Assessing the facts

September 24, 2004

As a member of the Department for Education and Skills working group on disabled students allowances (DSAs) and specific learning difficulties, I would like to point out several errors in the Soapbox by Ross Cooper (September 17).

First, contrary to Cooper's impressions, the working group is in favour of teachers, as well as psychologists, assessing students for dyslexia, provided they have appropriate qualifications and experience.

Second, we do not seek to enforce a method of identification of dyslexia that is based on discrepancy between IQ and attainment, as he alleges. We advocate that reports stating that a student has dyslexia are backed by objective evidence, not just subjective opinion, using psychometric tests, which, despite Cooper's obvious phobia, are widely trusted by many professionals.

Third, our recommendations are designed to address his concerns about the lengthy process of DSA applications.

Finally, since universities can cover the cost of dyslexia assessments using the student hardship fund, there is no reason why the framework should discriminate against students from lower socioeconomic groups as he imagines.

In short, Cooper's polemical article misrepresents the aims, content and rationale of the proposed framework, which is designed to help dyslexic students obtain the support they need as swiftly and efficiently as possible. His opposition to the proposals smacks of a desire to maintain the status quo, in which only members of a select club, including those who have undergone training courses such as those offered by his unit, can carry out dyslexia assessments.

Chris Singleton
Hull University

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