The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

Monday, 19 November 2012

Minister for Learning visits Kyle Academy

Dr Alasdair Allan MSP, Minister for Learning, Sciences and Scotland’s Languages, has paid a visit to Kyle Academy to learn more about a successful Dyslexia Friendly Schools initiative – aimed at assisting dyslexic pupils to achieve their full potential.
[Dr Alasdair Allan is pictured with members of the Kyle Academy Dyslexia Friendly Schools initiative, Councillor Margaret Toner, Portfolio Holder for Lifelong Learning, Depute Provost Mary Kilpatrick and Councillors Ian Douglas and Corri Wilson.]
The project has been pioneered by Margaret Crankshaw, a retired educational psychologist who developed a bronze, silver and gold award scheme for the delivery of teaching excellence and dyslexic pupil support in primary schools.
Margaret is now working with Prestwick Academy, Marr College and Kyle Academy, to develop an accreditation scheme for secondary schools and to pilot a similar award scheme.
[Pupils Ainslie Woods and Scott McIlvanney spoke about the work of the DFS Pupil Steering Group at Kyle Academy. As a result of their presentation during the recent Scottish Dyslexia Conference in Edinburgh, Dr Allan decided to visit the school.]

The initiative has been attracting national attention, and a team from South Ayrshire Council led a workshop at the recent Scottish Dyslexia Conference in Edinburgh, attended by David Thomson, Scottish Government representative. Ainslie Woods and Scott McIlvanney spoke about the work of the DFS Pupil Steering Group at Kyle Academy. As a result of their presentation, Dr Allan decided to visit the school.
Welcoming Dr Allan to Kyle Academy at a special school assembly, Eileen Brown, head teacher explained: “The Dyslexia Friendly Schools Pupil Champions group developed their vision of what a dyslexia friendly school would look like.
“Part of that vision is to help all pupils understand what it is like to be dyslexic – and get first-hand experience of the difficulties facing dyslexic pupils.
“To do this, they have developed and led a series of special school assemblies for all year groups, which include surveys of pupil views, using voting pods, before and after the assemblies to measure the impact on their knowledge and understanding of the condition, as well as their attitudes to dyslexic pupils. The results are displayed immediately and so everyone can see the shift in attitude.
Dr Allan then watched as Ainslie, Scott Sutherland, Abbie Hamilton, Robbie Alexander and Jayde Denholm gave a presentation to the school and explained more about the problems some dyslexic pupils experience. Everyone, including Dr Allan then completed a number of written tasks to simulate the problems dyslexic pupils experience in processing information.
They then showed a film clip highlighting the visual disturbances dyslexia can produce when reading written text and played a balloon game to share more facts about dyslexia. Dr Allan was an enthusiastic member of the team who played the game on stage.
Eileen continued: “Margaret’s expertise has been extremely helpful in our work to become a Dyslexia Friendly School, as have our colleagues in other primary and secondary schools in South Ayrshire as we share the best practice across the authority.
“In Kyle Academy, the initiative is being led by our young people who have been inspirational, not only in changing pupil attitudes to dyslexic pupils but also in supporting staff  by sharing their vision with them and providing advice and training on strategies which support their learning. Work is also underway to increase the number of parents involved in the Parent Champions group with plans to set up a Family Support Network.
“It takes great courage for dyslexic young to provide presentations at a national conference, to all of their peers and to all staff. They have also been invited to speak to other groups in Scotland. It has been a joy to watch their confidence grow and their determination to make a difference increase. They have already achieved one of the hardest tasks of all; to change attitudes to the condition.
Addressing his young audience, Dr Allan said: “The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that all children and young people with additional support needs, including dyslexia, are provided with the support they need to help them reach their full potential.
“My visit to Kyle Academy was to see how teachers and pupils there are de-stigmatising dyslexia through pupil led assemblies.
“This is part of a wider Dyslexia Friendly Schools model adopted by South Ayrshire Council to improve dyslexia provision across their schools.
“I am impressed with how successful the pupils, co-ordinators and participating schools have been and am looking forward to learning more on how this is helping pupils in the area.”
Councillor Margaret Toner, Portfolio Holder for Lifelong Learning concluded: “South Ayrshire Council takes pride in the fantastic educational opportunities offered to our young people and we have recently recorded some of the best exam results in our history.
“This reflects the wide ranging and comprehensive support we offer our pupils, with a flexible and exciting education package geared to their strengths. This tailor made programme is unique to each and every child, giving them every chance to succeed.
“I am immensely proud of the work being delivered by the Dyslexia Friendly School project and in particular I admire Ainslie and Scott’s determination to help their peers accept and understand the challenges associated with dyslexia.
“Not only is it daunting for these young people to stand up and present to an assembly of 150 people– they are all dyslexic and they are a real credit to the school and an inspiration to every pupil in South Ayrshire.”


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