It is Dyslexia Awareness Week in the UK and so I thought I would be a little indulgent this week and write about one of the biggest bug bears that I have with our education system. Why do our dyslexic children receive their dyslexia interventions from the unqualified teachers ie the teaching assistants working in our schools?
I can already hear the howls of protest from those of you working as teaching assistants, about the amazing work that you do in the schools, and I would not disagree with you. This article is not about bashing the efforts of teaching assistants, but rather question why you are being given the job to improve the literacy and numeracy skills of our struggling dyslexic children.
The profile of a dyslexic child.
Dyslexic children are typically bright and intelligent children for whom some of the skills we class as 'basic' can be a real struggle. They tend to be extremely good at some things ( like creating original content, understanding concepts, seeing unique connections ) and terrible at others ( spelling, full stops...). They do extremely well when they receive instruction which tackles the reasons why they aren't reading, spelling or writing well. They do extremely well when they receive this tuition from someone who is well qualified in understanding dyslexia.
Who is 'well qualified' in dyslexia?
I work as a dyslexia specialist and because I always knew that I wanted to go down this route, I made sure that at every step I took any modules on dyslexia that I could. Therefore, even for my teaching qualification, I took several modules looking at dyslexia. These were not compulsory meaning that not every teacher is compelled to take them.
After my degree and teaching qualification, I took a masters level qualification ( which is at Level 7 for those of you who know about qualification levels - GCSE's are at Level 2, A levels are level 3 and so on). This was approved by the British Dyslexia Association and focussed on Literacy Difficulties. Since then, I have been working with many dyslexic students, I constantly research to make sure I am teaching them as well as I possibly can and keep myself up to date with advances in neuroscience and our understanding of dyslexia.
There should be teachers available to a school who have good levels of qualifications in dyslexia so that our children receive the best education they can.
How qualified are teaching assistants?
Whenever a school advertises for a teaching assistant, they specify that they must have GCSE maths and English. That is it. They may go on a course to teach them about dyslexia which typically will last a day. I am sure, that some do go on to obtain qualifications in dyslexia, but they have not spent any time being taught about how students learn or any teaching theory at all.
How qualified are the teachers?
The teachers, at least, will all have a degree and hopefully a teaching qualification. This means that they have shown they are able to study at a high level which requires critical thinking skills ( something that you are not taught to do at GCSE). A teaching qualification means they have undertaken study which teaches them how students learn and shows them best practice in teaching. If, like me, they have a particular interest in dyslexia, then they will have followed modules in this area.
I am not suggesting that all teachers can be dyslexia specialists, but they at least have the teaching foundations in place which is a better place to be starting from.
So, please can someone tell me why:
- our dyslexic children who really struggle receive help from the least qualified teaching practitioner in the room?
- our dyslexic children don't receive their interventions from the highest trained teacher, who is the most likely to understand how to remedy the skills deficit they are experiencing yet also has the critical thinking skills to realise that your child is incredibly bright and needs stretching intellectually?
Our teaching assistants do an incredible job but I don't believe they should be put into a position which they are not trained to do.
Our dyslexic children need to be taught by the most qualified people in the school- the qualified teachers and the SENCo - who should at least have qualifications in dyslexia. The teaching assistants can then help those children 'who get it' whilst our dyslexic students receive help from the most skilled practitioner in the classroom. I have worked in education for around 15 years and I've always felt that this system is 'back to front', in fact, I was totally shocked when I realised how the system was set up.
So, I just wanted to make you all aware of what I feel is wrong in our education system for our dyslexic children during this dyslexia awareness week. I am sure you all have your own particular ' bug bear' which I would love to hear about too.
Do you think your child is receiving the right intervention at school? Read more about this issue here.
Are you concerned about the subjects your child is missing out on to receive their intervention? Read more about this here.
If your child is dyslexic and you would like to receive tips and ideas on how to help them, please join my free Facebook group here.