Friday, 29 November 2013

Rog T's Dyslexia Blog - Getting our priorities wrong

For those of you who have read my dyslexia blogs before, you may wish to skip this paragraph as it is just the background. If you haven't read my dyslexia blogs before, here is a little preamble and introduction, so you know who I am and what I do and why I write this stuff. For those of you who know the story, skip to the end of the paragraph for todays installment. Let me give you a bit of Background so you know who I am and what I do. I was born in 1962. I didn't start talking until I was 4 years old (at all, not a single word). My parents thought I was deaf. My reading age at eleven was 5. When I was fifteen I started a rock and roll band called the False Dots, the band is still going strong. When I was 16 I started a business called Mill Hill Music Complex (although then it was simply called the studio), a rehearsal studio, as we had nowhere to rehearse. The business has grown into a very successful enterprise, one of Londons biggest and most well respected independent studios. We now have 16 studios and a music shop and also have a photography/video studio and a dance studio. I also have done IT work, mostly on a freelance basis since 1983. In 2012 I also moved into film production, producing two highly acclaimed documentary films, both of which had screenings at the House of Commons. When I was 31, a friend suggested I had a dyslexia test. To my surprise I was told I was moderately dyslexic. This made me interested in the subject. To my amazement, what I have learned over the years is that my lack of educational aptitude, my feelings of anger and injustice and the core of my personality have been formed by the fact I cannot read words in a linear fashion.

So during the week I got a Facebook message from an old school friend. Her son is dyslexic and he is struggling as he approaches his GCSE exams. She wanted to express her frustrations with the system. This is what she had to say.

I read your blog. I see your point and at the moment my son is going through hell. As you know I taught in the state system but and probably because i did i have ploughed my money into independent schooling. Which one is best? Being dyslexia means the individual never gets to enjoy school life. Education is geared round the core subjects...actually practical subjects are a necessity for life as well but I met too many parents and teachers that would judge a child on their science, maths English ability only. Now every half term kids are tested...test after test in every is exhausting for anyone. My son is a high IQ dyslexic boy so he knows his first draft is poor...he spends hours and hours perfecting his work...hands it in gets an A but has used all the strategies available to him to achieve this mark. In exams he gets C. Time is an issue, spelling, writing etc. in today's world we all use computers and spell check...exams test us using techniques that we do not need and don't use. Now GCSEs are here my son can't cope...having worked hard and never been in any trouble at all, never shouted or screamed at his frustration he will end up with a few passes that don't show his ability. Biology teacher has never had a student who knows as much as my son. Constant testing has worn him out, GCSEs that don't accommodate 'special needs' are not fit for purpose. Use a scribe they say for English..that is a very difficult skill to acquire especially one week before the exam. Would it be the same for state and private? I think if you are clever yes you do rise to the top, regardless. No, he hasn't had tutors I learnt about it myself to help him whilst I held down a full time job. Education wherever you are does not accept different capabilities and does not test appropriately - it's one way for everyone. Why does the state system child suffer more??? Because its inclusion for everyone - teaching a bottom set with those who couldn't and those who wouldn't does not work. Inclusion is not right - separate and teach the way the child can learn. Parents play a huge part, many don't know their rights and accept that their kids can't be helped. It's not true. Government relies on the fact that parents don't know. This is all a bit jumbled but I am passionate about it...state or independent the kid feels stupid..the kid feels worthless and the kid ultimately fails regardless of can't pass an exam to your full potential when it is set against you from the moment you walk in the room. My son can't eat or sleep with the anxiety because he knows that years of hardwork and dedication will result in very little to officially show for it. Blah blah ..

It sort of sums up many of the things I have been picking up from parents of dyslexic children. Five years ago when I started this blog, I thought I may be able to change things. Maybe I can, but not in the way I thought. I niavely thought people may read the blog and realise the error of their ways, in many matters. I thought people may widen their understanding of important issues. I realise that this is a complete pipedream All that I can do is chronicle things and make people feel less alone. If enough of us speak out, we can get some traction, but all this blog can do is facilitate that process. I believe every person alive on the planet has something to offer the world. Maybe sometimes those things are hard to see. Maybe it is just a bit of companionship. Maybe they will cure cancer. Who knows. My friends son has his life in front of him. Maybe he has the spark that could invent the cure for cancer? Wouldn't it be a shame if that spark was extinguished because his dyslexia got him a D instead of an A at biology. Maybe biology isn't his thing, but someone somewhere may be cast aside because of a bad school grade.

What frustrates me most is the fact that the educational establishment is focused totally on grades and not on delivering human beings who can make the planet a better place. Of course ignornant, unenlighted idiots may not "get it". They may not realise that every child doing their GCSE, who fails due to issues with dyslexia, has been failed by the system. Such ignorant fools smugly say things such as "failures always blame the system". To me that is the most crass statement in the world. When the system fails, we all suffer.  Who knows where we might be if we took seriously the issues of getting the best out of every child. I often read about how those on the right want to "hothouse the gifted". I overheard a conversation on the train recently where a father was proudly boasting about how his son had graduated from a top University and walked into a legal position with a top bank. He recounted proudly how he'd always been top of his class, gone to the best private school and it had all paid off now. I couldn't help but feel it was a little bit sad. Is that really what we want our brightest children to end up doing? Maybe he could have been the person who'd developed a cure for cancer if his family wasn't so fixated on cash and career. I don't blame anyone for wanting to earn a good living. I do however feel that when it comes to education, we've got our priorities wrong. If we can't get them right for our brightest kids, what hope have those with Dyslexia got?

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