Literacy reports and campaigns have ignored the 1.2 million children with Special Educational Needs

News - 24 Mar 2017

A report out today from Driver Youth Trust (DYT), a national literacy charity, says that children with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND), are being neglected by those who influence literacy policy and practice.

A review of 21 influential reports on achieving higher levels of literacy shows that leading think tanks and charities have ignored these pupils, the majority of whom are educated in mainstream schools. Driver Youth Trust calls for these organisations and for governmental bodies to urgently address the gaps and include SEND children in policy development.

Through the Looking Glass warns that the lack of focus on the specialist needs of children with SEND, including those with dyslexia, will mean that Britain will never be able to fully address its “literacy problem.” 1 in 5 children leave primary school without the expected levels of literacy.  The research comes as funding changes are set to mean an average cut of £74,000 per primary school and £291,000 per secondary school in real terms, which is likely to put pressure on specialist provision and marginalise those who struggle with literacy even further.

The report calls for governments, think tanks and charities to urgently make these “invisible” children part of their agenda, in the same way as disadvantaged children on Pupil Premium are.

Charities and influencers need to:

Acknowledge these children exist – When these reports talk about universal provision for all children they actually mean those children who can catch up.  They either ignore those with SEND or address them as if they are in special schools or are only the concern of specialist staff whereas in reality 9 out of 10 children with SEND are sitting in classrooms in mainstream schools.

Put the right resources in the right place – the requirements of all children are not all equal. Some children do need more expensive and specialist resource than others. There are examples of good practice in the system and it is about having trained teachers and specialists working together through a whole school approach.

Accept – there are those who will never catch-up but can still experience success and they should be judged by what they know and how they can apply this rather than how well they can read and write

Author of the report and Director of DYT Christopher Rossiter, said:

“In the Looking Glass world we see oversimplified messages that suggest all children can learn to read if they just receive a good quality education, are read to by their parents, and develop a love for reading.

“Yet the evidence is clear –some children continue to fail to learn to read, write and spell to the expected standard. These children go on to be the six million adults in the UK who are functionally illiterate which means they can’t read a tin of baked beans or the instructions on a packet of pills.

“Business as usual is not an option. These children need to be part of the agenda.  We need policies and research that leads the way for children who face the greatest disadvantage; that is being ignored”.

Sarah Driver, Chair and Founder of the Driver Youth Trust, said:

DYT has consistently been concerned with addressing the needs of those who find literacy difficult, many of whom will be dyslexic. 

“We urgently need to ensure that SEND children are part of policy development. In our new report, Through the Looking Glass, we hope that SEND learners will be central to future reports on literacy that inform the education agenda.”

You can read the full report here

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