Campaigner tells of dream to open school for children with dyslexia

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A CAMPAIGNER has vowed to redouble her efforts to launch a new school in Yorkshire which will become a centre of excellence for teaching children with dyslexia after she received a lifetime achievement award for her work supporting people with the condition.

Pat Payne’s quarter of a century of work – which has included creating an association and a helpline for people in Leeds and Bradford – has been recognised by the British Dyslexia Association.

However she told the Yorkshire Post that fulfilling her dream of opening a free school would be her biggest achievement yet and would make a greater difference to people with dyslexia. She became involved in the mid 1980s when her own son Russell was diagnosed with dyslexia and she felt let down by the state school system’s inability to help him.

Now she wants to set up a mainstream school where teachers are trained to identify and educate children who have the condition alongside those who do not.

She said: “The problem goes all the way back to teacher training. There is not a module on dyslexia, it is not covered. Teachers are told that it is special educational need and it is not their responsibility.

“I want teachers to be able to identify children with dyslexia and find a way of working with them. We coined an expression a number of years ago which sums this up: ‘If I don’t learn the way you teach me then teach me the way I learn’.”

Ms Payne is leading the Leeds and Bradford Dyslexia Association’s bid to open a free school in Leeds. She has joined forces with the Free School Norwich – one of the first of these flagship schools to open in the country.

The Norwich school has pioneered the approach of staying open 51 weeks of the year to provide extended childcare facilities to parents. This would be replicated in Leeds if the school gets the go-ahead from the Government.

Free Schools are a key reform of the coalition Government which wants new state funded schools to be set up by parents, teachers, existing schools, charities, businesses and faith groups if they can demonstrate the need for their planned school in their area.

The Free School Leeds plans to be open in 2013 and the group are now looking for a suitable site in the city. It has also launched a website freeschoolleeds.com to allow interested parents to find out more.

Ms Payne said: “We would like to hear from any professionals out there who are interested in our plan if they think they can help us.”