Children with special needs like dyslexia risk being overlooked in the Children and Families Bill because their learning difficulties are not deemed to be serious enough, it is claimed.
The charity Dyslexia Action said ministers were showing “bias” towards children and young people with the most severe and complex needs and that those with “high incidence, low severity” needs, such as dyslexics risked not having their needs met adequately.
Yet if these problems are overlooked they could lead to severe consequences for those affected, the organisation says.
As the Children and Families Bill was going through its second reading this week, the organisation published a 10-point plan which it says must be addressed if dyslexic pupils are to receive the help and support they need.
It includes a compulsory module on dyslexia as part of initial teacher training, with on-going professional development for teachers; early identification of children at risk and ready access to screening and assessment; and access to structured interventions and support. A structure should be put in place specifying responsibilities for those involved in the education of children with SEN, which will include details of what each person is responsible for and to whom they are accountable.
Currently nearly a fifth – 19.8 per cent – of school-aged children (around 1.6 million) are identified as having special needs.
About 10 per cent of the population has dyslexia to some degree, meaning that around 800,000 learners in schools will have difficulty with literacy.
Apart from literacy development, dyslexia can also adversely affect learning in mathematics, as well as skills such as memory, organisation and sequencing.
As part of its 10-point plan, the charity also wants to see resources for those with dyslexia being adequately funded and targeted, and for special needs to form a greater focus in Ofsted inspections, with schools being judged to be good or better only if their SEN provision is good.
Furthermore, any new-style GCSEs or other qualifications under the coalition government’s examination reforms should have reasonable adjustments built in to allow dyslexic children to access the exams and give them an equal chance of success.
Keith Geeson, chief executive of Dyslexia Action, said: “The Bill gives no guarantees that the new SEN system will adequately specify procedures and practices and provide the necessary resources so that the needs of children with dyslexia will be properly addressed.
“Schools will be given autonomy to determine what they think is best for those who have the more common kinds of special needs, including dyslexia, and no proposals exist to put minimum standards in place so parents can be reassured their children are receiving the most appropriate provision by international standards.”
Mr Geeson added that it also remained unclear what would replace the School Action and School Action Plus programmes, which offered special needs pupils targeted support in the classroom. Under its proposals, the government wants to introduce a new school-based category of SEN “to help teachers focus on raising attainment”.