where the policy was also criticised.

Ms Boden added: “It’s disappointing to see this issue drag on but we will continue to represent people with dyslexia in the UK by challenging this regressive and demeaning approach at every turn until policy is set in line with scientific consensus.

“The only people who lose in this situation are those who need help the most.”

The authority has withdrawn its guidance while it conducts a review as part of a consultation on inclusion and support for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Warwickshire education spokesman Coun Colin Hayfield said: “Warwickshire’s policy is to do what is best for all of our children and young people. We do not wait for pupils to present with a diagnosis before we put a package of support in.

“The purpose of the guidance therefore is to ensure that our schools are very well-equipped to recognise signs of difficulties not only with reading but with all aspects of literacy and to put a plan in place. That way, all of our children have access to the support they need from the very outset.

“We feel that this is a more equitable way of ensuring that all of our children have access to the resources they need to achieve to the very best of their ability.”

And WCC has a supporter in Durham University professor Julian Elliott

The academic and former learning difficulties teacher co-wrote ‘The Dyslexia Debate’ and believes dyslexia diagnosis is unnecessary and lacks scientific evidence.

Prof Elliott argues diagnosis does not lead to treatments any different to other children with reading difficulties and was expensive and time-consuming.

The review is expected to be completed in June.

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