‘I’m damned if I’m going to let Dyslexia Day Centre go easily’

GUERNSEY’S Dyslexia Day Centre has been overwhelmed with messages of support from ex-pupils, parents and teachers from the islands schools, after the shock news on Friday that Education, Sport & Culture was pulling the centre’s grant.

Dyslexia Day Centre founders Mike and Teresa O’Hara, left, with Hilary Greening, who is the centre’s lead dyslexia specialist teacher and only full-time employee. (31929789)
Dyslexia Day Centre founders Mike and Teresa O’Hara, left, with Hilary Greening, who is the centre’s lead dyslexia specialist teacher and only full-time employee. (31929789)

Centre founder Mike O’Hara said they had only found out about the decision two weeks ago.

‘In September they spoke to us in glowing terms about the work we do and then in February without any warning they give us two weeks’ notice. The lack of communication has saddened me,’ he said.

‘We have been teaching in schools successfully for 36 years, and helped thousands of children. How would you feel if you got two weeks’ notice?

‘I’m vexed.’

Mr O’Hara said that in the past they had always worked closely with the education authorities and they had previously had shared goals.

‘No thought seems to have been given to the children we currently look after,’ he said.

‘The uncertainty is key – we can’t reassure anyone about the plan because we don’t know the plan.’

The Dyslexia Day Centre, based at the former St Andrew’s School, provides tuition and assessments, plus advice to parents, and is currently helping about 150 children.

ESC has made the decision to withdraw its grant of more than £200,000 of annual funding to the centre, and said that funds will be reinvested into States schools so more students benefit from specialist literacy support.

Hilary Greening, lead dyslexia specialist teacher at the centre, is the only person on the island who currently holds a dyslexia assessment practising certificate, which allows her to diagnose the learning disability.

‘The centre allows everyone access to education. It removes the barriers that dyslexia can bring,’ she said.

‘The island is moving forward to more inclusive classrooms, but that will require a huge amount of upskilling.’

Mrs Greening is employed full-time at the centre and said she had already fielded phone calls from parents anxious they would not be able to get a diagnosis and the right support.

‘It is not that we disagree fundamentally with what ESC is doing, but we wanted to be part of the dialogue and have input into making changes,’ she said.

‘We are very disappointed not to have been part of the conversation.

‘Being privy to their plans would give us confidence that pupils would be supported.’

One former student, who spoke to the Guernsey Press about the closure, now has two children of their own who attend the centre.

‘I was at primary school and really struggling.

‘I would panic if I thought I was going to be asked anything. I started coming to the centre 30 years ago.

‘It helped me gain confidence and deal with my education.’

They said that since their daughter had started at the centre they had seen a big leap forward in her ability too.

‘It’s hard to be confident about what will happen if we lose the centre.

‘The decision has come as a shock to everyone.’

Founders Mike and Teresa O’Hara set up the centre in 1986 after finding a lack of support for their own son.

The centre raises additional funding of about £60,000 a year through charity events and sponsorship.

‘We have now argued for an extension until December and we are looking for funding to continue until the end of the academic year,’ said Mr O’Hara.

‘I think we have built one of the best resources in the UK. I’m damned if I’m going to let it go easily.'

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