MP slammed over dyslexia comments

By Alex Stevenson

Labour backbencher Graham Stringer is attracting criticism after describing dyslexia as a “cruel fiction”.

The Manchester Blackley MP argued dyslexia, which affects six million people in the UK, should be “consigned to the dustbin of history” in an article for ManchesterConfidential.com.

“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 per cent,” he wrote.

Mr Blackley added: “To label children as dyslexic because they’re confused by poor teaching methods is wicked.”

The article has already been condemned by the Dyslexia Action (DA) and British Dyslexia Association (BDA) charities.

“Once again dyslexia seems to be making the headlines for all the wrong reasons,” DA chief executive Shirley Cramer said.

“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.”

Judi Stewart, chief executive of the BDA, added: “It is concerning that an MP does not recognise dyslexia, which affects ten per cent of his constituents even though his government have taken steps to show dyslexic children and young people with dyslexia are recognised and supported.”

Mr Stringer argues in his article the wider use of synthetic phonics could reduce illiteracy in Britain. He points to the eradication of illiteracy in West Dunbartonshire, which adopted this teaching method, as an example.

“It is amazing that rather than copying the huge success of the West Dunbartonshire scheme, 35,500 students are receiving disability allowances for dyslexia. Last year this cost £78.4 million and Ed Balls, the minister responsible, wants to identify more dyslexics,” he wrote.

“Certified dyslexics get longer in exams. There has been created, a situation where there are financial and educational incentives to being bad at spelling and reading. How perverse.”

Ms Stewart of the BDA admitted her organisation actively campaigns for synthetic phonics.

But she added: “Mr Stringer needs to realise that dyslexia is not just about reading. although being able to read is often problematic for those with dylsexia it also sits alongside a range of other processing skills including organising, sequencing, retrieval of information, short-term memory, spelling, writing and numbers.”

Ms Cramer said the dyslexia community, derided by Mr Stringer as an “industry” which needs to be “killed off”, had over 30 years’ experience in working with individuals with a range of complex specific needs.

“For this reason it has never been more important for us to work in partnership with government, local authorities and individual schools to ensure that those at risk of school failure are identified early so that the right intervention is provided throughout our education system.”

Dyslexia is a learning difficulty which affects reading and spelling and is believed to be caused by inefficiencies in language-processing areas, according to DA.

The website states it does not have to be a barrier to achievement “if it is properly recognised in society”.