Dyslexia in Victorian Government Schools: Shaping Policy and Practice

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Marland, Bec (2023) Dyslexia in Victorian Government Schools: Shaping Policy and Practice. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


This PhD explores education rights and the notion of best practice for teaching primary and secondary students with dyslexia in Government schools in the state of Victoria, Australia. Drawing on seminal reports and research literature dyslexia is defined as a ‘disability’, aligning with human rights frameworks and the views of researchers with lived experience of dyslexia. The Australian Government has increased the right of all students to access literacy, although interpretive approaches from state governments vary widely. Victorian Government policy requires dyslexia screening for students in the first year of school, yet best practice for teaching students with dyslexia remains unclear. While an estimated 10% of students have dyslexia, government policy positions these students as having ‘additional needs’, with different education support rights to students classified as having a disability. Aligning with a social justice perspective, the research explored the education rights of students with dyslexia. The research questions did not fit neatly when adopting a reflective approach, which triggered the development of a research puzzle (Gustafsson & Hagström, 2018). The question asked in the research was why the current approach to dyslexia is used in the Victorian education system despite other possible approaches? From the outset, the research presented possibilities of deriving policy and practice understandings from exemplar schools and comparative analysis of practice from England. Disability theory broadened pre-conceived ideas about dyslexia by introducing human rights frameworks. The utilisation of a research puzzle recognised the potential to increase communicability between academic paradigms. The case study methodology explored systematic approaches to dyslexia from policy and teacher perspectives; firstly, through a single case study of Victorian state education policy; and secondly, through multiple-case studies of three Victorian Government dyslexia exemplar schools. Representations of Victorian Government policy for dyslexia were sampled from government policies for literacy, disability and dyslexia. Research sampling suggests that government policy uses discourses of ‘otherness’ which may devalue learners and understate the role of the school in providing best practice and inclusive pedagogical approaches. Victorian Government policy outlines inconsistent pathways to diagnosis and support, presenting access and equity issues for students with dyslexia. From online sampling of school websites, a small number of Victorian Government schools were identified as dyslexia exemplar schools. Data were collected from two primary and one secondary Victorian Government schools using research interviews and document analysis. Nine research interviews with principals and specialist dyslexia teachers were analysed, along with school documents, to shed light on enactment of dyslexia policy. Findings suggest that schools adopt contrasting policies and practices based on varying definitions of dyslexia. Best practice and inclusive pedagogies for dyslexia in schools were challenged by the expectations within Victorian Government policy and at broader systems level. My research highlights innovative practices developed by the exemplar schools that disrupt and challenge current models of practice. It identified tensions for inclusive practice in the Victorian education system and led to me developing a new dyslexia response model. This research is important in identifying how schools are meeting their obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act (1992) and the Disability Standards for Education (2005), hence shaping future policy and practice.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/47492
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3902 Education policy, sociology and philosophy
Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3904 Specialist studies in education
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities
Keywords primary students; secondary students; dyslexia; Government schools; Victoria; Australia; policy; inclusive practice
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