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Sarah Driver, Driver Youth Trust
Sarah Driver: 'We could pay for extra help for our children, but not all families are so lucky'

Last week, education charity the released a report showing that while over £6 million has been spent on training specialist teachers to help children with dyslexia, almost none of them now work in state schools. 

Sarah Driver is the founder of the DYT. She is also the mother of four children, three of whom have dyslexia. Here, she explains what’s gone wrong, and why children need these teachers more than ever before. 

三级成人视频The goal of the Driver Youth Trust is to support children with literacy difficulties, and last year the Trust celebrated its 10th anniversary. Over the last decade, we have poured more than £6 million into education; we lobby, we work in schools, and we do research.

Our latest report, , was published earlier this month. We wanted to know what had happened to a £10m government fund, established in 2009, which was supposed to train specialist teachers to help all children who struggle with reading, writing, speaking and listening. 

Shockingly, while over £6million of pledged money was spent, there has been very little to show for it. Only four per cent of teachers trained via the scheme currently work in state schools. Yet schools are in desperate need of additional expertise to improve outcomes for pupils with literacy difficulties三级成人视频, especially now. 

三级成人视频At the moment, schools are focusing on catch-up and personal tutors. But this won't help the children who most struggle to read and write. This is because these tutors will have a very limited understanding of an individual pupil, their needs and how best to help. 

Why does this matter so much? Let's look at the facts. Over seven million adults - that’s 16 per cent of the population - can't read the wording on the side of a tin of beans or on a packet of paracetamol. Low literacy levels like these cost the economy £1.5bn a year and have a link with poverty and socio-economic status.

Even before the pandemic, a fifth of UK children didn't reach the expected standard in phonics at primary school. More than one in ten children leaves primary school unable to read well enough to access the secondary curriculum and just 43 per cent go on to achieve a combined pass in English and Maths at GCSE each year.

These children are not necessarily any less intelligent than their peers, yet they aren't learning to read and write.

Literacy difficulties are not solely about trouble accessing English lessons, but rather the whole curriculum, including maths and science. If they can’t read, children are at a lifelong disadvantage. Over half of people entering prison have a reading age below that of an eleven-year-old. 

My experience of dyslexia

三级成人视频I know what it's like to see children struggle. I grew up as a voracious reader and didn't understand anything about dyslexia or children who found it hard to learn to read and write. I first came across it when I met my husband, Mark, who is dyslexic.  

We went on to have four children, Brook, now 30, Millie, 28, Faye, 25 and Archie, 22. All of them except Faye are dyslexic. And what happened to them made me question what is going on in schools.

三级成人视频When Brook started at our local primary in South West London, I was that dreadful mother who looks in other children's reading bags to see what level books they were on. By the time Brook got to Year 2, I could see that he was struggling, and the school didn't seem to be able to help.

I didn't realise then that teachers and SENCOs (Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinators) often had no training in teaching children with reading difficulties. 

三级成人视频So, I paid for some outside help. I then had my daughter. When she got to year 3 or 4, I went to the school and once again said, "She's not reading".

She was clearly a very bright girl, yet she failed to get into many selective secondary schools. My third child didn't have any problems, and then I had Archie, who is the most severely dyslexic of my children. 

三级成人视频When Archie was six, his teacher rang me to say he had to get cross because Archie wouldn't write. Archie listened and engaged and had a million ideas in the classroom, but he wouldn't put anything down on paper.

三级成人视频But that wasn't because my son didn't want to. It was because he couldn't. I remember one day Archie came home very upset and told me that he was going to be asked to write a story. I knew he couldn't do it.

三级成人视频So instead, Archie dictated it, and I wrote it for him. The next day, I took it to his teacher and said, "This is what he wants to say, but he can't do it. He needs help." 

By the time Archie got to year three, another mother and I were paying a tutor to come in to help our children for one hour a week, because the school was not giving him any meaningful support.

The school disapproved and told us, "We can't have private tutoring". Why?  I pointed out we weren't hothousing our children in Shakespeare. We were simply trying to teach them to read.

Then one day, Archie came out of school and said, "Mummy, I'm on the dumb table". I felt I had no choice but to immediately take him out of that school and find him a private primary with specialist teachers. 

I know that, as a family, we were in a very privileged position. I was a lawyer and my husband worked in investments in the City. If our children needed any extra help, we could pay for it.

But this is not the case for many other children. This is why we set up the Driver Youth Trust and it’s this inequality that drives me to campaign for change.

Where have all the specialists gone?

And it doesn't have to be like this. When Ed Balls, the then Secretary of State for Education, committed £10million to train specialist teachers, his ambition was to see at least one specialist teacher for each local group of schools. But in 2010 Michael Gove ended this programme. 

三级成人视频In 2019, Driver Youth Trust put in a Freedom of Information request to the Department of Education that revealed that £6,108,000 had been spent and we estimated that at least 3,500 teachers were trained. That's the equivalent of one specialist for every nine schools in England. But where are they all?

三级成人视频We discovered that there were no records held by the Department of Education, training providers or professional associations. We then found and surveyed 700 specialist teachers. Of these, nearly half were self-employed, doing private tutoring for families who could afford to pay £60 an hour for them.

三级成人视频This wasn't necessarily by choice. Many schools did not understand the expertise they had to offer, nor had the funds to employ them. Of those employed by schools, the vast majority were in the independent sector. As a result, there is no equality of access for children who need a specialist's skills. 

So what do specialists offer? Phonics is the best way to help children learn to read. That's now settled by science. Most children will learn in the general classroom, but some won’t.

三级成人视频Up to ten per cent of children have a reading difficulty that means they need much more teaching and practice than others to become proficient readers.

And it's agreed that a small proportion of children may never learn to read well, no matter how well they are taught. But that does not mean that they aren't intelligent and can't succeed.  

Yet teachers get very little training on what to do when a child has a reading difficulty. In 2014, Driver Youth Trust's first report, Fish in the Tree, found that over half of teachers received no specific training in how to identify or teach children with dyslexia.

三级成人视频For nine out of ten teachers surveyed, any training about dyslexia amounted to less than half a day. Schools often claim they have literacy specialists, but what they really mean is that they have teachers who lead on teaching English, not a specialist in teaching those who struggle with the basics of reading and writing. 

三级成人视频A specialist teacher can identify the child's specific problems and tailor an intervention to cover gaps in their understanding. They can find creative ways to help students access literature.

They can help teachers to set inclusive and accessible homework. Even more valuable, a specialist teacher can train and support other teaching staff.

三级成人视频And a specialist teacher can do all this in a way that doesn't crush the child's self-esteem. Sadly, children soon start to feel very stupid when they can't read. 

These building blocks can change lives

None of this is sexy, and it's not rocket science, but these are the building blocks that change children’s lives.

Specialist teachers can also be very cost-effective. There are 16,750 primary schools in this country. If every five schools have access to a specialist teacher, you are looking at about 3000 specialists.  

If each of those teachers were paid £50,000, that is a total cost of £150 million a year. This is less than one per cent of the UK's £90 billion education budget, yet it will address the needs of roughly 10 per cent of pupils. 

I am calling on government to provide funding for specialist teachers in both maintained and academy schools. I am asking leaders in schools to recognise their qualifications and deploy them both to support pupils and teaching staff.

I am asking the sector to have one recognised qualification and one register, so that there is transparency. Finally, in the current climate, I am asking that specialist teachers are included in the National Tutoring Programme to support pupils who struggle with literacy and ensure they get the help they so desperately need.

三级成人视频In my own family, we know how much practical strategies from specialists can transform outcomes. My oldest son, Brook, has an English degree, yet he listened to audiobooks and watched films rather than read books and plays.

三级成人视频At 22, Archie is so fundamentally dyslexic that he couldn't read or write until recently, yet he achieved two As and a C at A-level. This is because he had a reader and a scribe in exams.

Like Brook, Archie learned to love literature by listening to books. This gave him the motivation to eventually start reading. It was a struggle, and he's only just got there, but now he’s starting to be able to read for pleasure. 

三级成人视频When my children had access to specialist teachers, it didn't just give them the skills to learn to read. It gave them the ability to access the whole curriculum.

And fundamentally, they didn't switch off from education. When children switch off, they fail. But when they are supported, they can succeed.

Interview by Leah Hardy

Do you have a child with dyslexia, and have you had support from specialist teachers? Please share your experiences using the form below.