What is CReSteD and how does it help boarding families? – by Brendan Wignall, former Headmaster of Ellesmere College and Chair of CReSTeD

22 Feb 2023

The Council for the Registration of Schools Teaching Dyslexic pupils (CReSTeD) is a charity set up in 1989 with the aim of helping parents and those who advise them to choose schools for children with Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD). It is a valuable resource for parents, educational advisers and schools and acts as a source of information for parents.

The main SpLD is dyslexia but there is a general recognition that dyslexia rarely exists in isolation – the latest research demonstrates a high level of co-occurrence with other difficulties. These include dyspraxia, dyscalculia, attention deficit disorder (ADD), as well as pragmatic and semantic language difficulties.

The CReSTeD Council includes representatives from a wide area of SpLD provision including Dyslexia Action, the British Dyslexia Association, Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre, the Dyslexia-SpLD Trust and schools.

The Register

CReSTeD publishes annually and maintains a list of schools and centres accredited for their SpLD provision – this is called the Register. The schools and centres listed in the Register provide for pupils with one or more SpLD and cover all levels of provision and both state and independent provision. The vast majority of schools on the Register are mainstream, offering a wide range of teaching styles, environment and facilities. The Register is free of charge to parents.

SpLD provision is divided into six broad categories. Of these, five are for schools:

Dyslexia Specialist Provision (DSP) schools established primarily to teach pupils with Dyslexia

Dyslexia Unit (DU) schools offer a designated unit that provides specialist tuition on a small group or individual basis, according to need

Maintained Schools (MS) local authority schools able to demonstrate an effective system for identifying pupils with dyslexia

Specialist Provision (SPS) schools are specifically established to teach pupils with dyslexia and other related specific learning difficulties

Withdrawal System (WS) schools help dyslexic pupils by withdrawing them from appropriately selected lessons for specialist tuition

and one is for centres:

Teaching Centre (TC) designated centre providing specialist tuition on a small group or individual basis, according to need.

The categories provide guidance on the type of provision given by a school. One category should not be seen as ‘better’ than another. Children have different requirements and personalities and the categories are a way of helping match each child to the type of provision at the school or centre. A report from an educational psychologist or a specialist teacher who holds an Assessment Practising Certificate should offer parents guidance as to the level of provision their child requires.

For example, a child at the severe end of the dyslexia spectrum may require a Dyslexia Specialist Provision school whereas a child with only some slowness in spelling skills may be suitably provided for in a school from the Withdrawal System category.

The Register includes a checklist to help parents decide whether a school or centre can meet their child’s educational needs in relation to SpLD. It also provides a geographical index of schools.


CReSTeD criteria and visits

Every school and centre on the CReSTeD Register has been independently verified for SpLD provision by CReSTeD consultants (not the case in all other lists).

The first stage of registration is for the school to complete the CReSTeD registration form and to provide supporting documentation, such as policies for dyslexia. This form covers staff development, admission policy, organisation of the school week, specific arrangements for SpLD pupils, examination results for the whole school and for SpLD pupils in particular, resources and a list of parents’ names so that the consultant may check parents’ feelings about the school or centre.

The criteria include the provision of relevant and high quality information technology resources, Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ)-approved training qualifications for teachers, awareness of the needs of dyslexic pupils on the part of non-specialist staff, and arrangements to obtain and provide special provision for examinations.

During a visit to a school or centre, the consultant checks whether this information is accurate and ensures the school or centre meets the criteria set by CReSTeD Council for the particular category.

Schools and centres are visited on a three-yearly cycle, with possible earlier visits if there are substantial changes, which should always be swiftly communicated to CReSTeD. If the Head of a CReSTeD school changes, the school must inform CReSTeD and the new Head must confirm that the school intends to continue with the SpLD provision in accordance with the criteria set by CReSTeD. This enables CReSTeD to retain the school’s details in the Register without the need for an extra visit.

CReSTeD Council initiates ‘responsive’ visits if it has any cause for concern about a particular school.

Further information

The CReSTeD website www.crested.org.uk contains all the information in the Register. It is updated as new information is received, or new schools approved, and contains links to the websites of all registered schools and centres as well as to other websites that may be of assistance to parents of children with one or more SpLD.

For further information email admin@crested.org.uk


About the author

Ellesmere College independent day and boarding school Shropshire

Brendan Wignall , Headmaster of Ellesmere College and Chair of CReSTeD

Brendan Wignall has been Headmaster of Ellesmere College since 1996 and is Chair of CReSTeD. After teaching English at Oakham and Christ’s Hospital, he became Head of English and Registrar of Denstone College. His main interests are his family, Ellesmere, Liverpool FC, gardening and culture in the broadest sense (excluding only country music!).


Ellesmere College, Shropshire