Mark Macaskill, December 15 2019, 12:01am, The Sunday Times.
The number of pupils diagnosed as requiring additional support has rocketed from about 30,000 to more than 216,000REX FEATURES
One of Scotland’s top educationalists has raised fresh concern that middle-class parents are behind a rise in the number of children who are classified as having special needs. Since 2004, when ministers decided to widen the definition of special needs, the number of pupils diagnosed as requiring additional support has rocketed from about 30,000 to more than 216,000 — nearly a third of all pupils.
Writing in this weekend’s Sunday Times, Professor Lindsay Paterson suggests the reform may unwittingly have widened educational inequality. He also points to suspicions that “pushy” parents have courted a diagnosis of dyslexia for their children to win them extra support for exams and in class.
A Scottish parliament inquiry in 2017 found that, unlike most other learning disabilities, dyslexia was more common in affluent areas than in poor areas. The number of secondary school pupils diagnosed with dyslexia has risen sixfold since 2008, reaching 16,000 — just under 6% of all secondary pupils.
“The suspicion has been raised that seeking a diagnosis of dyslexia has become a way in which pushy middle-class parents manage to get special help for their child — including, crucially, extra time in exams,” said Paterson. He also warns that classes have been disrupted by the rising number of children classified as having behavioural difficulties.
“One in 20 primary pupils now has that diagnosis, which is on average at least one in every class. The effect on teachers, as well as on pupils, has been exhausting. We might ask whether a better use of limited public resources would be to define additional needs more robustly,” said Paterson.
“Having widened the definition of ‘needs’, Scotland can’t go back. But it probably does need to think more carefully about whether this well-meaning reform is unintentionally widening educational inequality.”
Cathy Magee, chief executive of Dyslexia Scotland, claimed it was more likely that dyslexia rates were under-estimated in classrooms. It is thought that about 1 in 10 of the population is dyslexic, yet in 2010 the percentage of the primary school population identified with dyslexia was 0.78%, rising to 1.36% last year. Among secondary school children, the rate rose from 1.87% to 5.61% over the same period.
Detection rates also appear to vary wildly between local authorities: last year the percentage of pupils identified as dyslexic at secondary school was 11.9% in East Renfrewshire compared with 1.6% in North Lanarkshire. Magee said identification of dyslexia was higher in secondary schools because of examination and assessment arrangements set out by the Scottish Qualifications Authority.
Dr Beverley Steffert – If affluent areas have more Dyslexia then the Schools in the less affluent areas are misdiagnosing their Dyslexics as stupid/naughty/ etc., and not worth assessing for any Specific Learning Difficulties
Gillian Evans 1 DAY AGO I can’t believe a Professor in Education could write the statement ‘The problem is not only that dyslexia remains controversial — there is no reliable evidence that it exists in any stable form, unlike, for example, autism’. He has chosen not to read a Centuries worth of research on what this neurological condition is and why it affects the brains ability to learn how to read and write. I’m a pushy parent that has had to take my own child out of school and teach them how to read and write because ‘professional Scottish teachers’ have not been trained how to do it. The teaching method has been known for 100 years. Children inScotland are being failed by unethical Professors like Prof Paterson, Prof Tommy MacKay and Prof Sue Ellis who get paid by tax payers money and are incapable of reading scientific papers and provide Education Scotland with the correct advice on how to teach children and their brains how to read and write.
Graham Miller 1 DAY AGO We have 2 kids on the autism spectrum. Both are reasonably good at masking their symptoms but actually suffer intense anxiety and stress that comes out as meltdowns in the family environment. At home we are basically around the clock carers. When our kids first started to struggle at school we begged for additional support and were written off as pushy parents. When our oldest lad (who didn’t have autism) took his own life because he couldn’t cope with what was going on, the school and local authority started offering additional support. Now both kids have a teaching assistant and life is calmer. There are still teachers that think that our two kids are basically fine and that we are just being over protective and pushy, but the kid’s psychologists have seen them when they are having their melt downs and know that the reality of the situation is that many autistic kids will need support to remain in mainstream education. Spreading the myth that special needs are the result of pushy parents ends with families like ours not getting the help we need. It results in kids being driven to self harm and suicide. It is a toxic, life threatening myth and you should allow a decent response to be published prominently. Graham Miller CEO London City Mission
Boudicca – I have a profoundly blind 12 year old grandson. He is very bright, but obviously requires help in accessing lessons. He has a TA who transcribes the work into braille for him etc. etc. We are eternally grateful for this help. I do believe that it should be limited to physical disabilities though.
WhatsUpDoc – Edited I think the right to additional help for children with learning disabilities is being confounded with the important statistic in this article. If, as has been commented below, more wealthy parents have the money for testing, whereas less wealthy parents have undiagnosed children, this points to the possibility that the “one third” statistic is an underestimation. Is it really plausible that over one third of all children have a disability?
Cheery Littlebottom – Dido is right. But it may also be true that student mature at different rates, and that standardised testing enforces expectations on kids that may well be fulfilled at a later time, but which may put them at odds with the system earlier on. This is particularly true of boys. With this in mind, it is usually apparent quite early on when students have problems with dyslexia and other “classically” recognisable problems. Fortunately, there is plenty of advice out there for parents and teachers these days. Just FYI all – 26 years teaching science, qualifications in SEN and a son with a super high IQ but some serious ADD issues – thus, I tend to see this from many angles.
Mrs Gifford – it is shocking to see the needs of dyslexic children still being contested. More affluent parents get help only because the less affluent can’t self fund assessments and help. With help dyslexics can fulfil their potential and utilise their excellent talents. Without help they underachieve and have higher rates of depression suicide prison and unemployment. Literacy for all is 100% achievable and Oxbridge has plenty of talented dyslexics who need laptops and extra time in tests to show what they can really do. Dyslexia’s main problem is reduced processing speed affecting short term memory necessitating repeated exposure to learning processes and extra time in reading. On the upside it provides skills in spatial and collating skills that give benefits in higher maths, research, novel writing , business strategy and creativity. What a mistake to fail these children. I am a dyslexic teacher of many years a dyslexic who is a published author and my dyslexic children are in research and creative jobs.
Dido 2 DAYS AGO If a child is diagnosed with dyslexia, that child is entitled to support. Parents are not being ‘ pushy’ in seeking the best for their child, as it is their statutory entitlement. Perhaps the answer is to provide the necessary advocacy to enable less confident parents to seek to ensure that their child’s special needs are identified and provided for. This is provision which is being squeezed due to a lack of funding in local authorities, something that also sees disruptive and challenging children being taught in mainstream classes without learning or behavioural assistance, and a failure to ensure adequate help for children who require CAMHS intervention. It’s probably churlish to suggest that this, rather than indyref2 , should be one of the priorities for a country which values its children and their future ( allegedly) And dyslexia can be diagnosed later, even at university stage, and it’s a complex condition with various forms. Ultimately, however, it is one of many disabilities which children and young people require help with to achieve their potential.