Undiagnosed dyslexia is a “quiet scandal” former health secretary Matt Hancock has told MPs as he called for all children to be screened for the condition before they leave primary school.
Mr Hancock also told MPs that teachers need special training to prevent dyslexic children slipping through the cracks into a life of crime, as he canvassed support for his Dyslexia Screening Bill in the Commons.
The now-backbench Conservative MP said he was “proud to be dyslexic”, but his difficulty with reading and writing was not spotted at school.
He was only diagnosed with dyslexia when he went to university in Oxford, which he described as a “lightbulb moment” after “years of frustration at school”.
Mr Hancock told the Commons: “I was one of the lucky ones who was caught. There are too many children who are not caught early enough. It is a quiet scandal that an estimated four-in-five dyslexic children leave school with their dyslexia unidentified.”
He also said that dyslexic people’s ability to “think differently”, with a higher likelihood of having skills like visualisation and lateral thinking, was becoming more highly prized by employers. He cited the example of GCHQ apprentices who are “four times more likely to be dyslexic”.
Mr Hancock said: “These are the skills that dyslexics tend to have in abundance and they are also the skills that the future of work values more and more.”
But the West Suffolk MP warned: “We see all to commonly what happens to many undiagnosed dyslexics who then struggle to read and write. Because the flipside is that while 40% of successful entrepreneurs are dyslexics so too are over half of the prison population.”
He added there was a correlation between dyslexia going undiagnosed and unemployment, drug usage, and school exclusions.
As he called for fellow MPs to support his proposals he said that a combination of “cheap and essay computer-based screening tools” and trained specialists could be used to diagnose the condition.
He also said all teachers should be given training to teach dyslexic children, because “all teachers are teachers of dyslexic children”, and for all primary schools to have access to dyslexia specialists.
Mr Hancock’s Dyslexia Screening Bill received support from a cross-party group of MPs, but is unlikely to become law without Government backing.
The Conservative MP resigned from his Government job earlier this year after an affair with his aide was exposed by leaked CCTV images.