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Mandatory pan year group dyslexia testing in schools

(64 Posts)
Kate6490 Tue 25-Nov-14 12:31:58

I'm not comfortable with the fact my child's school is introducing pan year group, mandatory dyslexia testing. I feel that if I felt my child had an issue, or indeed her teacher during primary years who knew her well and had had long experience of her work or progress recommended such action, then a test may be justified but my daughter has only just started at her new secondary school and they are wheeling the whole year group, en masse, through the testing which I feel is going to be expensive for the school in terms of money and time, non specific in that the initiative is going to be a blunderbuss approach at the entire year group ... and outcomes will, in some cases, be, I believe, counter productive. I've heard of instances when other learning disabilities or educational challenges within a class or year group are conveniently labelled 'dyslexia' in order to get the extra TA help or funding that a school requires; that pupils incorrectly or prematurely labelled then have to cope with a the 'stigma' of dyslexia for the rest of their lives (not all employers are equally well informed about dyslexia and they can and do view it as a 'disability' and could adopt a prejudicial approach to job offers as a result), and I'm also concerned, that, in the fullness of time, it might be to her disadvantage if, when asked, she has to say 'yes, I was tested for dyslexia', and then never get the chance to explain that it was a blanket all year group policy and no one was given the chance to 'deselect'. Anyone got any thoughts on this one?

Lonecatwithkitten Tue 25-Nov-14 12:59:39

Primary schools miss dyslexia over and over again sadly. Even with test results that clearly indicate a dyslexic tendency.
There are many of us who have fought tooth and nail for our child to have their dyslexia recognised who would welcome this with open arms.
It won't take long, if your child isn't dyslexic great for you, even better for those that are dyslexic and will get the help they need.

farmerslife Tue 25-Nov-14 13:04:33

Here here lonecat, could not agree more.

Lonecatwithkitten Tue 25-Nov-14 13:04:59

As a dyslexic I would say that there isn't a stigma.

Poisonwoodlife Tue 25-Nov-14 16:00:37

Another dyslexic here, who managed to have a successful career in marketing and to reach Director level in a top 500 company, along with having two Masters degrees. Actually some employers favour those with disabilities/ specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia and autism because they recognise that many of them have strengths that make them especially good in certain roles, the MOD is one. And universities recognise there are strengths as well as weaknesses and generally provide excellent support. www.admin.cam.ac.uk/univ/disability/support/effects/spld.html I have two dyslexic daughters at top universities and they have not experienced any stigma, just the knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses and the strategies and equipment to help them cope, and the support they needed to achieve their potential? I have never been asked by an employer if I was tested for dyslexia and I am pretty sure it would be illegal to do so.

One of my daughters has excellent literacy skills and a photographic memory and even managed to get past the Year 7 testing but she has significant issues with working memory and processing which she was finding her way around because she is bright. I am deeply grateful to her Year 9 teacher for spotting something was holding her back, it wasn't really until she got to university that the intensity of information she had to absorb in her Science course started to cause real problems, which affected her confidence, and she now has a range of support.

Dyslexia is just one of a range of specific learning difficulties that they will be testing for which mean that pupils experience difficulty in a range of areas. It is estimated they affect 10% of the population, regardless of ability. All the best private schools test all their pupils and provide support. Sadly many schools don't provide support and many teachers still cling to a variety of ignorant prejudices about what SpLDs are or even if they exist. Why on earth would you object to a school embracing having positive strategies to get 10% of their students, which may actually include your child, the recognition and support they need?

Poisonwoodlife Tue 25-Nov-14 16:09:52

And Dyslexics are actually overrepresented at the senior levels of management in business and indeed in surprising areas such as amongst academic historians.

Poisonwoodlife Tue 25-Nov-14 16:19:09

Are you sure this is solely Dyslexia testing. At my DDs school they took a range of tests a few weeks into Year 7 to highlight any weaknesses and to establish a benchmark. The tests typically give them a measure of ability alongside measures of attainment. Obviously weaknesses in certain areas of attainment that was falling short of what you would expect for a pupil of that ability would raise alarm bells. The aim being to have objective measures of their own to add to the reports from previous schools and the 11+ results, which would be then used to make sure they were helping each pupil reach their potential.

OneInEight Tue 25-Nov-14 16:27:23

What a great initiative. Far too many children struggle through school because teachers do not identify that they have dyslexia leading to poor exam performance, low self esteem and even mental health issues. It's not about giving them a label but sign-posting them to appropriate help.

dalekanium Tue 25-Nov-14 16:30:06

As a dyslexic with a postgraduate education who got to age 40 before FINALLY getting a diagnosis...

I'd love to see routine whole year testing in schools, for all of us who present atypically.

Lonecatwithkitten Tue 25-Nov-14 16:36:33

I would agree with poison two degrees from Russell group Unis, running my own successful business just started my MBA.
Dyslexics are great lateral thinkers and problem solvers definite advantage in certain professions.

RabbitOfNegativeEuphoria Tue 25-Nov-14 19:03:13

I think it sounds great. I have a dyslexic DS (and a dyslexic DH) and two dyspraxic DDs (and am dyspraxic myself). SpLDs are not well understood and not well catered for in many schools.

Incidentally, DS was an academic at an RG university, and has a BEd, BA and MSc; I have an MA (from Cambridge) and am a director of an international professional services firm; both the DDs are at a superselective Grammar School. There should be no stigma attached to having a SpLD - people with SpLDs can and do achieve extremely highly.

gardenfeature Tue 25-Nov-14 19:24:16

I would be interested to know exactly what the tests will consist of. I know secondary schools doing reading and spelling tests but these won't pick up bright "moderate" dyslexics.

TheLeftovermonster Tue 25-Nov-14 19:59:23

Usually it is the other way round - kids are under- rather than over-tested, and labels are used very sparingly. Not much help available, unless the child is struggling, and the help offered is not specialised enough. So I very much doubt the school is going to start sticking labels all over the place. No harm in testing, it can only be a good thing. Even if not dyslexic, it may tell you things you didn't know about your child's learning.

starving Tue 25-Nov-14 21:40:58

Another one in favour of it here. My dd went through primary and secondary school without being tested. At times she struggled with certain aspects of the curriculum which in hindsight should have sent my alarm bells ringing. But I was ignorant and put her difficulties down to laziness (which she is at times!) and not studying enough. She did however secure a place at uni and has recently been diagnosed as dyslexic. How did I not know. How did her teachers not notice.

IDK Tue 25-Nov-14 21:58:55

Testing the whole year group sounds sensible because then there is no singling out of specific pupils. As the parent of a DS whose dopey school didn't recognise that he had problems until Year 13 I would have welcomed this proactive initiative with open arms.
Why do you think that there is a stigma attached to this? The idea is not to hang a label round their neck but to do something and actually provide support. I doubt that DS would have got the grades to get to his University without his diagnosis.

Kate6490 Wed 26-Nov-14 11:40:24

Thank you for all the responses. To those of you who have encountered dyslexia, and surmounted challenges it may have presented to reach the pinnacles of your successful careers, fantastic! I'm really glad it worked out for you and I do not argue that dyslexia has no correlation with impaired ability. However, as the engaged parent of an 11 year old, I feel I need to have input to the battery of testing that my daughter is subject to. I would also like to be consulted about whether, or not, I feel it is in her best interest to participate or otherwise. I see no benefit in this for my child; she may well have other challenges ahead of her which I would want to pursue, and hope the facilities will be available to answer these if I need to seek out help or specialist advice, but dyslexia is not among them; that said, I applaud any initiative that a school puts in place to serve the needs of those who would like dyslexia testing, or who request assistance or input .. but I argue the point that it should not be made mandatory for all.

Sadly my experience with employers has not always been as others have described. I too am well aware that industry leaders, CEOs, those with particular gifts in creativity, people handling, initiative and innovation etc are also, sometimes dyslexic, hardly surprising given that dyslexics comprise 10% of our population ...but not all employers in my experience see dyslexia as either a positive indication of ability or even that a dyslexic should be judged on an equal playing field; it is a sad fact that dyslexia is still often seen as a disability .. regrettable but true, which is why, if help is needed, it should be available to all who want it, and to the very best of our ability to provide it, but that does not mean testing the population as a blanket policy. Resources are in short enough supply as it is in state education; surely better use could be made of money, time and facility than to blunderbuss the entire year group. I, for one, would much rather have some extra maths tuition for my daughter, or possibly access to a little more drama .... if resources are on offer to allow this to happen, on request.

Reference the point about private schools testing all students .. this is not the case. My elder daughters both went to excellent, private boarding schools (and both left within the last 2 years) but neither, ever were tested for dyslexia as a mandatory requirement, although dyslexia testing was available to anyone who wanted it or any parent who felt it might be useful. My daughters didn't need it, and achieved excellent results anyway, but I was very glad that it was there for those who did feel it of value, just as I was glad that I could opt in or opt out from other sorts of testing, extra help or extra tuition if I felt it was required. It is the mandatory nature of the state testing that I resist. Why not offer it to those who want it and allow those who do not to deselect?

Also reference the point about Yr7 tests that happen in the first 6 weeks of entry to secondary education .. I think these are CAT tests (cognitive ability tests) which are designed to indicate where ability or lack of it tends to centre in any one particular child; so one child might show potential in linguistics, another in mathematics .. different children process information in different ways and this gives educators a measure of expectation for each child in each area of their ability set. I support this sort of testing completely since it is a useful indicator as to where strengths and weaknesses locate .. but mandatory dyslexia testing when I know that my daughter (all of them) have no need of it ... that to me just seems like the nanny state going into overdrive and squandering resources that could be better used elsewhere.

nobutreally Wed 26-Nov-14 11:49:36

Another one who thinks this sounds amazing! I am struggling to see why you feel this is a problem - if your dd doesn't need any additional help in this area, all well and good. But it won't do her any harm at all - and may help her best mate, who has hidden symptoms that have never been spotted/put together in school.

In my experience, getting extra TA support or funding is a HUGE battle and only available to those with serious issues - so yes, the school may identify a couple who fall into this category, but it feels much more likely that this is the school attempting to support their pupils by understanding them, and their learning strengths and weaknesses better. I think the advantages here far outweigh the risks that in the future your dd may be asked if she completed a test, and has to reply 'Yes, but it was a blanket school exercise'

Poisonwoodlife Wed 26-Nov-14 12:24:29

kate I would ask about what this testing is. The full testing for Dyslexia takes three hours and requires a one to one with a qualified practitioner, for the initial diagnosis this is ideally an Educational Psychologist. There are tests of ability via Verbal and Non verbal reasoning and various tests of working memory and processing and of attainment in literacy skills and speed of writing. It is one to one because the practitioner has to view the pupil as they tackle these challenges, the level of effort, and anxiety. I agree if they were subjecting all pupils to this it would be overkill.

The tests used by the best (I am fully aware that some private schools, like some state schools, are still not using best practice) private schools in Year 7 (and as well as reassuring myself strategies were in place for my daughters at the best London day schools, and it was at one of the most academic that my DDs problems were uncovered in Year 9, I have acted as Guardian to girls at Boarding School and know it happens at Wycombe Abbey, Cheltenham Ladies College as well as Westminster, King's Wimbledon, etc) are tests for the whole cohort of ability via VR and NVR and attainment in literacy etc. as you say it gives them a marker where strengths lie but also if attainment is not matching ability it also flags up the need for action. This may be due to a specific learning difficulty and the need for further testing or it may be due to some other factor but either way any good school would then be putting appropriate measures in place. I am pretty sure this is what the school will be doing.

You seem to have pretty entrenched prejudices views about Dyslexia but just let me say that even though a dyslexic myself it never occurred to me that my daughter was affected, memory like an elephant, always top of the class in everything, her prep school Head's dream. In fact it turns out she was doing this in spite of working memory and processing problems and had developed strategies that carried her through to A2 when she started to encounter difficulties, the effect on her confidence was profound, but with support she is back to being able to cope. I know that at my DDs very selective academic London day school the staff constantly encountered this attitude in parents who would not even consider their bright child had an issue and were concerned about "labels" and "stigma", and felt very frustrated that these " engaged" parents were preventing them doing the best for their daughters. I can only say talk to the school if you have concerns, have an open mind and listen and gain a proper understanding of the strategy.

As far as employment is concerned though Dyslexia is covered by the equality act and so no employer can legally discriminate most Dyslexics will self select the roles they move into anyway, motivation follows strengths. I cannot imagine many seeking work that involved editing or attention to detail. But there are plenty of non dyslexics who wouldn't have the qualities for those jobs either. My overwhelming experience is that Dyslexics for whom school used almost invariably to be a completely miserable experience even if they managed to get qualifications, have gone on in the world of work to achieve according to their ability. I remember the joy of discovering that at last my creative and problem solving qualities were not just being fully used but also appreciated. The world is changing now and I am glad your school is doing it's bit.

Purplepumpkins Wed 26-Nov-14 15:43:19

I have dyslexia and it's never affected me finding a job and I'm a nanny. What I would say is at school I struggled because the teacher didn't care nor likw me. It was only when my parents decided I needed better and sent me to private school did I get tested for dyslexia and suddenly it was a lot easier.

I think all schools should test for dyslexia.

Purplepumpkins Wed 26-Nov-14 15:47:02

Also I'm actually numerically dyslexic. I look after babies and I can read and love to read with confidence. Dyslexia is not a disability its a barrier in the brain which once you learn certain learning tools it's really easy to hide.

Purplepumpkins Wed 26-Nov-14 15:53:36

Oh sorry one other thing i think its quite prejudice the way you feel she will have to explain having been tested like its a disease or something. I'm very proud of my brain it just jumbles things up a bit.

ClaimedByMe Wed 26-Nov-14 15:54:54

As someone who is just starting to fight for a diagnosis for my dd I think it is a fab idea and should be done!

wheresthebeach Wed 26-Nov-14 18:21:55

It needs to be school wide because of attitudes like yours I'm afraid. There will be other parents who won't want their kids tested, and who need it. They are resistant because they want to stick their heads in the sand. School wide means that the school doesn't have to argue with parents about whether its needed.
This will flag stuff up for kids who need help. Everyone else will just have a bit of time doing a test they find straightforward. Hardly the end of the world. They don't ask your permission for other tests do they? Why should they get your input for this?
If every school did this lots of kids would be caught earlier and helped.

gardenfeature Thu 27-Nov-14 06:31:54

My concern is that it won't be a thorough (3 hour) dyslexia test and bright dyslexic students will fall through the net. Unless these students are given thorough testing, they are likely to fall into average ranges if they have moderate dyslexia. The students mentioned above who were diagnosed with dyslexia later in their school are the very students who are likely to be missed because they have learned coping mechanisms and may be working within average levels. In this respect, the testing could cause more harm than good because they will be told they don't have dyslexia. Realistically, I imagine that when testing is done, they are only going to offer additional support to students who are 2 years behind, rather than support the bright dyslexic (thought of as lazy) who is forecast Grade Cs rather than the Grade As they are capable of.

Would like to be wrong on this though.

bruffin Thu 27-Nov-14 09:09:12

The only people i know who have had problems with being dyslexic in the work place are those who suffer with the consequences of not being diagnosed at school. Dh was not diagnosed at school, didn't learn to read until he was 10. He was bullied for being thick and not allowed to do computers (back in the 70s) because he was thick. Left him with low esteem and anxiety and stress problems. He is now a professional engineer through hard work My ds has similar problems but the difference between the way the school has treated him and how dh was treated couldn't be more different. School recognize his intelligence and he has thrived. He hasn't reached his potential but he will get there. He has had to retake part of his A2s.
One of my colleagues is clearly undiagnosed but his problems are not that he struggles with the work, its the self esteem issues and he once described how he was caned for an essay he had poorly written, nowadays that would not have happened.

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