Education: Dyslexic, but who knew?

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HANNAH NIXON, who started primary school in the first year of the national curriculum and took the first trial national tests at seven, is none the worse for her experience. But her mother, Suzanne Nixon, is not convinced that the quality of her education has been much improved by the Government's education reforms.

Mrs Nixon's second child, George, also took the national tests at seven and was graded as level 2, the average standard for his age. The fact that he was dyslexic did not emerge. That was spotted by his teacher.

Mrs Nixon, who lives in Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire, says: 'I don't think the national curriculum and testing have made much difference to the standards in our school. In principle, I think the national curriculum is useful and there has been a gain in what is taught: there is more emphasis on science and technology.

'The real problem is with the assessment. Hannah enjoyed the tests and was not unsettled by them, but they went on for ages and I sense that it has put a lot of pressure on teachers. They have had to take time away from teaching to administer tests. The tests are improving but they are not right yet.

'It's good that parents have more information. I have a very detailed form about what George has been doing, his test scores and strengths and weaknesses. But the tests don't tell you what the problem is. The really useful information about him comes from the teacher, not the tests.'

Mrs Nixon says the impact of the curriculum and testing reforms has been blunted because they have been introduced alongside big changes in the way schools are funded. Hannah's primary school lost two days of teaching time because of the new formula for allocating funds to schools.

'The new curriculum and testing have been presented as the magic solution to raising standards in schools. They are not - they are more about testing the school than the child. Other things, such as funding, come into it. League tables are misleading and the competition between schools that the Government has introduced isn't necessarily a good thing. It's demoralising for teachers. Why don't they pay them more and tell them they are doing a good job?'

(Photograph omitted)