I have spoken with representatives from both Enquire and the ASN Division of the Scottish Government Both are very clear that their role is not to give advice to parents on specific supports but to provide information about the Additional Support for Learning Act 2004. They were apologetic.
They defend themselves by saying that any specific enquiry is always greeted by a recommendation to parents that they contact their school.
The advert that appeared last week was written by the Government’s marketing department with reference to the Code of Practice which was agreed after consultation with professionals across Scotland. Here is Chapter 2, paragraph 13:
13. Examples of additional support provided from within education services to children and young people are the following:
- a support for learning assistant supporting a child with an autistic spectrum disorder in a nursery
- class teacher helping a child by following a behaviour management programme drawn up in consultation with a behaviour support teacher
- tutorial support from a support for learning teacher to help with a reading difficulty
- use of communication symbols by a child with autism
- designated support staff working with Gypsy/Traveller children on their site to help them improve their literacy and numeracy skills
- in-class support provided by an English as Additional Language ( EAL) teacher for a child whose first language is not English
- a more able child at the later stages of primary school receiving support to access the secondary mathematics curriculum
- use of voice recognition software by a child with dyslexia.
Yes, the contentious software is mentioned right at the very end. I am most curious to know which professionals working in the field of dyslexia in Scotland felt that this was the most commonly used and widely regarded example of good practice. (And, no, I didn’t contribute to the consultation about the draft Code so I must take some responsibility for the erroneous, or at least heavily biased, information being purveyed by the government and Enquire. There’s a lesson there.).
In my rough and ready estimate, about 1% of 15 – 18 year olds may be enabled to express themselves more effectively with voice recognition software; while about, ooh, 90% of learners with literacy difficulties are already benefitting from using WordTalk – a free resource developed in Scotland, available to families at home at no cost and easy to use.
I was given an assurance that in future other more frequently deployed supports will be offered as examples, although the ‘Just Ask’ campaign is now drawing to a close.
While I appreciate the civil servant’s acknowledgement that the use of this example was ill-advised, this does not help us to support those parents who feel that we have let them down by not offering this software as a matter of course. It is natural that parents will want the very best provision for their children; that’s their job. But to set them up for almost inevitable disappointment, and create conflict where none need be, negates the whole notion of partnership and calls into question teachers’ knowledge and understanding of dyslexia and the plethora of provisions we already successfully make.