'Systemic discrimination' in dyslexia support

Dyslexic students are more likely to get support in high decile schools, than low decile schools, say dyslexia campaigners.

Special assessment conditions (SACs) included reader or writer assistance, computer use or extra time and were critical for NCEA success, Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand (DFNZ) chairman Guy Pope-Mayell said.

Figures provided to DFNZ under the Official Information Act show just 17 pupils in decile one schools received SACs for external NCEA exams in 2014. Just under 1300 pupils in decile 10 schools received help.

"This perpetuates what amounts to systemic discrimination against students at lower decile schools, where SACs can make all the difference between achieving or not achieving NCEA qualifications," Pope-Mayell said.

Canterbury mother Donna Elliot said school support made a huge difference for her son, John, 13, who was diagnosed with dyslexia at 6.

Last year, he sat his entrance exam for Lincoln High School and was placed in one of the top two Year 9 classes.

The achievement was the result of the support he received from Tai Tapu School, tutoring and a lot of hard work, Elliot said. "They worked wonders with him. They put structures in place to help him and he continued with private tutoring."

Before moving to Tai Tapu at age 10, John had struggled at a school that did not acknowledge he needed extra support. Dyslexia meant he had to work harder and completing exams took longer.

Having a reader-writer meant he did not have to struggle as much as he normally did, John said.

"I definitely can see it will help a lot with tests coming up this year."

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Elliot, who volunteers as a reader-writer at Lincoln High School, said it broke her heart to think of pupils who did not receive the support they needed to thrive.

"A lot of the kids . . . are very intelligent but the struggle is getting it down on paper or processing the question they are being asked," she said.

 - The Press

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