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Ministry of Education starts dyslexia programme

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Please find following (and attached) the Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand’s response to moves across the Tasman this week to label dyslexia a disability within their education system and the Ministry of Education’s media release about its progress with a dyslexia work programme.


Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand

media release 17 October 2007 


Australian moves to label dyslexia a disability miss’s point


The Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand says moves across the Tasman to label dyslexia a disability within their education system signal progress but miss the opportunity that New Zealand is on the verge of grasping.


The New South Wales Legislative Council is debating an Educational Support for Dyslexic Children Bill in Australian Parliament this week, the result of campaigners attempts to achieve greater access to funds to support dyslexic students learning needs.


The purpose of this Bill is to amend Section 20 of the NSW Education Act 1990 to have dyslexia included within the disability criteria of the NSW Department of Education and Training in respect of the Special Education Initiative for students with disabilities.


Chair of the Trustees of the Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand Guy Pope-Mayell says that although such a move would be helpful it could shut the door on the vastly greater benefits of following the lead of the Ministry of Education here in New Zealand.


“We believe that framing dyslexia up as a disability in the context of education is the path of last resort,” he said.


“Dyslexia is widely understood to be an alternative way of thinking, which comes with both strengths and difficulties.”


Pope-Mayell stressed it only becomes a disability when appropriate support and learning opportunities within the classroom are not available or when the student begins to believe that they are ‘less than’ others.


“Self-esteem related issues are the most significant learning barriers for the dyslexic student.”


“We faced the same challenges they are looking at in New South Wales – thousands of Children struggling with dyslexia without adequate resources and support to enable them to reach their full potential.”


“By taking the disability approach, dyslexic students risk becoming marginalised and teachers can avoid taking ownership of the problem. The approach that our Ministry is taking builds trust and responsibility into the learning partnership. Parents, students, and teachers must all work together with common understanding and goals in mind.” 


He said that the feedback the foundation hears from many teachers, especially those in Primary schools, is that the professional growth and change that arises when teachers embrace the challenge of understanding dyslexia and providing appropriate learning opportunities for their dyslexic students benefit all students in their class.


The Ministry of Education has been working collaboratively with the Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand and others to better understand and address dyslexia in schools after announcing in April it recognised dyslexia and has committed to implementing a whole range of initiatives to increase the level and quality of assistance given to students with persistent reading and writing difficulties.


Pope-Mayell says there has been good progress made by the Ministry of Education to address dyslexia in schools, but stresses additional and specific funding is required.


“It would be a sad day if dyslexia had to be categorised as a disability in the New Zealand education system to ensure resources became available. The Government now needs to back the Ministry and provide the necessary funds.”


For more information please contact:

Guy Pope-Mayell

Managing Trustee

Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand

027 5449496


John McKenzie

enthuse ltd

021 384 730

03 384 7338


For more information visit: and


Media Release

10 October 2007


Ministry of Education starts dyslexia work programme

The Ministry of Education is working collaboratively to better address dyslexia in schools, and has met with the Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand and with SPELD (Specific Learning Difficulties).

The ministry’s Group Manager, Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Design, Mary Chamberlain, said the ministry, researchers, and specialists were responding to the latest international reviews of evidence about persistent difficulties with reading and writing.

“Internationally, education agencies now feel confident using the term ‘dyslexia’ to describe this specific range of difficulties”, Mary Chamberlain said. “We’re now at the beginning of the journey toward understanding how to act on this knowledge”.

The ministry is working with the Dyslexia Foundation and literacy experts in its work to better address dyslexia in schools.

Mary Chamberlain said that, whilst overall, New Zealand students are achieving well in literacy by international standards, some students didn’t make expected progress in reading and writing in spite of good teaching and extra support.

“We are determined to ensure that the different needs of these learners are identified and met as effectively and as early as possible so that specialised instruction can ensure maximum progress”, she said.

“We’ve completed a review of international research and are using this to refocus our current policies and programmes to better address dyslexia. 

“We’re developing new web pages for teachers and parents in order to provide information and links to further expertise about dyslexia.  The first things to go on that website will be the literature review and a working definition. 

“The working definition is a starting point for our work and is intended to help the ministry, educators and parents understand what dyslexia is and how it can be identified and addressed.  It sets a direction for action,” she said.

The work programme also includes:

·         a pamphlet for parents as part of the Team-Up programme, available from late 2007. Team-Up is a high-profile information programme targeting families and communities, to increase their involvement in and support of their children’s learning at primary and secondary school and in early childhood education;

·         developing more effective assessment tools and professional development processes to ensure that students with difficulties associated with dyslexia can be identified as early as possible; and

·         a resource for teachers with strategies for meeting the needs of struggling readers and writers, including those with dyslexia, to be started in 2008.


“This is relatively new territory for education agencies internationally.  We are focusing on ensuring our work to address dyslexia is based on robust research and evidence, and we’re working closely with experts in this field.  We’re also looking at what other countries are doing, and are mindful of the benefits of working in partnership with parents and caregivers.  This approach will ensure that we focus on achieving the best results for our learners,” Mary Chamberlain said.






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