The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Enhancing professionalism in education since 1965

Spelling out the solution

In every classroom, in every school across the country, statistics show there are likely to be at least two dyslexic children

If unidentified or unsupported, these children may be suffering in silence, unable to express themselves or fulfil their potential. Their teachers might not have spotted the signs – some of which are harder to spot than others – and they may be struggling to keep up with the other children in their class. Despite the fact around 10 per cent of the population is dyslexic, and dyslexia – if it has a significant impact on day-to-day life – is identified as a disability in the Equality Act 2010, newly qualified teachers are being sent into classrooms with little formal training on how to support children with dyslexia. In many cases, they may not even have a basic awareness of what dyslexia is.

And many more teachers – even those with years of experience – have limited or basic knowledge of the Specific Learning Difficulty, and how to spot the tell-tale signs. However, it is hoped that this can change thanks to the Dyslexia and Inclusive Practice project led by Education Scotland and the Scottish Government, which includes the Addressing Dyslexia Toolkit, a free online resource managed by Dyslexia Scotland.

Many more teachers – even those with years of experience – have limited or basic knowledge of the Specific Learning Difficulty, and how to spot the tell-tale signs

The toolkit aims to guide teachers through the steps from initially identifying some early signs of difficulty in literacy development, ensuring appropriate teaching and support, evaluating that support and, where appropriate, considering whether the term dyslexia is appropriate. Three free online learning Dyslexia and Inclusive Practice modules, which support GTC Scotland Professional Standards, Professional Update and Professional Recognition, have been developed for teachers, school management and GTC Scotland-registered local authority education officers and are accessible to all teachers. Thirty teachers across Scotland have been working their way through all three modules as part of a pilot project to gain a GTC Scotland Professional Recognition Award, which finishes in October.

These teachers are encouraging their colleagues to complete the modules, and are promoting discussion and a whole school shared learning approach to dyslexia. Rachel Stitt, support for learning teacher at Crieff High School, is one of the teachers involved in the pilot. She has completed the first two modules and is currently working her way through the third.

She says the first module is a general introduction that all teachers would benefit from. “In Scotland, we are lacking in the sense that within initial teacher education there isn’t a focus at all on dyslexia,” she said.

We have been really pleased with the uptake of the modules. Some local authorities are requiring newly qualified teachers to do module one and we would encourage more local authorities to do that.”

“In each class there may be four or five pupils who are struggling with literacy, so it’s something we need to get on board with and get better at. “Some councils are giving teachers time during in-service days to work their way through the first module. I will be guiding my colleagues towards the module and have also asked the senior management team to get time marked in the calendar to work through it.

“The module gives information about what dyslexia is, how it manifests itself in the classroom, and how it differs for each pupil. “You have some kids who are very able to answer questions and are keen to be involved, but won’t write anything down. There are kids who sit in silence but won’t do anything. There are kids who struggle because of their memory skills.”

Cathy Magee, Chief Executive of Dyslexia Scotland, said the modules and the recently refreshed toolkit were the result of the Education Scotland 2014 Making Sense report that reviewed the education of children with dyslexia. One of the five recommendations called for career-long professional development in the area. “The report showed that there’s very little specific learning around dyslexia in Scotland,” said Cathy.

“We recognise that in initial teacher training, there isn’t really anything specific to Scotland in dyslexia training and newly qualified teachers may not have any experience. A lot of teachers have been going to England for professional development.

“These three collaboratively developed modules have been designed so that they are free and easily accessible online and each has a reflective log to support and evidence professional learning. “Teachers are encouraged to adapt what they are learning to think of examples in their own practice.” In order to fully involve teachers and give them the opportunity to interact with colleagues, discuss the content of the modules and share their experiences, a series of masterclasses were organised, which saw around 500 participants. To date, 1,341 practitioners have already completed module one.

Cathy said: “We have been really pleased with the uptake of the modules. Some local authorities are requiring newly qualified teachers to do module one and we would encourage more local authorities to do that.”

Susan Miller, additional support for learning teacher in Aberdeenshire, is another of the teachers involved in the pilot project, and has completed all three modules. “I think they are an excellent resource, and the fact that they are free is quite amazing,” she said.

“I think there is a need to engage with other people to get the most out of these modules. “The modules are quite responsive to particular context because you can use them to fi t in with your own experiences in the classroom and link to your own stories and pupils. “The first module is an overview of dyslexia and it’s important for all teachers to get a basic understanding. “Some teachers have said they didn’t realise something was an indicator when they’ve been working their way through the module.” Susan added: “The toolkit itself gives so much advice on what you can do and has drop-down menus to give you information about how you can support pupils in different situations.

“The teachers I have been working with are really keen to learn and understand more. Teachers want to know how best to support all pupils in their class through all-inclusive practice. “I think local authorities should be doing more to support and promote these modules, and ensure their staff don’t just know about them, but are utilising them.” Susan said that the way dyslexia is identified has changed a lot, and continues to change as awareness is raised among teachers, parents and the pupils themselves. “In the past, generally a child was taken out of the class and given an assessment and told they were dyslexic,” she said.

“That’s very much changed in that the classroom teachers, parents and pupils are now integral in that identification process.

“In my school, we have made up a mini module for the kids. Children are given this identification but don’t know how it affects them, and this module helps them to understand it better.” The development of the three modules has been a successful collaborative partnership between Dyslexia Scotland, Education Scotland, the Scottish Government and the Open University with involvement from practitioners across a number of local authorities.

More Information

For more information about the three modules, and to access them, go to:

http://addressingdyslexia.org/free-online-learning-modules

Teaching Scotland

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Editor contact: Evelyn Wilkins teachingscotland@gtcs.org.uk


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