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