“Private schools like mine didn’t want to talk about learning disabilities – they would rather pretend it doesn’t exist”, says Euan Cameron, a successful Glasgow businessman who had reached fifth year of secondary school before being told he had dyslexia.

By then, his self confidence was at rock bottom and he had given up trying in the subjects he struggled in.

“I was at the bottom of every class – bottom of maths, bottom of English. I just thought it was me; I thought I was stupid or bad at learning.”

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But his case is by no means unusual. Around 80 per cent of young people are thought be heading into the world of work without knowing the knowledgethey have the learning difficulty, leading to poor self-esteem and low achievement.

Dyslexia affects around one in 10 people and most commonly results in difficulties with reading, writing and numeracy as well as short-term memory and working memory. It can even diminish motor skills and co-ordination. 

However, it does not  affect cognitive ability and people with dyslexia often excel in areas such as problem-solving, creativity,  empathy and emotional skills.

“If I had known, I would have felt better about myself.

Mr Cameron recalls struggling to retain information from school text books.

“That’s pretty much how school works,” says the 33-year-old who co-founded virtual interview platform Willo Video two years ago. “You are basically having to remember and regurgitate text. 

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“There was nothing in school about learning difficulties, so it wasn’t really a concept that I was aware of.”

To make matters worse, Mr Cameron says, his brother “was really smart” but, while he was struggling in the main subjects, he was excelling in others and, by the age of 10, he had taught himself computer coding. By the time he was 16, he had set up a business designing websites.

“I thought, ‘How can I learn all these things when I’m really rubbish in school?’ It didn’t make any sense.”

READ MORE: The 'problem' pupils who disrupted my education were let down by the state 

The burgeoning entrepreneur stuck to subjects he was good at – such as art, technology and computing science – and got straight As at Higher level. The rest were a mixture of Cs and Ds.

“If I had known, I would have felt better about myself,” he says.

“There were certain things I enjoyed doing in English and Maths classes but because my confidence was so low I would go into the class convinced I was going to fail.

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“Now, when I know I’m not good at something, I know it’s inherent so I’ll get someone to help me with it.”

Former UK health secretary Matt Hancock is leading efforts to introduce mandatory screening for primary pupils, fuelled by his own experience of his dyslexia not being picked up until university.

In Scotland, formal identification of dyslexia is not required in order for a pupil to access support in school under the Additional Support for Learning Act. 

READ MORE: Schools robbed of teaching support as Covid staff absences bite 

The Scottish Government say “all teachers provide support to pupils with additional support needs” and that an additional £15 million is allocated to councils to support provision.

However, the charity Dyslexia Scotland says that, whilst some progress has been made,  teacher training is an “ongoing issue” and the pandemic has led to a huge backlog of assessments.

Dyslexia does not form any part of the compulsory elements of teacher training.
“Classroom teachers should be able to identify dyslexia,” says Cathy Magee, chief executive of Dyslexia Scotland.

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“The idea is that the class teacher puts in place support and strategies and, if that doesn’t work, then it goes to a Support For Learning teacher and formal identification and assessment.

“The biggest problem is the lack of understanding by teachers; the lack of training.

“When a teacher starts their career, their knowledge of dyslexia will not be what people would expect. It then falls to the school and the local authority and there is a number of stages at which that can get lost.”

She said the pandemic was exacerbating a backlog of assessments because support forlearning disability teachers were now being pulled into other classes due to absence among teachers. 

The charity leader is following Matt Hancock’s bill closely and said it may put pressure on the Scottish Government to act.

“It’s not just about screening. Yes, it would be fantastic to have something that puts the responsibility on to schools to make it compulsory for teachers to have the understanding [but] the teachers still need to have the training.”

Teaching union the EIS says it has  consistently raised concerns about a lack of support and funding for teachers working in additional support. 

Susan Quinn, the union’s Glasgow secretary, said: “We also believe that more needs to be done to ensure staff have time in classes to support all pupils and continue to campaign for a reduction in class sizes to ensure staff have more time to provide support for all. It’s the responsibility of councils to ensure support is available.”

A major report produced by Education Scotland in 2014 found some teachers had been travelling to England for dyslexia training and so this led to the development of free online modules were developed by the charity to help teachers identify dyslexia issues in children from the age of three to 18. 

“One of the many issues is that dyslexia is much more than reading, writing and spelling,” says the head of Dyslexia Scotland.

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“If a child does learn to read, if they do get past the literacy stage, it’s likely that other aspects of dyslexia such as processing will get lost if a teacher doesn’t understand that.”

Ms Magee says the recognition that a child has learning support needs in primary school may also be lost in the transition of moving to secondary school.

She adds: “The support of dyslexia is the responsibility of every single teacher and the issue is that often they don’t have the knowledge to prove that support and that tends to increase as you go further up. 

“You will hear subject teachers saying, ‘That’s not my responsibility’ – but that’s not the case.”

Many families resort to paying for private tuition or funding their own assessments.

Ms Magee said many parents had only learned the extent of their child’s learning difficulties during lockdown, when most pupils were home-schooled, and said it was very common for parents, and even grandparents, to learn that they themselves are dyslexic when their own child is being assessed.

READ MORE: Pupil exclusion rates plunge as nurturing approach bears fruit 

The charity has been campaigning for years for free adult assessments, which can cost between £300 and £600 and which employers are not obliged to pay for them. 

Mr Cameron, 33, who grew up in Fife, says he was finally assessed when his private school brought in he attended hiredsomeone in fourth year with expertise in learning disabilities.

“I could have gone through the whole of secondary [without a diagnosis]. It was only because our school got somebody in around fourth year who dealt with learning disabilities and that was only one person for 1400 pupils.

“Because I was good at art, they talked about that all the time but there was no support in the other classes.”

When it was confirmed he had dyslexia he was given extra time for exams but he was too embarrassed to stay behind.

He says giving pupils the knowledge they have a learning difficulty at the earliest possible stage, through a screening programme, would make a “huge difference”.

“You will be able to turn up at school with the knowledge of why you can’t do a certain thing, rather than putting yourself down about it,” he said.
“It’s really confidence destroying. 

“Obviously, it was really tough at school and university but the flip side is I worked extra hard – particularly when it came to retaining information that I had read.

"Typically, dyslexia makes that really difficult because you have to read it much slower; all the words are really jumbled.

“When you look at 1000 words on a page most people can read that from the top left to the bottom right, whereas I’ll look at that and don’t know where to start.

“So, I worked really hard and by the time I finished university my ability to read and retain information was probably better than everyone else’s. I learned to pick out the key points and almost erasing everything else.”

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Lord Sugar, Anita Roddick, Richard Branson and Jamie Oliver and Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad overcame their dyslexia to create hugely successful businesses and research suggests dyslexics are disproportionately represented among entrepreneurs.

“It’s important that schools and the whole class understands the strengths and weaknesses of dyslexia”, says Mr Cameron.

“Because I felt like no-one knew what it was – it felt like a massive stigma. Giving pupils an education about what this learning disability is means they can play to their strengths.”

Call 0344 800 8484 to access Dyslexia Scotland’s confidential helpline.