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Supporting literacy difficulties, including where there are dyslexia concerns

All children and young people in Essex should:-

  • have high quality literacy teaching;
  • have their individual needs identified and met early on, if they have literacy difficulties despite appropriate learning opportunities;
  • get the help they need to make progress in literacy.

Some children learn to read and write easily. Others take longer and may need extra help. 

The Essex approach to literacy difficulties is about up-to-date scientific research and about equal opportunities for all children to get the help they need. It is in line with what lots of other Local Authorities are doing across the country.

If you have concerns about your child’s literacy skills (reading, spelling, writing), this 2 page leaflet explains how to find out more and what can be done to help. It has been co-created by Essex parents and Local Authority SEND professionals (Special Educational Needs and Disability teams).

Information for parents: The Essex approach to teaching pupils with literacy difficulties

To learn more about the Essex approach to teaching pupils with literacy difficulties, including where there are questions about dyslexia.  This information has been co-created by Essex parents and Local Authority SEND professionals (Special Educational Needs and Disability teams).

 More FAQs about Literacy Difficulties

I have concerns that my child may have literacy difficulties, what can I do?

If you are worried about your child’s progress then always speak to your child’s school. You may wish to make an appointment to see the class teacher or the school SENCo (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator). They may be able to reassure you that adequate progress is being made, or they may share your concerns.    You can read our Parents Guide to help you think about questions to ask the school on how they measure skills and progress. 

If you feel you would like support to talk to the school staff, you can always take along a friend or talk to someone from Essex SENDIASS to help you prepare for your meeting.  You can look at our pre-email meeting template to help you to follow this up – you will need to adjust this according to your meeting request. It can be useful, ahead of any discussion with school, to try to find out from your child what is going well/not so well, and to bring your own notes of what you have noticed such as, processing of information/confusion, difficulty with structured written work, reading with fluency.

We have also created meeting planning and preparation notes to help you to think about what you wish to discuss and the information you would like to be brought to the meeting, such as confirmation of your child’s levels of attainment, SENCo’s school based assessments of needs and any other teacher findings to be shared.  The school based assessment data ensures that the full range of needs are identified and will determine if interventions are needed, alongside any other information.

Teachers in school will have experience of supporting children with reading and writing difficulties. They can help think about what changes may be needed in the classroom to make it easier for these children to learn.

What can the school do to support my child?

Teachers regularly assess a child’s progress to help them plan new work. If they are concerned about a child’s progress the teacher will look at how they can adapt their teaching to help the child learn. High quality teaching targeted at a child’s area of weakness is the first response if a child is identified as making less than expected progress for their age. This may include making small changes to the way the lesson is taught, the materials that are used, or the support given to a child during normal teaching. These are reasonable adjustments to increase a child’s access to the curriculum. These strategies will be identified on the school’s website in their SEN Information Report, and in their SEN policy.

A small number of children need additional support. This involves a more detailed and structured teaching approach or further changes to the teaching methods to allow them to be included in lessons.  If your child’s difficulties are such that they are placed on SEN Support, the school will follow the 'Assess, Plan, Do, Review' process and set up an individual learning plan. You, and your child, will be involved in this

Schools can also contact their local Educational Psychologist or Inclusion Partner which may lead to training or advice on provision for a specific need, or further involvement. 

One Planning and the Graduated Approach (assess, plan, do & review)

What help do schools get?

To help all children to develop their literacy, Essex Local Authority provides a wide range of resources and support to schools which includes the following – at no cost to the school:

  • Resources on high quality literacy teaching.
  • Termly training on literacy and literacy difficulties (a 9 hour, 3 part course) so they can ensure that effective assessment and evidence-based intervention systems are in place for all children
  • Assessment resources.
  • Training on specific evidence-based interventions to meet certain needs.
  • Access to Inclusion Partner and Educational Psychologist involvement.
I have been told my child needs a private dyslexia assessment, can you advise me?

It should not be necessary for parents to seek private dyslexia assessments since teachers are expected to have a good understanding of persistent literacy difficulties and SEN Co-ordinators (SENCos) are trained to carry out evidence-based assessments to identify areas of literacy that need to be addressed and to consider provision to be put in place.

If your child’s school suggests that a private dyslexia assessment is needed, you can ask them if staff have attended the (free) Local Authority course for schools on Literacy and Literacy Difficulties. This course trains schools on how carry out appropriate assessments and put support in place.

Private dyslexia assessments can be costly and so we would encourage parents to speak to the SEN co-ordinator before you make this decision. 

If concerns for a child’s literacy level and progress continue despite a rigorous graduated response using the Assess, Plan & Do, Review approach then it may be suggested that an Education, Health & Care Needs Assessment is requested.

 

How can I request extra help for my child in exams?

Some students with Special Educational Needs and/or a disability may qualify for adjustments with exams, these are known as ‘access arrangements‘ and you can read the full regulations and guidance that settings must consider on the JCQ (Joint Council for Qualifications) website (for SATS this will be with the Standards Testing Agency

If you believe your child may qualify talk to school, this will usually be with the SENCO or the examinations lead. Consider whether you have any school, specialist or medical reports that might help to evidence any adjustments.

When applying for access arrangements (e.g. extra time, a reader, a scribe), the school needs to demonstrate evidence of the 'learning difficulty' outlined in assessment completed by a qualified assessor. The focus of evidence is on test scores meeting the threshold for specialist arrangements rather than any diagnoses. Schools also need to demonstrate that there is a history of need, including evidence of the support provided and evidence of persistent difficulty over time.

'The purpose of an access arrangement/reasonable adjustment is to ensure, where possible, that barriers to assessment are removed for a disabled candidate preventing him/her from being placed at a substantial disadvantage due to persistent and significant difficulties'.  4.21 of the JCQ Access Arrangements 2023 to 2024

  • Not all children with SEND will qualify. Decisions are based on the need/s of the child and their normal way of working.
  • Access arrangements should be considered at the start of a course.
  • Settings can decide on some adjustments, such as supervised rest breaks, and for other types, such as extra time, they must make an application by the published deadline.
  • Settings must evidence there is a need for the adjustment, and that this is the normal way of working for the child
  • Decisions should be on a subject-by-subject basis, there are some examples in the JCQ guidance.

Assessing pupils with learning difficulties

Sometimes the assessor is someone within setting, or it could be an outsourced independent assessor. The JCQ guidance explains the requirements of this role further.

All assessors must:

  • have a thorough understanding of the current edition of the JCQ publication Access Arrangements and Reasonable Adjustments and the principles, procedures and accountabilities involved;
  • be familiar with the  Equality Act 2010 (although it is not their role to determine what is a “reasonable adjustment”, but rather to help identify access arrangements that might assist the candidate);
  • hold an appropriate qualification to teach and make recommendations for secondary aged or adult learners who have learning difficulties.’

(7.3.4 of the JCQ Access Arrangements 2023 to 2024

Also in this section:

SEN Support in Education Settings

Explaining what SEN support is, the different types of support, and what support is available to you and your child or young person.

One Planning and the Graduated Approach

Information on the graduated approach of assess, plan, do and review for all mainstream settings, including Early Years and education beyond 16

Supporting Maths Difficulties

The Essex approach to teaching pupils with maths difficulties

Supporting Challenging Behaviour

Supporting challenging behaviour at school and at home

Local Authority services and how they can help

A description of Essex local authority services and professionals and when it is appropriate to involve a professional

Supporting your Neurodiverse Child

A resource pack produced by the Essex Family Forum