MIDDLESBROUGH College students have waded into the debate over the term ‘dyslexia’ and whether it should be scrapped.
In recent weeks experts at Durham University have called for the term to be abandoned, arguing it’s unscientific, lacks educational value and is used so widely that it has become meaningless.
But students at Middlesbrough College who live with dyslexia disagree.
Connall Hewitt, 17, Alex Martin, 16, and Adam Grainger, 17, are among 1,000 Middlesbrough College students aged 16 to 18 receiving extra support and guidance for their studies.
The three – who are working towards a cookery and hospitality level 1 chef’s diploma – have varied experiences with dyslexia, but they agree that if they hadn’t been diagnosed with the condition they wouldn’t have had the help they needed to overcome it.
Connall, from Guisborough, said: “I knew I had a problem reading, but it was only after I was told I had dyslexia, and I learned more about the condition, that I began to accept it and find ways to cope with it.
“It’s the term doctors and teachers use when they identify the problem so why would anyone want to scrap it?
“People with dyslexia should be identified and given the support they need to prevent it stopping them achieving their full potential,” he added.
Middlesbrough College is well placed to enter the debate.
It’s about to apply for a quality kite mark from the British Dyslexia Association and the number of students aged 16 to 18 at Middlesbrough College who have dyslexia is higher than the national average.
The NHS in England estimates that between 4pc and 8pc of the population have the learning disorder, which is recognised in disability discrimination law in England and Wales.
At Middlesbrough College it’s around 12pc.
Jon Lee, additional learning support deputy manager, said: “Dyslexia is a term that defines the kind of help and support a student needs, and only by having that term can we help address the challenges they face every time they pick up a text book or access an online journal.
“We use labels to clarify, categorise and offer the right support to the right people at the right time.
“It’s crucial that students and future students are open and honest about any learning difficulties or disabilities they may have so they can benefit from the support that’s available.
“Also, the emotional impact of dyslexia on an individual should never be underestimated and any suggestion that dyslexia doesn’t exist only serves to increase that impact.
“We have more than 500 students aged 16 to 18 who have dyslexia and we know that providing the right help to a student from the first day they arrive at the college makes a huge difference to their level of achievement.”
Middlesbrough College offers a comprehensive support service to students with dyslexia including assessments to determine the level of learning difficulty, extra time in exams, providing a scribe or a reader for exams and teaching them day-to-day techniques.
Jon said: “On top of that we offer every student group support, initially for a six-week period, teaching them strategies to help them cope including memory tools and spelling strategies.
“On some occasions we find we need to fine-tune the support to find tactics and tools more suited to an individual and their specific challenges surrounding dyslexia.
“A large part of the support is confidence-building - making the students realise they are as bright as other students, they just need to use their brain in a different way.”