Thank you for browsing through my website. I am happy to chat with parents/carers/individuals who are concerned about learning or literacy acquisition. I have decided to create a blog with the aim of covering areas that come up the most in my discussions. Please let me know if there is anything in particular which you would like me to address.
How can I support my child in learning to read and spell? 9/11/20
I speak to many parents who want to support their child who is having difficulties related to reading and/or spelling. The internet is a wealth of information but it can be difficult to be sure that you are reading unbiased, evidence informed information. I highly recommend Stephen Parker's website which contains free pdf books for teachers but also for parents who want to know how we teach people to read and spell. His website can be found at:
It has helped me and I think it is useful to think of learning to read as if you were learning a code - the alphabetic code. As such, you wouldn't give someone who is learning a code - the whole code and then just say 'Get on with it, you'll work it out.' It has to be introduced systematically - i.e. in a structured order and it needs to build with more complex code introduced cumulatively. Our language is made up of 44 different sounds and these are represented on the page by letters and letter groups. English has its quirks but it is 90% phonetic and so although it may take time, the vast majority of people can learn to read and spell if they are taught properly. In this country, the Phonics Screening Check was introduced for all students in year one. The aim was to catch early those who may go on to have problems with reading. The student has to read 40 words - 20 real words and 20 nonwords to see if they have mastered the basics of decoding. The threshold is normally 32 and if they don't meet this then intervention should be put in place as they have to sit it again in year 2 if they haven't met the threshold. You can see more of what is involved on the government's website here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/phonics-screening-check-2019-materials
It's important to remember - there is no special dyslexia cure or programme that is different for those with dyslexia or those without it - some children will need more and often. The earlier support is given the better.
There are a few other things that you can do if you are worried about your child:
1) Have a chat with the class teacher and the SENCo (the teacher who organises support for those with additional needs) and see what their perspective is.
2) Ask if you can support at home. Find out what is being worked on and what you can do. If you don't feel that confident, have a look at Stephen Parker's website mentioned above. https://www.parkerphonics.com/
3) Try using Teach Your Monster to Read - it's free on a pc and is bright and colourful. https://www.teachyourmonstertoread.com/
4) There's also Toe by Toe which can be a bit 'dry' but can make some difference to some learners. It's a programme in a book - little and often is best. You can get cheap copies on eBay. https://www.tts-group.co.uk/toe-by-toe-reading-manual-for-teachers-and-parents/1004781.html?gclid=Cj...
5) Make or buy (Read Write Inc produce them too) flashcards with the basic and advanced code on. https://smile.amazon.co.uk/s?k=read+write+inc+flashcards&_encoding=UTF8&adgrpid=58733005092&...
6) Have a look at alphabet code charts from Debbie Hepplewhite. She has made charts which group sounds together and show how different graphemes (letter groups) represent the sounds. I think the problem with learning to read can be that it seems to go on and on, at least with these charts you get a visual representation and you can see that the code is finite - there is an end to it. https://alphabeticcodecharts.com/
7) Ask your child's teacher to limit the amount of spellings given if they are becoming inundated and make sure they cover similar word families - not a random collection of different words with many different aspects of the alphabetic code; e.g. chain, plain, explain, drain, grain. These could then be loaded onto an iPad on the Squeebles app https://keystagefun.co.uk/ or on Word Shark (a reading and spelling programme now available online - although you may be able to buy second hand on eBay). https://www.wordshark.co.uk/
8) Ask for some sort of plan - called different things in different schools, but it is basically a plan with what they are working on (it needs to be specific) and it should be reviewed regularly. This should be shared with you so you can help at home.
Exam access arrangements (EAA) 10/11/20
Some students with specific difficulties can be allowed concessions in exams. These can range from extra time (usually 25% but can be 50%), a scribe, rest breaks, a reader, use of a computer. The full details are published every autumn by the JCQ who oversee the rules and application of these rules. For key stage two SATs (year 6) this is currently administered via school with an application online. So if you feel this relates to your child, it would be worth checking to see if school will be applying - the cut off date is normally in March so this is worth bringing up as soon as possible.
For students at secondary school, an application for EAA can only be made for GCSEs up to 26 months prior to the exam. So this can be completed from year nine - some schools may leave it later than this. Again, it is worth talking to the SENCo (teacher in charge of provision for students with additional needs) to see whether your child is on their 'radar' and when they are going to assess. It is important to note that you can't go to an external assessor, get a diagnostic report and then go to the school and ask them to use this as evidence for their EAA application. There has to be a working relationship with the assessor and the school prior to any testing. Again, if you think your child should have EAA, they don't need a diagnosis for this, then don't leave it too late. Any arrangement; e.g., extra time, needs to be their normal way of working and will need to be practised in order for them to get used to it and benefit from it as much as possible.
I hope this makes sense, but get in touch if you need more info.
The Phonics Screening Check (PSC) 30/11/20
I was talking to my sister the other day; she works in a school and we were discussing the amount of acronyms (when letters stand for words) people use within education and how confusing it must be if you're not used to them. Anyway, that brings me on to the PSC! Otherwise known as the Phonics Screening Check that was introduced in 2012 for year one students. It is a short test delivered in schools to see how each child is getting on with their skills in decoding - can they work out how to pronounce the words? There are forty words; half of them are real words and the other half are nonsense words. The use of nonsense words has caused some people to question the reasoning for their usage. They are extremely useful as the child won't have come across them before and means you get a better understanding of what they can and can't do - they won't have been able to memorise them. The whole thing takes 5-10 minutes. The threshold they need to get (sort of like a pass mark) tends to be set at thirty two. Those who don't reach it should then be given extra sessions to boost these skills ready to be tested again in year two. So if you are concerned about your child's reading skills:
1) Ask how they got on in the year one phonics screening check.
2) If they didn't reach the score of thirty two, ask what intervention has been put in place (or will be put in place - depending on the timing)
3) Since having the intervention - how have they got on? What stage are they on now?
4) Ask how you can help at home.
There is one teacher in every school called a SENCo (sometimes called SENDCo) and their responsibility is to manage the support given to those children with additional needs. It would be worth chatting to them if you have concerns. Please have a look at the following link to see some examples of the PSC:
It shouldn't be a scary process - but it can spot those who are struggling and the earlier support is given the better the chances of overcoming difficulties are.
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