Matt Hancock’s call for dyslexia screening fails as his Bill runs out of time

The Bill is unlikely to progress in its current form.

Mini-budget
Mini-budget

Matt Hancock’s bid to ensure all children are screened for dyslexia before the end of primary school has failed after the legislation ran out of time in the Commons.

In his first speech in the House of Commons since taking part in I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!, the ex-health secretary presented his Dyslexia Screening and Teacher Training Bill.

The now independent MP for West Suffolk told the lower chamber: “Dyslexics up and down the country are called lazy or stupid.”

He argued it is an “outrage” that teachers don’t currently need to be trained to support dyslexic pupils and insisted early identification of dyslexia is essential to reach full literacy.

But the Bill ran out of time to clear its second reading and it is unlikely to progress in its current form.

Mr Hancock said: “Without early identification we will never reach full literacy. Because the success in driving up literacy requires us to next support those who have the most difficulty in increasing their literacy.

“So the next stage of the education revolution under this administration must be to improve opportunities that dyslexic children and children with other neurodivergent conditions have.”

Mr Hancock noted it is estimated around 10% of people in the UK are dyslexic, adding: “But if we don’t know who is dyslexic when they are at school, how can we possibly help them and equip them to deal with the challenges that life throws at us?”

In his speech, the former cabinet minister also shared his personal experience, having been diagnosed with dyslexia when he was 18 while studying at Oxford.

He said that his brain had to be “retrained” and that whilst now he can read normal words “quite well”, he is not “that good with brand-new words and I have to concentrate very hard to learn them”.

He went on: “But that gave me the ability to prosper both at university and then succeed afterwards.”

Shadow education minister Matt Western told Mr Hancock it was good to see him “in the flesh” and commended him for raising awareness on dyslexia.

However, he said: “I do not believe this Bill is the answer in the way it currently sits. What I think is needed is better diagnosis across all education and all neurodivergent conditions. And we believe this can be done through continuous professional development.”

Education minister Claire Coutinho reiterated the Government will publish its response to the SEND review in early 2023, adding: “I’m very committed to doing so and part of what we will be looking at is some of the questions that have been talked about today to make sure that we can get that early identification right, that people are getting the help they need when they need it…”

She insisted the Government is “incredibly ambitious about literacy and making sure that we can achieve the targets that we have set out and we’ll be working to do so not only with the measures in the Bill, but also right across the department”.

Ms Coutinho said she would be very happy to work with Mr Hancock before the time ran out.

Shadow equalities minister Yasmin Qureshi earlier accused Tory MPs of trying to “talk out” Mr Hancock’s Bill.

During the second reading debate of the Offenders (Day of Release from Detention) Bill, Ms Qureshi said: “The reason there’s so many people on that side of the House is because you’re trying to talk out the last Bill for this morning.”

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