Penyrheol Comprehensive School was established in 1973. It is a mixed English-medium 11-16 Comprehensive School that serves the communities of Gorseinon, Loughor, Penyrheol, Kingsbridge and Garden Village. The school hosts a county dyslexia facility. Pupils are admitted to this resource through the special educational needs panel. An individually tailored programme is developed, in consultation with parents, the Educational Psychologist and the specialist teacher, in order to ensure that the individual pupil can access the curriculum. This pattern of seeking advice and consulting with pupils, parents and other (appropriate) professionals is employed whenever specific needs (i.e. disabilities) have to be accommodated. Penyrheol seeks always to provide a flexible and sensitive response.
Mrs Holloway the English and SEN support teacher had withdrawn a group of mainstream pupils for small group support to develop skills that would enable them to access all aspects of their school curriculum. The pupils that had been withdrawn had been identified has having some dyslexic type tendencies and between them had varying degrees of needs.
The children, who were of different ages, displayed a need to develop their spelling, reading, writing, auditory and visual memory. Difficulties in these areas will impact on most aspects of school life so Mrs Holloway, along with Mrs Sheila Lewis set out to arm the pupils with the skills, strategies and knowledge needed to tackle everyday encounters.
Mrs Holloway had set up a range of activities that were short, relevant, kinaesthetic, visual, auditory and promoted independence. The children worked through the activities that were individually programmed according to their need and the targets within their Individual Learning Plan.
A lot of the activities had a familiar format so the pupil spent the activity time focussed on the skills that were being developed rather than trying to work out how it should be done.
Some of the pupils worked with the teacher or a TA on spelling, comprehension, alphabet and auditory memory activities, and the remaining pupils had activities set to their own level on the computer. Pupils were seen using the LEXIA software resource, a computer package designed specifically for pupils with dyslexia to develop decoding, reading fluency and comprehension skills. The pupils logged on as their own user where they was able to access activities that were appropriate to their level and need. These had been set through a combination of teacher and Lexia assessments. The pupils were able to work independently, through a selection of activities that were challenging and repetitive without it being obvious. The programme gave the pupil opportunities to correct themselves whilst playing, short vowel, syllable and sentence games where they could hear the word spoken in a clear non robotic voice. Each game reinforced the area being taught in different ways to keep the children interested and on task. Some of the games challenged the pupils by timing their responses. They did not time the speed of typing but the speed of matching words to pictures with the mouse.
The other ICT software that was observed was ‘Units of Sound’ which the pupils seemed to thoroughly enjoy and were confident in using. This particular activity saw a pupil focusing on the blend –dge through individually programmed work. The pupil was given words to hear and read, these were then removed and the pupil had to type out the word that was being spoken to them through the headphones. Again if they made mistakes there was the opportunity to correct. Different activities were presented through the programme to reinforce this blend in a fun way. The pupil said that he found it easier to learn to spell when using the computer and resources like this rather than using pen and paper.The teachers had seen an improvement in the language and communication skills of pupils particularly through the ‘Units of Sound’ programme which had measurable assessment and recording tools to monitor the children’s needs and progress. The teachers liked the fact that such resources gave the children some levels of independence in their learning which as a result had a positive impact on their self esteem. All the pupils really enjoy the work and the challenges that are set through the software which is essential in gaining their attention, keeping them on task and therefore making the progress that they need in order to develop their reading, writing and spelling skills.