Yes, it’s that time again: Parents’ Evenings.

There is always a flurry of activity at this time of year for me. Parents meet with class teachers and most seem content if not delighted with the progress their children are making. However, some raise apprehensions about progress.

Frequently their disquiet is relayed to me as the Outreach Teacher for the Dyslexia Support Service in the region. Many of these concerns are absolutely legitimate and the information we accrue from such meetings is invaluable for building a full profile of current strengths and difficulties.

Sometimes, though, parents’ worries, while understandable, do not coincide with perceptions of the child’s development in school.

 For example, one child in the upper primary school has such excellent literacy skills that she is already performing at the level expected of a pupil in S2. She took a ‘professional’ assessment – i.e. WISC Test – with an independent educational psychologist. This found that she had processing difficulties of a dyslexic nature which slowed her down when under time constraints. This may well become an issue when at secondary school; and we were glad to have the information so we could pass it on at transition time. We will teach the child to speed-read.

 The parents, however, felt that this was insufficient but were unable to say what else we could be doing.

 Her spelling is not entirely commensurate with her reading and writing (as in composition) ability. Her parents claimed that the EP had stated her spelling was ‘shocking’ and ‘desperate’, although more temperate language was used in the report. This was not the experience of her teachers but they felt as if they were being accused of neglect or worse.

 Another set of parents in one school quote the findings of a tutor: their children are ‘behind’. This tutor is not, as far as we know, a trained teacher. Her reports indicate that she uses the Burt and Daniels and Diack Reading Tests. The first was produced in 1974; the second in 1958. I know this because I downloaded them too (I probably took the D+D one myself and certainly administered the Burt when I started teaching). The D+D comprehension test notes:

Even now these ‘performance age equivalents’ remain as a sobering reminder of the literacy standards that teachers expected of their students in an era when computers were machines that only got a mention in science fiction stories.

 The notion that literacy standards are falling rapidly because of computers is one that to be explored another time. At present I just want to let off steam about the assumption that teachers don’t know their job. As I have written elsewhere teachers tend to be conscientious, knowledgeable and ambitious for their pupils.

 We are not and can never be the experts about each individual child: that is the job of the parent. But we can aspire to ensure that each individual has the best possible experience in school so as to optimise her/his learning.