Who are Dyslexia Action?

Dyslexia Action are the single largest dyslexia related organisation in the UK and actively lobby the government about dyslexia and educational issues.

So what you may ask?

Dyslexia Action are strongly in favour of phonetic approaches to dyslexia and many of the most vocal critics of Dore Achievement Centres either work for them or play a significant role in the organisation. For example, this criticism on Dore’s latest result [ MS Word Doc ] that was published in the journal Dyslexia, was written by Dr John Rack, the
Head of Assessment and Evaluation at Dyslexia Action, and Professor Snowling , the only Honorary Fellow of the Dyslexia Guild (run by Dyslexia Action) along with Professor Hulme, who has done much work with Professor Snowling. The MS Word document I’ve linked to above is hosted by Dyslexia Action.

Dyslexia Action proudly proclaim to be a charity on their website but they also have a commercial side. They sell dyslexia coaching (based on phonetics) and through a wholly owned company called Dyslexia Institute Limited, many related products. What is not made obvious on the web site is how large the commercial aspect is. As their 2006 annual report [ PDF ] reveals £1.3 million was received in donations compared to £6.3 million through the sale of services plus almost £500,000 in sales from its limited company.

With its income from commercial activities over five times larger than what it receives in donations, it is hard to see Dyslexia Action as a charity in the commonly accepted sense. There is no suggestion of impropriety here. The charity’s board of trustees receive no payment or benefit for work, either directly or indirectly. To gain any benefit is illegal for a trustee. However popular perception of a charity is one that raises most of its money from donations and uses the money to provide services either for free or at a discounted rate.

The commercial nature of the charity is further reinforced by the fact it files exactly the same annual report to the Charities Commission as it does for its accounts to Company’s House (legal requirements for UK charities and companies respectively). The highly commercial nature of Dyslexia Action make it a major player in the business of education. Few companies providing out of school education come near the £8.3 million turnover of the chariety.

To my mind, the Dyslexia Action fails the duck test. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then its a duck. Dyslexia Action looks like, sounds like and acts like a commercial company.

Why is this important? Because Dyslexia Action portray themselves as an independent body whose advice concerned parents can rely on. When in fact they are effectively a business with a natural desire to protect their own interests. This makes the criticism of Dore from those highly connected with the charity an attack by one company on the product of a competitor.

The debate and battle between phonetics and cerebellum treatments is a vital one to the future of dyslexia. But it is a battle that must be held in open, with everyone knowing who the sides are and who is genuinely independent. Without all parties being clear about what they represent, parents cannot make informed choices about their children’s future.

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