Teacher Talk

Bernadette McLean from the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre in Frensham, Surrey, coaches teachers in how to educate dyslexic children better. She is on the steering committee of Xtraordinary People, a charity representing dyslexics. Xtraordinary People launched a political party to run against Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, in Bolton West
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The Independent Online

What is Xtraordinary people?

It is a charity that was set up by Kate Griggs, a mother of two dyslexic children. She attended a course for parents at the centre. Kate was excited by how much even a small amount of training can aid people in helping dyslexics to achieve their potential. Kate started the charity with help from the centre and when it became bigger sought support from the British Dyslexia Association.

Why is dyslexia an important issue?

An estimated 10 per cent of the UK population are dyslexic so it is a big issue. I feel sorry for teachers, as initial teacher training does not equip them to deal with pupils who have learning difficulties in the current climate of inclusion. We have an increasing number of people in young offenders' institutions that studies have linked to failure at school largely due to dyslexia and illiteracy.

Is inclusion a good idea?

Inclusion is a worthwhile philosophy as long as the teacher knows what to do. The National Literacy Standard has shown that children need to be taught in a structured way but this is not suitable for dyslexics as the pace is too fast.

Why launch a political party?

Kate is trying to highlight the issue in a fairly outstanding way to get publicity and draw the issue to the attention of the Department for Education and Skills. Kate has had several conversations with Ruth Kelly and we hope she is listening.

Will Xtraordinary People get any votes?

If I were in Kate's constituency and I were dyslexic I would be voting for Xtraordinary People, so I do think the party will get some votes.

How do you help teachers become more equipped to dyslexic pupils?

The principle behind our teaching methods is structured reinforcement; dyslexics will not remember things the first time they are told, so information needs to be repeated. They often have auditory difficulties. Multi-sensory teaching, using visual and kinaesthetic methods, stop learning from being a grind.

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