Blog 2: 6th January 2019

Dyscalculia on the Department for Education website


If you look on the DfE website for dyscalculia, what you get is this:

  Group 1 Car and Motorcycle Group 2 Bus and Lorry
Mild learning disability. Learning difficulty is not included. Dyslexia, dyscalculia, and so on, are no bar to ordinary Group 1 licences being awarded after successful driving tests, and the DVLA need not be informed. ! - May be able to drive, but must notify the DVLA. Licensing will be granted provided there are no other relevant problems. The DVLA may require an assesment of adequate functional ability at the wheel It is expected that a full Group 1 licence would already be held following a DVSA driving test pass. ! - Must not drive and must notify the DVLA. Licensing may be granted provided there are only minor degrees of learning disability and the condtiition is stable with no medical or psychiatric complications. It is expected that a full Group 1 licence would already be held.

Plus reports of a few legal cases that involve neurodevelopmental disabilities including dyscalculia in the context of educational support or employment relating to the Equality Act.

There is nothing about what dyscalculia is, how to get an assessment for it, or how to get help. On the old DfES website there was much more about these things.

Anyway, I asked my MP, Tulip Siddiq (Labour, Hampstead and Kilburn) to submit a parliamentary question about government policy on dyscalculia, since there was nothing on the website apart from the above. After some weeks, Nadhim Zahawi MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families, replied,

"Since the introduction of the SEND reforms in 2014, we have provided funding for a range of condition-specific organisations to develop resources and training to help teachers deliver high quality teaching across all types of SEND ... hosted on the SEND Gateway, an online portal offering educational professionals free, easy access to high quality information, resources and training for meeting the needs of children."

He helpfully provided a link because it appears nowhere on the DfE website. Without the answer to Ms Siddiq's question, I would have not known where to go.

Briefly, the Zahawi's letter implies that dyscalculia has been outsourced to NASEN, a national body that offers information and advice on special needs training, especially of SENCOs (Special Educational Needs Coordinators), though it doesn't seem to do any of the actual training. It is sponsored by the education industry including private companies that do provide training (Pearson, GL Assessment, Nisai); and to the British Dyslexia Association (BDA), a membership organization.

So, what do these organisations offer on dyscalculia?

NASEN. The Resources link offers nothing on dyscalculia. Its SendGateway offers a BDA webinar for 6 and a link to the BDA, and to training materials that 'were commissioned in response to a Government recommendation, following the Lamb Inquiry (2009).' The training materials include a section on dyscalculia (one module out of 16 modules). The documentation is actually quite useful, though quite hard to find on the website. Dig down and you find this this, which includes links to other websites with information on dyscalculia, including my own. However, the information is 10 years old. It is worth noting that there is nothing in the Lamb Inquiry report itself on dyscalculia.

BDA. There is a link to the BDA site. The BDA formed a dyscalculia committee chaired by Peter Jarrett that has collated some useful information, and also links to courses for qualifications on identifying and helping dyscalculic learners.

It is by no means clear that the DfE has checked the content of these sites. Its own website has reports on a handful of court cases that involve neurodevelopmental disabilities including dyscalculia in the context of educational support or employment relating to the Equality Act.

I don't know how much DfE support these organisations have received, but looks like poor value for money.

Clearly this situation is unsatisfactory for dyscalculic sufferers and the people trying their best to teach them, not mention recognition of the handicap, which is more profound than dyslexia according to a report by the Government Office for Science in 2008 (i.e. commissioned by the Labour government). There is widespread recognition for dyslexia, and funding to support dyslexic learners. But not, at the moment, for dyscalculics.

I deal in more detail with the policy implications of dyscalculia in Chapter 11 of my book, "Dyscalculia: from Science to Education".