SEND opinions: one size does not fit all

Dr Neville Brown defends the cost of private provision for dyslexic students at his school, Evan Bayton calls for better support in mainstream education, and Ian King writes about suffering from dyscalculia

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on The Guardian

Dr Neville Brown
Principal, Maple Hayes Hall school, Lichfield

Prof Simon Gibbs is wrong to suggest that Maple Hayes is hijacking resources unnecessarily and unscrupulously from local authorities (Difficulties with reading have no magic solution, Letters, 22 September). It is a pity that a very important published statement from Staffordshire LA to Walsall LA was edited out of my previous letter (20 September) – I will quote it again.

In a recent case statement, Walsall LA wrote that the Staffordshire SEN commissioner had shared the following information. “As independent schools go, the fees are quite modest and therefore there may not be a significant difference between the cost of provision in a local mainstream school and the cost of provision at Maple Hayes. This can make it difficult for us to win tribunals.”

In vilifying Maple Hayes, Prof Gibbs has chosen the one school that uniquely provides the opposite of what the dyslexia establishment says about dyslexia. Maple Hayes does not resign pupils with Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans to the ministrations of generic teaching assistants, does not use phonics or multisensory methods, achieves outstanding GCSE accreditation for all its pupils, and ‘outstanding’ recognition from Ofsted – all more cheaply and efficiently than can any local authority, all by principles and methodology developed by research that are applicable to the education of all children, and all freely available to those with the ability to develop them.

Evan Bayton
Moore, Cheshire

Prof Simon Gibbs is right about difficulties of learning to read and education. There is a glaring absence of appropriate diagnosis and support for students with conditions like dyslexia, and the ‘one size fits all’ system in most state schools aggravates this. With precision assessment, and the provision of support in ordinary lessons, the majority of students could learn in mainstream education. For example, foreign languages could be taught by speaking from day one, rather than through the emphasis on literacy. If the French Foreign Legion can do it there is no reason why schools can’t.

Ian King
Director of the Nottingham/BBSRC Wheat Research Centre, University of Nottingham

I would like to thank Prof Brian Butterworth for his letter (20 September) publicising dyscalculia. I am a 62-year-old professor in wheat genetics. Although never tested, I suffer from both dyslexia (I couldn’t read properly until I was about 14) and dyscalculia. Copying things down from the board at school was virtually impossible back in the 60s and 70s – the dreaded roller board had already moved on before I had written down a fraction of what was on it. Trying to retain any sequence of numbers or words in my head was impossible. The two worst things as a school child were 1) when I had to read out loud to the class, and 2) always coming last in maths exercises. I reached the stage where I nearly ended up in a kind of special school for people with mental problems and spent most of my time in demountable classrooms with the rest of the underachievers (written off as ‘thickos’).

How I coped is another story but I can testify that my dyscalculia was just as debilitating and distressing as dyslexia. Keep up the fight!

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