Cynicism won't help dyslexics 1

September 17, 2004

If universities were as cynical in their selection policy as Brian Harrison-Jennings implies ("Universities exaggerate dyslexia epidemic for own gain, expert claims", September 10), they would preferentially enrol students who are blind/partially sighted or have unseen disabilities (such as diabetes or epilepsy), and reject applications from dyslexic students.

The only full-scale survey that I know of (P. D. Pumfrey 2001) analysed the degree classifications of students completing their first degrees in the UK in 1997 and 1999. Pumfrey reported that the proportion of dyslexic students who graduated in 1999 with a good degree classification was not only significantly lower than the proportion of non-disabled students (44 per cent compared with 51 per cent), but was also lower than that of many other groups of students with disabilities. For example, 50 per cent of blind/partially sighted students and 49 per cent of students with an unseen disability were awarded a good classification. The same bias was evident in 1997.

Harrison-Jennings' energies would be better directed towards ensuring fewer dyslexic - and dyspraxic - pupils are not failed by the system.

Approximately 70 per cent of students referred to me because of suspicions of their dyslexia or dyspraxia were never diagnosed when they were at school. Even more worrying, more women and ethnic-minority students than men were not identified as having specific learning differences at school.

David Grant
Chartered psychologist

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