The thing about hosting in ‘open’ event is that you hear so many different opinions and perspectives. We experienced just that at last week’s “What does being ‘secondary-ready’ look like?” roundtable with our DYT Community. Rethinking and challenging perceptions play a big role in the literacy programme we are currently developing at DYT. In order to improve outcomes for learners with literacy difficulties in an uncertain and changeable world, we need a flexible and reflective approach.

Can we develop a shared language around literacy difficulties?

Let’s consider a learner with literacy difficulties. They may be ‘known’ by multiple staff at school – their teachers, the SENCo, a TA and a sports coach – but the approach each of these professionals take in supporting that learner may vary. The sports coach may only have an understanding of the learner’s performance on the playing field. Meanwhile, their teacher might focus in on their barriers to reading and writing. It is the same learner, but the perception and the greeting they receive is different. Equally, a teacher’s personal experience of literacy difficulties will frame how they perceive information regarding learners with literacy difficulties and could be very different to the teacher who questions whether dyslexia exists. How do we explore these perceptions held by teachers in an open, curious manner? Is it possible to embed a shared language and universal approach for supporting literacy difficulties?

One approach is talking about these perceptions with as wide a range of perspectives as possible. Once we have having constructive conversations with colleagues and start to understand each other’s approaches, we can start collaborating similarly with parents, friends and, most importantly, learners.

Listening to the student’s voice

‘Student voice’ is not a new concept, but a learner’s perception of their difficulties is just as important as the teacher’s. Developing the learner’s understanding of their own difficulties and encouraging them to advocate for themselves throughout their school life is not only empowering, it could reduce the reluctance to engage with the subjects they find difficult.

Our education system has several hurdles, not least during times of transition. These can be scaffolded if we consider the learner from early years through to where they are now. By looking for patterns rather than focusing on milestones, we can anticipate the learner’s needs more easily.

Embracing different perspectives

There is no easy answer for supporting literacy skills and abilities, but we know it is essential. Now is as good a time as any to explore literacy from a different perspective, embrace uncertainty and work collectively on finding moments of success to build on in this messy, beautiful world of education.

If you are passionate about literacy and interested in exploring how to improve outcomes for all learners, consider joining us for our Literacy Leader programme starting in October. Click here to register your interest!

Kelly Challis

Consultant Teacher, DYT

Inspired by working at a special school, Kelly completed a specialist qualification in teaching learners with literacy difficulties. Since then, she has worked in Primary and Secondary mainstream as a teaching assistant, Further Education as a manager, and Higher Education as a specialist one-to-one teacher. She has been a SENDCo in two preparatory schools.