This is article two of four sharing the data gained from a collaboration with the British Dyslexia Association to survey parents about the emotional or ‘Human Cost’ of dyslexia. The aim was to gain an understanding about how a child having dyslexia affected not only them but also their families in terms of anxiety, interactions with education, family dynamics and the actual monetary cost of having a child with dyslexia. This article reveals what you told us in the survey which was ultimately used to inform politicians at the All Party Parliamentary Group For Dyslexia on the 24th April 2019. Dr Helen Ross (who presented the data in Parliament) and myself will share with you our thoughts about what we discovered.
The survey covered four topics:
Parental Anxiety & Dyslexia
Parental Interactions With Education
Exploring The Cost Of A Child Having Dyslexia
The survey went viral, parents all over the UK shared the survey to other parents and we gained more than 1300 responses and collected more than 2500 supporting comments from parents.
It was clear that you really wanted to get a message to MP’s in Parliament and we took that data and we gave an overview via Helen’s presentation and the resultant APPG Report which was sent to all MPs. You can get a copy of that report by clicking here.
In this article, I am going to show you the results of the yes/no questions that you answered on the topic of “Parental Interactions With Education” and I will do the same for the other topics in subsequent articles. With those results Helen Ross and myself will make comments from an educational perspective (Helen) and from a parental perspective (John).
Read on to find out what you reported about your experiences with Parental Interactions With Education.
What Parents Think: Parental Interactions With Education.
I’ve been a SENCO and I always strived to be approachable. As I move towards specialist dyslexia and literacy teaching, I continue in that aim. If, as educators, we are unapproachable and perceived as part of the problem faced by parents and young people, there is very little hope. Such a small proportion of parents felt that schools met their children’s needs. That this was associated with perceived lack school’s of will to help points to a system in crisis. I know that there are children in all the settings I have worked and spent time who would benefit immensely from specialist literacy/dyslexia support but due to staffing and budgetary constraints, it was not possible to deliver the ideal level of support.
Teachers want to support young people, but there are constraints on what we can do in school due to lack of budget and resources. Unfortunately, dyslexia and ‘hidden’ difficulties are often those which go under the radar in terms of out-of-class provision. That said, much can be done in-class to support learners through quality first teaching, so that young people can access the curriculum and shine in school. However, this needs adequately trained teachers, something that we are working on with the BDA!
In all my interactions with parents when discussing their child’s experience of being supported in education, I thought I had got a fairly accurate ‘hunch’ about how challenging the ‘parent/school’ relationship can be when supporting a dyslexic child. The data in the survey showed that 70% of the participants felt that their children’s schools are not actually supporting their children’s learning needs. I wasn’t surprised by this statistic, what really surprised me was that 69% of the participants expressed that they felt that their schools do not take them seriously about their child’s dyslexia. The problem with the term ‘takes their child seriously’ is that it is very subjective and will mean different things to different parents, indeed there may be different reasons for feeling that. Maybe the some parents have had a poor experience in their years at school and so do not trust teachers despite how hard a school might be trying to demonstrate how serious they are. Maybe the schools involved really are resisting calls for extra support. With some Local Authorities misleading parents about what dyslexia is and what support is available, it is possible that parents do indeed feel that they are not being taken seriously. For me, this data categorically shows me that schools must review how they interact with parents who will be anxious for their children to thrive.
In the survey only 24% of participants felt that schools were doing a good job in supporting their children’s dyslexia. With much of school feedback now being about metrics (SATs, G.C.S.Es etc), it comes as no surprise that 32% of the participants reflected that their schools do value or nurture their dyslexic child’s abilities and potential. That is an extremely low percentage which indicates that perhaps there is a need to re-address the balance between achieving tangible results and nurturing self-esteem in children.
One major challenge that this data reflected is in the area of building stronger parent/teacher relationships whilst supporting a child. 74% of the participants said that they felt anxious about their interactions with school, with 68% saying that they felt dis-empowered by their schools. A further 68% indicated that they sometimes felt angry with their schools.
This suggests that there is a disconnect between parents and teachers and that for support to be successfully put in place for any child, the parents and teachers must be in partnership on an equal footing with the child put firmly at the centre of any intervention put in place.