Guernsey Press

‘I just can’t see why we can’t carry on as we were’

GUERNSEY’S Dyslexia Day Centre is facing uncertainty, with founders having no idea what will happen beyond December.

Mike O’Hara in 2020 with the service level agreement signed between Education and The Dyslexia Day Centre. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 31918657)

Mike O’Hara, who founded the centre with his wife Teresa, and the rest of its staff found out about the States pulling its funding only two weeks ago.

‘We were completely surprised by it,’ he said.

About £250,000 has been provided to the centre by the States annually, with the centre itself raising additional funds of between £50,000 and £60,000.

Education, Sport & Culture said the funds will be re-invested into States schools so more students benefit from specialist literacy support.

It will be used to increase training and support given to specialist language and literacy teachers and class teachers.

The Dyslexia Day Centre is based at the old St Andrew’s School and has one full-time member of staff, with eight others working different hours during the week, he said.

Currently it is seeing about 100 children, to whom it provides tuition and assessments plus advice to parents.

Mr O’Hara wondered why the States did not simply continue to use the services of the centre, or take it over.

‘I wish they had considered what we have. I just can’t see why we can’t carry on as we were.’

ESC is allowing for a transition period to allow children receiving support from the centre to continue to do so until December.

‘Initially it was going to be finished in July, but they’ve agreed to let us carry on until December.

‘But what will happen then, we don’t know.’

He said staff were concerned as to their future, although ESC has told them they can apply for jobs within Education when they become available.

ESC said that bringing the dyslexia support ‘in-house’ would ensure literacy difficulties were picked up early and would allow ‘targeted interventions’ which would enable children to keep up with their peers.

In addition, it would provide ongoing accurate assessments of children with these difficulties and give them in-school support as well as providing specific programmes for literacy intervention in secondary schools and increase the amount of support for students on these programmes.

Mr and Mrs O’Hara set up the Dyslexia Day Centre in 1987. Its main focus has been on primary-school aged children, although it continued to offer support into secondary school.

Despite being disappointed, Mr O’Hara said he agreed with what ESC was trying to achieve.

‘It’s probably the correct way to go,’ he said.

‘It’s something we saw as part of our mandate from day one. But from our point of view it’s very difficult because we want to carry on with the centre.’

Mr O’Hara was Culture & Leisure minister for eight years until the post was abolished in 2016, and the responsibilities absorbed into ESC.

ESC president Deputy Andrea Dudley-Owen thanked Mr and Mrs O’Hara for their commitment and hard work over many years.

While the centre was launched at a time when much less was known about dyslexia, in recent years the expertise within the Education office and the schools themselves had grown to a point where it was now possible for even more young people to be supported.

Education director Nick Hynes said that ESC had eight language and literacy teachers who hold recognised dyslexia teacher qualifications.

‘With the redirected funding we anticipate that this number will grow.’

Support for students with language and literacy difficulties would be increased to cover all phases of education.