DYSLEXIA - ? A GENERATIONAL ISSUE [Part 1]

"When I was a lad we'd never heard of Dyslexia. Now you hear of nothing else."

This was said to me recently by a man of 70. I began to wonder whether there was any substance to his comment. I decided to look into it. WHAT DID I FIND? I found a lot! So much, indeed, that it forms the subject of this blog and my next one.

GRANDDAD made the original comment to me. He was born in 1948. He has a son born in 1978 and a ten-year-old grandson, born in 2008. These are the 3 generations I have looked at.

1953 was the year Granddad started school so I decided to take a glance at social history in the UK between 1953 and today, 2018.

I am wondering whether post-World War 2 changes in schooling, and British society in general, may in some way account for the apparent increase in Dyslexia that Granddad's comment suggested.

PART 1 - GRANDDAD

Granddad's School experience

  • Granddad would attend primary and secondary schools run by his Local Authority.
  • Granddad started primary school at age 5 in 1953.
    • Class sizes were likely to be 40 children or even more.
    • There were no Teaching Assistants.  
    • The children sat in rows of desks facing the teacher's desk at the front of the classroom. 
    • There was a great deal of rote learning with the whole class proceeding at the same pace.  
    • The children were expected to do what they were told without question. 
    • They were expected to sit still without talking unless asked a question by the teacher. 
  • Classroom discipline was paramount.
    • Teachers had licence to achieve this however they could. 
    • If the children talked when the teacher was writing on the board they were punished.
    • A piece of chalk or the wooden board rubber might be thrown at them. 
    • They might get a clip round the ear to remind them to pay attention.  
    • Offenders might have their knuckles rapped with a wooden ruler.
    • They might be beaten with a cane. 
  • Classroom discipline was paramount.
    • Teachers had licence to achieve this however they could. 
    • If the children talked when the teacher was writing on the board they were punished.
    • A piece of chalk or the wooden board rubber might be thrown at them. 
    • They might get a clip round the ear to remind them to pay attention.  
    • Offenders might have their knuckles rapped with a wooden ruler.
    • They might be beaten with a cane. 
  • Between 1946 and 1976 the 11+ examination was in use.
    • This selected a minority of children for Grammar school education.
    • They would continue at school beyond the statutory leaving age. 
    • Those who did not pass attended a “Secondary modern” school.
    • Extended education was not the expectation for the majority.
  • Comprehensive Schools were introduced by the government in 1965.
    • They were gradually phased in over the following decade.
    • These were either new schools or mergers of existing Grammars and Secondary Moderns.
  • Granddad progressed from primary to secondary education in 1959 at age 11, as now.
    • He attended a Secondary modern school for 4 years.
    • His expectation was to leave in 1963 at the age of 15 years. 
  • At that time there was no national school leaving examination for children not at Grammar school.
    • The national “Certificate of Secondary Education” (CSE) was not introduced until 1965.
    • There may have been local school leaving exams in some areas.
  • With no written school leaving exams, poor reading and writing was not considered particularly important.
    • Dyslexia was possibly just dismissed as laziness.
    • School subjects emphasised practical skills – woodwork and metal-work for boys; cookery and needlework for girls.
    • Many dyslexic people excel at skills like these.
  • Job expectations for 15-year-olds leaving school in 1963 were:
    • Unskilled or semi-skilled work in heavy industry, which was plentiful.
    • Labouring, factory work, shop assistant, agricultural work.
    • Learning a manual trade via a 7-year ‘on-the-job’ apprenticeship.

Granddad’s wider social experience in the 1950’s – 1960’s

  • Granddad was born in 1948.
    • When he started primary school in 1953, aged 5, World War 2 had been over for 8 years.
    • However, many war-time restrictions were still in place.
    • Food, clothing and petrol were still rationed by the government
    • Sugar was rationed until 1953 and meat until 1954. 
  • The 1950’s environment was drab, run-down, post-war austerity.
    • There were no labour-saving devices in the home.
  • Petrol supplies were disrupted during the 1950’s by conflicts in the Middle East.
    • There were very few vans and lorries on the roads.
    • Long distance transport of goods was by railway.
    • Local deliveries of coal, milk, bread etc. were made by horse-drawn vehicles, as they had been during WW2.
    • Private cars were almost nonexistent.
  • In the 1950’s the streets were virtually free of moving traffic and with no parked cars.
    • The streets were the playground of the children who lived there. 
    • Children enjoyed unsupervised boisterous play outside their home.
    • Skipping, hopscotch, marbles, leapfrog, hide and seek, tag, conkers
  • After WW2 a great deal of U.S. money was invested in the post-war regeneration of Europe. 
    • Known as “The Marshall Plan”.
    • Over 4 years from 1958 – 1962 a total of $13 billions was invested.
    • This provoked the fastest period of growth in European history. 
    • The U.K. was the biggest beneficiary from The Marshall Plan, receiving more than one quarter of the money.
    • This led eventually to a huge expansion of consumerism in the U.K.
  • By the time Granddad left school in 1963 there were dramatic changes in U.K. society.
    • The most evident was the increase in private cars on the roads.
    • Car production soared.  The work force at Fords of Dagenham exceeded 40 thousand people.
  • Road haulage of goods overtook goods by rail
    • In 1966 a large proportion of the UK rail network was closed down (by Dr. Beeching).
    • Railways were replaced by motorways.
    • The M.1 north-south was the first, constructed between 1959–1968.
  • There was an expansion in post-war house-building
    • The government created several “New Towns”: Basildon, Stevenage, Milton Keynes etc
    • There followed a boom in consumer goods.
    • Fridges, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, electric appliances
  • More and more women took jobs outside the home.
    • Women had worked in factories etc. during the war and enjoyed their independence.
    • Labour-saving devices cut down on housework.
    • Credit cards encouraged people to spend
    • After years of austerity, people embraced the “swinging sixties”.

I warmly welcome all comments and additional information.
My next blog will focus on the next part of this 3-generational look at Dyslexia in its educational and social context. Watch out for it!

Download our “Penny Lancaster provokes a Rant!” P.D.F. and see just what provoked it.  Includes a you-tube link to a interview with Gloria Morgan on BBC Radio Nottingham in January.