Big changes during school, such as moving from primary to secondary or infant to junior, can be daunting for learners and their families, especially when they have additional difficulties such as with literacy. It can often feel like starting all over again, with new teachers and new ways of doing things. DYT CEO, Chris Rossiter, looks at three areas that might help teachers and parents preparing for the new school year.

I recently appeared on a radio show called Literacy and Our Children with parenting experts Kathy Weston and Lydia El Khouri. On the show, I discussed what parents need to know if their child’s school communicates concerns about literacy or Special Educational Needs (SEN).

As a charity that was established by parents, home/school relationships have always been close to our heart. So here are some thoughts of my own which parents and teachers might find useful before the start of term.

Literacy difficulties

As outlined in DYT’s position paper on literacy difficulties, we define literacy difficulties as:

persistent difficulty in reading, writing, speaking and/or listening that may not be responsive to standard education approaches and requires further intervention.

Literacy difficulties are found on a continuum scale of severity; we believe all should be recognised and supported. Our research also shows that at least 49% of all classes have at least one learner with dyslexia.

Research shows that regular communication is associated with parents being more likely to be viewed as partners in their child’s learning and can be especially important at key times such as transition and in relations to potential barriers to learning such as dyslexia. There are top tips both for parents and schools on how to navigate this relationship on our website.

Teacher training

The quality and scope of teacher training can vary considerably, depending on the type of training route and training provider. Teachers are trained through a variety of routes, from universities to ‘on the job’ programmes, that involve relatively little prior development.

Data collected for DYT in 2018 found that less than half of teachers report that they feel confident teaching young people with literacy difficulties and similar trends exist in larger studies that look at teacher confidence levels, such as the workforce survey. As early as 2013 DYT made calls for teacher training to have a greater focus on SEN and literacy difficulties.

Thankfully, there are resources available, both for parents and schools. You can find out more about how DYT supports schools, through our Drive for Literacy programme. The speech and language Charity ICan, also has a wealth of information to support teachers, parents and children, much of which is free.

DYT’s own teacher toolkit will be published in early autumn, so this too will be a great resource for helping pupils in the classroom.

School accountability

Parents of young people with SEN, should also understand who holds their child’s school to account and why. The schools inspectorate, Ofsted, is due to implement a new inspection framework from September. Sarah Driver wrote about the new framework and how it needs to ensure schools are inclusive and supporting learners with SEN in a blog earlier this year.

As I reminded Kathy and Lydia in the radio interview, it is also important that schools have strong governing boards. Many parents are governors and SEN parents can bring invaluable experiences to board. The SEND Governance Review Guide is a practical and accessible resource for ideas on how to challenge and support school leaders to do their best for pupils.

Parents of learners with SEN are some of the best advocates in the system for change for our young people. Reading some of the materials I’ve shared above will certainly give you further information on some of the issues DYT thinks need to be addressed and I hope, will ultimately better support children with literacy difficulties.