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Overview

This is the third post in a five-part series.

  1. Getting free audiobooks from local libraries via Overdrive
  2. Audiobook services for people with learning difficulties
  3. Audible
  4. Other commercial audiobook services
  5. Audiobook listening apps

Note: The original plan for this post was to cover Audible and other commercial audiobook providers. But that would make it too long. So I decided to split it into two parts

In the last two weeks we looked at audiobooks from public libraries and specialised services for people with print disabilities.

We are now going to look at different services you can use to purchase audiobooks. The clear leader in this field is Amazon’s Audible.

This week, we will outline what to look for when choosing a commercial service and review Audible in detail.

Next week, we will look at alternatives to Audible:

  • Downpour – downloading books without copy protection
  • Playster – unlimited subscription to audiobooks
  • Librivox – free out of copyright audiobooks narrated by volunteers
  • For other services see this Review.

Key things to know

This is a very long post, so here is a quick summary:

  • Audible has over 200,000 audiobooks
  • You can get a free audiobook (to keep) as part of a free trial when you sign up on Amazon.co.uk. You can two free audiobooks through Audible.co.uk/two, if you have an Amazon.co.uk account.
  • You subscribe to get one credit a month for £8 (other options are available)
  • You can listen to Audible books almost anywhere using their apps on smartphones, tablets or PCs and Macs.

What are commercial audiobooks

audiobooks for dyslexia

In the old days, the only way you could get an audiobook was to purchase one on CD (and on tape in the even older days). Audiobooks on CDs are still sold but they are expensive. And because audiobooks can be 10, 20 or even 50 hours long, the CD versions are often abridged.

In this post we will look at the best commercial download services. These are mostly unabridged audiobooks that are purchased and downloaded to your device such as smartphone, tablet or PC.

What to look for

When you are choosing a service, you should look at:

  • Book selection
  • Payment model
  • Copy protection (DRM)
  • Default apps.

Book selection

Some audiobook services only have a few thousand titles, while the biggest have tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands.

But the total number does not matter much if they have the books you want. Check this before you sign up.

Not all the books are available in all countries. Sometimes, the US catalogue of books is much bigger than that available in the UK.

Payment model

There are basically three ways to purchase audiobooks:

  • Pay outright
  • Monthly subscription with limited credit
  • Unlimited subscription.

Pay outright

Paying outright is the easiest way to purchase an audiobook. It is like any online purchase. But it is also the most expensive. Audiobooks cost two or three times as much as regular books or ebooks. That’s why this option is not the best for most people.

Monthly subscription for credit

This is the most common option for most people. You pay a reasonable fee every month and receive a credit for buying one audiobook (or two). This makes audiobooks very affordable (around £8). Some services allow you to purchase additional credits. You own the audiobook even when you stop the subscription.

Unlimited subscription

Netflix-style unlimited subscription is very rare in the world of audiobooks. There are a few services out there but they have limited catalogues compared to the others. You pay a monthly fee and listen as much as you want. You don’t own the books and you cannot listen again when you stop the subscription.

Copy protection (DRM)

Copy protection or DRM (Digital Rights Management) is a limitation publishers impose on the file you buy. Its official purpose is to stop illegal sharing but its effect is to stop you from using your ebooks or audiobooks in the best way for you. It means that:

  • You can only access the content on official apps
  • You can only use the content on a limited number of devices
  • You cannot share the content with your family or friends unless you also share the device.

As a consequence you don’t really own the book you purchased. You just pay for a license to use it.

In extreme cases, the publisher goes out of business or changes formats and you can lose access to content you thought you owned.

Copy protection used to be extremely common with music but is now not used by any of the major sellers. It is used on movies and TV shows. It is, of course, also used by streaming services.

Unfortunately, DRM is still the norm with ebooks and common with audiobooks.

Default apps

This is particularly important for services that use copy protection. You should always check whether the default app has all the key features for listening to audiobooks:

  • Setting speed of playback
  • Resume a few seconds back after pause
  • Manage audiobooks on device
  • Skip back and forward buttons by 15 sec
  • Bookmarking
  • Navigation by chapter
  • Volume boost.

Audible

Audible is not the only option for audiobooks but it is perhaps the best and easiest one to get started with.

Book selection

Audible, owned by Amazon, is by far the biggest online store for audiobooks with over 200,000 titles available. It is the default choice for many people, including myself. I have been an Audible subscriber for almost 10 years (my first audiobook purchase was in 2007) and I have well over 100 audiobooks in my Audible library.

Audible has almost all the most popular books in all genres you can think of. It is even great in genre fiction such as fantasy and sci-fi. There are lots of Young Adult books and plenty of books for children, as well.

There are many non-fiction as well. Audible now also includes lectures from the The Great Courses (formerly Teaching Company). These are a great way to get more information about variety of university-level topics. Buying these courses through Audible is a great deal cheaper than directly on the website.

The only area not covered is textbooks on the UK curriculum and more academic books but many other curriculum texts are available.

Also, not all books available through the US Audible (Audible.com) are available in the UK.

Titles are read by male and female narrators with US or UK accents. Occasionally, some popular titles (like Harry Potter) are narrated in both accents.

Payment model (Free trial available)

Free trial details at the end.

Basic subscription

The basic subscription for Audible is a monthly payment of £8 pounds. This gives you 1 credit to purchase audiobooks with. Almost all audiobooks cost 1 credit, no matter what their full cost. You get a new credit every month.

Other subscription options are 2 credits a month or 12 credits or 24 credits for a year. The last option makes 1 audiobook cost £4.60. These options are not easy to discover – you need to go to Switch my membership under Account details.

Other ways to buy

You can also buy additional credits as part of various offers. For instance, 3 credits for £18.

You can also buy an audiobook outright but that is almost always more expensive than 1 credit. But Audible regularly runs special deals on certain audiobooks, in which case, the cost can often be less.

Returning books

You can return books you didn’t like or did not listen to. There are no official limits on this but Audible can stop you if you abuse this feature. Also, it only applies to books not purchased through special deals. I have returned several books I did not finish listening to. Returning is done via the website.

Managing membership

You can roll over credits into the next month, if you don’t use them. Maximum of unused credits is 12.

You can also pause your membership if you want to catch up on old audiobooks. I have done that several times. Simply, go to Cancel and it will be given as one of the options. Occasionally, Audible will offer you to re-join at a lower subscription price.

Free trial

When you first go to Audible.co.uk, you will be offered a free trial of one book. But if you go to Audible.co.uk/two, you will get 2 free audiobooks. This only works if you also have an Amazon account.

You can cancel your account in 1 month and still keep the free books in your Audible library. Otherwise, you will be charged again in a month.

The free trial is probably the easiest way to get started with audiobooks for free.

Copy protection

Unfortunately, Audible uses copy protection to limit how you use the audiobooks you purchase. This means you can only play Audible audiobooks on certified devices or using Audible apps.

There is also a limit to the number of devices (4) you can put an audiobook on.

I have never run into a limit of devices but I had to pause my Audible membership in the past when I used an MP3 player not supported by the service.

Luckily, Audible is now a part of Amazon and not likely to disappear soon. Audible itself has existed for almost 20 years.  The books you purchased are available to you even when you stop your subscription payments.  Also, you can burn the audiobooks to CDs as backup.

For families, this means that they have to share an Audible account (which could be unfortunate if parents want to listen to books not suitable to children) or buy the same audiobooks multiple times. Amazon has a Household Sharing programme but it is not available for Audible.

Audible apps

The only way to listen to Audible audiobooks is through one of their apps or on an approved device – such as an iPod or select MP3 players.

Phones and tablets

The best way to listen to Audible audiobooks is on a smartphone or a tablet. Audible has apps for all three main platforms: iPhone/iPad, Android and even Windows.

I use the Android app regularly and it has the most important key features. It is not the best audiobook player in the field but it is very capable. It has also improved a lot since it was first introduced.

Most importantly, you can buy and download audiobooks right from the app.

PCs

You can also listen on your computer (Mac or PC). This can be either using iTunes, the Audible player or Windows Media Player. These are not great ways to listen. None of these apps are intended for audiobooks and they do not offer bookmarking or variable speed.

On Windows 10, you can also listen using the Windows 10 app. It can be downloaded via the Store. This is a very good app.

You can also stream via the website. This is a good option because it syncs position with other devices. The only feature not available is variable speed.

Other devices

Other possible ways to listen are iPods, approved MP3 players, approved specialist devices for visually impaired people. There are even some GPS navigators that will play Audible.

All iPods support Audible. Other MP3 players typically do not support it, including some of the best ones. Audible has a list of supported devices. Check before you buy.

You have to use the Audible downloader or iTunes to copy the audiobooks to these devices.

However, a smartphone is probably the best way to listen to audiobooks now.

Burning CDs

You can burn the Audible audiobooks to CDs using the iTunes Music Player on Windows or Mac.

This is great for backup but it is not very practical. 1 disk can only fit 80 minutes. Most audiobooks will need 6 – 8 CDs. Some may need as many as 30-40 CDs.

Theoretically you could rip those CDs again and get DRM-free MP3s. But this would be too time consuming to be worth the effort for more than 1 or 2 audiobooks.

Sync position in audiobook across devices

A great reason for using Audible apps is that they sync your position in the audiobook across multiple devices.

This means you can listen on a phone while walking about and switch to tablet or PC when you come home.

Sync of books and audiobooks (Whispersync for voice)

Some audiobooks can also sync reading position with the corresponding ebook. This is available for a minority of books on Audible but it is not completely uncommon. About 25% of the audiobooks in my library have this option.

This means that you can read a book on your Kindle in your bed, get up and continue listening to the audiobook where you left off. When you come back, you can start reading where you finished listening.

On the Kindle Fire, you can even listen while the words are being highlighted on the page. This is a great option for new or dyslexic readers. Sadly, Amazon does not make that available on other tablets or phones.

Summary

Audible is a great way to get kids and adults reading. If it is the lack of time or a reading difficulty. You can read more with audiobooks. More and more people are listening to audiobooks and this is in part thanks to Audible making so many books available to listen to.

Children with dyslexia can particularly benefit from an Audible subscription. Even if they also use other free options.

Learning to listen to audiobooks should be a part of what children learn in school. Every school library should have a trial subscription to Audible so that they can introduce children to this great way to access books.

Parents who are uncomfortable reading to children themselves can also find listening with them a great way to share the excitement of stories and literacy with their kids.

Audible is not the only way to do this but it is a great and fairly affordable way to get started.

Next time

Next time we will have a look at three alternatives to Audible. After that, we will review audiobook apps.

Image credits

All photos in this post are courtesy of Pixabay.

Dominik Lukes - Education and Technology Specialist

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The assessment process, to be undertaken by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission, has been adapted following last year’s consultation process, when some 2,000 organisations including Dyslexia Action gave its views.

Welcomed improvements now include:

  • An extension of the two-day notice period to five days so parents and young people have more time to make arrangements so that they can participate  
  • Inspectors will be specialists with experience of SEND. They will also receive training to enable them to evaluate the work of the local area rigorously
  • The inspection process will ensure that the review of the Local Offer examines the clarity of decisions on identifying need and the resources allocated to support needs, including those at SEN Support level, as well as those with EHC plans. Children and young people without EHC plans will be included in those spoken to as part of the inspection
  • Inspectors will report how well the local area meets the needs of specific groups where this represents either effective practice or is a key priority for improvement.

Local authorities, nurseries, schools, further education establishments, and health services will be among those inspected and the findings will help ensure areas of good practice can be shared elsewhere.

Are your children’s needs being met?

Dyslexia Action welcomes the new inspection system that will now hold local areas to account as it should help safeguard good provision for children with SEND. Dyslexia Action believes it is crucial that children with dyslexia are identified as early as possible and given the alternative support they need to help them learn alongside their peers. Director of Education and Policy Dr John Rack said: “Our concern with the new more devolved education system was always that it would lead to large variation, with some schools making good provision and others doing the bare minimum.  Now there is a system that will hold local areas to account to ensure best practice for children with SEND, including those with dyslexia, can be shared from region to region.”

 

Since the Local Offer was launched in 2014, as part of the SEND reforms, Dyslexia Action has been continuing to work in partnership sharing its specialist practice with schools to meet the needs of pupils with dyslexia, where schools do not have teachers with specialist training. It also continues to support children whose parents come to us for assessment and direct support with their children’s learning. Dyslexia Action’s Chief Executive Stephen Hall said: “We look forward to the new inspections framework improving the identification and support services for children and young people with dyslexia nationwide, ensuring that no one with dyslexia or other learning difficulties is overlooked and allowed to slip through the net. Only then, will the inspection framework meet its aims of allowing people to do ‘…well in education, be more independent, find employment and be an increasing part of their local communities’.”

 

This month inspectors will start assessing if local areas are fulfilling their responsibilities by:

  • assessing how well the local area identifies children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities
  • evaluating how effectively the local area meets the needs and improves the outcomes of children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities
  • using a wide range of information to evaluate how effectively the local area fulfils its responsibilities
  • talking to children and young people, and their parents and carers, and local partners, including nurseries, schools, colleges and specialist services.

 

 

Who should attend?

We welcome all those with a professional interest in dyslexia and SpLD:

  • specialist teachers
  • SENCos
  • learning support staff
  • teaching assistants
  • educational psychologists
  • speech therapists
  • band 4 NMH specialists working one-to-one and provided study skills support (SpLD)

 

What can I expect from the conference?

Our conference will begin on Wednesday 29 June with a special afternoon international conference with presentations from our European partners including Dr David Gerlach, University of Marburg, preceded by a our Keynote speakers: Regis Professor of History Emeritus - Professor Robert Evans and Dr Lynne Duncan, University of Dundee. Our afternoon event will be followed by a pre-dinner drinks event and a conference dinner to enable discussions to continue into the evening! Overnight accommodation is bookable at the venue.

On Thursday 30 June the full Guild Conference will take place. Expect a warm welcome from our friendly Dyslexia Action staff, meet researchers and exhibitors and enjoy a networking lunch. Our keynote speakers Professor Julia Carroll and Dr Jessie Ricketts will explore aspects of Language Development and Reading and enable you to hear the most current research and benefit from taking time out of your daily schedule to learn, debate and reflect on cutting-edge practice.  Our afternoon parallel sessions provide a range of opportunities to hear specialist speakers on a variety of topics. An attendance certificate will be  provided for your Continuing Professional Development (CPD) portfolio.

Thursday's parellel session speakers

  • Jennifer Donovan, UCL Institute of Education, Dynamic Assessment-the way forward for supporting students with dyslexia?
  • Dr Anna Smith, Kings College London and Dyslexia Action, Assessing Adults for Dyslexia/SpLD
  • Gill Cochrane Fellow of the Dyslexia Guild (FDG) and Lesley Binns, Dyslexia Action, Discovery Teaching using the Dyslexia Action Literacy Programme, Unlocking Literacy Potential: The Primary Importance of the Learner
  • Dominik Lukeš, Dyslexia Action
    Assistive Technologies and SpLD: Using Tablets
  • Elda Nikolou-Walker, Middlesex University London, Upgrading your SpLD qualification to an MA

For further information including a full conference programme, agenda and how to book click here

Overview

This is the second part in our four part series on Audiobooks.

  1. Getting free audiobooks from local libraries via Overdrive
  2. Audiobook services for people with learning difficulties
  3. Commercial audiobook services
  4. Audiobook listening apps

In this part, we will look at services offering audiobooks to people with vision impairments and learning disabilities such as dyslexia in the UK. We will look at (listed alphabetically):

Who are these services for?

The three services we are considering all started their life aiming to make more books accessible to blind and partially sighted people.

Now, thanks to the Print Disability license, they’ve started offering the books to people with dyslexia and other conditions that prevent them from reading standard print. This includes physical disabilities.

This means that sometimes, it may not be immediately obvious from the website that people with dyslexia are welcome. But that should not discourage you. They all welcome readers with dyslexia, as well.

Calibre Audio Library

Subjects and books

Calibre Audio Library offers over 8,000 audiobooks covering various areas. You can browse the library online. Their subjects include fiction and general nonfiction but also many curriculum-related books in:

  • GCSE
  • History
  • Science

Calibre also has 1,500 audiobooks aimed at young children accessible via a separate website called Young Calibre.

Formats and delivery

All the books are either delivered by post as:

  • MP3 CD – a CD with audio files on it. This will only play on computers or specialised players also sold by Calibre
  • MP3 USB – a USB key with audio files on it. This should be the preferred option for most people because many modern computers do not have CD drives. Calibre also sells players that will play these USB keys directly

They are also available via live online streaming.

The MP3s do not have copy protection and can be played in any software or app.

Fees and joining procedure

Calibre requires a one-time joining fee of £35 (£20 for Young Calibre). It is free to use after that.

You can apply online or by post.

 

Listening Books

Subjects and books

Listening Books covers more of the curriculum areas and more thoroughly than others on this list. You can browse their library by subject or by Key Stage. Its subjects include:

  • Art
  • English
  • Citizenship
  • Geography
  • Religious Education
  • Science
  • Others

There is also the usual coverage of general fiction and non-fiction. In total, Listening Books includes about 7,000 titles.

Listening Books get their books from publishers or record them themselves in their studios.

Formats and delivery

You can get listening books as:

  • Downloads
  • MP3 CDs
  • Streaming

Note: Not all books are available in all formats.

The MP3s do not have copy protection and can be played in any software or app.

Fees and joining procedure

You can join online or via phone. There are several levels with an annual fee:

  • Download and online streaming only (£20/year)
  • Postal delivery of MP3 CDs only (£35/year)
  • Online and post (£45)

They also offer assistance for those who cannot afford the fees.

Organisational memberships are also available (at a little over 2x the cost of the individual ones).

RNIB Talking Books

Subjects and books

The RNIB Talking Books library offers over 23,000 audiobooks. It is the largest of the four we are looking at.

The library covers the usual range of general interest titles. It does not systematically cover the UK curriculum subjects.

Formats and delivery

The RNIB Talking Books library uses Overdrive and books are downloaded via the Overdrive apps described last week.

MP3 CDs or USB Sticks by post are also available. These use MP3 files that can be navigated using the DAISY format.

Fees and joining procedures

The service is free to blind and partially sighted people. People with dyslexia can also apply.

The online application procedure is quite involved. You have to click on several links before you get to a page where you can add your application to a shopping basket. The application is free but you can also include a donation or buy a player.

This takes you to a form where you can indicate your type of disability.

Which one should you choose?

These services are not mutually exclusive and they are certainly not in competition with each other. They each have something to recommend and some people may like to subscribe to more than one.

RNIB Talking Books is free and has the widest selection of general interest books. It also has the easiest way to get books on to your device using the OverDrive apps. The registration procedure is quite confusing at first.

Listening Books has an edge when it comes to curriculum materials and may be most suitable for students. Its downloads can be played using any apps, although many books are only available via a CD.

Calibre Audio Library only requires a one-time fee and it has a decent selection across the board. The USB Key option is better than a CD-only one but there are no downloads.

Next time

Next time we will have a look at Audible and other commercial audiobook providers.

Dominik Lukes - Education and Technology Specialist

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Note: This is a different topic from the one I’ve promised last week. It is because the offer of free audio books will expire and I wanted to make sure people have enough time to take advantage of it. I will use the opportunity to start a new series on audiobooks. Maths apps and new developments in text to speech will start soon.

Overview

This is the first in a series of posts on the best ways to get and listen to audiobooks. I recommended listening to audio books as the second ever post on Tech Thursday also explaining why and how. But we’ve never discussed where to get audiobooks or reviewed the different services in detail.

In this series, we will have a look at getting audiobooks from various places:

  • Local libraries via Overdrive
  • Specialised audiobook lending libraries
  • Audible and other commercial providers

Getting audiobooks via Overdrive

What is Overdrive

Overdrive is the biggest international provider of ebooks and audiobooks to libraries. Individual libraries subscribe to the service and select which books they pay for to make available to their patrons.

This means that not all libraries have the same books. The libraries will also have different policies on how many books you can borrow and for how long. Most libraries have many fewer ebooks than printed books.

You can only use Overdrive if your library subscribes to it. There are no individual plans.

Note: In this post, we will focus on using Overdrive’s audiobooks. But not all libraries subscribe to Overdrive audiobook service. Not all libraries use Overdrive, at all. Some use alternative providers such as Wheelers, Dawson Era or ProQuest. But Overdrive is by far the most common.

Special offer of free audiobooks: Summer 2016

From now until August, you can get two free audiobooks every week via Overdrive in an offer by the Audiofile magazine called Audiobook sync.

The offer is aimed at teenagers in the US, so some books are not available to download in the UK. But most are. Also, most will have American narrators.

Every week, you can download 2 books. But the 2 books are only available for that 1 week. This is being published just at the end of the first week.

How to get your Audiobook Sync books?

  1. Download and install the Audible app on your computer or your phone/tablet
  2. Go to Audiobooksync.com and download the Audiobook package file. Important: This is NOT the actual audiobook.
  3. Open the audiobook package file in the Overdrive app (this should happen automatically when you click or tap on it) and it will then download the audiobook.
  4. Listen to the audiobook in the Overdrive app or your favourite audiobook app

Tips

  1. You must download the books during the week of the offer. They will stop being available every Thursday. Set a calendar reminder.
  2. You can keep these books forever. They are not limited in any way. You can even back them up on a USB drive or in Dropbox.
  3. You can burn them into a CD.
  4. You can download them directly to your phone or tablet and download them to your computer for backup.
  5. You can download these audiobooks and listen to them on any MP3 player because they don’t have any copy protection.
  6. Dropbox or Google Drive is a good way to get the audiobooks to your mobile device if you only downloaded them to your computer.

Borrowing audiobooks from local libraries

Most local libraries in the UK subscribe to some audiobook offers from Overdrive. Check with your library.

How to get the audiobooks from your local library

The process of borrowing the audiobooks is very easy and similar to the Audiobooksync offer.

  1. Sign up for an Overdrive account and link it to your local library account
  2. Search or browse the audiobook section of your library and click on the audiobooks you want to borrow
  3. Download an audiobook package file
  4. Open the audiobook package in the Overdrive app and it will download the actual audiobook files
  5. Listen to the audiobook in the Overdrive app

Note: You can also listen straight on the web, using the very good web player.

Things to know about copy protection

Unlike the free books from Audiobook Sync, the audiobooks on loan from your library are copy protected. This means that:

  1. You can only listen using the Overdrive app – but luckily it is very good – or apps that support copy protection.
  2. You can only listen on devices that support copy protection – most MP3 players don’t but most people do not use MP3 players any more
  3. They will expire after a period set by your library
  4. You can burn the audiobooks to a CD using the Overdrive app if allowed by the library or publisher.

Using the OverDrive audiobook player

The best way to play audiobooks borrowed from your library is using the Overdrive Audiobook player. It is a very capable app that has all the key features necessary for audiobook listening:

  • Setting speed of playback
  • Resume a few seconds back after pause
  • Manage audiobooks on device
  • Skip back and forward buttons by 15 sec
  • Bookmarking
  • Navigation by chapter
  • Volume boost

The only missing feature from the best Audiobook players is the ability to set custom time periods of skip back and forward (I prefer 15 seconds back and 30 seconds forward).

Note: I only tested the Android and PC apps but the apps on iPhone/iPad and Mac should work just as well. There’s even a very capable web player, if you don’t want to download the audiobooks.

Computer

On the computer, you have the main audiobook library software:

It will do this:

  1. Open the audiobook package files downloaded from Overdrive
  2. Download the actual audiobook files from the server
  3. Burn the audiobook to CDs if permitted
  4. Transfer audiobooks to a device (not all devices are supported)
  5. Launch the audiobook in the player

When you press play in the audiobook library, an audiobook player app will open in a new window. It will:

  1. Play back and navigate the audiobook
  2. Set play back speed
  3. Set bookmarks

Mobile device

The Overdrive mobile app is much more integrated than the computer software. It keeps all your library ebooks and audiobooks together.

When you tap on a title, it will open either in an ebook reader or an audiobook player:

Summary

Your local public library is a great way to get started with audiobooks for free. The process is fairly easy and the listening experience is great.

For a limited time, everybody should take advantage of the free audiobooks offered by Audiobook Sync. Make sure you recommend it to your friends.

Next time

Next time we will have a look at various audiobooks sources for people with disabilities. After that, we will review Audible.

Dominik Lukes - Education and Technology Specialist

 

Tags: 

Dyslexia Action is launching a call for action to support a draft Teacher Training (Special Educational Needs) Bill (2016).

Dyslexia Action is asking MPs to support the draft Bill, which is seeking to do something that we have been campaigning for since the turn of the decade: mandatory Initial Teacher Training (ITT) in Special Educational Needs (SEN).

Once Lord Addington has introduced the Bill as a Lords Private Members’ Bill, if an MP supports the Bill, it can continue in the House of Commons. A back-bench MP is being sought to present it as a Ballot Bill. The ballot is being held on Thursday 26 May in Committee Room 10.  The Bills will then be presented on Wednesday 29 June 2016 on the Floor of the House. The first seven ballot Bills are most likely to get a day's debate.

The draft Bill has been formulated due to widespread[i] concern that mainstream education is failing to fully embrace the concepts of SEN, including dyslexia and autism[ii]. Despite the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Code of Practice (2016) making every teacher responsible for a child’s learning, research[iii] still finds that teachers, including SENCos, are not all trained in SEN.

Dyslexia Action launched a campaign for mandatory training of teachers in special educational needs (SEN) in its Dyslexia Still Matters report[iv] in 2012, which was subsequently referred to in Parliament. It then repeated the call in its general election manifesto and again last September, in the wake of International Literacy Day.

In support of the Teacher Training (Special Educational Needs) Bill (2016), Dyslexia Action’s Head of Education and Policy Dr John Rack said: “The reformed SEN system is about monitoring progress and intervening when things go wrong or are too slow. If passed in Parliament, this Bill would ensure more teachers are trained to catch more problems before they become complicated by the frustrations of failure.”

 

The Detail

The draft Bill aims to compel accredited ITT providers to ensure ‘…the content, structure, delivery and assessment of the training programme will provide trainee teachers with the following guidance:

a) An awareness of commonly occurring learning disabilities.

b) An awareness of child development or psychology.

c) An understanding of commonly occurring learning disabilities, such that they are able to support students with commonly occurring learning disabilities and make judgements as to when specialist help is required to support those students.

d) An awareness that students may have learning disabilities with which they are unfamiliar.’

This comprehensive SEN awareness training, delivered in consultation with the National College of Teaching and Leadership, aims to improve standards in-line with the Government’s newly-launched white paper Excellence in Education[v] (Ch6c.): ‘to help ensure every child leaves primary school with the essential building blocks to succeed at secondary; and (6g) ‘Help schools provide the right support for children of all abilities’.

The White Paper, published last month, states plans are afoot to replace the current QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) with a ‘more challenging accreditation, recognising the ability to teach well, advance subject knowledge and understanding and application of up-to-date evidence’. An independent advisory report on the Framework of Core ITT content, commissioned by the Government, is due to be published in the summer, following on from the recent ITT Carter Review which recommended a change to SEND provision in initial teacher training.

The proposed Teacher Training (Special Educational Needs) Bill would help to ensure that England's state schools will have staff able to improve learning for all children, including those with SEN.

 

Why is the Bill needed?

  • There is no compulsory element in Initial Teacher Training (ITT) that covers SEND.
  • Many teachers still report a lack of confidence when teaching children with SEN.
  • Teachers are increasingly seeking advice from specialist SEN providers on how to teach children effectively, including how to help them pass their phonics and SAT tests.

 

Improved life outcomes

Dr Rack added: “We need to improve the experiences of children with SEN at school – by having teachers’ who are better trained in understanding their needs using the guidance outlined in the Bill. These measures will improve long-term career opportunities and life outcomes for children with SEN by ensuring that their needs are identified early and that all teachers are able to provide learning and coping strategies throughout the education journey.”

The Department for Education is investing in support and has recently taken applications for a new contract in 2016/17 to put in place measures to support children and young people with dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties. This is welcomed progress. However, in addition to such measures, Dyslexia Action believes mandatory teacher training in special educational needs is still needed to improve outcomes for all children.

 

SEN Awareness Package

An awareness package outlined in the Bill, follows discussions[vi] with various representatives from non-governmental organisations, unions and academics, who have met to ensure that the content of the awareness package reflects the needs of both the pupils and the teachers. It is split into three sections: child development, inclusive pedagogy and identification (the disabilities to be covered are the same as the five key categories outlined in the Lamb Inquiry, 2009). Lord Addington said: “These key topics provide a strong base knowledge helping teachers to identify, support and refer; whilst not greatly extending the teacher training curriculum beyond its already stretched capacity.

“This awareness package, a step closer to a more inclusive future for initial teacher training, can help to ensure that pupils’ special educational needs and disabilities are identified early and are properly supported in the classroom, throughout their education. It will create a new wave of better-equipped teachers and stop unidentified pupils underachieving.”

Parents can urge their MP to support the Teacher Training (Special Educational Needs) Bill (2016) using the letter provided.

 

Unusual incidents and strange happenings are everywhere in these books.  Choose a book to read and see if you can use the clues to solve the mystery.

The Ruby in the Smoke by Phillip Pullman           Age 12 and above

When her father dies Sally Lockheart is forced to go and live with her cousin in London.  When she receives an anonymous letter containing a warning she becomes determined to find out what happened to her father.

Time Stops for No Mouse by Michael Hoeye       Age 8 and above

Hermux Tantamoq works hard running his watchmaker’s shop.  When the aviatrix Linka Perflinger mysteriously disappears after visiting him he sets out to find her.

Half Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer                            Age 9 and above

Fletcher Moon has solved many minor mysteries at school and at his home.  When the brothers Herod and Red Sharkey are beginning to be accused of a spate of local crimes Fletcher decides to investigate.

The Thieves of Ostia by Caroline Lawrence                        Age 7 and above

Most of the homes in Ostia in AD79 have dogs to guard their homes.  When the dogs begin to be found dead Flavia Gemina and her friends feel they must find out who is killing the dogs and why.

Adventure Island: The Mystery of the Whistling Caves by Helen Moss         Age 7 and above

Priceless treasures have been stolen and friends Emily, Scott and Jack have decided they are the ones to find out what has happened.  Can they work out how the treasures were smuggled out of the castle and why the caves have stopped whistling?

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket    Age 8 and above

The charming and clever Baudelaire orphans seem to be beset with problems.  Will they ever solve the mystery of what happened to their parents and can they foil the plot to steal their fortune?

The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Kathryn Woodfine    Age 10 and above

 

Sinclair’s department store is not necessarily a place where you would expect to find mysteries to be solved.  When some of London’s most dastardly criminals seem to be targeting the store, Miss Sophie Taylor and Miss Lilian Rose come to the rescue.

 

 

Dead Man’s Cove by Lauren St John       Age 8 and above

Laura Marlin is excited when her Uncle rescues her from her gloomy life in an orphanage.  It doesn’t take long for her to realise that Uncle Calvin is keeping secrets.  She sets out to find out why she has been forbidden from entering Dead Man’s Cove.

She is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgewick                           Age 11 and above

Laureth Peak’s father is supposed to be on a business trip in Austria.  Laureth cannot contact him and when his notebook is found in New York she decides to travel to New York and investigate.

Puppy Academy 1: Scout and the Sausage Thief by Gill Lewis      Age 5 and above

Scout is a puppy with a dream.  She is eager to become a police dog and attend the Puppy Academy for her training.  Can she catch the sausage thief and solve the mystery of who ate the treats Scout was guarding?

 

 

 

 

Enjoy!

Alison

Read, share, enjoy!

I hope that this monthly blog will give readers ideas about which books might appeal to those who are reluctant to read or have dyslexia. Dyslexia Action’s leaflet encouraging young reluctant readers is a good start for those who are looking to support young reluctant readers and readers with dyslexia. Dyslexia Action also offers tuition with specialist teachers to support those who may need extra help. Once needs have been identified, our specialist teachers can work with children, young people and adults to develop coping strategies that can assist with skills like reading and writing. For some, extra tuition can be a life-line.

The Book Blog is written by Alison Keeley who looks after Dyslexia Action’s Learning Centres in the South of England. Prior to joining Dyslexia Action Alison worked as a Deputy Head and for Booktrust. She has always read a wide range of children’s literature even though she technically stopped being a child some time ago. If you have any questions or suggestions about subjects for future blogs please do leave a comment below.

Reading hints and tips leaflet for young reluctant readers

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