Approaches to identifying reading difficulties in KS1 children in British Primary Schools

It is important o we start with understanding the meaning of literacy from womb to tomb. Literacy encompasses the cognitive, effective, socio-cultural, creative, aesthetics and cultural historical. (Aubrey et al 1981)
Reading difficulties in children would be indentified as dyslexia. Dyslexia is identifiable as development difficulty of language and cognition. In other words, it is now widely accepted that dyslexia exists. Secondly, the long running debate about its existence should give way to building professional expertise in identifying dyslexia and developing effective ways to help learners overcome its effects.
Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling. Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed. Dyslexia occurs across the range of intellectual abilities. It is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, and there are no clear cut-off points.
Co-occurring difficulties may be seen in aspects of language, motor co-ordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organization, but these are not, by themselves, markers of dyslexia. (Aubrey et al 1981) A good indication of the severity and persistence of dyslexic difficulties can be gained by examining how the individual responds or has responded to well founded intervention.
Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties Co-occurring difficulties may be seen in aspects of language, motor co-ordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organization, but these are not, by themselves, markers of dyslexia.
A good indication of the severity and persistence of dyslexic difficulties can be gained by examining how the individual responds or has responded to well founded intervention.
There is a growing body of evidence on the serious short and long-term effects of dyslexia from the start of education into adolescence and beyond. Not surprisingly, young people with dyslexic difficulties generally do not read unless they have to: they are far less likely to read for pleasure or for information than other learners.
Children and adults with dyslexia who responded to the call for evidence said that they often felt deeply humiliated when asked to read. They reported being ridiculed and bullied because of their reading difficulties. Further, because so much depends on being able to “read to learn” the overall educational progress of such children is often seriously hampered with worrying consequences for gaining qualifications and for their life chances. While some develop coping strategies and achieve remarkable success, others with severe literacy difficulties, including dyslexia, often become disaffected and disengage from education.
The British Dyslexia Association has drawn the review’s attention to the relationship between crime and illiteracy. They note the high incidence of illiteracy among the prison population and hope that the findings of this review would lead to a consideration of what might be done to improve matters. Estimates of the prevalence of dyslexia vary according to the definition adopted, the cut-offs used along the spectrum of those with difficulties, and whether data originated from clinical or large population samples. A recent report estimates that dyslexia may significantly affect the literacy attainment of between 4% and 8% of children.
Evidence from twin studies shows that if there is dyslexia in the family, then the probability that a child will have dyslexic difficulties is increased. However, different environmental experiences will influence the impact of genes, the severity of the reading difficulty and the long-term outcomes
Early identification
It is generally agreed that the earlier dyslexic difficulties are identified the better are the chances of putting children on the road to success. However, blanket screening for dyslexia of all children on entry to school is questionable, not least because screening tests for this purpose are as yet unreliable. Brooks, G. (2007) A better way to identify children at risk of literacy difficulties and dyslexia is to closely observe and assess their responses to pre- and early reading activities in comparison to their typically developing peers in the reception year of primary schools, and beyond (see
Chapter 2)
The Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) is the major source of information on children’s developing abilities that is available to Year 1 teachers. The importance of the EYFSP for assembling a reliable picture of children’s language and literacy capabilities is self-evident. Strengthening the EYFS to enable practitioners to signal children’s emerging difficulties with communication, language and literacy should be considered when the EYFS is reviewed in 2010. By that time, too, the highly promising work on Assessment for Learning (AfL) and Assessing
Pupils’ Progress (APP) should be sufficiently advanced to strengthen continuity of assessment practice with that of the EYFSP. In sum, observational assessment in the EYFS, combined with well embedded AfL and APP in schools, will provide a robust approach to assessment through which children’s barriers to literacy and other learning can be signaled early, and teaching can be more carefully tailored to individual needs. (Aubrey et al 1981)
Effective teaching of reading
There are many primary schools where the teaching of reading is well-structured, following the ‘Simple View of Reading’ advocated by the 2006 Review of Early Reading, and the three Waves of Provision promoted by the National Strategies. This now familiar approach to teaching and learning should continue to be honed.
Personalized learning – tailoring teaching and learning to the needs of the individual – is being promoted to schools as a critical driver in helping pupils to make the best possible progress, and achieve the best possible outcomes. Central to personalizing learning is Assessment for Learning (AfL) as a means of tracking how a child is progressing against national and personal targets, and the subsequent use of this data to inform lesson planning and interventions. AfL – and use of Assessing Pupils’ Progress materials – can be the most accurate way of identifying quickly when a child is struggling in particular areas of learning, or is experiencing other underlying problems. DCSF (2008)
The National Strategies are professional development programmes for early years, primary and secondary school teachers, practitioners and managers. They are one of the Government’s principal vehicles for improving the quality of learning and teaching in schools and early years settings and raising standards of attainment. The Strategies at a national and regional level are delivered by Capita Strategic Children’s Services on behalf of the DCSF that provision is of the highest quality for typically developing children and for those who require intervention programmes. The provision for secondary age children with persistent reading difficulties calls for greater attention. Despite differences in school organisation, the same principles embodied in ‘Simple View of Reading’ and the three Waves of Provision for children with literacy difficulties should apply in secondary schools, as they do in primary schools. However, it is well known that the nature of the problems for secondary aged children who have experienced repeated failure with reading often include negative attitudes and disengagement that are much more entrenched than in primary schools. Additional support for those children starting secondary school without secure reading skills is essential if they are to make progress and not fall further behind their peers.
Effective interventions for children with literacy or dyslexic difficulties

Effective interventions ‘personalize learning’ by matching provision to meet children’s individual needs and quicken the pace of learning for those with literacy difficulties, thus narrowing the attainment gap with their typically developing peers. Brooks, G. (2007) There is a well established evidence-base showing that intervention programmes which systematically priorities phonological skills for reading and writing are effective for teaching reading to children with dyslexia. This recognizes that children with dyslexic difficulties particularly benefit from teaching that adheres to the following principles: highly structured, systematic, ‘little and often’, using graphic representation, allowing time for reinforcement and encouraging generalization. Intervention sessions for dyslexia therefore need to have a strong, systematic phonic structure and be sufficiently frequent to secure children’s progress and consolidate learning. Researchers and teachers report that regular daily sessions can be particularly effective. Continuity of learning is also important. Therefore account should be taken of how best to support children who progress well in term time but then do very little reading and regress, for example, during a long holiday break. The review acknowledges that some children with dyslexia may respond very slowly even to the most effective of teaching approaches. These children will require skilled, intensive, one-to-one interventions. The review notes, too, that “success with some children with the most severe literacy problems can be elusive”.
This makes it important for dyslexia guidance to cover such matters as building children’s confidence to counter “learned helplessness” that may stem from repeated failure despite their best efforts to learn to read. It is recommended that the DCSF should commission short courses for teachers on selecting and teaching literacy intervention programmes for use in their schools. It is also recommended that the DCSF should fund a number of teachers to undertake specialist training in teaching children with dyslexia, in order to provide substantially improved access to specialist expertise in all schools and across all local authority areas. Brooks, G. (2007)
The remit requires the review to make recommendations on “how best to take forward the commitment in the Children’s Plan to establish a pilot scheme in which children with dyslexia will receive Reading Recovery support or one-to-one tuition from specialist dyslexia teachers”. For most children in Years 1 and 2 with significant reading difficulties, it would be very difficult to be certain which of them have dyslexia, and which do not. It would therefore not be possible to undertake the pilots proposed in the Children’s Plan with sufficient rigor for any meaningful results to be obtained. The review therefore recommends that these pilots should not go ahead.
It is all too obvious that the effects of dyslexia can be deeply disturbing for children and their parents. Moreover, there is a very real risk that parents’ anxieties will be transmitted to children. Along with the child’s experience of falling behind, this may result
in worsening emotional barriers to reading. All of which means that it is essential for schools to engage parents in a constructive dialogue about how, together, they can help the child overcome the difficulties associated with dyslexia. One of the ways in which the DCSF is seeking to strengthen parental engagement is through the Achievement for All project. This focuses on progress and outcomes for children with SEN and disabilities, and on parental engagement. The project will include children with dyslexia and the learning from the project should inform the implementation of this review’s recommendations on improving information for parents about the provision for, and progress made by, their children.
It is of first importance to build children’s confidence in their capabilities and establish a ‘can do’ attitude to reading. For the child, early identification of dyslexia and well-planned programmes must result in progress no matter how slow, which is met with praise and encouragement from home as well as school.Many children whose confidence in reading is beginning to flourish can benefit greatly from regular reading to a sympathetic and trusted adult listener. Putting in the ‘reading miles’ at this stage can boost their pace and enjoyment of reading considerably. This function is part of the long-standing contribution of the national charity known as Volunteer Reading Help (VRH) which has a network of volunteers who support primary school children with their reading. VRH has been working with some of the most disadvantaged children in the country for 35 years, recently helping over 4,000 primary school-aged children per year, including looked-after children, through a network of 1,500 volunteers operating in over 1,000 primary schools in England. VRH volunteers are vetted, trained to a high standard and are provided with support to help individual children identified by the teacher as requiring one-to-one help. They commit to an academic year therefore providing sustained support. The review is aware of a number of other similar schemes. Clay, M.M. (1979)
It is widely agreed that dyslexia can occur in children irrespective of their general intelligence and abilities. While there may be no ‘cure- all‘ for children with severely dyslexic difficulties, much can be done through skilled teaching to lessen the impact of dyslexia on their educational progress and provide them with effective coping strategies.
To improve teaching, learning and outcomes for children with literacy and dyslexic difficulties:
1. Strengthening teaching and learning
The DCSF should fund a number of teachers to undertake appropriately accredited specialist training in teaching children with dyslexia, in order to provide substantially improved access to specialist expertise in all schools and across all local authority areas. Local authorities should consider with schools how they might form groups which could share the resource of a specialist dyslexia teacher. (Bishop, D. V 2008)
The DCSF should commission short courses for teachers on selecting and teaching literacy intervention programmes. These courses should:cover the definition and characteristics of dyslexia in keeping with this review and the ‘Simple View of Reading’ equip participants with the expertise to select, implement, monitor and evaluate literacy interventions ensure those trained are able to make best use of the published guidance on ‘What Works for children with literacy difficulties?’, and be able to advise other teachers and support staff on delivering high quality interventions link on-line training materials eg the refreshed IDP and the literacy interventions guidance.
The National Strategies should refresh the dyslexia IDP materials in the light of this review. The materials should continue to be promoted for serving and trainee teachers, and other members of the workforce involved with teaching literacy, such as teaching assistants.
The DCSF should ask the BDA to review their accreditation criteria for training courses for specialist dyslexia teachers so that courses cover good practice in Wave 1 teaching of reading and writing, and how a child’s literacy would normally develop if s/he is not experiencing difficulties. Goodman, K. S. (1986)
The DCSF should ask the Training Development Agency for Schools and the initial teacher training sector to build on initiatives for strengthening coverage of special educational needs and disability (including dyslexia) in initial teacher training courses and through continuing professional development. For example, by capitalizing on the Leading Literacy Schools programme so it includes opportunities for trainee teachers to work with experienced teachers who are successfully tackling children’s literacy difficulties.
Local authorities should set out how schools can secure access to sufficient expertise to meet the needs of children with literacy and dyslexic difficulties.

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