Exclusive: New writing assessments will penalise bright dyslexic pupils, heads warn

High-achievers could lose out under ‘ignorant and cruel’ new rules

Thousands of high-achieving dyslexic children are expected to be marked as failures under the government’s controversial new primary writing assessments, TES can reveal.

Pupils must be able to spell most of the 200 words on government wordlists if they are to reach the “expected standard” for writing at the end of Year 6.

But teachers and leaders are furious because the Department for Education has said that no allowance will be made for the tens of thousands of pupils with dyslexia. Experts in the condition predict that they will all fall short on the spelling requirement.

Heads argue that failing bright dyslexic children who trip up on spelling – even if they pass all the other 17 elements of the writing assessment – will unnecessarily damage their self-esteem. Pie Corbett, a former government literacy advisor, describes the emphasis on spelling as “ignorant and cruel”.

The NAHT headteachers’ union and the charity Dyslexia Action are warning that the DfE’s stance could be discriminatory and are demanding that it is changed.

A DfE spokesman said: “Spelling and handwriting are key elements of the national curriculum in primary school. To enable all children to reach their full potential, it is essential that they develop their skills in these areas, including those with dyslexia.”

This is an edited version of an article in the 11 March edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week’s TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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