HC Deb 30 March 1976 vol 908 cc1084-6
6. Mr. Ashley

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what special provision he has made for the education of children who suffer from dyslexia.

Miss Margaret Jackson

Provision of education is primarily the responsibility of local education authorities, which will no doubt take account of the guidance offered by the Bullock Committee on the diagnosis and treatment of children with reading difficulties. While the provision of new facilities such as remedial centres or reading clinics will depend on the availability of resources, there has in recent years been a significant increase in the numbers of both, as well as of remedial teachers in ordinary schools.

Mr. Ashley

Is my hon. Friend, who is a welcome addition to the Department, aware that many local authorities neglect their dyslexic children? Is the Department prepared to initiate a survey of the extent to which local authorities make provision for dyslexic children? Will my hon. Friend ascertain how soon assessments are made of dyslexic children, how much remedial treatment is given, and what special training is available for teachers?

Miss Jackson

These are all complex and difficult questions, largely because there is no agreement about precisely what is meant by the term "dyslexia". Many children who are now classified loosely as having dyslexia have a variety of different reading difficulties. No criteria have been found for identifying children with those special difficulties and for identifying special forms of treatment suitable for all of them which they, and only they, require. If I can give my hon. Friend a fuller answer to his question about the training of teachers, I shall write to him.

Mrs. Bain

Given that the Government are cutting back generally on teacher recruitment, could not some of the money saved in that way be diverted to the training of specialist teachers for dyslexic and handicapped children in general?

Miss Jackson

We are doing what we can to provide special training for teachers needed in those areas, but constraints on expenditure apply in all areas and it is not always easy to say that money saved can be devoted to some other purpose. We also have to take account of the provision of staff in the colleges who are able to train a sufficient number of teachers.

Mr. Flannery

Does my hon. Friend agree that although the state of backwardness in reading has come to be called dyslexia, and although there is great difference of opinion about it, many unemployed teachers could be used to make classes smaller and to give specialist teaching to children who have difficulty in reading?

Miss Jackson

That is an attractive proposition, but I am sure it will have expenditure implications. I shall consider what my hon. Friend suggests, but I can give no commitment on it.

Dr. Hampson

In 1974 did not the Ombudsman criticise the lack of initiative in this area, and did not the then Under-Secretary of State, in February 1975, say that the Government were giving urgent consideration to the Bullock Report and regarded it as a call to action? When will the Government bring forward the Bullock Report for debate in the House?

Miss Jackson

The latter part of the supplementary question is a matter not for me but for my right hon. Friend the Lord President.

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