Ruth Kelly has had an almost entirely unsympathetic press about her decision to pull her dyslexic son out of a state primary and send him to a private school that specialises in the condition. We decided to find out whether state primary schools are considered to do a decent job in helping children with severe dyslexia in order to understand her dilemma. The answer (see page 6) is that they aren't, which is why the experts are unanimously sympathetic to the former Education Secretary.
As the experts explain, children with serious problems in learning to read and write need one-to-one sessions with specially trained teachers every day. In most state primary schools they don't get that, and never have. They don't get it in most independent prep schools, but they do get it in independent specialist schools established to cater for dyslexia.
State special schools catering for slow learners are not the answer, for the simple reason that dyslexic children are often very bright. They are not slow, but they learn in different ways. Sending them to special schools for slow learners would probably be disastrous, as Karen Gold explains.
So to criticise Kelly for using private education when her local borough, Tower Hamlets, had a good reputation for special needs misses the point. Most special needs education does not cover education for dyslexics. This has almost entirely been left to individual head teachers.
The Government should act. It should ensure that primary school teachers are trained to detect and deal with dyslexia, because the current situation - in which dyslexic pupils are helped by teaching assistants - does not work. In addition, it should be possible for peripatetic specialist teachers to travel around to schools in a given area providing the intense intervention that severe dyslexics need. This has been done in the past for deaf pupils. Where possible - and it should be possible in big cities - specialist units could be attached to secondary schools to give dyslexic students the help they need.
The Government has made much of personalised learning - classes being tailored to the needs of individual children. This is an opportunity for ministers to show they are serious about it.Reuse content