A 'dyslexia-friendly' school, but only for the 'right sort' of dyslexic : responding to individual differences in a private school context
This research set out to examine the barriers to a secondary private school in implementing dyslexia-friendly practice and responding to different needs, through an in-depth case study of a girls’ school where this was an acknowledged aim. Data were collected through participant observation, interviews with staff, pupils and other key informants. Adolescent girls were chosen as the focus in relation to issues of self-esteem. Before looking at potential barriers, perspectives of pupils in three different private schools for girls were examined in order to investigate how significant practices designated as dyslexia friendly were in the experience of adolescent girls. This suggested that there was no significant difference in the practices and teaching strategies found helpful by dyslexic or non-dyslexic pupils. What was significant was the strength of reaction to teaching strategies that were perceived as patronising or critical, despite often being intended as helpful. Examinations of teachers’ beliefs about the nature of difficulties showed that even where there appeared to be an interventionist perspective, this was diluted in the case of pupils who did not fit the profile of the ‘right sort of dyslexic’ who would reflect well on staff and school. Three significant barriers to the development of more inclusive practice were identified: the culture of autonomy in the classroom and suspicion of collaborative work; a high level of dependence on ability grouping; lack of consensus over the role of the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO). Significance of the findings in relation to the current dichotomy in the wider educational setting between league table pressures on one hand and inclusive ideology on the other is discussed and suggestions are made about areas for further investigation.