StephenZhu2018-04-22 09:11:01

Secret Teacher: we're setting dyslexic children up to feel like failures

Pupils with dyslexia are at a disadvantage in tests, and we don’t have the resources to give them the help they need

Although we do our best to support all children, it is ad hoc and chaotic. I see them falling behind in their learning as a result.’ Photograph: Alamy

It is Monday morning and our year 3 literacy lesson is under way. The child I’m funded to work with is using an iPad while they have a break, watching a show aimed at helping children with additional needs develop communication skills. I walk around the classroom supporting others. We’re looking at using adjectives in Roman myths. Jenny asks how to spell “tiny”; Kearon needs the spelling for “flaming” at the same moment Behnam wants “sanctimonious”.

John is struggling more than the others. Even if I write the word for him he rarely copies it correctly and his letters are back to front, upside down, and sometimes more a squiggle than anything else. Out of the corner of my eye I see him drawing a cartoon on the side of his page. I ask him to start writing. He strings a few words together, and then goes back to drawing. I don’t have any more time to support him because my 1:1 is ready to begin work.

I have some first-hand experience of the struggles my class are facing. I was never diagnosed with dyslexia – there were no assessments for it when I was at school – but I feel I have some of the characteristics. The noise of the classroom interferes with my ability to hear sounds in words. I regularly need to use a spell checker, and feel lucky that the schools in which I have worked have been happy for me to do so.

But I believe the current system is failing dyslexic pupils. Research suggests dyslexic children are more likely to suffer low self-esteem, poor motivation and concentration. Our local council’s dyslexia guidance stresses the importance of early recognition and intervention, and there are a number of ways teaching can be adapted to help meet students’ needs – simplifying written instructions, presenting only a small amount of writing to them, or using audio devices. Yet shortage of time, staff and technical equipment means it’s very hard to give such targeted assistance.

I’ve seen huge delays in assessments to determine what support a child might need – right across special educational needs (SEN) in the schools I work with. This is particularly the case for specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia that may not be deemed severe or urgent.

I write endless lists of observations about children struggling with a range of issues, including spelling. Meetings are set with teachers or senior management for those with education, health and care plans (EHCPs), but there are many children without plans who also need help. Funding attached to the EHCP buys in people like me to work with specific students, but the others seem to slip through the cracks. Although we do our best to support all children, it is ad hoc and chaotic. I see them falling behind in their learning as a result.

The leadership teams at the schools I work with are aware of the problem but are working under the same constraints as the rest of us. There simply isn’t time, with the staff we have, to embark on interventions.

In a 2016 National Education Union survey of ALT members working in state-funded schools in England, 83% reported that children with special educational needs were not getting enough support. One teacher said: “It’s frustrating and heartbreaking to see the amount of children not getting adequate support, let alone the in-depth support they need, due to lack of money, and the system’s reticence to actually put a child on the SEN register.” From what I can see, the situation has not improved.

Sats also present a challenge. There is no specific support for dyslexics in these tests, although it is possible to apply for extra time for any child as long as there is supporting evidence. At two of the schools in which I’ve worked, children can use spell checkers or dictionaries during the essay-writing component, but the work has to be edited independently by the child. Those who can’t spot misspelt or wayward words will still be at a disadvantage.

Previously, teachers and union leaders have raised concerns over the impact of “draconion” spelling tests on dyslexic children. Changes made this year allowing teachers to judge overall aptitude rather than expecting children to meet every criteria should help those who struggle with spelling. According to Sarah Hannafin, senior policy adviser for NAHT, dyslexic children should be “less disadvantaged... than they were in previous years”. But judging pupils on such narrow measures doesn’t give us a rounded picture of ability or intelligence.

If I took the Sats test today, I doubt I would pass it. I moved through school at a time when spelling and grammar were important but not essential. I was given the support I needed to grow. This gave me space to develop my creative writing without worrying about perfect spelling. I gained the confidence in myself as a learner – starting out in the remedial maths and English set at school and ending up with a PhD in health education.

The picture is very different for the children I teach. As a result of too little targeted support and stringent tests, I worry many will enter secondary school believing themselves to be failures. But I don’t feel I’m in a position to give these children the level of help they need or deserve.













在此之前,教师和工会领袖们已经对“draconion”拼写测试对诵读困难儿童的影响提出了担忧。今年的变化使得教师能够判断整体的能力,而不是期望孩子满足所有的标准,这应该有助于那些与拼写斗争的人。NAHT的高级政策顾问Sarah Hannafin认为,诵读困难的儿童应该“不那么弱势……”比往年都要多。但是,从这些狭隘的角度来判断学生,并不能给我们一个全面的能力或智力。