At present The Dyscalculia Centre gets more requests for information on one particular topic than all the others put together.
The issue centres on what a school in the UK should do to help a pupil or student who is struggling severely with maths, and generally it starts from the parent’s feeling that the school is not doing all it should do to help the child.
Many parents who ask me what they can do in relation to such situations wonder if they ought to have the child assessed for dyscalculia, in the belief that this will force the school to take the action the parent believes is necessary.
At other times parents tell me that they are being asked to pay for the test to be administered by the psychologist, and they wonder if this is right.
And sometimes the parent is told by the school that the school does not recognise dyscalculia as a special need, and given that the school has had an excellent review from Ofsted, they see no reason to change their approach.
All of this leads to a difficult and confusing situation for parents, and I’ll try to explain what exactly is going on, what a parent’s rights are, and what can be done if the school appears to be unable or unwilling to offer the support the parent feels is needed.
The law relating to people with special needs is the Equalities Act. The provisions of the Act are slightly different in each part of the UK although for most issues they are the same and they can be summarised thus: employers and schools have to make all reasonable provision for people with special needs.
In terms of schools and dyscalculia, “reasonable” clearly means they have to adjust the school’s work to take into account the special needs of pupils and students.
Details of how the Equalities Act works in relation to dyscalculia are given in the article “Special Needs and the Law” on our website, and you can read much more there.
But in essence, schools cannot deny dyscalculia exists without presenting evidence to counteract the huge level of academic work that shows it happens as a result of a genetic malfunction – and quite simply this would be impossible. So they cannot simply “believe” it does not exist, or is not present in a child.
They cannot suggest that a pupil or student should be moved on to another school to which he or should would be “more suited” for academic or special needs reasons. That again is to break the law.
In short the school has an absolute duty to meet the needs of the dyscalculic child by providing a suitably qualified teacher, who has sufficient time, and the right materials, to help the child overcome her or his difficulties.
There is however a problem: if the school does deny that it has a responsibility what can the parent do?
There are several answers. One is to inform the school politely that the school is in breach of the Equalities Act and that matter will be reported to Ofsted, the controlling body (the LA, Academy trust etc) the local media, and Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Schools (known as HMIs). Most schools don’t like bad publicity.
Another is to find a private tutor – although here you should be wary of tutors who are simply maths teachers, and not teachers of dyscalculic pupils. Dyscalculic pupils do not just need to be taught maths again, they need to be taught it in a different way.
A third approach is to use the materials the Dyscalculia Centre supplies which have been produced to allow anyone who is not dyscalculic and who has studied maths to around GCSE standard.
Now I appreciate at this point this may sound that all that has gone before has been written in order to persuade you to buy these materials. That is certainly not my intent – the materials are described on our website, and it is always very much a situation for parents to decide, in the light of the response of the school.