Scrutinizing Success by Gemma Bryant

If you are familiar with the work of Dyslexia Scotland in any way, shape or form, you will have heard the aim of the organisation a hundred times: Encourage and enable people with dyslexia, regardless of their age and abilities, to reach their potential.  All too often, though, we forget that people not only do this in a variety of ways, but in order for potential to be realised, each person has to work differently.  This is why the approach of the Head Teacher of Barrowford Primary School in Nelson, Lancashire last summer was so refreshing. She went to great lengths to tell children who were receiving KS2 results that there are a great many ways in which a person is “smart,” whether that be because of the good qualities they display, the hobbies in which they partake or the experiences gained from travelling.  Now, I’m not saying that academic test results are unimportant.  Far from it.  However, the Head Teacher was correct in stating that results are not “everything” and that everyone is “unique.”  Not everyone is bright in the academic sense, but they are successful in other ways. While it is true that academia carries weight in the education system, not being the top of the class does not mean that people cannot be successful, something that those with dyslexia would do well to remember.  Jamie Oliver has stated that the first book he read from start to finish was Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (released in 2009) and his difficulties with reading haven’t stopped him being successful at doing something he appears to love and get lots of money out of! Conversely, just because someone is dyslexic doesn’t mean they can’t be good at jobs that are thought of, at least by some, as being for non-dyslexic people.  For instance, some people seem to balk at the thought of dyslexic teachers and lecturers.  While I personally have no idea why (various disabilities are present in classrooms on a daily basis, why should this not also extend to teachers who, as well as being good at their jobs, can truly empathise with their pupils?), some people see dyslexia as something that makes reading and writing so difficult that dyslexia is seen as insurmountable, rather than something that, granted, needs strategies, perseverance and hard work, but can still be overcome. Then there is the fact that some people see dyslexia as a gift for it allows people to see things differently from those who do not have it.  For example, I have heard stories of dyslexic engineers who can see the problem without having to take machinery apart, something they attribute to the way that dyslexia has affected their brain. So, not only are people different, but dyslexia can also be viewed in a multitude of ways.  Dyslexic or not, though, an individual is just that: an individual.  Each individual person has their own strengths and weaknesses that cannot, and should not, be measured by exam results.  Well done to the Head Teacher of Barrowford Primary School for highlighting this significant issue, the importance of which can never be underestimated.