Liz Maudslay, Senior Policy Manager at the Association of Colleges

#Dyslexia and Further Education

Colleges educate and train 2.2 million young people and adults to prepare them for continuing education, training or employment. A significant minority of these students will have some kind of specific Learning Difficulty, often dyslexia.

With the current important emphasis on students with EHC plans and students with autism or mental health difficulties it can be forgotten that colleges have for many years provided essential support for students with dyslexia.

Most colleges have specific individual members of staff, often trained in dyslexia support, who provide additional help to dyslexic students. This support often takes the form of one-to-one sessions helping students to recognise and develop skills to manage the difficulties they may have.

Where appropriate this support may be given to small groups of students. In addition, there is recognition that support for dyslexic students must be seen as a whole-college responsibility.

Many colleges allocate a specific dyslexia support worker to a particular curriculum area. These staff work with lecturers to train them in the techniques which they can employ to make their curriculum more accessible to students with dyslexia and also will liaise with them over the needs of individual students and have systems in place to share information about an individual student’s difficulties and requirements.

There are many positive examples of college students who, because of the support they have received, are able to find ways of managing their difficulties, achieve success in their exams, and move on to a positive future placement.

Students who may have dyslexia alongside other learning difficulties or disabilities

Colleges work with a very wide range of students with a variety of learning difficulties and disabilities.

Students who might have been identified as being on the autistic spectrum or having mental health difficulties might well also have dyslexia.

In some instances, their dyslexia has gone unrecognised because of attention being paid to their presenting difficulty. College dyslexia support staff work closely with other support staff in order to ensure that undiagnosed dyslexia is not a factor in exacerbating a student’s sense of failure and level of anxiety.

Funding for dyslexia support

Funding for appropriate dyslexia support is an ongoing issue for colleges.

Very few dyslexic students will have an EHC plan or be eligible for High Needs Funding.Colleges have no dedicated funding stream for supporting students with learning difficulties or disabilities and hence funding must come from the college’s Disadvantage Fund, a funding stream which is continually being stretched - particularly with the new English and mathematics GCSE re-sit requirements.

For adult students there is a special fund which colleges can draw upon which provides some resources for students with an identified learning difficulty or disability.

Assessment

Many colleges at enrollment give all of their students a simple scan test to see if they are likely to require some additional dyslexia support.

However, for those students who have not been formally assessed this can be a problem.

While some colleges might have a member of staff who is trained as an assessor many do not and obtaining a formal assessment is costly and time consuming. This is particularly an issue for students who require exam concessions but need a formal assessment to obtain these concessions.

Exam Concessions

Students who have been formally assessed as dyslexic are able to have certain concessions in examinations, for example additional time, alternative formats etc. In the past year.

AoC working with JCQ has had some success in making this process slightly easier in that JCQ has updated its guidance on exam access arrangements and students no longer need to be re-assessed if they already have a valid Form 8 from school.

This means that colleges will save time and money and it reduces stress for students.

The deadline for November entry access arrangements has also been extended. (more information can be found in JCQ’s recent Guidance regarding access arrangements when a student changes centre)

Transition

It is so important for colleges to have close liaison with feeder schools. Some colleges have a specific member of their dyslexia team who has a role to work with feeder schools to try to ensure that the results of any assessments the student may have received at school is passed on to the college.

However, with the very wide range of schools which a single college works with, this liaison is not easy.

Currently AoC are in discussions with DfE to try to make a more systemic approach to transition and to consolidate procedures for effective transfer of information between schools and colleges.

 Liz Maudslay is Senior Policy Manager at the Association of Colleges

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