The BDA Dyslexia Friendly Schools Pack for Teachers (2009) provides an overall guide of what dyslexia is and how a dyslexia friendly school should be delivering education to the dyslexic learner. The writers begin with a definition of dyslexia stating that “dyslexia is a learning difference, a combination of strengths and weaknesses”. This is an informative definition as opposed to the recommendation of Norwich et al (2005) that exemplary schools should promote an inclusive school system whereby dyslexia is considered but not in isolation. The BDA (2009) state that importance ought to be placed on acknowledging dyslexia as “ a specific learning difficulty” as a specific learning difference” so that teaching is inclusive and focuses on all learners rather than just the dyslexic learner who may already feel something is wrong with them. However, I stress that this general definition is simplistic and I agree with Reid that there should be a working/operational definition. Reid’s definition of dyslexia is more informative:
There may be visual and phonological difficulties and there is usually some discrepancy in performances in different areas of learning. It is important that the individual differences and learning styles are acknowledged since these will affect outcomes of assessment and learning. (p. 4-5, Reid, 2003).
The BDA (2009) conclude to achieve BDA Quality Mark status, LEAs and their associated schools must encourage and identify outstanding practice in following and improving access to education for all learners. I feel that planning a dyslexia friendly school has the effect of improving the learning of not just the dyslexic learner but other pupils as well. According to Snowling et al (2011), dyslexia is seen to be a “deficit in phonological skills which, in turn, compromises the ability to learn the grapheme–phoneme mappings that underpin competence in an alphabetic system”. Snowling et al’s (2011) research underpins the classic definition of dyslexia that it is a specific reading difficulty whereby literacy under achievement is apparent and falls below the accepted level given the intelligence of the learner. This study is important: it goes beyond recounting dyslexia at the behavioural level (i.e. incorrect spelling and reading) to taking into consideration weaknesses at the cognitive level that explicate the practical problems (Morton & Frith, 1995). Dyslexic learners have deficits in three linked but dissimilar areas of phonological processing: “phonological awareness (the ability to attend to and manipulate sounds in words); phonological memory (memory for speech-based information – also referred to as verbal memory); and naming (providing the spoken label for a visual referent)”. (Vellutino et al., 2004). Consequently, recent definitions of dyslexia have discarded the need for literacy to be appreciably below general aptitude, and have taken a widely accepted view of dyslexia with “phonological processing as a core deficit” (Lyon, Shaywitz & Shaywitz, 2003).
The context in which I am employed is a small mainstream one-form entry Church of England voluntary aided primary school. The school is situated in a deprived inner city area in the London borough of Lewisham where 25% of the 225 children on roll from Nursery through to Year 6 are eligible for Free School Meals. This is significantly higher than 2006 national figures of 16% of all primary school children receiving Free School Meals (FSM). The number of children currently identified as having a Special Educational Need is 47, or 20.8% of the total school population which is slightly higher than 2005 national figures of 18%. The figure of 1.7% is the number of SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) children who have a Statement of Special Educational Need – lower...