Page last updated at 16:02 GMT, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

MP brands dyslexia a 'fiction'

Graham Stringer
The Labour MP made his comments in an online column

A Labour MP has claimed dyslexia is a myth invented by education chiefs to cover up poor teaching.

Backbencher Graham Stringer, MP for Blackley, describes the condition as a "cruel fiction" that should be consigned to the "dustbin of history".

He believes the reason many children cannot read and write properly is that the wrong teaching methods are used.

But Charity Dyslexia Action said the condition was "very real" to the 6m people in the UK affected by it.

Writing in a column for the website Manchester Confidential, Mr Stringer said millions of pounds were being wasted on specialist teaching for what he called a "false" condition.

Mr Stringer argues that children should instead be taught to read and write by using a system called synthetic phonics.

It is time that the dyslexia industry was killed off and we recognised that there are well-known methods for teaching everybody to read and write
Graham Stringer MP

"The education establishment, rather than admit that their eclectic and incomplete methods for instruction are at fault, have invented a brain disorder called dyslexia," said the MP.

"To label children as dyslexic because they're confused by poor teaching methods is wicked.

"If dyslexia really existed then countries as diverse as Nicaragua and South Korea would not have been able to achieve literacy rates of nearly 100%.

"There can be no rational reason why this 'brain disorder' is of epidemic proportions in Britain but does not appear in South Korea or Nicaragua."

He claims the "fictional malady" has also been wiped out in West Dunbartonshire where the council has introduced the synthetic phonics system of teaching, also known as linguistic phonics.

'Financial incentives'

Currently, 35,500 students receive disability allowances for dyslexia at an annual cost of Ł78.4m, Mr Stringer claims.

"Certified dyslexics get longer in exams," he said.

"There has been created a situation where there are financial and educational incentives to being bad at spelling and reading.

"It is time that the dyslexia industry was killed off and we recognised that there are well-known methods for teaching everybody to read and write."

It is frustrating that the focus should be on whether dyslexia exists or not, when there is so much evidence to support that it does
Shirley Cramer, Dyslexia Action

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said the government was supportive of children with dyslexia.

"We understand the distress and frustration that many parents of a dyslexic child feel so keenly," he said.

"Often they have endured years of struggle trying to get extra help to overcome their child's difficulties with reading and writing.

"That is why the government is working with a number of dyslexia organisations to identify and promote best practice in identifying and supporting children with dyslexia."

Dyslexia Action said the condition was not just a reading difficulty, but a combination of abilities and difficulties that affect the learning process.

Chief executive Shirley Cramer said: "Once again dyslexia seems to be making the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Having dyslexia I know that the phonics system is more effective to sufferers, but this does not mean the condition does not exist
Neil Falconer, Edinburgh

"It is frustrating that the focus should be on whether dyslexia exists or not, when there is so much evidence to support that it does."

The British Dyslexia Association, (BDA) which campaigns for the use of phonics and multi-sensory teaching to help solve child literacy problems, said the MP had failed to grasp the issue.

"Mr Stringer assumes that literacy will solve the issue of dyslexia, however although many dyslexics have acquired the skills of reading, there is no doubt that they still remain dyslexic," a spokeswoman said.

"It is concerning that an MP does not recognise dyslexia, which affects 10% of his constituents, even though his government have taken steps to make sure dyslexic children and young people with dyslexia are recognised and supported."

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SEE ALSO
Q & A: Dyslexia
02 Sep 05 |  Education
Is dyslexia a myth? Your views
14 Jan 09 |  England
Dyslexia 'cure' centres shut down
29 May 08 |  Education
Dyslexia defended as 'very real'
29 May 07 |  Education
Council claims illiteracy 'first'
02 Jul 07 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West

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