On the 31/1/19 there will be a discussion about dyslexia at the IoE involving some eminent people in the field: ‘Dyslexia diagnosis, scientific understandings and belief in a flat earth.’
This follows a statement last year from Warwickshire and Staffordshire County Council that a dyslexia diagnosis is ‘scientifically questionable’, with other schools now saying that dyslexia ‘doesn’t exist’…some schools have been saying this for a while.
Where do we go from here?
Perhaps the answer lies with greater teacher agency and autonomy. Too long undermined, perhaps it’s time that teachers be acknowledged as the experts and given the training, status and permission to act.
This is why I so strongly support Alison Peacock and her work with the Chartered College; raising the status of the profession and giving teachers a voice allowing them to have high expectations for all pupils.
I feel there needs to be a focus on how accountability measures are impacting on teachers’ daily practice. What are teachers feeling and experiencing and how can they be better supported moving forwards? It is clear that to better support dyslexia:
- Teachers need more practical guidance in firstly identifying, and in particular, supporting learners with dyslexia and other SEND during teacher training.
- They need greater knowledge of dyslexia and grounding in theory, offered at the training stage which can provide teacher agency.
- Schools need to have explicit conversations around dyslexia and address any ideological differences amongst staff before any additional training can have a whole school impact.
- They need policies which identify and support ‘at risk’ children early, as suggested by research.
- They need to be given permission to innovate (connected to teacher agency) and to have high expectations for every individual. Dyslexic learners may need a variety of approaches, especially visual ones, they will benefit from personalised approaches.
- Teachers and TAs need to collaborate and build trust to ensure that children practise new or ongoing skills and transfer them into the classroom. This may involve effective learning strategies, pupils MUST become responsible for their own learning, facilitated by the teacher.
- Parents and educators need to collaborate, supporting each other and the child, sharing knowledge and experiences. How to do this might be something that can also be addressed in teacher training.
I am driven by a desire to experience, to know and understand the plight faced by teachers that can result in dyslexic children being not just overlooked in classrooms, but sometimes treated in a way which undermines their human rights.
My journey is fuelled by hope, not despair.
Rebecca Solnit explains the nature of hope, which is:
‘to bet on the future, on your desires, on the possibility that an open heart and uncertainty is better than gloom and safety’ (2016, p.4).