‘Use technology in classrooms to help dyslexic’

SCHOOLS should make more use of technology to support dyslexic pupils in the classroom, according to experts speaking at a conference in Yorkshire today.

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The event has been organised to raise awareness among teachers and parents about the computers and software that can help identify pupils with dyslexia and support their reading and writing.

It has been organised by Pat Payne, from the Leeds and Bradford Dyslexia Association, who has been campaigning for the past two years to open a school which offers dyslexia-friendly teaching in Leeds.

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She was unable to win support for the plan to open a new free school from the Department for Education and is now looking for new ways to support pupils and their families.

Today’s event includes speeches from teachers, ICT specialists and experts from the British Dyslexia Association.

Ms Payne said: “Technology is the way forward for helping dyslexic pupils. Dyslexia effects 10 per cent of the population according to figures produced by the British Dyslexia Association, which means there are probably three or four children in every classroom who are struggling with reading and writing.

“There are not enough trained teachers able to support these pupils properly so it is thought that the way forward it to use the huge amount of assistive technology that is easily available to help all children in schools.”

She said she believed that promoting the use of this technology was a practical solution to the problems faced by dyslexic pupils who were not receiving specialist teaching, and added: “We all know that give an iPad or indeed any remote control to a five-year- old and they will have in mastered in minutes, so why not harness these skills and use the devices that so many people have already to help dyslexic children to learn?”

The conference is being held from 10am to 4pm at Woodhouse Grove School in Apperley Bridge between Leeds and Bradford. Speakers will include Jamie Munro, of software firm Inclusive Technology, who will be show what can be done with the latest tablet computers such as iPad, Kindle and Android-based tablets.

Technology teacher Judith Stansfield will talk about the importance of identifying pupils with dyslexia earlier while award-winning teacher Edward Vickerman, the assistant head of Beverley Grammar School, will give a speech showing how dyslexic pupils are supported at his school.

He is a past winner of the Outstanding New Teacher of the Year award.

There will also be experts from the British Dyslexia Association, who will show how technology can be used in early years.

Ms Payne added: “One of the best reasons for using an electronic aid to learning is that they are totally non-judgmental, if you get the wrong answer the device never gets annoyed or irritated and the pupils can keep trying without any feeling of failure or not pleasing teacher or parent.

“Many schools in our area are making electronic devices available to whole classes and in the technological age of the 21st century this must be a step in the right direction. After all how many homes are there without a computer these days?

“The technology is out there but we need schools to start using it.

“One of our speakers will say that in some schools computer technology is being used as a reward for the best students, we need to make sure schools start using it for the pupils who are struggling as well.”

Ms Payne’s plan to open a free school had been backed by the Free School Norwich, one of the first of the Government’s new flagship schools to open in 2011. It had planned to repeat its approach of having a school which offered 51 weeks of childcare to parents in Leeds, as well as supporting Ms Payne’s idea of having a mainstream school which offered dyslexia- friendly teaching to pupils.