“We now have a clear, tried and tested method of teaching our children how to read. Since we know what works, there should be no question of any child being left behind.”
No child left behind – except of course, for Joe, and thousands like him, who cannot put three letters together because they won’t stay still on the page. According to research by professor Arnold Wilkins of Essex University, Visual Stress is most probably caused by “cortical hyperexcitablility”: a condition which results in certain cells in the visual cortex being over-stimulated by specific rays in the colour spectrum, and resulting in a disrupted visual image of the word. Whatever phonics programme Joe is presented with, he will not start learning to read unless that interference is filtered out, in his case by a deepish blue tint. Until then, it is a lost cause.
The message is simple: do the Maths
When children like Joe are left behind they eventually lose interest in education, and seek success and self-esteem in other areas. Some are fortunate enough to succeed in sport or the arts, but many are not so lucky. Many criminal careers start with educational failure:
“Nearly half of male sentenced prisoners were excluded from school and nearly a third of all prisoners were regular truants whilst at school and more than half of male and more than two-thirds of female adult prisoners have no qualifications at all.”
Prison Reform Trust (2003/2004) Report on ‘Social Characteristics of Prisoners’.
There are various statistics on literacy levels among prisoners, but most sources agree that around 50% of prisoners have a reading level below that which would be expected of an 11-year old. Research by Professor Wilkins published in his book Reading Through Colour (Wiley 2003) suggest that as much as 22% of the population suffers with varying levels of Visual Stress. So, how many prisoners are like Joe? 10%? 20%? More?
UK Figures from HM Prison Service, National Audit Office and Ministry of Justice tell us that there are 85,419 prisoners in England and Wales (BBC News, 29 March 2011) and that the average cost of keeping someone in prison is £47,000 per year. That’s over £4 billion a year.
There are about 17,000 primary schools in the UK, all eligible for £3000 match-funding for phonics materials that are a waste of money for the likes of Joe. That’s £51 million. Yet 17,000 Visual Stress Assessment Packs that would pick up the likes of Joe would cost just £850,000. At 11, Joe is still desperate to start learning to read. At 15, he probably won’t be. Yet there is no national screening for visual stress in schools, in the UK or anywhere else.
The message to decision makers, whether in schools or in governments, is simple. Do you want to save a lot of money? Do you want Joe to have a life? Do the maths. Take Visual Stress seriously.