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FPR Comment: What was left unsaid about Dyspraxia

Posted in FPR Comment

WRITING’S ON THE WALL 

Teacher sent to work at top secondary school despite being unable to READ or write

 

Teacher at Catholic London secondary school is suspended after it’s discovered he ‘CAN’T READ or write’

Above: Two good articles in The Sun and The Daily Mail Respectively – but here’s what was left out of the discussion

Here at FrontPageRage, our raison d’etre is making fun of poor or wasteful journalism that does nothing to improve the informed opinions of the general public. But sometimes, like now, we like to give credit where credit is due – particularly when we think we have something to add. A teacher that can’t read or write? Let’s face it: that’s a story. Both papers covered it well; explaining what happened and why. The Daily Mail acknowledged that they got the story from The Sun, and only missed one detail – that the subject that this wannabe teacher was “teaching” was business studies. Subject is, of course, important – the offence is far more serious had he got a job as an English teacher as opposed to, say, a PE teacher (the subject of choice for those who can’t teach, as the axiom goes). That notwithstanding, both papers confined themselves to the facts of the case really well. They spoke about how the “teacher” in question, Faisal Ahmed, defended himself by saying that he had dyspraxia. They correctly reported that Mr Ahmed had unsuccessfully sued for constructive dismissal and subsequently unsuccessfully appealed. Jolly good. That’s all I can expect of them for a fact-based article. But I want to take a closer look and zero in on the problems I have with Mr Ahmed’s pathetic and frankly insulting defence – a matter the papers were not at liberty to get involved in, but I am.

Dyspraxia is a genetic condition that affects hand-eye coordination. That’s the nutshell version – it manifests in slightly different ways to each individual sufferer. Two dyspraxic people can have two completely different life experiences. Unsurprisingly therefore, it is not a particularly well-understood condition and it does have knock-on effects, such as on organisational skills. It is an invisible illness – my favourite example of this being a former girlfriend claiming she had never seen any evidence I was dyspraxic while my hand was bleeding from sustaining a dyspraxic injury. Indeed, one of the problems of having dyspraxia is that you’re prone to forget you have it until you are painfully reminded. Only now is it beginning to get proper representation in media, and like most disability representation, it’s not particularly good at first – the portrayal of Ryan Sinclair in Doctor Who was certainly not offensive, but neither was it accurate. Mr Ahmed will not have helped in this regard. Sure, it’s plausible that one result of his dyspraxia is experiencing pain when writing. But practically impossible to read? Pull the other one. That’s dyslexia – dyspraxic people have enough problems with non-sufferers not knowing the difference without having to worry about people who ought to know better. Dyspraxia is a rare, non-fatal and usually non-serious condition – it does affect day-to-day life, but please don’t use it as an excuse for getting sacked from a job you were incapable of doing. Mr Ahmed’s sacking was not because of his dyspraxia, but because of his dishonesty, and indeed Teach First’s inability to see the potential problems of sending someone basically illiterate to teach at a Secondary School. By trying to put dyspraxia front and centre of a defence he shouldn’t have even been mounting, Mr Ahmed has insulted and potentially damaged dyspraxic people everywhere. How are employers who have read this story likely to react when a dyspraxic person applies for a job at their company? Do you think it is possible, perhaps, that some of them might, as a result of this case, think that dyspraxia equates with illiteracy? Teach First, of course, will endeavour to NOT make the same mistake again and make sure they tell everyone from now on that the candidate they are putting forward is dyspraxic. Net result: dyspraxic people have it that bit harder to find work than they already do. A dyspraxic person wrote this article. The same dyspraxic person has a Master of Arts Degree from The Scottish University of the Year 2019, and considered a career in teaching but is now hoping to make it as an author. He is the humble editor of this entire website. None of these are things I could do if dyspraxia were as much a burden as Mr Ahmed asserts. Even if – IF – all of his problems are rooted in dyspraxia, that still does not excuse his actions here. He had to know that his condition was so serious he couldn’t possibly teach Business Studies, and not accept the job in the first place. But he didn’t do that. He took a job he couldn’t do, then wasted taxpayer’s money by suing the school when it took the only sensible course of action it had available. Not only did he put his own self-interest ahead of everyone and everything else, but he also did it in such a way that there may be damaging consequences for honest dyspraxic people who may yet find themselves unwillingly linked to something that should have nothing to do with them.

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