Teachers back urgent calls for more funding

01:43, Jan 31 2009
Creative: Thomasina Loeffen uses clay figures to describe words to her dad, Maarten.

Teachers want targeted government funding to help them educate dyslexic students, a survey shows.

The online survey, conducted for the Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand, shows 99 per cent of teachers and education professionals believe that allocating funding for dyslexic students would benefit all children.

Nearly all respondents had taught at least one dyslexic student. Teachers said they tended to be more creative but had self-esteem issues.

Dyslexia Foundation chairman Guy Pope-Mayell said the research showed funding was critical to allow teachers to deal effectively with dyslexia in their classrooms.

"The survey confirms that dyslexia is not a minor issue that can be shuffled to the back of the education agenda," he said.

"It affects a significant proportion of the future generation of New Zealanders and needs to be addressed now. The Government promised specific funding for dyslexia in November last year. It's time to deliver."

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Christchurch father Maarten Loeffen has struggled with dyslexia all his life.

Now in his mid-40s, he remembers teachers calling him "word-blind" and telling him to sit at the back of the class.

He realised what was wrong only when his 13-year-old daughter, Thomasina, was diagnosed with dyslexia and he read a book she was given called The Gift. He was determined that she would get more help at school than he did.

Loeffen and his wife pay for their daughter to have extra tutoring three times a week, twice during school time and one afternoon after school. He said it would be great for schools to have funding to provide the necessary time and resources.

"I have had a long battle because I had the urge to be as good as everybody else. They need to help children with more education and funding," he said.

A spokesman for Education Minister Chris Carter said dyslexia was officially recognised only last year. Since then, several initiatives had been put in place as part of a literacy programme.

Details of further plans specific to dyslexic students would be announced next week as part of Dyslexia Awareness Week, he said.

Avonhead Primary School principal Charles Levings said educating teachers was only part of the solution.

"What we really need is some funding to help these kids," he said.

"I see them not as disabled; they can be incredibly talented. But they learn differently and sometimes in big classrooms it's really difficult to personalise a learning programme."

Once a programme was devised, children did not need a lot of ongoing support, he said.

"If we are serious about dyslexia, we need the funding to do something," he said.

Canterbury