SENCOs’ Understanding of Dyslexia: Implications for the Identification of, and Support for Children with Dyslexia in Northern Ireland Primary Schools

  • Margaret-Kathleen Anne Collins

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The purpose of this dissertation was to examine issues related to the identification of dyslexia in primary schools in Northern Ireland. Of particular interest, were the knowledge, experience and perceptions of SENCOs, and how these reflected existing policy frameworks for addressing the needs of children with dyslexia.

    The main element of the dissertation is a comprehensive review of the literature relating to dyslexia, with particular focus on the role of the SENCO in the identification of, and provision for, children with dyslexia. A number of important themes emerged from this review, including the continuing debate around the definition of dyslexia, the need for early identification and intervention and, the entitlement of children with dyslexia to effective support within mainstream schools.

    The second part of the study involved a small-scale survey of SENCOs with a one-in-two target sample of primary schools. For a variety of reasons, guarantees as to the anonymity of respondents were built into the methodology, which had the consequence that the achieved response of 134 SENCOs represented only 29% of the target sample. While it is acknowledged that the sample in this study was small, and thus may be regarded as tentative and preliminary, the findings indicate that the respondents’ lack of an understanding of dyslexia, the inconsistent application of assessment criteria and the variation in training for SENCOs are likely to have significant implications for the identification of chiIdren with dyslexia across Northern Ireland and hence affect the level of support they might expect.

    The dissertation recommends that the opportunity provided by the proposal for a single Education and Skills Authority should be used to develop more consistent practice across Northern Ireland. In addition, all SENCOs should be provided with in-service training that equips them fully for their role in identifying and supporting children with dyslexia.
    Date of AwardSept 2006
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Queen's University Belfast
    SupervisorTony Gallagher (Supervisor) & Eileen Winter (Supervisor)

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