Our CEO Andy Cook tells us in his regular blog what’s going on at Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity.

CEO blog – An unforgettable evening with the Royal Family

13 January 2023

An unforgettable evening with the Royal Family

January’s started off a bit grey and miserable, so I thought I’d cheer you up by handing the blog over to a special guest this time. Vicky is a long-standing supporter of this charity, having been a dear friend of our late founder Helen herself, for many years. Vicky’s going to fill you in on a very exciting adventure she had before Christmas, along with four other lucky members of the Helen Arkell team. Over to you Vicky …!

The first big excitement was receiving a beautiful card invitation to the Royal Carol Concert in an envelope marked “Buckingham Palace”. I had been lucky enough to win one of the five tickets that Princess Beatrice had donated to Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity, for supporters of the charity to attend this amazing event at Westminster Abbey. My name had been put in the hat because I’m a ‘Friend of Helen Arkell’. By the time the important day arrived, Thursday 15th December 2022, I was like a child on Christmas Eve.

As that Thursday was a day between two days of rail strikes, we decided to go up to London mid morning, in order not to be heId up by transport. I had arranged to meet another lucky winner on the train – Samantha, one of the admin team at the charity – and we decided to find the correct entrance to Westminster Abbey before we had a look round. There was already snow on the grass and everything was sparkling in the sunshine. We found somewhere nearby to eat until it was the time we were supposed to take our seats, and we spent a very pleasant time eating and people-watching in the Methodist Centre. We managed to meet up with the other lucky winners – one of the charity’s dyslexia assessors, one of their teachers, and a trustee.

We had to wait quite a while in the queue, but we were offered mince pies and all the guides were very cheerful and chatted to us. We had been told that the Prince and Princess of Wales would be holding the
concert, but were very excited to learn that, at the last moment, all the Royal Family had decided to attend. We had to wait whilst a car dropped off a member of royalty, and then, after passing through
security, we made our way into the Abbey.

It was very crowded, and I sat at the back of a large block of people but right at the end of a row. As I am very tiny, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to see much, but as soon as the King and Queen Consort arrived, everyone stood up and I crept into the gap between the blocks and saw King Charles, Queen Camilla, the Princes and Princesses and Dukes and Duchesses, walk past right in front of me.

I had no idea that the programme would include so many famous people, including Mel C, Hugh Bonneville, Alfie Boe and Craig David. Those that were too far away for us to see were filmed on large screens all around the Abbey, so we did not miss anything. The service was a beautiful mixture of readings and songs, including Away in a Manger, sung by a choir of Ukrainian children.

It was all over far too quickly and, instead of making our way out of the doors, we were rather naughty and made our way to the front of the Abbey, where we saw the Royal Thrones, The Christmas Tree decorated with Paddington Bears and the Nativity Scene, and we took the opportunity to take lots of photos.

This was one of the most exciting days of my life. I felt l like a child in a sweet shop, and so fortunate to have been present.

When all the excitement was over, we made our way back to Waterloo and were lucky enough to catch a train almost immediately and travelled home very tired and aware of the fact that we had shared an important moment in history.


By |2024-04-24T09:34:08+01:00January 13th, 2023|CEO blog, Latest news|0 Comments

CEO Blog – It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

2 December 2022

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, a big donation, and an incredible quilt …

It might only be 2nd December, but our sweet little home in 24 West Street is beginning to look a lot like Christmas, much to the delight of the many visitors who keep coming through our doors.

It smells a lot like Christmas too, particularly in my room, because that’s where the mulled wine was served on Wednesday evening, when we opened our doors to the local community for Christmas Drinks, to nibble on the odd mince pie and hear more about our work.

The great and the good of Farnham and the surrounding area were here in force, including the Mayor of Farnham, who presented us with a cheque from Farnham Town Council, to provide specialist help to people with dyslexia from lower-income backgrounds.

Two other groups deserve special mention. The one is Castle Quilters, because they had clubbed together to make an amazing quilt in memory of dear departed Jan, who was not only a keen fellow-quilter, but also knew our charity well, having received much support from us over the years. Their donated quilt took pride of place in the raffle, (alongside Helen’s homemade cake), and spurred people on to buy loads more raffle tickets than usual. It was great that the winner, Lorna, was someone who has themselves done so much for the cause of Helen Arkell, having raised over £2,600 in sponsorship when running the Royal Parks Half Marathon for us earlier this year, along with her friend Susie.

The other special group are the family of our founder, the late Helen Arkell MBE. Peter, one of Helen’s children, attended Christmas Drinks on the family’s behalf, and announced a special donation of £40,000 from the family to the Charity, as a lasting legacy to Helen’s memory. How amazing is that?!!

Everything we do has the aim of furthering the work that Helen started back in 1971, with a special interest in providing 1:1 support to children and adults, regardless of ability to pay, and training teachers so their expertise can reach many more children with dyslexia in their classrooms, throughout their careers.

I hope Helen looks down on us and is proud of what we are doing in her name. This year, we have supported more people than ever:
• 1,387 children and adults have received 1:1 support from us for their dyslexia, or suspected dyslexia.
• Another 1,380 people have received training from us in how to support people with dyslexia at home, at school, and in the workplace.
• People have come from 27 counties of the UK, and from 12 different countries.
• 271 individuals have benefitted from bursary-funded support this year, at a total cost of over £120,000.

We can only increase the numbers of people we support, and the various ways in which we help them, thanks to a whole team effort. So, if you’re already a Friend of Helen Arkell, thank you for being part of a growing gang. And if you’re not (yet), then why not join us, and be part of a very special organisation that touches the lives of over 2,500 people a year?

By joining us as a Friend of Helen Arkell, you’ll be giving us the best Christmas present we could possibly have. And in return, you’ll hear our behind-the-scenes news, attend our events, and if you’re lucky you might even meet Teddy Edward Arkell Bear (!).

Thank you!

By |2024-04-24T09:34:21+01:00December 2nd, 2022|CEO blog, Latest news|0 Comments

CEO Blog – We all need friends

4 November 2022

Life’s a bit easier when you have friends to bounce things off, isn’t it? A problem shared, and
all that? In the charity world, it makes good sense for us to help each other, join forces and
work together when there’s a clear benefit to be had. Particularly when it brings added-value
to the people that our charities are set up to support.
So, I was delighted to be put in touch with Julia this week. Julia is an experienced dyslexia
specialist and founder of Literacy100, a charity that seeks to help people from the homeless
community improve their literacy. Many of the people Julia works with are dyslexic. Julia
also filled me in on all her work with Thames Reach, another charity working with homeless
people in London. We brainstormed ways in which our respective charities can work
together to improve the opportunities of homeless people who are struggling with literacy
and where dyslexia may be a factor.
Also this week I was lucky enough to be put in touch with Dean from NoticeAbility. This is a
non-profit based in the USA, which is doing brilliant work with students who have dyslexia –
Dean is Head Honcho. We have set up a call next week, to compare notes and see how we
can work together and learn from each other. It feels like the pandemic prevented us from
forging these sorts of links over the last two years, and it’s great to start making new friends
Likewise, it was brilliant to meet my newly-appointed opposite number at the British
Dyslexia Association. Chivonne was only appointed Interim CEO of the BDA just last month,
so I felt very honoured that she could find the time in her busy induction schedule to pop
down to Farnham, to hear more about our work at Helen Arkell, to compare notes and
generally just to start forging a productive working relationship.
On Tuesday this week, Tory and I were delighted to make new friends at euNetworks, a
company that has a brilliant way of managing its workforce, and undertakes ‘Watercooler
Chats’ to bring people together and spark off discussions on a range of issues. Tory and I
joined them to introduce the topic of dyslexia and we had some great discussions between
all the 62 participants. We’ll certainly find ways to work together again in future.
Then on Thursday night, we made some friends down the pub! – this was a Quiz Night in aid
of Helen Arkell, at the Hog’s Back Brewery. Thank you to everyone who joined in to support
us and had some fun; beer and pizza at the same time!
Last but by no means least, this week Rachael and I met another group of individuals who
are keen to join our team of dyslexia specialists. It was great to hear all their various
experiences and to see how they might fit into our growing network. Between us, our aim is
to help more people with dyslexia with every year that goes by, so there will always be
room for recruiting more talent into our workforce.
Of course, there’s a very obvious way in which you could contribute to our overall team
effort too, even if you’re not a dyslexia specialist. We are badly in need of more Friends of
Helen Arkell, to become part of a growing ‘inner circle’ within the Helen Arkell community,
contributing small, monthly donations in return for receiving ‘behind-the-scenes’ news. You
will love being a Friend because it will make you all warm and fuzzy inside, and you’ll sleep
soundly in your bed. You will also give off an aura of saintly virtue, and will instantly become
more popular with everyone you know. Even Teddy Edward the Great Bear of Frensham is a
Friend of Helen Arkell. Or he would be if he had any money (which he doesn’t).
Onwards and upwards, my friends!
PS. We hope you like our new website, which was developed free of charge by our friends at
Delivered Social in Guildford. Our old website was on its last legs, so Jonathan and his team
stepped in with an incredibly generous offer to get us set up with a new one, free of charge.
A big shout-out to Jonathan’s gang, and particularly to office dog Dembe who is the real
brains of the operation. Thank you, guys!! It really is brand new this week, so if you spot any
glitches, typos, or anything else you feel we should know about, please drop us a line and
we’ll put it right. Thank you!

By |2024-04-24T09:35:34+01:00November 4th, 2022|CEO blog, Latest news|0 Comments

CEO Blog – Looking back, and looking forward

26 September 2022

Looking back, and looking forward.

I don’t know about you, but I always find this time of year to be one of reflection. Perhaps it’s to do with Summer suddenly moving very quickly into Autumn, with the evenings drawing in. (We should be used to it, as we’ve seen it happen every year, but it’s still always a talking point, and a bit of a surprise).

Maybe all the events of the last couple of weeks, culminating in the Queen’s funeral on Monday, have added an extra layer of reflection and pensiveness too. A mix of thinking back over an extraordinary life; and looking forward to the beginning of a new era.

When I look back over recent years at Helen Arkell, I can see lots of areas where we’ve made progress. We’re now helping more people with dyslexia than we used to. We’re reaching people from a wider geographical area. We’re helping lots more people from lower-income backgrounds with bursary-funded support.

But there’s still something that we continue to be pretty rubbish at. And that’s the next nut that we need to crack if this charity is going to be able to continue increasing the numbers of individuals with dyslexia whom we help each year.

And that particular nut is to grow the number of brilliant supporters who choose to make a gift in their Will to this charity, for the benefit of people with dyslexia. Other charities attract many such benefactors, to a point where as much as half their income comes from that source. And this is the time of year they generally choose to talk about gifts in Wills. (You may have seen both MacMillan and Cancer Research UK advertising legacies during last week’s Bake Off ad breaks).

Last year several amazing people from our Helen Arkell community let me know that they’d either made out a gift to the charity in their Will, or that they planned to do so. Whilst that is absolutely brilliant (and these people are heroes, who will ensure that future generations continue to be helped by this charity) I would dearly love to persuade each and every person in the Helen Arkell community to at least consider updating their Will, and to consider making a gift to this charity, however small.

I would be immensely grateful if you would read our page on Wills, and take action if you feel moved to do so. I have already written the charity into my Will. Mrs F from Northumberland wrote the charity into her Will too, and we received a gift of £5,000 to help us fulfil our mission.

As you will see, it’s not a question of choosing between family and charity – it’s just seeing if you could spare a little gift after you’ve made provision for your nearest and dearest.

And leaving gifts to charities in Wills can bring tax benefits too.

Thank you!


PS As someone who makes a pledge to Helen Arkell in your Will, you will be invited to all our events, so you feel in touch with our innermost plans and activities. Please do let us know if you decide to act on the Wills information, so we can be sure to include you. If you prefer to remain anonymous, that’s fine too.

By |2024-04-24T09:35:46+01:00September 29th, 2022|CEO blog|0 Comments

CEO blog – remembering Her Majesty the Queen

9 September 2022

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

It is with great sadness that we learn of the death of Her Majesty The Queen. We send our thoughts and heartfelt condolences to all of the Royal Family, in particular to our Royal Patron, HRH Princess Beatrice, at this very sad time.

I was in a meeting of the charity’s finance committee yesterday evening, discussing budgets with Michael-John (our Treasurer) and Pete. We were putting the final touches to our plans for next year, when the news came through. It was Michael-John who saw the notification first, that the Queen had passed away at Balmoral sometime in the afternoon. I will remember that moment all my life, as I’m sure we all will.

I had the extreme honour of meeting the Queen on two occasions. The first was in about 1989, at a Country Fair in Windsor Great Park, where I was manning the display stand at our budding Hearing Dogs for Deaf People charity. She was dressed in woolly jumper and tweed skirt, with a thumb stick in her hand, with well-worn deer antler on the top. She was fascinated to meet Ruffles (Springer Spaniel), Minstrel (Flatcoat Retriever) and Spangle (Collie x), and asked lots of questions. At that time, everyone had heard of Guide Dogs for the Blind, but Hearing Dogs were a completely new concept, having only started up a few years previously. She was keen to learn what the dogs could actually do for a deaf person. Which dogs worked best? Where did we get the dogs from? How did we train them? Had we ever trained a corgi?! (She laughed when she said this, but actually we had). All the time, her hand reached down to stroke the dogs. Minstrel couldn’t resist rolling around on his back with his legs in the air for his tummy to be tickled (typical Flatcoat), so his own recollections of the Queen will have been mostly upside-down.

The other occasion was in 2011. Life had moved on for me by then, and I was now at Canine Partners (dogs again!), where we trained assistance dogs for people with physical disabilities, most of whom used wheelchairs. We had been invited to give a private demonstration of our work to the Queen, at The Royal Mews. Blimey what excitement there was on that day!

So much excitement, that unfortunately I ripped my suit trousers about half an hour before the Queen was due to arrive. Which wasn’t ideal (CEOs tend not to look particularly competent in the presence of royalty when their trousers are ripped).  I think I caught them on one of the items of our demonstration equipment, which included a mock-up door for dogs to jump up and open, a mock-up washing machine for dogs to open and unload; and various other bits and bobs which unfortunately I was the only person strong enough to carry – while Julie looked after Xyla (golden retriever), and Jill tended to pup Patsy and adult demo dog Saffy (both labradoodles). Luckily, as a demonstration team we were used to working together, so someone got hold of a needle and thread and some rough repairs were quickly made.

The Queen arrived, and it quickly became apparent that this was going to be a brilliant evening, with no need for the nerves that we had all been feeling in the build-up. In our heads, we had been envisaging that we were welcoming the Queen to one of our demonstrations. But it immediately became apparent the Queen actually saw it that she was welcoming us and our dogs to her home. She was completely relaxed, and so easy to talk to, with a G&T in her hand throughout the evening, made to her exact liking.

Again she made a bee-line for the dogs, and their wheelchair-using owners, while also calling out cheerily to various of our guests as they passed, many of whom she knew, to ask them how they had got on with the betting at the day’s races, how their holiday had been, and whether their horse had recovered from its recent bout of laminitis.

When the time came to give the demonstration, she was situated in pole position, with the very best view, and she watched the dogs intently. Of course the trustees were sweating, in case any dog disgraced itself, but they needn’t have worried, partly because the dogs were absolutely perfect (as we knew they would be) and partly because we knew it didn’t matter to the Queen – she understood animals, and people, and I’m sure would have been equally enthralled if something had gone wrong, so she could have seen what we’d have done about it.

As an aside, she was particularly taken with pup Patsy, who by complete coincidence ended up being partnered about 18 months later with a disabled lady who lives in Scotland, not a million miles from Balmoral.

I will remember that evening for the rest of my life. It’s quite something to have met the Queen. And to be struck both by how completely one-off the situation is, but also how completely normal. She made it that way, by being consummately professional and by being so genuinely interested in people – putting people at their ease. The other thing to note, although I’m not sure it’s the done thing, is just how short she was. I am bending down almost double in all the photos, to be able to hear her clearly in a crowded room, as if I hadn’t, I’d have felt I was towering over her. She was so strong, and yet all contained within such a small package.

The other amazing thing, is that I’m just one person who feels that, in some small way, I knew her. And she went out of her way to meet so many other people, and conduct so many engagements across the world, that there must be millions of people who feel the same way. It is quite a skill to literally live in an ivory tower, and yet have such a connection with the real world, where dogs need walking, Land Rovers need fixing, wellies need pulling out of the mud and people need to be listened to.

Our thoughts go out in particular at this time to Princess Beatrice, the Queen’s granddaughter and who is Patron of our little charity. Princess Beatrice talks very openly about her dyslexia, and is not afraid to be herself in whatever company she keeps. I had a lump in my throat when a clip was shown in last night’s TV coverage, including an interview with Princess Beatrice reminiscing about family gatherings with the Queen and Prince Philip. We are so lucky to have Princess Beatrice as our Patron, and our hearts go out to her at this time. We have lost our Queen; she has lost her Gran.

On behalf of all of us at Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity, we remember Queen Elizabeth II with great affection and admiration; and we prepare ourselves for the next chapter, with King Charles III on the throne. We wish him all the very best as he prepares to pick up the mantle.

God Save The King!


By |2024-04-24T09:35:54+01:00September 22nd, 2022|CEO blog|0 Comments

CEO blog to July 2022

13 July 2022

Helen Arkell moves home, goes to the Cutty Sark, and welcomes Susie …

Things have really been hotting up at the Charity over the last couple of weeks, and I’m not just talking about the weather.

After 50 years at our Frensham premises we have now moved into Farnham itself. Last week we threw open our doors for the official launch of our new home – a light and airy Georgian House in Farnham Town Centre, within walking distance of the main line railway station. We were honoured that Alan Earwaker cut the ribbon, in his capacity as Mayor of Farnham. It was lovely to see so many friends in attendance, some long-standing and others new to the Charity, enjoying a glass of Pimms and evening nibbles in our new surroundings. All seemed to love our new home as much as we do. Even Teddy Edward Arkell Bear managed to behave himself, and was the perfect host. (We kept him away from the Pimms).

We had already christened our back garden earlier in the week when we welcomed this year’s cohort of our Level 5 students for their end-of-year celebration, which we call Box Day. This is due to the fact that candidates must hand in all their assignments in a big box, for marking by our internal and external verifiers. (Good luck all of you!)

Our back garden is proving to be a real asset, and is used by parents, children, assessors, specialist teachers and staff alike. It’s a real sun trap, and we are grateful for the shelter provided by our big marquee. Likewise, we are loving the top storey, with its four consultation rooms in the eaves, the middle storey with its hall that is ready-made for the delivery of workshops and courses, the ground floor with its open plan offices, and the basement is fantastic for storage. It’s also lovely and cool!

From the relative peace and quiet of Farnham, things then kicked off in London. On the hottest day imaginable (last Friday) our little team of Hazel, Julie and I ventured into the big smoke in our (very hot) glad rags. This was to prove the most amazing evening in our little charity’s living memory. Our friends at the Feltmakers Livery Company had decided to lay on a magnificent event in aid of Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity. Their Master for the year, Nigel Macdonald, had made all the arrangements, so we started the party off with 120 guests boarding a privately chartered clipper from Westminster Pier, to make the half-hour voyage to the Cutty Sark. I joined this crew, while Julie and Hazel headed straight to the Cutty Sark to help get everything ready for the auction.

On arrival at the Cutty Sark, guests were treated to a tour of her decks, before ending up seated underneath the hull of the magnificent ship, in tables of 8, 10 or 12. The setting was magical, with dramatic lighting adding to the effect. The delicious three-course meal was provided by the team at The Clink, so it was brilliant to advertise their cause at the same time as promoting ours.

Paddy Rodgers gave a wonderful after dinner speech in his position as director of the Maritime Museum, in which he filled us in on the rich history of the Cutty Sark through the ages. I then had the opportunity to tell our guests about the work of Helen Arkell, and our determination to help more people with dyslexia across the UK in general, and more people from lower-income backgrounds in particular. Meanwhile we circulated amongst the guests, collecting their bids for the various items in the silent auction.

Another one-off moment was after dinner, when Nigel produced a bottle of genuine 1811 Napoleonic brandy for everyone to taste. This really was a historic experience, having been made 58 years before the Cutty Sark was launched!

Proceedings closed at 11pm, with guests enjoying a last opportunity to survey the London landscape from the deck of this beautiful ship, before running to catch their various trains home. Hazel, Julie and I quickly finished clearing away our stuff, taking down our pop-up banners and packing away our leaflets, and found our way to Waterloo for our train, arriving back at our car in Guildford at 1.15am, back to our Centre in Farnham at 1.30am, and back to our various homes by 2am.

We will wait to see how much money the event has raised, as the results of the silent auction will not be known for a few days, but it is certain that the evening raised a great deal of awareness of the Charity’s work, and all proceeds from the night will also help to change the lives of more people with dyslexia.

As if that weren’t enough excitement, the team had a quick turnaround and were back in Farnham at 9am the next morning. Slightly bleary-eyed. Or maybe that was just me. We welcomed guests to our latest Saturday Morning Lecture, in Farnham Memorial Hall, where Dr Susie Nyman enthused us all with her multi-sensory teaching methods. It was a great event, and absolutely brilliant to be joined by such a great mix of teachers, teaching assistants, parents and other interested parties.

Meanwhile, when we dropped off our paraphernalia back at the Centre, our house was a hive of activity. On Saturdays we offer specialist teaching for children throughout the day, and teachers Ginny and Amanda were happily conducting their sessions in the rooms upstairs, while the children’s parents enjoyed the sunshine in our back garden.

Our new home is being very well used!


25 February 2022

We have a Vice Patron! It was an absolute pleasure to go and visit national treasure Susan Hampshire CBE the other day, for my first catch up with her as our newly appointed Vice Patron of Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity. Susan will be Vice Patron, working alongside Princess Beatrice as our Patron.

Star of stage and screen, including roles in The Forsyte Saga and Monarch of the Glen, Susan used to be involved with our work in days gone by, supporting our founder Helen when she was getting the charity off the ground. Dyslexic herself, Susan knows all about the daily challenges that can face people with dyslexia. This is an excerpt from her autobiography, Susan’s Story, published by Sidgwick and Jackson in 1981, which you can still buy online, and which is reproduced here with Susan’s permission. We laughed at the fact that the copy I had in my hand had clearly been stolen from a library. Whether or not Susan should take that as a compliment, we weren’t entirely sure:

‘[…] the sad truth is that I have hardly ever read my son a bedtime story. When he was very tiny, I used to make up stories as I went along, rather than read them. This method didn’t last long. I found the creative effort tiring and Christopher found the stories annoying, as they usually had a moral to them, like the one about the boy who wouldn’t tidy his toys and wasn’t allowed to go to the moon with his friends. I tried to read to him, but he found the experience exasperating. I remember picking my way through a Christopher Robin story. Christopher kept correcting me, “No, Mummy, that’s not right, that’s not what happens there. Have you missed a bit?” I gave up in the end and so Christopher has missed out on that all-important ten minutes of ritual and intimacy before sleep.’

I’m sure the above rings many bells with many parents. We are absolutely delighted to have Susan’s support, and very proud that she is now Vice Patron of this charity.

It was also a great pleasure to meet with Jeremy Hunt MP for a chat and a catch-up last week. Jeremy is our local MP in South West Surrey, and knows Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity well. There is also dyslexia in Jeremy’s family so he understands the issues that people experience. We haven’t had a chance to meet up since before Covid so this was an opportunity to fill Jeremy in on the fact that we’ve helped over 2,000 children and adults with dyslexia over the past two years. We have also dramatically increased the numbers of people we’ve helped who are from lower-income backgrounds, thanks to all the brilliant donations we receive from our supporters. A total of 163 people benefitted from bursary funded support last year, because of their financial circumstances, and we are planning to increase that to over 200 people this year, depending on how our fundraising goes. We’ve already helped 128 people in this way, with only half the year gone, so things are looking promising.

In other news, we have several courses underway at the moment, including an online course supporting parents of dyslexic children, for which are free places available for lower income families. Our latest Supporting Learners with Dyslexia course has also started.

Don’t panic if you missed the boat on these, as we will be running further courses throughout the year.

Likewise, if your child would benefit from some catch-up tuition in the school holidays, either at Easter or during the Summer, just drop us a line and we’ll match you up with one of our lovely specialist teachers, who are completely expert at working with children with dyslexia.

Also, this week sees the distribution of our latest e-newsletter, so if you’re not on the list, now’s a good time to sign up, otherwise you could be missing out! The latest edition of The Champion has also just come out.

Thank you to everyone for all your support, and for joining in the overall team effort at Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity. Between us we are making a real difference, but we still have a long way to go before we meet the huge demand that exists for our expert services. If you’d like to make a donation, or become a Friend of Helen Arkell, you’d make us very happy.

Onwards and upwards!


Christmas 2021

On behalf of all of us at Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity, I hope you have a great Christmas break, and return refreshed and refortified in the New Year. In the meantime, here’s a snapshot of our year at Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity, in numbers:

50 – 2021 was our 50th Anniversary Year, with Professor Maggie Snowling delivering our very special 50th anniversary lecture. Thank you, Maggie!

2 – our main Centre was closed for another 2 months during the Jan/Feb lockdown. (Our hubs were closed for 3-4 months).

1,087 – despite the above, we provided direct 1:1 dyslexia support to 1,087 children, young people and adults, in the form of assessments, coaching, skills-building and tuition.

163 – we helped 163 people with dyslexia from lower-income backgrounds, with bursary-funded support. The above cost a total of £84,000 from our bursary funds. Thank you so much to our wonderful donors and supporters for your generosity, and for making this possible!!

1,000 – over 1,000 people attended our various dyslexia-related courses this year, including parents, children, teachers, teaching assistants, workplaces and members of the public. This helps individuals with dyslexia to feel better supported by those around them.

5 – we now have 5 regional venues from which we operate, with the addition of Yeovil this year (Frensham, Southwark, Salisbury, Oxford, Yeovil). This reflects our growing effort to increase our impact across the country, and to be more easily reached by those who need our help.

25 – between our various hubs, we provided personalised face-to-face support to people with dyslexia from 25 counties of the UK.

0 – we didn’t need to buy any perspex screens this year as we had already stocked up with so many at the start of the pandemic last year! (We did keep buying more sanitizer & cleaning wipes, however).

1,000 – in addition to all our other work, this year we also joined forces with our friends at Patoss, the British Dyslexia Association, Dyslexia Action, The Dyslexia Guild, and Real Group Ltd in helping to deliver specialist catch-up tuition to disadvantaged children as part of the National Tutoring Programme.

300,000 – we were humbled by the incredible generosity of so many supporters throughout the year, who felt inspired to support our Mission to help people with dyslexia, and those around them. A pledge of £300,000 from an amazingly philanthropic donor deserves special mention. This is ear-marked for specific projects that will take place over the next 2 years, all with the aim of furthering our charitable objectives. Watch this space… There were also many other donations, large and small, too many to mention, which added up to a BIG lot of help in enabling us to fulfil our aims.

1 – having said all of the above, there’s 1 thing that makes all the difference, and that’s the fact that you, as an individual, have felt strongly enough about the work that this charity does, that you’ve read through to here. It’s people like you who are the future of this charity. So, Thank You!

We look forward to seeing you in 2022, but in the meantime…

Happy Christmas and a Merry New Year,

from Andy and all the team at Helen Arkell!!

3 December 2021

Dearest Jean has a special place in this blog. Jean Jefcoate, beloved wife of Roger, and a staunch supporter of this charity, sadly passed away last week, having lost her prolonged battle against illness and chronic pain. I joined Roger in Buckinghamshire this week, to make sure he knows the whole Helen Arkell community is with him at this time. Roger and Jean have done so much for so many charities, and Roger is determined to keep supporting Helen Arkell in memory of Jean. A sad day for us all.

Other supporters to whom we are indebted are Farnham Rotary. Hazel was delighted to join their members to collect our share of their fundraising efforts – an amazing cheque for £4,000 to help us support more people with dyslexia. Thank you guys – you are stars!

Next stop was Liverpool, where Rachael manned our stand at the Positive Dyslexia event. It was great to meet so many people, and to realise that our name is well known in the area. News of our charity’s efforts to support people with dyslexia is travelling far and wide across the UK.

Back down in Surrey, we were honoured to be joined by over 80 members of the Helen Arkell community of dyslexia specialists to hear Louise Selby speak on how to master the three components of morphology: the main roots of words, and the prefixes and suffixes that are often added to them. It was lovely to see you all in person again, after a two-year Covid-induced absence! Above all, thank you to Louise for making the trip down from Hitchin, and giving up her weekend in order to join us.

Likewise, the Helen Arkell community of specialists have been with us again today. This time it was the turn of our dyslexia assessors, to compare notes on a range of specialist topics. It’s through meetings like this that we ensure the highest of standards, and the consistent quality of ‘the Helen Arkell approach’. Our South-West, Oxford, London and Frensham teams joined us, either face to face, or by dialling in on the big screen.

The above took place in our hall, which still smelled slightly of mulled wine. This was because the same hall had been transformed into a twinkly, Christmassy, mulled-wine-infused grotto of seasonal loveliness a couple of evenings earlier, as we welcomed our neighbours for Christmas drinks. Our hall always looks at its best when it’s like this. Just enough lighting to be sweet, but not so much as to reveal the various stains on the much-used carpet. Big thanks to the two local Co-ops, and our local Waitrose, for providing the food and drink. Everyone went home happy, apart from Teddy Edward Arkell Bear who initially got left in Helen’s office by mistake. Blimey was he cross by the time he came out! He’s warmed up a bit now with a few mulled wines.

The big news at Christmas Drinks was the launch of our very exciting Unlock Dyslexia Christmas Appeal, which will help us to unlock the power of dyslexia in as many children and adults as possible in the coming months. Please do Like, Comment and Share if you see anything about it on social media.

And above all, if you can spare anything this Christmas, please donate, so we can help change the lives of more people with dyslexia. Come on, people – we can do this!

Thank you!


5 November 2021

You can always tell when Autumn’s here because Teddy Edward Arkell Bear (the great bear of Frensham) always puts a second pair of socks on.

And to be honest he’s not the only one.

It was a frosty morning when I headed up to Willow Hill Farm this week, in Apperley village, nestling in the hills overlooking Cheltenham. I was visiting Matthew, who is head honcho at The Software Farm, who are helping us to develop a new booking system for our clients. This is so we can streamline everything more efficiently, as we fulfil our mission to support increasing numbers of people with dyslexia.

Since working with us, Matthew has become inspired to help our little charity, and to see if there are ways where his facilities could be used to raise some much-needed funds, to help more children and adults with dyslexia. For this reason, Matthew also introduced me to Stacey, who has joined his team as Operations and Events Consultant.

I should explain that The Software Farm is based at Willow Hill, but is only one of the projects that Matthew is involved in. His other big passion is to improve the ability for local produce to be matched up with local consumers, and to make sure it’s possible to know where your food has come from. His Happerley Provenance website explains all.

It was great to have a tour of the farm, complete with chickens, dogs, ducks, and Gloucester cattle while Matthew explained his plans for developing the site in an environmental way, with an area set aside for a big kitchen garden, and various other planned projects too.

We brainstormed ways in which we could work together to raise awareness of Helen Arkell in the surrounding area, which is all pretty exciting!

On a related, but altogether sadder note, we learned this week that one of our former students has passed away, who also trained with us in the 1990s. Kate Griffiths will be sorely missed. As her husband said, Kate put her training to very good use and absolutely loved her almost 20 years working as a Special Needs teacher, and later Coordinator. We were extremely touched that Kate had specifically requested that a small gift be made to Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity in her Will. Thank you so much, Kate. We will put your donation to good use, and will support more children and adults with dyslexia.

Other news this week is that our Golf Event at Worplesdon Golf Club raised an amazing £10,000 the other day. Huge thanks to Sue and Ewan Stradling for organising this for us. Our next Golf Day will be at Liphook Golf Club, on 6th May 2022, so make a note in your diaries now!

I’d better go now, as Teddy Edward is getting overexcited at the prospect of fireworks, and has started building a bonfire out of all our office furniture. I’d better stop him as everyone will kill me if they come in on Monday morning and find there’s nowhere to sit.

Until next time


8 October 2021

Dyslexia Awareness Week has been bonkers this year

Dyslexia Awareness Week is always busy, as it’s such a great opportunity to raise awareness of dyslexia in the world at large, and also to bring our work to the attention of the public. This year, it’s been a particularly eventful week, which has been so exciting!

It all kicked off last week, actually, as Tory and I had the opportunity to provide a Lunch and Learn session about dyslexia to the guys at Willmott Dixon Construction. This fell within National Inclusion Week, which leads nicely up to Dyslexia Awareness Week.

Our Hazel then headed into London to cheer on the amazing Team Helen Arkell who were running the marathon for us. An absolutely massive shout-out to all six of our intrepid runners: Charlotte, Topé, Patrick, Lee, Rupert and Jonathan did themselves proud, and did us proud too. Not only did they cover the 26.2 miles safely but with some seriously impressive times, too. Equally impressively, between them they have raised a staggering £20,000 for Helen Arkell, which is completely mind-blowing! Charlotte raised over £5,000 on her fundraising page, which is beyond belief!

On Monday it was the turn of Michael-John and me to fly the flag for the charity. We had kindly been invited to talk about our work to the guys at Trinity School, Croydon, alongside three other charities. The other charities included The Children’s Trust, who provide respite care for children with brain injuries and their families; The Zahra Trust who support women and vulnerable children in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen; and The Sandcastle Trust who provide respite care to people with rare genetic conditions. It was good to get to know the parents and staff at Trinity School, and to meet the other charities. The selected charity was The Children’s Trust, headed up by the parent of a child who acquired a serious brain injury through an accident. Sadly, their son passed away and The Children’s Trust supported the whole family through the whole tragic process. The hearts of everybody went out to her, as she explained that she now dedicates her life to promoting the charity’s work.

Our next event was headed up by Anita, who provided Surrey People’s Group with a session on dyslexia, again as part of Dyslexia Awareness Week. Then later that evening it was our Clare’s turn, as she gave an online Parents Workshop session, that had over 200 people sign up. These were inspirational sessions and the feedback has been brilliant.

On Thursday, our wagons rolled (fuel permitting) down to West Sussex, where we were lucky enough to be able to use West Dean College as a venue for another awareness-raising event. We were privileged to have The High Sheriff of West Sussex open proceedings, dressed in all his regalia, and to also be joined by some brilliantly enthusiastic guests, some of whom already know and support us, and others who were new to us.

We were all enthralled to hear Jac speak. Highly dyslexic, Jac received help from Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity a number of years ago. He has now completed his PhD in areas of science that I can’t even begin to describe. Jac is now embarking on his next project, to gain better understanding of the surface of Mars by examining its metallic make-up, calculating the various melting points of the various metals, and reaching various ground-breaking conclusions as a result. I felt completely humbled to hear how Jac can do all of this, and yet struggles so much with being asked to give a presentation on our behalf, because of the mechanics of putting his thoughts on paper. He describes himself as probably having the spelling age of a ten year old, despite holding a PhD. Such are the gifts and struggles of people with dyslexia. As Jac said so poignantly:

“Dyslexia is incredibly frustrating; you encounter its obstacles day in, day out. But it can be overcome. You come to accept what you cannot do, yet also quickly find where you excel. You learn to accept that the world won’t change for you, but you can subtly change it.”

Having left West Dean with our heads buzzing with all the exciting leads and opportunities that had arisen from meeting our various guests, it was then time to launch a brand-new initiative on Friday. Those of you who support the charity in one way or another will find out about this when you open your post over the next few days, so I won’t spoil the surprise for you. In fact, I’ve probably already said too much and may have to be killed.

Back at the ranch, our latest Supporting Learners course, led by Rachel, kicked off with the first of its six-week sessions, training teachers and teaching assistants (with state school teachers getting free places thanks to the generosity of an incredible funder). Our HELP Parents’ Course, led by Helen, was also in full swing. Meanwhile, Vicky was in London delivering our latest FAST Projects (Families and Schools Together), which give dyslexia support to state schools with above-average numbers of pupils on free school meals (‘Pupil Premium’). Big thanks to the Kusuma Trust for making this possible.

And of course, countless individuals have again passed through our Centre and our hubs, receiving support for their dyslexia this week, either in the form of assessments, tuition, coaching, or consultations. This is what lies at the heart of our Mission, and drives us on.

So, it’s been a busy week raising awareness of dyslexia, and it’s not quite finished!

On Sunday, Hazel and Katie will head back into London to support our amazing nine runners in the Royal Parks Half marathon. Claire, Charlie B, Patrick, Charlie H, Scott, Peter, Rory, Gary and Joanna are all flying the flag for us on this occasion. Special mention of Scott who is running in memory of his beloved uncle Chris (‘Reevers’), who was a staunch supporter of the charity. Scott has so far raised a brilliant £2,188 with Gift Aid. Wow! Also special mention of Peter who is our founder Helen’s grandson, and is running in her memory. Between them, our fantastic team of runners have already raised over £7,200 and their respective totals are still going up.

I’d better leave them now, as they’ll be beginning their carb-loading soon and getting nervous as kittens. We’ll be thinking of you, guys!

Happy Dyslexia Awareness Week everybody, it’s been fun!


27 September 2021

Helen Arkell goes back to the 1920s, and our walkers and runners do us proud!

What an amazing evening we had last Thursday! Amazing partly because 100 of us actually joined in a face-to-face event (it’s been a while) and partly because it was 1920s-themed, so everyone was unrecognisable (apart from Teddy Arkell Bear, whose feet stuck out at the bottom of his costume). We were nominated as one of the benefitting charities of this Great Gatsby dinner dance, alongside our friends at Surrey Action for Carers. Thank you to everyone at Farnham Rotary for all your hard work in organising the event, in theWoodland Tipi at Blacknest. Special thanks to the Arkell family, who attended in force to support the event. A poignant moment for them, as their grandmother Helen was born in 1920.

We then moved to More House School, who kindly hosted our annual Strategy Day. We convene all our best brainboxes once a year to hatch medium- to long- term plans. This year we had some exciting additions to our team, as we have recruited additional trustees, and are building up our team of dyslexia specialists too. Our ambitious aim is to be helping more than twice as many individuals with dyslexia in 2026 than we do now, across a much wider geographical area. The last two years have been extremely challenging, as, like all charities, our finances have been hard hit, but we are optimistic that we can start expanding again over the coming period. We keep fingers crossed that Covid does not take a backwards step again.

Yesterday was another milestone, as the Big Frensham Walk returned after an 18-month absence. This date in the local diary starts and finishes at our Centre, with walkers enjoying a couple of different routes through the local countryside around Frensham Ponds. Sponsorship and donations are still coming in, and income from the event looks set to reach about £700. Special mention of staunch local supporter Vickie, who raised £200 of that. Great work, Vickie!

We were also delighted to be joined by author Susan Stewart, who was donating £2 to the charity for every copy of Dog-Lexius that she sold. This is a magical adventure story about Sam, who has dyslexia, and his doggie friend Lexius. Together they go on a voyage through Outer Space. I won’t say more or I’ll ruin it. Just contact us if you want a copy and we’ll put you in touch with Susan.

The next stop in our own magical adventures will be More House School (again) on Wednesday, as they have kindly invited us to participate in their Open Day, as their local charity. We are literally half a mile down the road. If you are one of the 250 parents who have booked yourselves in, we look forward to meeting you!

We’ll be stopping briefly along the way, to provide a Lunch & Learn session on dyslexia, to the team at Willmott Dixon Construction. These free sessions are great fun, and have converted well to the online environment.

From there, we get ready to head into London to cheer on our six intrepid runners in the London Marathon next weekend. Three massive cheers for Charlotte, Topé, Patrick, Lee, Rupert and Jonathan who are doing us proud. It’s been a long wait till they’ve been able to participate in person, with the event having been on hold during Covid. Enjoy yourselves, all of you, and we’ll be cheering you along the way!

Bye for now


  1. Did I tell you that we’ve been nominated by Tesco’s to take part in their Community Grants Scheme elections in their stores in Haslemere, Midhurst, Petersfield, Liss, Bordon, Four Marks and Alton? Please vote for us if you get a chance.

PPS. Did I also tell you that an incredibly generous individual has just donated over £500 this afternoon, having attended one of our Help Parents Courses a while ago? How amazing is that?! Thank you so much!

27 August 2021

This one’s all about Graeme

Sometimes there are people who come along in life and just want to do something to help others, even if it means putting themselves through the mill.

One of those people is definitely Graeme Gordon!

When I first met Graeme, he seemed like a fairly sane person. I had the pleasure of chatting with him at an event arranged by the Feltmakers Livery Company in London. Graeme is dyslexic, so was interested to learn about everything we’re doing at Helen Arkell. At that time, he gave no indication that he would soon go utterly mad, taking up a new sport as a complete novice one minute, and then immediately committing himself to a challenge that would make seasoned professionals quake in their boots (or shiver in their timbers!)

So, it came as quite a surprise when Graeme’s daughter, Samantha (who is as equally ‘driven’ as her father, and equally inspired by her own dyslexia) informed me that her dad had decided to row the full length of the Thames, from its source in Kemble, Gloucestershire, to Tower Bridge in the City of London, to raise funds for five charities.

As some of you will know (I didn’t), the Thames is so small when it starts, that rowing is out of the question, so the first 13 miles of the stream had to be undertaken as a half marathon run, and the next section needed negotiating by bike along the muddy banks of the stream, until it was possible to clamber into a single skull rowing boat at Lechlade-on-Thames.

From then on, there was the small matter of 150 miles to be rowed, and 45 locks to be negotiated (and 32 bridges to be safely steered under). As if this whole enterprise weren’t bonkers enough, Graeme then decided he would complete the whole thing in four-and-a-bit days.

The great thing from our point of view is that Graeme chose Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity to receive a share of the funds that he raised, through our connection with the aforementioned Feltmakers Livery Company. Graeme is not only the Master of the Chartered Accountants’ Livery Company, but also a member of the Feltmakers, and so it was a match made in heaven from our point of view, as we are currently the Feltmakers’ chosen charity. Other benefitting charities from Graeme’s efforts included Marlow RowAbility, the Lord Mayor’s Appeal, and the Sheriffs’ & Recorder’s Fund.

When someone undertakes a challenge like this, my goodness do they deserve some support! So, the Helen Arkell community rallied round. First it was Rachael’s turn to head down to the banks of the Thames in Oxford, then Clare pitched up just past Henley, and finally Joanna headed into London to cheer Graeme on during the final stretch. Their success in being at the right place at the right time as Graeme went past was slightly patchy, due to the uncertainties of his rate of progress, but we certainly showed willing with our support!

My role was to cheer Graeme on on Tuesday (his third day). The wonderful Feltmakers had hired a small boat for the morning, with their head honcho Nigel MacDonald acting as skipper, ensuring that nobody fell overboard. We cheered and cheered as Graeme came into view, somewhere about two hours west of Henley, and we gladly operated the locks for him, happy to play our part as the support crew. He was clearly pretty exhausted already, and had some impressive blisters to show for his efforts. But he was gritting his teeth, and clearly determined to keep going and complete the challenge.

We accompanied Graeme for a couple of very pleasant hours (pleasant if you’re sitting in a boat. Less pleasant if you’re rowing one for hours on end). My one regret was not taking Teddy Edward Arkell Bear with me. That little bear would absolutely have loved to have a go at driving that boat. He had a tear in his eye when I showed him the photos on social media when I got back to the office afterwards.

Things came to a head yesterday, as I joined the other charity representatives at the end of Graeme’s course, at HMS President, beside Tower Bridge. My goodness the Thames is a very different river by the time you get to London! Graeme’s little boat looked extremely small and vulnerable in the big waves! So, it was quite remarkable that he finished bang on time, and although clearly exhausted from his efforts, was nonetheless able to put one foot in front of the other, and even conduct interviews.

Of course as Graeme would be the first to note, it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of many people, not least Naomi Riches MBE (Paralympic Gold Medal winner) who taught Graeme to row; Graeme’s daughter Samantha who organised so much behind the scenes and along the route to ensure everything went smoothly; and to Graeme’s fellow members of the Chartered Accountants’ Livery Company who accompanied him along the way in a little support boat, to check he was ok, providing him with energy gels throughout.

Graeme’s fundraising tally has passed an amazing £20,000 and still rising, which is an outstanding effort. If you’d like to chip in with a little something, you can do so here. Remember, we benefit from the Feltmakers’ share.

Thank you, Graeme, for being such a great sport, and an inspiration to us all. Above all, thank you for everything you’ve done to help people with dyslexia, by supporting our little charity.


30 July 2021

A growing team

At this time of year, at Helen Arkell, we start to look forward to our new year. In our world, this starts on 1st September. I guess this stems from the fact that we operate theoretically in the field of education. (I’d argue that we operate equally in the fields of self-confidence, coaching and mental health. And also the field of working with brilliant people who happen to see the world differently. If that’s a field.) We also train cohorts of teachers for courses that last a full academic year. So, maybe that also explains it.

During the summer period, a CEO’s life is full of things like budget-setting, and making plans. Oh, life would be so much easier if you had a crystal ball to help you, particularly when Covid-19 is still at large! Like all charities, we have had a rough year or two, with so many fundraising events being cancelled, but we really do feel that we can start to plan for growth in our services next year. So we can help more people. Goodness knows, we need to, with so many individuals approaching us because they are struggling with their dyslexia.

We are therefore setting ourselves ambitious targets for significantly increasing the numbers of children and adults whom we will help next year. And as always, our Helen Arkell approach will focus on absolute excellent quality of service and expertise, but with the personal touch at its heart.

To that end, we’ve been busy recruiting! Since I last wrote this blog, we have enlisted another nine people into our growing team, all of whom will start in September. These are a mix of dyslexia specialists, fundraisers (paid for so generously by a donor who shall remain nameless!) and unpaid trustees. On Monday we will also be meeting another two applicants, who wish to join our team of course tutors.

It’s so important that everyone who works for us embraces ‘the Helen Arkell way’, following in the footsteps of our founder, Helen.

On that note, we were delighted to be able to hold a team meeting of our specialist assessors and educational psychologists the other day, in person rather than on screens. The sun even shone, which was a great bonus, as we were able to meet outside under the shade of our big old chestnut tree. It was a great opportunity to mull over a variety of specialist topics – this is a dynamic field, and it’s important to keep up to date with developments and push things forward. Next time it will be the turn of our specialist teachers to gather together.

Everything we do is with the aim of benefitting the people who come to us for help, as best we can. To that end, if you need any 1:1 help from our specialist tutors, do get in touch. We are offering 1:1 Personalised Learning sessions from 3rd to 19th August, face-to-face at our Surrey Centre, to help students to consolidate their literacy skills (Key Stages 1-4). Alternatively, remote specialist teaching is also available via video call.

Likewise, we have HELP Parents Courses taking place at various venues in the coming months. So, there’s lots going on.

Just get in touch or follow the various links on our website, to find out more.

Happy New Year!


16 July 2021

Well done to our 500 for 50 challengers; a milestone for our Level 7 candidates; and another amazing donation comes in. Thank you so much!

I don’t know about Lorraine and Sandra, my fellow 500 for 50 challengers, but last weekend nearly broke me (and I’m not talking about the sporting disappointments, with Djokovic winning (again), and England losing on penalties (again). It was only the knowledge that I was raising sponsorship for a great cause that kept me going during the long, lonely hours of my particular challenge, cycling round and round the Surrey hills.

Stupidly, I had decided to cycle 150 miles over the weekend. That’s 250k. Equally stupidly, I didn’t do any real training for it. My plan was to get as many miles done as possible on the Saturday, so I got up at 4am and was on my bike by 5am. My only companions on the road were a few deer and the odd fox. Several hours later, the novelty had worn off. By then I’d been cycling for more hours than I care to remember, through the non-stop rain, and I had managed to complete 110 miles. I was cold, wet, sore and basically knackered. I swear I could feel every bump and pothole, and was relieved to get off that (wretched) bike for an overnight rest.

What kept me going were the progress reports coming in from Sandra, Kevin and Lorraine, who were hiking 50k and cycling 50 miles respectively. We were all raising funds for the same cause: to help Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity to support more people with dyslexia in our 50th anniversary year. So, buoyed up by the successes of my fellow challengers, and rested from a night’s sleep, I resumed the challenge at 5.30am the next morning, and had completed all 150 miles (156 to be exact) by about 10am.

Thank you so much to all my sponsors, and Lorraine and Sandra’s sponsors too. Between all our efforts, we’ve managed to raise about £2,700, with gift aid, which is absolutely amazing. I reckon that we managed to cover 447k between us, over the weekend. So that just leaves 53k to go, to get to the Charity’s target of 500k in our anniversary year – please let us know if you wish to take on any of those miles as a challenge between now and the end of the year.

Other things to happen this week (which in my case were mainly conducted standing up rather than sitting down):

– We celebrated the completion of our Level 7 Diploma Course. Students handed in their course work and breathed big sighs of relief. We wish them all well for their final results, which will be known after the visit of the external verifier.

– We enjoyed meeting the team at Columbia Threadneedle, who are the latest workplace to request a Lunch & Learn session on dyslexia. This was a preparatory chat, to check out logistics before giving the session in a few weeks’ time.

– We were delighted to conduct interviews for positions that have become available as we seek to expand our operations. We saw some very promising candidates, so I hope to have more news on that when the recruitment process is complete. We are desperate to add more dyslexia specialists into our team, as we have such a large demand for our services, in the wake of the pandemic.

– We are particularly grateful to a donor, who shall remain nameless, for funding (among other things) two new fundraising positions. Very exciting! Not only that, but their generosity is also enabling us to offer free places to State School teachers/teaching assistants on next year’s Level 5 Diploma Course, on the teaching of learners with dyslexia. Thank you! Your generosity is simply breath-taking!

– Meanwhile more big news this week has been the pledge of an amazing £76,000 donation, over a four-year period, to help us offer more bursary-funded dyslexia support to people from lower income backgrounds. How amazing is that?! Not only are they helping us reach those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to access help, but they are also helping to fund a new booking system. This will help us to manage increasing numbers of bookings, without increasing our admin costs.

Thank you so much to ALL our donors, large and small. You are helping us to achieve our mission to the best of our ability, as we address the huge (and growing) demand for our services. We couldn’t do it without you!


9 July 2021

This one’s for Yvonne.

This afternoon was a sad day for the Helen Arkell community, as we said our goodbyes to Yvonne Whitestone, our beloved Head of Education, as she enters retirement following 28 years’ service at Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity.

It is testament to the place that Yvonne holds in the heart of the Helen Arkell family that over 70 people would have wanted to attend in person … sadly we were only allowed 30, to comply with restrictions, which left many people disappointed.

The sun shone, which in itself was a novelty this week, and meant that the tents that we had put up were pleasant shades from the sunshine, rather than necessary shelter from the rain, which would certainly have been the case if we’d held it yesterday.

When you’ve worked somewhere for 30 odd years, you have worked with many, many people. So it was fitting that we were also joined by members of the Helen Arkell team of days gone by.

First to give her tribute to Yvonne was former Principal of the charity, Rosie Wood, with anecdotes and memories of her time working with Yvonne in the 90s. As Rosie said, Yvonne has always been such an exemplary member of staff, that there aren’t any scurrilous stories to drag up from the past. Yvonne has been brilliant from day one onwards.

Next it was the turn of Bernadette McLean, my predecessor, to give her tribute (although sadly Bernadette could not do so in person, so I had the job of reading this on her behalf). Bernadette described how Yvonne first came to Helen Arkell as a budding student on the diploma course, and was allocated to Bernadette’s tutor group. She had such talent and flair for the work, and such ability to connect with people, that we managed to keep her in the charity for the next 28 years! There’s no escape! Bernadette described Yvonne as a Helenette – a great follower of our founder Helen Arkell – which was a phrase first coined by the late Mark Wilkinson.

Renowned ADHD expert, Fintan O’Regan, then had us alternately in stitches, and in tears, with a special Ode to Yvonne that he had written for the occasion, which captured Yvonne’s career brilliantly in a nutshell.

And finally it was my turn. What can you say about someone who has been utterly fantastic, and has been part of the very fabric of the charity for so long? Words like, calm, kind, knowledgeable, fair, compassionate, supportive, aren’t enough to describe someone like Yvonne. She’s all of that, and more. The help she has given me has been huge, and whilst the last year or so has been challenging in Covid-19, it hasn’t been half as challenging as it would have been if Yvonne hadn’t been there in the senior management team.

Suffice to say, this charity would not be where it is today without the immense contribution Yvonne has made, day in day out, for the last 30 years. Literally thousands of children and adults with dyslexia have gained help over those years because of the work Yvonne has done in coordinating all the tuition that the charity provides. Many others have benefitted from specialist teaching that has been given by teachers and teaching assistants who have attended courses run and overseen by Yvonne.

So we certainly hope that Yvonne will look back on her career at Helen Arkell as a job extremely well done, and with justifiable pride.

Of course today was also an opportunity to congratulate Yvonne on entering the world of retirement – her ties within the charity run deep so there will be no loss of contact, and there will certainly be lots of catch-ups at the local garden centre for lunch.

Talking of food, once the speeches stopped, the cake came out, kindly made by another member of the wider Helen Arkell community.

Then the presents. If you want a measure of how highly regarded and deeply loved Yvonne is in our team, you will not be surprised to learn that over £1,000 had been contributed by the HA community, for Yvonne’s many and various gifts.

And finally, we all raised our glasses in a toast:

“To Yvonne!”

Thank you for everything you have done for us, and with us. Claire now has the unenviable job of trying to fill your shoes. The fact you have mentored her as your protégée means we know she’ll be great, and she’ll carry on from where you’ve left off.

Happy retirement Yvonne!


2 July 2021

Congratulations to our diploma students; and some sadness in the team

This week saw the culmination of our Level 5 Diploma Course in teaching learners with dyslexia/SpLD, with students submitting all the course work and assignments that they have completed throughout the year, for internal and external verification.

Their work is carefully arranged in special storage boxes, ready for the examiners to check through, hence why their end-of-year handover day is affectionately known as Box Day. Our Primary students had their Box Day on Tuesday, outside in the courtyard, while our Secondary students attended on Wednesday. Celebrations couldn’t involve a shared lunch this year, (even though everyone is vaccinated and undergoing regular testing), so people just brought their own packed lunches. Not quite the same. Hey ho.

Our cohort of students started with us in September, and have completed their course through a mix of online and face-to-face learning, and most lectures and supervisions have been conducted via video call. All credit to our team of course tutors, as well as to our students, for completing their courses in the rather unpredictable and variable circumstances caused by lockdowns and on-going Covid announcements. We wish you all the very best of luck with the external verification assessments.

Meanwhile our Level 7 students are hard at work in preparation for their own Box Day in two weeks’ time, and our January cohort of Level 5 students have just one week remaining before they break up for the Summer. They will then resume their course in September, finishing at Christmas.

We have a new Level 5 course starting in September. We still have some spots going spare, and we also have some free places available for teaching assistants and teachers from State Schools, thanks to the generosity of a donor, so do get in touch if you’re interested in applying for a place.

And now an apology. You will see from a message on our website that we are currently experiencing long delays in the booking of dyslexia assessments, due to unprecedented levels of interest. We can only apologise for this. We are working hard to build our operational capacity, but in the meantime we can only apologise. People with dyslexia have particularly struggled during disruptions to normal schooling routines, and home-working, which has led to an unprecedented demand at this time.

In order to resolve the above back-log, we are recruiting for experienced specialist teacher assessors and educational psychologists, so please do get in touch if you’d like to join our team.

Of course, I wouldn’t be doing my job right if I didn’t also point out that our ability to expand our services is also dependent on our income levels, so any donations would be gratefully received, to help us grow our ability to meet the demand. Thank you!

Talking of raising funds, there’s just a week to go before our 500 for 50 years’ anniversary challenge takes place. When I decided to cycle 150 miles on the weekend of 10th/11th July it seemed like a good idea at the time. But now I’m not so sure. It just feels like a) a very long way, and b) a very long time sitting on a bike saddle on bumpy roads. I’ll just have to grin and bear it, like Sandra and Rachael who are also undertaking their own challenges. If you’d like to get involved too, with your own challenge, just click here

Finally, two reasons for sadness within the Helen Arkell team. Firstly, we are all dreading the imminent retirement of Yvonne Whitestone, our long-standing and brilliant Head of Education, who will be leaving us for well-earned retirement at the end of next week. I will say more on that in due course, but for now we will just continue making the most of Yvonne’s knowledge and experience before she deserts us in favour of long relaxing days playing with new puppy Pepper!

Our second reason for sadness this week is the unexpected and shocking news of the passing of one of our long-standing Friends of Helen Arkell. Christopher Reeves was a great supporter and ambassador of the charity, who helped raise awareness of our work as well as making generous donations. Christopher was also a member of the Feltmakers Livery Company, who are great supporters of our charity too. We join the Feltmakers in sending sincere condolences to Christopher’s family at this terribly sad time. He will be very badly missed.


4 June 2021

We are so grateful to all our supporters… and we have amazing news!

It’s a competitive world out there when it comes to raising funds for charities. It has been well-documented in the Press that charities’ income has been hit extremely hard by Covid-19, with so many events cancelled over the last 18 months. Many small charities have struggled to survive, and the extent of the impact has yet to become fully known.

So, it is really quite amazing that we are managing to buck the trend at Helen Arkell, by increasing our fundraising year on year.

The only reason we are succeeding in doing that is because of YOU – the whole family of Helen Arkell supporters. And actually, it’s not all about the money. It’s just as important to us that you are quietly spreading the word about what we’re achieving here, helping more and more people with dyslexia, when they need us most. By spreading the word to your family and friends, and in your local clubs, associations, schools and workplaces, you are sowing seeds that will almost certainly come to fruition at some point in the future, either resulting in a donation or some offer of help. Or maybe leading to someone coming to us in need of our assistance.

And of course, a good way to spread the word is to volunteer to do some sort of event in aid of the Charity, as that gives you a concrete reason to spread the word, as you seek to convince people to donate to your fundraising efforts. For that reason, it’s great that people are signing up to join the 500 for 50 years anniversary challenge.

Donations of £5 here, and £10 there are our life-blood, and regular donations are the holy grail. That’s why we are so grateful to everyone in our Friends of Helen Arkell club, and we can’t wait to invite you to an actual real-life event in the autumn, so we can say thank you in person, and properly update you on what we’ve been doing and what we have planned.

Then occasionally, some big donation comes along, as a welcome surprise. The National Lottery and Charities Aid Foundation have certainly helped us through Covid, but there are others too. Like the brilliantly generous people who attended our Dinner for Dyslexia in 2019, who have enabled so many individuals to receive bursary-funded dyslexia support from our team of specialists – an incredible 79 people have been helped so far because of their amazing generosity. I will keep your anonymity to spare your blushes, but you know who you are, and I can’t thank you enough.

Likewise, the people at the Kusuma Trust have come forward to sponsor an exciting project in this coming academic year, which will enable us to specifically help six state schools in London, where there are high numbers of pupils on free school meals (Pupil Premium). The selected schools will receive support not only for their dyslexic pupils, but also for their parents, teachers and teaching assistants. How amazing is that?!

And finally, how about this for some news? This week we have received a donation of £300,000 from an absolutely inspirational group of people, who shall remain nameless. Their incredible generosity will enable us to help lots more people with dyslexia, as well as to invite a whole cohort of state school teachers and teaching assistants to participate in our Level 5 Dyslexia Diplomas, so they can support dyslexic children back in their classrooms. Not only that, but our benefactors want to sponsor the set-up of a small, budding fundraising team, so we can ultimately be self-supporting, raising more funds with which to help twice as many people with dyslexia. What absolutely amazing news!

Thank you to all of you for your help and support. A donation of £5 is just as important to us as a larger donation, as our holy grail is to get to a point where we have thousands of people in the Friends of Helen Arkell club. So please remember that every single donation matters to us, however big or small. It really is the thought that counts.

Onwards and upwards into an exciting future, where we help lots more children, young people and adults with dyslexia across the UK.


21 May 2021

500 kilometres for 50 years – OK people, let’s do this!!

There are moments in history when the Dunkirk spirit comes to the fore, and the weekend of 10th/11th July 2021 is going to be one of them.

That’s the weekend when the Helen Arkell community is going to come together for our biggest challenge yet. Between us, we’re going to cycle, run, walk, skip, skate and bounce our way around the 500km that it takes to visit all our hubs across the South of England… and all during the course of that weekend (you can also start on the Friday 9th).

We’re going to push ourselves to our limits, whatever they may be, in recognition of the blood, sweat and tears shed by Helen, Joy and Elisabeth when they set up this charity 50 years ago. We’re going to emulate the spirit of that moment back in the early 70s when Joy gained sponsorship for riding a horse across the country, from east coast to west coast within a week, with backup provided by Helen in one of the charity’s mobile support units. The weather was terrible and she got soaked to the skin, but she still continued, because she knew she was raising much-needed funds to get the charity off the ground.

So what will you do between 9th to 11th July, to add some kilometres or miles to our overall target?

Personally, I’m challenging myself to cycle 150 miles, which is probably really stupid, but I’m certainly going to try. It’s exactly the number of miles that covers the distance from our Frensham Centre to our London hub, then our London hub to our Oxford hub, and finally from our new Yeovil venue to our Salisbury hub.

Meanwhile, Helen has set herself the challenge of cycling 40 miles and running 10 miles over that weekend. Rachael is going to cycle 50km on her new bike.

That still leaves many more miles or kilometres to be covered, to get us to our overall tally of 500 kilometres and beyond. (Who knows how far we can go in our efforts to cover the UK??).

It doesn’t really matter what you do to complete some of the distance – provided it’s safe, legal and doesn’t involve motorised transport. The most important thing is that you gain sponsorship for your efforts, and between us we can make this a weekend of fundraising to remember, to make our founders Helen, Joy and Elisabeth proud.

We will want as many pictures and memories of the event as possible, so keep your phones on you (unless you’re swimming the Channel, of course).

For all details of how to get involved and join the team effort just click here.

And of course, we’re going to need sponsors as well as participants, so if you can’t take part in a challenge yourself, it would be brilliant if you could support one of the team’s fundraising efforts.

Come on people, let’s make this a weekend to remember, in our 50th anniversary year!


13 May 2021

Bears, courses, bursaries, amazing supporters and woolly feet

It’s all change again next week, as Monday 17th heralds the next stage of the lockdown lifting process. We have been operating an alternating bubble system since September, so it will feel like quite a change. Given that we are all lateral flow testing ourselves twice a week, and have mostly had one (or two) vaccinations, we feel ready to operate as one team. (Who knew what lateral flow testing was, before all this started? Or furlough? The world’s gone crazy and we now all think the craziness is normal, that’s the amazing thing).

Don’t get me wrong, we are very much embracing the new way of working, with most of us operating a flexible mix of office-based and home-working, depending on the requirements in the calendar. The only person who will be working full time in the office from now on is Teddy Edward Arkell Bear, but he doesn’t really count as he’s a bear. And thinking about it, he lives in the office, so technically when he’s working in the office he’s also working from home. And to be honest, he never really does any work anyway – he just hides behind doors and jumps out at people to make them jump. Anyhow, let’s move on to less bear-related things or it will get unbearable. I know, hilarious.

Lots has happened since I last wrote this blog, so let’s give you some highlights:

– We were honoured to have Professor Maggie Snowling join us virtually from Oxford University, to give our 50th anniversary lecture on Dyslexia and Developmental Language Disorder. In all, 169 delegates joined us. Former heads of the Charity, Bernadette McLean and Rosie Wood also joined us for this special event, which was brilliant.

– We have started providing dyslexia assessments from a new venue. You can now find us in Yeovil, as well as Frensham, Oxford and London. And Salisbury will re-open soon.

– So far this year we have provided bursary-funded support to 211 individuals from lower income backgrounds or who are experiencing financial difficulties. A total of 115 of these received assessments or tuition and 96 were given free places on courses.

– A massive thank you to our growing band of supporters who fund the above bursaries. Remember, if anyone out there needs some help for their dyslexia and can’t afford to pay, tell them to get in touch with us, and we’ll see what we can do.

– We are gearing up for an exciting new academic year, when we will be giving free support to six schools in London, who have high numbers of pupils on Pupil Premium (qualifying for free school meals). This is really exciting, and we can’t say a big enough thank you to the Kusuma Trust for making it possible.

– Our brilliant team have been busy providing more dyslexia-related courses and workshops, including our renowned HELP Parents course, and our Supporting Learners with Dyslexia. We have plenty more courses in the diary, so have a look on the website and book yourself in.

– Meanwhile things are hotting up for our students on the Level 5 and Level 7 Diploma Courses, as we near the end of the academic year.

– Tomorrow we have 142 participants booked in to hear Eleanor Beresford from The Eye Academy, who will be joining us to talk about Dyslexia and Eyes. Eleanor is a Specialist Paediatric Optometrist.

– Meanwhile we have a whole host of other events planned through the Summer and Autumn, where we hope to see you in person, rather than just virtually.

And now I’d better go, as I can see there’s a bear hiding behind my door, and he thinks I haven’t seen him (actually, I can see his woolly feet).

Onwards and upwards, as we help more people with dyslexia across the UK. Thank you for your support!


12 April 2021

His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Captain Tom, Zena, Clare, Graeme, Jack and you

The news of the passing of Prince Philip is still very raw, and our hearts go out to The Queen, all the Royal Family, and particularly to Princess Beatrice, our Patron at Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity. Prince Philip was Princess Beatrice’s grandfather.

The press is full of tributes to the life of Prince Philip, with particular emphasis on a life well-lived, and the Duke’s sense of service, as well as his strong character, intellect, humanity and wicked sense of humour.

The closest I came to meeting Prince Philip was in the 90’s, when I was driving a Landrover Defender and large ‘event trailer’ into the grounds of the CLA Game Fair, in readiness for setting up the Hearing Dogs display stand on our allocated pitch. I think it was in Windsor Great Park that year, from memory. We got stuck behind a team of four horses being driven by a man in a tweed jacket and bowler hat. (This was at about 7am in the morning). We hung back in case we upset the horses, only to have the carriage driver turn round and look at us, with a slightly exasperated look on his face, and wave us to quickly overtake. We duly obliged, not least because we had all instantly recognised that this wasn’t just any old carriage driver. The Duke waved his hat at us as we went past, although I’m pretty sure I could lip read him mouthing “for goodness sake, do get on with it!”.

Prince Philip’s charity work is well documented, particularly his Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme, and it is touching that The Queen has asked mourners to make donations to charity, in his memory.

On that note, this week sees the launch of a fundraising event set up in memory of another national legend. The ‘Captain Tom 100’ will take place as a tribute to Sir Tom Moore, over the weekend of 30th April to the Bank Holiday Monday 3rd May. Everyone is invited to take on a challenge around the number 100 anytime and anywhere, over Captain Tom’s birthday weekend. It’s as simple as that.

And of course, we’d dearly love you to select Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity to receive the proceeds from your fundraising, because we have so much work to do, to help all those children and adults with dyslexia who have particularly struggled with disruption to schooling, and changes of working routines.

Let’s do the charity proud and start dreaming up some challenges. This is of course our 50th anniversary year, so it feels appropriate to select challenges around the number 100, because we are looking forward to what the charity will look like after 100 years, rather than just looking back on 50. By then we will be helping thousands more people with dyslexia, across the UK. As Captain Tom said: “Tomorrow will be a good day”.

There are some amazing people out there who are already ‘doing it for dyslexia’, and have a head start on the rest of us. Spare a thought for young Jack, who’s sleeping out in his tent for two weeks, to raise money for Helen Arkell. Jack must be freezing, but is determined to finish his challenge (Jack is dyslexic, so knows all about resilience and determination). You can sponsor Jack here and help him get beyond his current fundraising tally of £771 (how amazing is that?!)

Yesterday was the big day for Zena and Clare, who ran the virtual Royal Parks Half Marathon. Again, their fundraising total is outstanding (£630 so far), and they’d love you to add to it here

Last, but by no means least, Graeme Gordon, an intrepid but novice rower, has taken on the source2city challenge, which will see him undertake a half marathon before jumping into a boat and rowing 160 miles along the length of the Thames, finishing at Tower Bridge. Graeme has a few weeks of training ahead, as the challenge will take place from 22nd to 26th August. Wish him luck and please make a donation on the source2city website, where you will see that proceeds will be split 5 ways between 5 charities, including the Feltmakers livery company. Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity will benefit from the Feltmakers’ share, as their chosen charity. You can see a short video of the launch of the event here

All that remains is for the rest of us to decide what challenge we are going to undertake for Helen Arkell this year! On yer marks, get set …



1 April 2021

There’s a buzz in the air (and for once it isn’t the wasps).

It’s the first day of April, and I can put my feet up, because it’s the one day in the year when Teddy Edward Arkell Bear (The Great Bear of Frensham) offers to write the CEO blog for me. I just dictate to him and he sorts it all out. So if you spot any obvious misspellings, or any rude words that shouldn’t be there, please let me know and I’ll have a word with him before next April 1st.

Unfortunately, he keeps throwing his keyboard out the window, and running down the stairs to catch it from below, which is a great idea in theory but isn’t working well in practice. So this could take a while. (Or it might not take at all).

In truth, there’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said in today’s extravaganza of newsworthiness, which is the Helen Arkell monthly e-newsletter. So if you want a less bear-influenced account of things, you should get your own copy by subscribing HERE

There really is a buzz in the air, which for a change is nothing to do with the wasps in Hazel’s office. It has more to do with the fact that in the short few weeks since we re-opened our Centre and hubs on 8th March, we’ve already helped more than 50 people with face-to-face dyslexia assessments. That’s in addition to providing over 200 sessions of online specialist coaching and tuition to adults and children with dyslexia every month. We’ve also run more online Help Parents Courses, and specialist courses for teachers in Supporting Learners with Dyslexia, as well as providing 1:1 consultations to many parents who are needing advice on how to find help for their children.

We’re also getting ready to welcome back our Level 5 and Level 7 students, who are now able to complete their teaching practice sessions in local schools.

In the midst of the above excitement, we were also delighted to join the brilliant people at Nestlé Purina to talk about all things dyslexia. Tory and I were blown away by the enthusiasm of all the Purina staff, who jumped at the chance to learn about dyslexia and also to share their own experiences. Thank you for being such great sports!

Other massive thanks go to some brilliant supporters who have helped us recently as we’ve made our way through lockdown and out the other side, ensuring we can continue to fulfil our mission to help people with dyslexia in this time of crisis. Our friends at the National Lottery Community Fund have been amazing with their support of our work in recent months, and now we have been incredibly lucky to have benefitted from a grant from CAF Resilience Fund, which has enabled us to provide support to another 50 children and adults with dyslexia.

And then, as if the above weren’t enough excitement, we have also been fortunate to start a partnership with the inspirational people at Kusuma Trust, who are going to help us to support six schools in London in the next academic year. We will provide specialist help and advice to their teachers, parents and children; particularly the children who would benefit the most from spending time with our dyslexia specialist tutors throughout the year.

So there’s lots going on.

Teddy Edward has now found the store of lateral flow testing kits that are in my office, and is doing things with them that he really shouldn’t be doing. So, I’ll stop there.

To find out more about the exciting news in our Wessex and Oxford hubs, and to book your place on Maggie Snowling’s lecture (our 50th anniversary Helen Arkell lecture), please do just get a copy of the e-news and we look forward to seeing you there.


15 March 2021

This week I’m delighted to hand over the CEO’s blog to Clare Roberts, who joined us in January as a Dyslexia Specialist within our growing Oxford team. Over to you, Clare, to introduce yourself! …

Picture the scene… it was 1994 and I was a newly qualified teacher driving an old, battered Vauxhall Chevette that I had to start with a screwdriver. I taught at a primary school in Tipton in the West Midlands. I was full of beans and ready to ‘make a difference’. My Y5 class of 29 children was a mix of bright sparks, scamps and potential rogues. We had a lot of fun together including the occasion I introduced them to Kiwi fruit; they were disgusted that the fruit was covered in ‘hair’. However, despite my best efforts I always felt I failed them. Many children could not copy the date from the blackboard (yes, blackboard, I’m vintage), they struggled to read and had a plethora of avoidance tactics when writing was on the agenda. I was completely stumped; how could I begin to help them? I felt out of my depth and when I looked for tips from experienced teachers, they did not have any answers.

Fast forward to 2005, I was now a mum of two young daughters living in Oxfordshire. My eldest daughter was a force of nature; energetic, funny and her cup was always half full but when she started school she was identified as having difficulty with literacy and maths. This was the start of an educational journey that was littered with ‘below targets’, tears and tantrums. I was led by advice from her teachers who were doing their best to support us, but intervention was dull and not igniting Libby’s interests at any level. Getting her to do learning at home was like trying to herd kittens. I had the opportunity to retrain in SpLD, and I took it.

I studied at Oxford Brookes and then Bath Spa; armed with qualifications in supporting and assessing children with literacy difficulties I started working as a one-to-one specialist teacher at a school for children with SpLD and that is when the real learning started! Firstly, my colleagues recognised that I am dyslexic. This answered a lot of questions I’d had such as; Why do I need to re-read text so many times before I ‘get it’? Why do I have to redraft, redraft, redraft my written work? And after all these years why do I break into a cold sweat at the thought of times tables? Why I didn’t figure out I was dyslexic when I was training in SpLD, I’ll never know.

At our school most of the pupils were damaged by their experience of feeling ‘different’ in their mainstream schools and we often discovered many had co-occurring difficulties making school life a traumatic experience for them. However, the magic of feeling the same as their peers at school and being taught in a way that suited them allowed them to bloom. If only I’d known about this all those years ago in Tipton and of course for my own lovely daughter. I eventually ran the amazing one-to-one team of teachers and developed an Outreach Programme to spread the word to local schools about dyslexia-friendly teaching and effective intervention. I also assessed the children who came through our doors and I will always hold dear my memories of how brave those children were; being prepared to come to a new school, a sea of new faces, in the hope that they could have happier days during term time. I started tutoring and marking the work of teachers who were applying for their Associate Membership of the British Dyslexia Association which I still do now through Oxford Brookes.

Helen Arkell is recognised as being a centre of excellence so when the charity’s Oxford hub opened, I jumped at the chance to join you, although with some trepidation! Could I run with the experts? Despite starting my new job as a Dyslexia Specialist during lockdown 3, everyone has been tremendously supportive albeit remote so far. I’ve ‘attended’ lectures on the Level 5 course and watched HELP sessions for parents. I am blown away by the standard of what you present and since joining you I have learned something new every day. I’m tutoring on the Level 5 course and soon I’ll be assessing in Oxford, face to face – yes, seeing real people. I wonder if I can make eye contact without staring. I’ll also be delivering HELP sessions for parents and we have a school lined up for the FAST project. It feels exhilarating to be joining the world again as the lockdown is slowly eased and I wish all of you well as we take steps forwards in these challenging times as we all attempt to ‘make a difference’.


P.S. And as for my daughter Libby? She is now 19 years old and remains a bundle of fun. She is also the very proud owner of three GCSEs. She works in retail in Reading where she has been promoted several times, she interviews and trains new staff, cashes up, designs display areas to bump up sales, solves all manner of problems with staff and customers and at last she is being praised and knows she is achieving. Oh, and she helps me negotiate much better deals on my phone contracts. Watch out world!

CEO Blog 1/4/2021

There’s a buzz in the air, (and for once it isn’t the wasps)

It’s the first day of April, and I can put my feet up, because it’s the one day in the year when Teddy Edward Arkell Bear, (The Great Bear of Frensham), offers to write the CEO blog for me. I just dictate to him and he sorts it all out. So if you spot any obvious misspellings, or any rude words that shouldn’t be there, please let me know and I’ll have a word with him before next April 1st.

Unfortunately, he keeps throwing his keyboard out the window, and running down the stairs to catch it from below, which is a great idea in theory but isn’t working well in practice. So this could take a while. (Or it might not take at all).

In truth, there’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said in today’s extravaganza of newsworthiness, which is the Helen Arkell monthly e-newsletter. So if you want a less bear-influenced account of things, you should get your own copy by subscribing HERE

There really is a buzz in the air, which for a change is nothing to do with the wasps in Hazel’s office. It has more to do with the fact that in the short few weeks since we re-opened our Centre and hubs on 9th March, we’ve already helped more than 50 people, with face to face dyslexia assessments. That’s in addition to providing over 200 sessions of online specialist coaching and tuition to adults and children with dyslexia every month. We’ve also run more online Help Parents Courses, and specialist courses for teachers in Supporting Learners with Dyslexia, as well as providing 1:1 consultations to many parents who are needing advice on how to find help for their children.

We’re also getting ready to welcome back our Level 5 and Level 7 students, who are now able to complete their teaching practice sessions in local schools.

In the midst of the above excitement, we were also delighted to join the brilliant people at Nestlé Purina to talk about all thing dyslexia. Tory and I were blown away by the enthusiasm of all the Purina staff, who jumped at the chance to learn about dyslexia and also to share their own experiences. Thank you for being such great sports!

Other massive thanks go to some brilliant supporters who have helped us recently as we’ve made our way through lockdown and out the other side, ensuring we can continue to fulfil our mission to people with dyslexia in this time of crisis. Our friends at the National Lottery Community Fund have been amazing with their support of our work in recent months, and now we have been incredibly lucky to have benefitted from a grant from CAF Resilience Fund, which has enabled us to provide support to another 50 children and adults with dyslexia.

And then, as if the above weren’t enough excitement, we have also been fortunate to start a partnership with the inspirational people at Kusuma Trust, who are going to help us to support 6 schools in London in the next academic year. We will provide specialist help and advice to their teachers, parents and children; particularly the children who would benefit the most from spending time with our dyslexia specialist tutors throughout the year.

So there’s lots going on.

Teddy Edward has now found the store of lateral flow testing kits that are in my office, and is doing things with them that he really shouldn’t be doing. So, I’ll stop there.

To find out more about the exciting news in our Wessex and Oxford hubs, and to book your place on Maggie Snowling’s lecture (our 50th anniversary Helen Arkell lecture), please do just get a copy of the e-news and we look forward to seeing you there.


8 March 2021

There’s almost more news than there’s room for this week…

So much so, that I’d better keep this short and sweet, as there’s so much to tell…

  1. Our Centre (in Frensham) is now open for face-to-face assessments and 1:1 tuition, with safety measures in place. Our Oxford hub is also open. Our London hub will open from 15th March. Watch this space for exciting news re our Wessex Hub.
  2. We heard today that CAF Resilience Fund are donating £25,000 to our work. Thank you so much, all of you at CAF! This is absolutely amazing news!
  3. We have also received donations in memory of Patience Thomson, former Chair of Helen Arkell, and we have set up a Patience Thomson Bursary Fund in her name. We are honoured to have been selected as the benefitting charity by Patience’s family.
  4. We were delighted to take part in Brainfest last weekend, and also to have the opportunity to contribute to the Times Radio programme on dyslexia on Friday. Tory flew the flag for us on this occasion.
  5. Harkness Kennett are the latest company to receive a free Lunch & Learn session from us. Tory and I were delighted to join James and the team, to talk about ‘all things dyslexia’. We had some brilliant involvement from the 50 individuals who participated in this interactive session. Harkness Kennett have written this blogon their website following the event.
  6. We have received this lovely feedback from a client who had an assessment with one of our educational psychologists, by video call during lockdown, last week:

“The dyslexia assessment with Dr. C was carried out in an exemplary way. I would like to express my deep appreciation and gratitude for the way in which the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity has supported me in my diagnostic journey. This applies even more than it would have, as under unprecedented pandemic conditions and restrictions the whole process has been handled in a nigh-on perfect manner.”

  1. Julie also received this note last week:

“I wanted to drop you a line to say thank you so much for matching us with S this last half term. A has adored her, and even chose to keep going with his sessions over half term! She has really helped him grasp some foundational learning that had been a real struggle for him, and he is feeling super proud of himself.”

  1. Thank you, Zena and Clare, who are running the virtual version of the Royal Parks Half Marathon for us, and who have already raised an amazing £220 towards their target of £300. Zena has some great reasons for wanting to support us, which you can see here, on her page.
  2. Our latest HELP Parents Course is well underway, with 100 participants signed up. So, people are now booking onto the next HELP Parents Course in May. We have free places available for this course, thanks to the generosity of Awards for All.
  3. Meanwhile, parents of children at various Somerset schools signed up to attend a special course with Sandra last week, again sponsored by Awards for All. Participants gained hints and tips for how to support their children with their literacy difficulties.
  4. We were delighted to join our friends at the BDA, and many other dyslexia organisations, for the latest All Party Parliamentary Group on Dyslexia and other Specific Learning Difficulties. The theme this time was ‘Dyslexia in Online Learning’.
  5. We have today received a wonderful donation from a generous individual, who left this touching note:

‘’In memory of an old friend whose son and grandson were dyslexic.’’

  1. Thirteenth, but definitely not unlucky in this case, another person has joined our Friends of Helen Arkell club this morning. Welcome to the Helen Arkell community and thank you for your brilliant support!
  2. Have you booked your place at our 50th Anniversary Lectureby Professor Maggie Snowling? This takes place on Saturday 24 April and is an online event.

Between us, we will help lots more children, young people and adults with dyslexia in the coming months.


25 February 2021

Big news, parents, moths, ears, and thank you Jeremy!

This week started with the government’s announcement about the lifting of lockdown. The big news for us is that, as an educational establishment that works 1:1 with dyslexic clients, we can re-open our Centre for much-needed face-to-face assessments on 8th March. The team were instantly galvanised into action, booking clients’ appointments, and a working party will prepare the site next week, with a deep clean and updated safety protocols in place.

In short, we will take the Centre out of mothballs. And we will take the mothballs out of Teddy Edward Arkell Bear. (The moths love his ears, particularly when they get a bit frisky in the Spring).

Other big excitement this week was the second session of our new HELP Parents Course, which provides handy, practical tips to parents, to help their dyslexic children. This ‘live online’ course is much in demand, and we had to cap numbers at 100. Thanks to the generosity of Awards For All, we were able to provide free places to 50 parents from lower-income backgrounds. As this course is now full and underway, we are already filling up the next HELP Course, which starts in May. Again, free spaces available to lower-income parents.

This is a quote from one of the parents who attended:

‘Please pass on my thanks to Claire – the course is absolutely brilliant; two sessions in, and I am feeling more confident that I can support my son so much more and have recommended the course to a number of parents in the same position. Thank you!’

We don’t just help children and parents. Today, we have received an application for bursary-funded support, to help an individual who is 77 years old, by means of several coaching sessions with one of our expert dyslexia specialists. I will spare their blushes by keeping this entirely anonymous, but this person is utterly inspiring in all the voluntary work that they do to help other people, and thoroughly deserving of some help from us to get round some issues caused by their life-long dyslexia.

Talking of inspiring people – what can I say?! All the people who made donations in response to our emergency appeal have blown us away with their generosity. Thank you so much! It is thanks to you that we are able to do our important work in the midst of a pandemic. We even had someone sign up to become a Friend of Helen Arkell, who lives in Jordan – the Helen Arkell family is a worldwide community. Thank you!

Finally, a thank you to Jeremy. Jeremy Gadd approached me last year with an offer to provide me with mentoring and coaching for a year, on a pro bono basis. He said that he would particularly like to help me because he is dyslexic himself, and experienced in coaching CEOs. Personally, I suspect he had just heard what a rubbish CEO I was, and took pity on me. In any event, we both got more than we bargained for, as the last 12 months have not exactly been run of the mill. Together we’ve got through a challenging year, more or less intact, and having overseen the support of over 1,000 children, young people and adults with dyslexia. So, thank you Jeremy for all your brilliant help and advice! To find out more about Jeremy’s coaching business, you can just look here.

Now it’s time for us to unlock the Centre, throw open the windows, put the heating on, and dust off that bear.

See you on 8th March!


4 February 2021

Despite the worries of the new year, with new variants and new lockdowns, we are managing to make progress by recruiting new dyslexia specialists in new parts of the UK. This week I’m handing over the CEO’s blog to one of our new starters, Sandra Fleming, who lives in the South West and will be a key player in our regional team. Over to you, Sandra!

For me it’s been a great start to 2021! I am delighted to have joined the team at Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity and am excited to have the opportunity of spreading their great work into the southwest of England.

I have a deep connection with the region having lived in the southwest all my life. I have worked as a Dyslexia Specialist, SENCo and Advisory Teacher working with some amazing and inspiring children and young people, their parents and teachers.

I have recently returned to Somerset, my home for more than 15 years before I was lucky enough to spend four years living and working in Brazil. What a stunningly beautiful country Brazil is, from the crystal-clear seas of the south and northeast to the immensity of the Amazon rainforest! Living in Brazil not only gave me the opportunity to travel, but also to work with many Portuguese-speaking children learning in English. Their achievements were astonishing in just a short period of time (putting to shame my considerable attempts to learn Portuguese!)

Now that I’m back in Somerset, I’m excited to join the Helen Arkell team-effort by supporting children and young people in this area.

With the closure of schools and the introduction of the national lockdown on day two of my new employment, like most others, my work is now completely online. But isn’t technology amazing? It has enabled me to continue teaching children with dyslexia via video link using many of the multisensory techniques I would use in a face-to-face lesson. And I still feel like I’m travelling the world as the children have discovered how to set their background pictures – sometimes we’re in Greece and at others beside a glacier!

As soon as lockdown lifts, and it’s safe to do so, I’ll be undertaking face-to-face assessments and all sorts of other dyslexia support in the local area too, so do get in touch if you need any help from me, or from my colleagues in the Helen Arkell team.

I look forward to meeting you!


50 years young …

Welcome to 2021 at Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity!

I’m not going to lie, it’s not exactly the start to the year that we’d ideally have wanted, with Covid still creating so much worry in the world, and uncertainty too. I guess you feel the same.

Something to get VERY excited about, however, is that 2021 is a significant year as it’s our 50th birthday! Yes, we’ve been helping people with dyslexia since 1971, when we were set up by our founder and namesake, Helen Arkell. Sadly, Helen is no longer with us in person, but she is certainly watching over us in spirit, cheering us on as we support children and adults with dyslexia, through Covid and beyond.

I’m sure many of you will have seen our recent newsletters. So, I don’t need to tell you that we’re offering loads of services online and by video call while our physical premises are temporarily locked down. It would be utterly pointless letting you know about the Lunch & Learn sessions we are offering to workplaces, to help them understand more about dyslexia and about the support that’s available. It would be a complete waste of time saying anything about the free places available on our renowned HELP Parents Courses, for people who are struggling financially (thank you Awards for All, for making this possible!!).

All I will say, is that our team of specialists are ready and willing to help you on the end of a video call, as we know that so many children, young people and adults with dyslexia are particularly struggling at the moment, and needing some support. Just drop us an email, and we’ll see what we can do to help.

Looking forward to our 50th anniversary year, there will be plenty of ways you can get involved, either virtually, or potentially even in person, when the Covid situation improves. Time will tell exactly what will be possible, and we will have more news in due course.

For the time being, however, we’d love you to consider three things as your contribution to the Helen Arkell team effort in our 50th year:

  1. Have you become a Friend of Helen Arkellyet? (If not, you’re missing out). This is a growing family of Friends, all chipping in with monthly contributions, of their own choosing, currently ranging from £1/month to £50/month. It’s entirely up to you. You’ll receive special news and free invitations to events, once we can meet in person. (In recent times, Friends have been treated to afternoon tea in the House of Commons, and lunch at Loseley Park).
  2. Please put your thinking caps on as to what challenge you are going to set yourselfin 2021, as you become a much-valued fundraiser for the charity. We look forward to adding your challenge onto our 50th anniversary list.
  3. Last but by no means least. Please join the budding gang of legacy-pledgers, who are using lockdown as an opportunity to put their financial affairs in order, and are pledging gifts, large and small, to Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity in their Wills. This is the absolute ‘gold standard’ way of supporting the charity, to ensure we can continue our work well beyond our 50th You can find information here.

Thank you for everything, and we look forward to working with you in 2021.

Happy Birthday, everyone!


Christmas 2020

Blimey what a year it’s been! Let’s hope 2021 is a whole lot better than 2020. Happy Christmas and a Merry New Year!

On behalf of all of us at Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity, I hope you have a great Christmas break, and return refreshed and refortified for what will hopefully be a much better 2021 (it couldn’t be worse, could it?)

In the meantime, here’s a snapshot of our year at Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity, in numbers:

2 – our main centre was closed for 2 months during the first lockdown. (Our hubs were closed for 3-4 months).

38 – we had 38 staff on furlough at the height of the pandemic.

2,154 – despite the above, we helped 2,154 people this year, with our various dyslexia services.

1,028 – 1,028 children, young people and adults received direct 1:1 dyslexia support, in the form of assessments, coaching, skills-building or tuition.

133 – we helped 133 people with dyslexia from lower-income backgrounds, with bursary-funded support. Thank you so much to our wonderful donors and supporters for your generosity, and for making this possible!! The above cost a total of £66,000 from our bursary funds.

1 – we had 1 major flood actually flow through our buildings. (Another 2 tried their best, but were repelled valiantly by our brilliant staff).

4 – we now have 4 regional hubs from which we operate (Frensham, Southwark, Salisbury, Oxford). We launched our Oxford hub this year, adding to our growing effort to increase our reach and impact across the country.

22 – between our various hubs, we provided personalised face-to-face support to people with dyslexia from 22 counties of the UK.

12 – we bought 12 perspex screens, and more sanitizer & cleaning wipes than I can possibly count.

51 – we trained 51 teachers, teaching assistants and other interested parties up to Levels 5 and 7 Diplomas in the support of learners with dyslexia.

Thank you so much for all your help and support this year. We look forward to seeing you (hopefully not just on a screen), in 2021, but in the meantime…..

Happy Christmas and a Merry New Year, from Andy and all the team at Helen Arkell!!

4 December 2020

It’s been a funny week.

It’s my bubble’s turn to work from home this week, while our other bubble take their turn to run the Centre. Working from home is not particularly funny in itself, but it’s certainly odd when you find yourself meeting up with far more people than you normally would, all from the comfort of your own home (and in the comfort of your own jogging bottoms). It will be brilliant when we can all meet properly again, but in the meantime, technology has opened up all sorts of possibilities for improved collaboration.

This week we caught up with our colleagues in the Professional Tutoring Partnership, getting ready to start helping 4,500 disadvantaged children with some extra specialist tuition, as part of the government’s National Tutoring Programme. Ably led by our friends at Real Group, our partnership brings together Patoss, The Dyslexia Guild, British Dyslexia Association (BDA), Dyslexia Action Training and us at Helen Arkell. What a strong team that is! It’s great to work together, and ensure we can really ‘do our bit’ to help the country’s children at this Covid-disrupted time.

Later on the same day, several of us from the field of dyslexia were brought together by our other friends at the Driver Youth Trust (DYT). Our aim was to discuss the findings of DYT’s recent ‘Hide and Seek Report’, which looks at where all the country’s specialist teachers have ended up working, after they have qualified. Together as a group we looked at addressing all the findings of the report, with the aim of improving the opportunities for dyslexic children to get the help they need, from a specialist teacher in their area.

The theme of collaboration continued on Thursday. This time it was the turn of Nick and his team at the BDA to bring us together, as they are the hosts of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Dyslexia and other Specific Learning Difficulties, chaired by Sharon Hodgson MP. Guest speakers Jannett, Fauzia, Marcia, Dharmesh and Connie were absolutely inspirational, describing the experiences of people from diverse backgrounds with dyslexia, including their experiences in education, the workplace and wider society. There’s much to be done in the sector, and – again – we can do it much better when we do it together. People attended this session from all over the country, which would never have happened if it had taken place physically in London.

On Thursday, Tory and I joined (virtually) about 60 of the brilliant staff at Project Centre, who design outdoor spaces. We talked about dyslexia, with some interactive exercises, and also introduced them to the work of Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity. It was great to meet these guys and there’s scope for working together in all sorts of ways.

Meanwhile, back at the Centre and our hubs, we have so far supported 254 children and adults with dyslexia assessments since schools went back in September, and about the same number again have received 1:1 skills building/tuition sessions. Thank you as always to our team of specialists for all their hard work, engaging with every person ‘where they are’ and giving them some help to get a bit nearer to ‘where they’d like to be’. In particular, boosting confidence, reducing anxiety and giving tips for maximising strengths and working around areas of weakness.

Hey, we’ve been recruiting! We need to add more people to our team, at a time when children and adults with dyslexia are approaching us in greater numbers than ever. To that end, Rachael, Yvonne and I have spent much of this week meeting some brilliant applicants. Once we’ve met everyone, we will have some difficult decisions to make. There are some excellent people out there looking for jobs, which is a real sign of the times.

Finally, and sadly, a mention of Patience Thomson, who was a pivotal figure in the dyslexia world and a great friend of Helen Arkell, having served as a trustee and chair of our charity for many years. We were sad to hear of Patience’s passing, last weekend. We were equally humbled to hear that her family have chosen that donations should be made to our Helen Arkell bursary fund, in her memory, so that people from lower-income backgrounds can receive the help they need. RIP Patience and thank you for everything!


  1. Did you see our Christmas Appeal??

16 November 2020

So, here we are in another national lockdown. The main difference for us at Helen Arkell in this second lockdown, as a charity working in the field of education, is that we have a clear mandate to stay open for business, with our safety precautions in place. Our Frensham Centre as well as hubs in Oxford and Southwark are all open. Only our Salisbury hub is temporarily closed, and clients have the option to move their appointments to Frensham, where we can cater for social distancing.

And goodness me, we’re busy! Just in the last two months alone, we’ve provided 1:1 support to over 200 children and adults with dyslexia. Over 170 of these required assessments for their dyslexia, and many others received coaching. Over 100 of these people visited our Frensham Centre, while others attended whichever of our new hubs was easiest for them to get to. People come to us from far
and wide. We have helped people from 20 different counties over the past two months alone.

A big thing for us is to particularly reach out to lower-income families. We are seeing twice as many applications for bursary-funded support as normal. This is partly due to people with dyslexia needing extra help because they have particularly struggled with periods of home-schooling and working from home, away from their normal support systems. And partly due to so many people having been hit financially by furlough, pay cuts and redundancies. We are rising to the challenge to help more people than ever in this time of crisis, and owe a big Thank You to our friends at The National Lottery Community Fund and the Community Foundation for Surrey, for their help.

We can only do our work because of the brilliant support of our donors. This Christmas, if you would like to join the team effort, we’d love you to join our gang of Friends of Helen Arkell, for whatever monthly contribution you feel able to make. In times of crisis (and pandemics), there’s safety in numbers, so if we all give a small amount, the charity will be able to help more and more people, well into the future.

As well as becoming a Friend, why not also make a New Year’s resolution to do some sort of fundraiser for Helen Arkell in 2021, in our 50th anniversary year? Maybe challenge yourself to do something new? Or do something old, if it makes you happy??

In the meantime, please do send Helen Arkell Christmas cards this year, either virtually or by post – we can help you with both those methods

Other news this week: we have various online courses in process at the moment, for parents of dyslexic children, and teachers too. While one cohort of students have just completed their work for their Level 5 and 7 Diploma Courses (learning to support children with dyslexia), another cohort has just begun. Meanwhile, more students are signing up for the next intake for the Level 5 Diploma Course, which starts in January.

We also received some very useful in-house training from our great friends at Ronald Fletcher Baker LLP last week. Lawyers Gerard and Samantha updated us on how dyslexia falls within the scope of the Equality Act, and how workplaces should be offering reasonable adjustments to employees who are known to have dyslexia. Our mission is to help adults as well as children with dyslexia. Whilst it’s ideal to help people at a young age, in reality not everyone is lucky enough to get that help, so we are there for them at any age (and also there for their children too, given that dyslexia is often hereditary).

Onwards and upwards, helping people with dyslexia through the lockdown and beyond!

Thank you for your support.


23 October 2020

People in need, soft phones, collaborative partnerships and naughty bears

Since schools went back, we have been inundated with requests for help from people with dyslexia, young and old. The demand for our services has doubled because of the pandemic.

The stories we hear are heart-breaking. Families are really struggling financially, and both children and adults with dyslexia are often at rock bottom by the time they seek help from our charity, with confidence and self-esteem at an all-time low. School disruption and working from home have highlighted difficulties for many people with dyslexia. And many people have been made redundant.

The good news is that specialist 1:1 help can make a real difference, setting people on a new path that recognises their strengths, gives a clearer picture of why they are struggling and triggers access to extra support.

The other good news is that lots of kind and generous people, like the National Lottery Community Fund, the Community Fund for Surrey, and a whole bunch of kind individuals, are helping us to do this work in a time of crisis for people with dyslexia (and a time of crisis for charities).

The calls to our switchboard are coming in thick and fast, and we are doing our best to respond as quickly as possible, in awkward circumstances as the team works in separate bubbles, manning the Centre one week, and working from home the next. To help, we’ve had a new ‘soft phone’ system installed, which sounds sweet, but isn’t. Stupidly, we allowed Teddy Edward Arkell Bear to join in the training session, where we learned how to transfer switchboard calls to smart phones, tablets and laptops. He now runs around excitedly whenever the phone rings, picking up random inanimate objects and shouting “Hello! I’m a bear and I don’t care!”. So, if you’ve tried to get through to the CEO and someone’s blown a big raspberry at you in a bear-like way, I can only apologise. I would reprimand him but he’s the only one who properly understands the system, so he’s actually quite useful.

Things are a whole lot easier when you work together, aren’t they? It was brilliant to catch up with Nick Posford the other day, who is my opposite number at the British Dyslexia Association. It was great to compare notes and to talk about ways where, between our two charities, we can make a difference to people with dyslexia across the UK. In addition, our two charities have also joined forces with our friends at The Dyslexia Guild, Real Group and Patoss*. We have submitted a joint bid to help disadvantaged children to catch up following all the disruption this year, as part of the National Tutoring Programme. We should hear soon, as to whether they would like us to help, especially in cases where children are experiencing difficulties such as dyslexia.

Wish us luck – between us, we hope to help over 4,500 children. Rest assured, we won’t let Teddy Edward Arkell get involved.

Onwards and upwards!


*Professional Association of Teachers of Students with Specific Learning Difficulties

9 October 2020

Hurrah for Dyslexia Awareness Week!

This week has seen a flurry of great publicity about dyslexia, which has been truly inspirational. Many stories have been shared in the media of celebrities who attribute their success to their dyslexia. Dyslexia Awareness Week highlights the fact that dyslexia often brings a different way of thinking that can be a great positive in life.

I was lucky enough to meet with someone who is a great example of this. Darren Clark, founder of the Global Dyslexia Group and dyslexic himself, has had an inspirational entrepreneurial career and also finds time to pursue all sorts of philanthropic ventures across the world, always with dyslexia at their heart. I felt humbled to meet Darren, and delighted that we will seek ways to work together in the UK.

My next stop was More House School, a renowned specialist school just down the road from our Helen Arkell Centre. I won’t say it was a pleasure to be asked to take part in their film about dyslexia, because being filmed is always my worst nightmare, but it was certainly an honour to be asked to take part. Thankfully I managed not to fall off the artistically-placed high stool while doing the interview. (Always a bonus). The other good thing about filming as opposed to photographs, is there’s a good chance your eyes might be open for at least some of it.

Tuesday saw the Helen Arkell team Go Red for Dyslexia. This caused big excitement, especially with Teddy Edward Arkell Bear getting a bit too much into the spirit of things (I think his shirt was too tight), while Julie and Sam wore red buckets on their heads. It was weird but it sort of worked.

Throughout the week we have been showcasing the creativity that so often comes with dyslexia, with poems, paintings, cartoons, collages and all sorts of other ideas coming forward. Thank you to our friends at No Label Art for all your help, and to Anita for your poetical brilliance. It was also a week in which we heard from someone who came through our doors as a child in 1997. He was keen to get back in touch and let us know that, following his dyslexia assessment with Helen Arkell, he qualified as an architect and has now contributed to a book on architecture. How brilliant is that?! It is exciting to think we can play our part in helping people to achieve their potential. (This week we are helping someone who wants to become a vet).

This week has also seen the Helen Arkell family getting stuck into various challenges and events to help raise much-needed funds. Tope ran the London Marathon in its Covid-safe format and Charlotte undertook a cycling challenge while she waits for her go in the London Marathon next year. Meanwhile Jen took on the mighty challenge of going sober for October, while others set about bake sales and cake-offs in support of dyslexia. What will you do?

Yesterday, I was delighted to join our Oxford hub, where Rachael and I met more dyslexia specialists keen to join the Helen Arkell team. If you need a dyslexia assessment in Oxford, or in any of our hubs, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Over 100 people with dyslexia came through our doors in September, for 1:1 help from our specialists, with careful arrangements in place to make sure everything is Covid-safe.

Meanwhile I was delighted to report back to our friends at the Community Foundation for Surrey, that their generous donation last year ended up with eleven children with dyslexia from disadvantaged backgrounds getting the help they needed, with bursary-funded support from our team of specialists. This year we have already started helping many more children and adults with dyslexia who have been particularly hard hit by school closures and office closures. Thank you to all our supporters and donors for your brilliant support, which makes it possible for us to fulfil our mission. This week, a special thank you to Emma and Bianca for joining our growing team of Friends of Helen Arkell. If lots of us give a small donation every month, it adds up to something very BIG!

Thank you for all your help!


25 September​ 2020

Today I am handing the blog over to Helen Mortimer, our new PR and Communications Assistant to see what she makes of life at Helen Arkell.

I’ve been at Helen Arkell for about four weeks now. My background is in charity communications but I’d been freelance for a while and was very excited (I think several people can vouch for that) to be back in a team, especially as I waited five months for the job because of Covid-19!

I have learnt a huge amount in my first month, including:

– How amazing the staff team is; everyone is lovely – friendly, knowledgeable and committed to delivering fantastic service to people with dyslexia and to really making a difference.

– That local support is really important to this charity. All sorts of people give up their time to help in a variety of ways, including practical help keeping the site running. Everyone I’ve mentioned my new job to has a little story of how we helped someone they know, and this goodwill is much valued.

– A lot of biscuits get eaten through the week. Mainly by one person.

– There are loads of positives to being dyslexic, not least amazing problem-solving and communication skills, and it shouldn’t stop anyone doing whatever they want with their lives.

– Lack of confidence can be more damaging than dyslexia itself.

– At first glance, we are a small charity, but the numbers are amazing; we help 1,000 people a year and that doesn’t count all the people helped by the education professionals we train every year. The pandemic hasn’t changed the numbers, just the way some services were delivered.

– The driveway is really quite bumpy when you are new to commuting on a bike.

– We’re growing. It took me a few weeks to realise that there is very little on the impossible list; this is a charity with ambition.

– It might be a good idea to bring wellies to work.

– Some people will travel a very long way to visit us here, so our Oxford, Wiltshire and London hubs will make a real difference to how many people we can help.

– I haven’t yet seen what a buzzy place the centre can be. I had a taster when our Level 5 students spent the day studying in the sunshine but otherwise the centre is quieter than normal with a steady trickle of people coming for assessments. Lots of services have gone online and this is great as it means even more people can access them, but I hear snippets of what a bustling place this usually is, and I am really looking forward to seeing that.

– You can do a job for a month and still be very excited about it.

12 September 2020

This week we welcomed back our students, to complete their Helen Arkell diplomas in the support of children with dyslexia. These were courses that had to be put on hold until schools re-opened in the new academic year, as they have large practical elements where we teach people how to support real children in real schools. It was lovely to see everyone back, albeit with the social distancing measures that we are all getting used to, in this new way of living.

As soon as we complete the last academic year’s courses, we will then welcome a brand-new cohort of students, who are raring to go. The Autumn courses are full, but we have spaces available for the next Level 5 diploma course which starts in January. We particularly welcome applications from candidates in Oxford for this one, as we make further progress at our Oxford hub. Having said that, we are also taking applications from prospective candidates who live elsewhere, so by all means just get in touch.

Talking of Oxford, I was in the city of dreaming spires on Tuesday, introducing our super-duper new communications assistant, Helen, to our Oxford hub team, led by Rachael as our equally super-duper hub coordinator. We met in the sunshine of Rachael’s garden as we hatched plans for activity in Oxford in readiness for our 50th anniversary year. Our founder Helen set up our charity in 1971, so we are determined to make 2021 extra special, in her memory, and the whole Helen Arkell community will get involved. An added and unexpected benefit of having a socially distanced meeting in the fresh air was that the stinky cheese that Rachael had dragged out from some forgotten corner of her fridge didn’t have quite the same power over us as it would have had in a confined space. It was so fruity it ran round the garden for a while and took a bit of catching.

By the time we returned to Frensham, we had talked ourselves into laying on two events in Oxford (if not more), in Spring and Autumn 2021, which will be hugely exciting and will firmly cement the arrival of Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity in Oxford.

Of course, who should be there waiting for us on our return but Teddy Edward Arkell Bear? Or Teddy Edward Arkell The Great Bear of Frensham as he likes to be known (for short). Ted’s slightly overexcited at present, as he didn’t see many people during lockdown (he self-isolated for a while as he had itchy toes, which he thought might be a new Covid symptom. Turns out he just had some old jam stuck there). He used to share a room with Tracy but of course she works from home now, so Helen has moved in with him. This caused a few hard stares to begin with (Helen kept sitting on his favourite chair without realising), but all is well now, particularly since we allowed Ted to have a go on the digger. He was supposed to dig out a new flood defence trench, following our recent disasters, but instead he knocked a couple of buildings down. Still, it’s nice to see the little chap enjoying himself.

The big news is that our new project ‘Supporting People with Dyslexia in a Time of Crisis’ is well underway, thanks to the brilliant sponsorship of our friends at The National Lottery Community Fund. This is a 6-month project, in which we will support as many people with dyslexia as possible, as we navigate our way through whatever the Covid crisis has in store for us all. We kick started the project in September and have already seen 45 children and adults with dyslexia come through our doors in Frensham (Surrey) as well as at our Oxford, London and Wessex hubs. In addition, many people have been supported through 1 to 1 sessions, and group workshops online and by video call. Thank you so much to the National Lottery for making this possible, and to everyone who goes out and buys lottery tickets. You’ve certainly made a big difference to this charity, and more importantly, to the children and adults with dyslexia who will access our help over the next 6 months.

Now our attention turns to Dyslexia Week (5th to 11th October), during which we will join other organisations across the world in celebrating the creative gifts that can come with dyslexia, as well as raising awareness of the issues associated with dyslexia in general. We would love you to get involved, so please get in touch if you’d like to join in.

Better go now, as Teddy Edward has just knocked over another building, and perhaps needs reining in.


28 August 2020

Thirteen (or fourteen) things have happened recently at Helen Arkell, and thank you to The National Lottery Community Fund …

Several things have happened recently at Helen Arkell, some of which have been good things and others have not … and I’ll try to list them for you, in no particular order.

  1. Our centre dried out a bit after the floods – this is a good thing
  2. Our team of amazing Prudential My Ride London cyclists raised a fantastic £1,134 between them, thanks to all your brilliant donations
  3. They were quite tired afterwards, and a bit grumpy – this was not a good thing
  4. Our centre then very nearly flooded again – this was not a good thing, because we all got very muddy and wet bailing it out again, but at least we managed to stop it entering the building this time (just)
  5. We celebrated what would have been our founder Helen’s 100th birthday – such a shame she didn’t quite get her telegram from the Queen, but she did have a princess visit her home for a tea party (thank you Princess Beatrice, our brilliant Patron)
  6. We will be joined by another Helen next week. Helen Mortimer will be arriving as our brand new and very exciting Communications and PR assistant. This is such a good thing it’s actually off the scale, as it will really strengthen our ability to go out and spread the word, and reach more people with dyslexia
  7. At this point in the week I think it flooded again – one flood merges into another after a while. The team bubble were fantastic, as always, and bailed out the courtyard in bare feet until it got dark, never complaining once (actually, that’s not strictly true)
  8. We have provided 74 dyslexia assessments to children and adults this month – this is a very good thing indeed, as we know that assessments are the first step in building people’s confidence, and giving them better insight into themselves, not just their areas of weakness, but particularly their areas of strength too. This isn’t just good, it’s the best thing
  9. That means we have provided assessments to 197 people with dyslexia since lockdown started to lift on June 3rd– how good is that?!
  10. Sam brought in doughnuts today – this is possibly the best thing of all (they had hundreds and thousands on them as well as jam)
  11. Our Oxford hub is fully open, as is our London hub, and Salisbury too, as well as our main Surrey Centre of course. This is excellent as it means more people can reach us more easily
  12. Despite Covid, we have helped more people with bursary-funded support this year than last year, with 133 people from lower income backgrounds having received a total of £66,000 of free specialist help. This is a very good thing and we want to do more of this
  13. Number 13 might be unlucky for some, but our 13th thing is actually a very, very, VERY good thing. Those brilliant people at The National Lottery Community Fund are giving us a donation of nearly £50,000 to support children and adults with dyslexia in a time of crisis. This is such good news, I think I’ll stop there

Thank you to all our team, and the growing community of Helen Arkell family members, for all your fantastic support. This is an absolutely brilliant thing, and we couldn’t do it without you. Thank You!


  1. We’ve just received our first application from someone asking to run the London Marathon for us next year, which is a 14th good thing, and very exciting! Onwards and upwards!

16 August 2020

It’s been quite a week, with flooding, cycling and brilliant donations

Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, after weathering the ongoing Covid storms, a completely different kind of storm hit us on Thursday afternoon. One minute we were basking in hot sunshine, the next we were bailing out inches of water from our Reception and our Shop. An hour of heavy rain landed on neighbouring fields, which just couldn’t cope.

Our team is always up for a challenge, and this was something over and above the call of duty. We were all clearing drains with bare hands and bailing water in bare feet. Somehow (goodness knows how, thinking back on it!), we managed to drag some heavy old beams from elsewhere on site, and, with some ingenious use of some old bit of tent canvass, we created a 20 foot barricade across the whole of the courtyard entrance, to give our poor drains a chance to work, without being completely overloaded. Meanwhile we bailed and we bailed and we bailed.

On Friday we set about removing carpets where necessary, installing dehumidifiers, and removing barrow loads of silt that had been dumped everywhere. On Monday we will continue the clean-up operation.

The good thing is that, with all the social distancing measures we have in place at the moment, and our charitable activity only taking place in our airy outbuildings, everything can continue as normal. This is a relief because we have lots happening next week, with a touch typing course for children, several assessments, and also lots of personalised learning sessions happening, with Perspex screens in place, as we help children to make up ground that was lost during lockdown.

Then the team went straight from fighting floods to raising funds as part of the Prudential My Ride London challenge. Sam, Julie, Hazel, Jen and Gill (aka Helen’s Fabulous Five) took turns on bikes for their freestyle challenge (they didn’t look quite as fabulous after they’d been up the hill a few times), and Liz is embarking on her 19 mile challenge as I write. For my part, I stupidly agreed to cycle 100 miles, which nearly killed me. It took about 7 and a half hours, interspersed with stop-offs at home to let the dogs out. That was the beauty of the challenge having to be socially distanced, with everyone cycling near to home. The other beauty of it, was that there was less likelihood of being overtaken by a 6-year-old wearing a Peppa Pig costume (believe me, I’ve had that happen a few times in mass participation events).

Thank you for all your sponsorship. There’s still time to support any of the team, or indeed to undertake a fundraising challenge of your own.

What’s important to stress is that the fundraising is just a means to an end. The end itself is to change the lives of children and adults with dyslexia.

We can now do this with a growing team in Oxford, working in parallel to our Surrey Centre. There’s a growing momentum in Oxford, with lots of dyslexia assessments taking place, so if that’s easier for you to get to than Surrey, just let us know when you get in touch. Likewise, we have hubs in South London and Salisbury, where we can also help you.

As a charity, we are able to offer bursary-funded support to people from lower income backgrounds. So if you’re struggling financially in these challenging times, just let us know, and our team will direct you towards a bursary application. We’ll then do everything we can to provide you with some free or subsidised help, so you don’t miss out.

We can only do this thanks to your brilliant donations, whether it’s sponsorship or participation in challenge events, or donations of other kinds. So, thank you for anything you can do to help.

On that note, what can I say about the amazing donation of £15,000 we received this week, from a loyal supporter?! How absolutely amazing is that?! Meanwhile, many other donations are flooding in, to support our Ride London team.

Hopefully not too much water is flooding in at the same time.

Onwards and upwards for the Helen Arkell team


3 July 2020

It’s now 3rd July as I write this, and things are changing …

A month ago there were just 3 of us in our brand new little work bubble, all blinking at each other as we met at the Centre for the first time after 10 weeks of working from home in lockdown. We weren’t used to seeing real-life human beings then.

In fact, the only human being I’d seen during that time, apart from my wife and the people in Lidl, was Teddy Edward Arkell Bear, whenever I popped in to the Centre to pick up the post. And to be fair, he’s more bear than human, so he doesn’t really count.

So the bubble of 3 seemed like a big step. We weren’t quite sure what to expect when our first clients turned up for their assessments on-site with our expert team of specialist assessors and educational psychologists. Would people be put-off by the social distancing and the screens? Would people be annoyed at not being offered tea and coffee, and having to wait in the car park?

We needn’t have worried. The assessments have gone smoothly and nobody has noticed the screens. And nobody has expected to have tea, or sit in a waiting room – life has changed for everyone, and by the time they arrive at our little Centre, they know what to expect.

What’s more, we’ve done our best to provide people with some sunny tables and chairs, in which to relax or work, if they need to. Many parents have relished a brief respite from lockdown life, to enjoy some peace and quiet with a magazine for a couple of hours, while their children have their assessments.

In total we provided assessments to 56 individuals in June, all at the Centre. People came from far afield. From 8 different counties in fact.

And now things are changing again. For starters, the Centre Bubble has increased to 5 of us as we are joined by Sam and Jen. They had both been on furlough for several weeks, so were incredibly tanned and had very tidy houses. Of course the team doesn’t just consist of the 5 of us at the Centre – most are still working from home. And many of our team of dyslexia specialists are busy giving support to people over the phone or by video call. We provide over 200 of these sessions every month.

The next big change happened today, as we re-opened our South London hub. Anna conducted our first post-lockdown assessments at our base in John Keats Primary School, using all the same protocols as we’ve been successfully using at the Frensham Centre.

So, 3 days into July, we have already provided assessments to another 8 people.

We were delighted to receive this note this week, following an assessment. It’s lovely to receive feedback:

“I just wanted to pass on our thanks to you and to K for the assessment for A – we were very impressed by the feedback which was extremely helpful. The SENCO at A’s school said it was one of the best she had ever seen in terms of detail and clarity around the support needed. Please could you pass on my thanks to K for this, and also for making A feel so comfortable and at home on the day itself.”

The next change comes next week, as we open our brand new Oxford hub, which will be very exciting. We can’t wait to start meeting lots of people in Oxford and the surrounding areas, and see what we can do to help.

Meanwhile our friends at the Rotary Clubs of Farnham, and Farnham Weyside, have been very generous. Likewise, Jeremy and his colleagues at the Worshipful Company of Feltmakers are hatching plans for a virtual wine tasting event for Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity in the autumn.

We really appreciate all this support, as we certainly haven’t survived this crisis yet. Many charities have had their income hit hard, and we are no different. We can’t be complacent.

So a big thank you to everyone for your support – you are keeping us going, and enabling us to help hundreds of people with dyslexia.

Thank you!


19 June 2020

When I last wrote this blog we were just getting ready to re-open for business at our Surrey Centre…

We have now been operating successfully with social distancing in place for 3 weeks. A total of 36 individuals have so far received full assessments with us, conducted by our expert team of specialist assessors and educational psychologists. Four children were with us today for 1:1 help with their dyslexia, spread out in four different areas of the site. Our small Centre-based team (consisting of 3 of us) have cleaned and scrubbed the place again, from top to bottom, and we are now ready to receive our next guests on Monday morning. The cleaning routines have been helped by Julie’s ready supply of chocolate brownies, which have gone down well. (Too well, in Gill’s case, who had to go for a long socially-distanced walk to burn off some excess energy).

Meanwhile our wider team of specialist tutors and support staff have been beavering away, working from home, providing remote support to many children and adults by video call. Throughout lockdown we have continued to support people in this way, with over 200 personalised 1:1 sessions every month.

You will have seen the news this week, about the urgent need to provide extra support to children who have fallen behind during lockdown. Children with dyslexia have been hit particularly hard, which is why we are here to help, and we are determined to provide at least another 1,500 support sessions to individuals between now and Christmas. Through the generosity of our donors we have the ability to help people through our bursary fund. So if anyone is struggling financially, they are very welcome to apply for bursary-funded support from our charity. Just get in touch and we’ll see what we can do.

Other excitement this week was the appearance of our very own Tory Sparks as a guest speaker at the Virtual Dyslexia Show. We were delighted to be involved and are already picking up many enquiries after Tory’s presentation. If you need our help, just contact us by email, as the phones are not currently manned, with most of our team working from home.

If you need a consultation, or some tuition, we can provide that by video call wherever you live in the country. If you happen to live within reach of Surrey or Oxford, we can also provide you with face to face support. And if you live anywhere near Southwark or Salisbury, we’ll be re-opening our hubs there very soon too, so do get in touch to start the ball rolling.

If you like what we do, and are particularly inspired to help us to support people who are disadvantaged by their dyslexia at this time, please do make a donation. It’s thanks to the generosity of our donors that we are able to fulfil our mission, changing people’s lives, through this particularly challenging time.

Thank you for playing your part in the overall Helen Arkell team effort!


30 May 2020

The big news from Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity this week is that we’ve been busy getting ready to open our Surrey Centre for assessments from Wednesday 3rd June, with social distancing measures in place. We will have reduced capacity as we’re only using our most easily adapted rooms, and all our staff will continue to work from home wherever possible. This means our phone lines will still not be manned – just email us and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

We’re looking forward to also opening our hubs in the near future too. So watch this space if you live near Oxford, Salisbury or South London.

Of course lots of our services have been available online throughout this time but it still adds an extra dimension to also open up for some face to face assessments. It’s an encouraging start in getting things back to some sort of new normality and it felt great to give the Centre a good spruce-up. Our Centre has been somewhat neglected since the lockdown came into effect, but is now looking very smart, inside and out, thanks to the tender loving care delivered by Julie and Gill. Those two are expert gardeners. (I just watered a few weeds and pulled up some perfectly good plants).

We’ve also received some wonderful donations to help make sure we are still able to help people with dyslexia through this difficult time and beyond. Particular thanks this week to Community Foundation for Surrey and the National Lottery. We also hear there’s some more good news on the horizon too, which will help us to reach out to more people from lower income backgrounds. A massive Thank You to all our supporters! Your help is absolutely brilliant!

This week was also a bit of a milestone as we launched our first campaign to encourage gifts in Wills, to ensure the longer-term future of the charity once we’ve got through this immediate period.

For all the above, and more, you really should be on our e-news list. The latest edition came out this week so you’re missing out if you’re not subscribed.

Thank you for all your support. We look forward to hearing from you if you need any help of your own, either delivered online or by video call, or at our facilities in the coming weeks. As I say, just drop us an email and one of home-working our skeleton staff will get back to you as soon as we can.

Enjoy the sunshine, everybody!


22 May 2020

This week we’re handing over the blog to Rachael, the co-ordinator of our recently launched Oxford Hub. Rachael is an experienced dyslexia specialist, and has been supporting many dyslexic children through video chats during this period of lockdown. Over to you, Rachael, for an insight into your life in lockdown….

Half term!

Or is it?!? In my diary it says half-term, and in my head I know it’s half-term, but it doesn’t really feel like it! Usually it’s tests and exams, revision and panic…then the excitement of residentials, school fêtes and end of term plays. This year…well, we’re not quite sure yet…but one thing we do know is we’ve all done a lot more cake-making than we’ve ever done before. Next year’s school fetes are going to be overwhelmed with the most wonderful creations!

Joining the Helen Arkell Team only in January to open up a new hub of the charity in Oxford, seems an awfully long time ago now, in a strangely different world. In those early weeks of 2020, a long, long time ago, I busied myself finding real, 3D spaces where we could offer assessments, courses for parents to help them get to grips with how to understand and support their children with literacy difficulties, and training for teachers and teaching assistants. Never thinking that those 3D spaces would be squished and squashed down to my kitchen table and all communication would be funnelled through wires and cables and screens and boxes…I used to walk through doors into classrooms and see teachers and pupils from head to toe all at once! Now I wave at parts of faces, partly frozen…oh, you’re back, oh no, I’ve lost you again…!

Strange times. But also amazing and wonderful times. Now I am teaching, as many teachers are, online – if anyone had said to me 3 months ago (is it really only 3 months?) that I would be teaching children with dyslexia online, I wouldn’t have believed them. But then we wouldn’t have believed so much of what we are doing now…

And I feel lucky in lockdown. I have met the most wonderful children for the first time in the last few weeks. I don’t know what they really look like – they look a bit fuzzy around the edges! And I wonder if we will ever meet in person? If we did, would we recognise each other? But I feel like I know them so well. And not only do I know them well, but all their families…mums, dads, little sisters, little brothers, life happening in the background as we learn about reading and spelling together, even cats getting in on the act. We’ve all launched into this new world at the same time, and we’ve all had to learn together how to navigate online learning and teaching. And all those things we rely on as specialist teachers are not quite there, or they are there, sort of! How do we play those multi-sensory games with letters and syllables, and prefixes and suffixes…? Well, we do, sort of, still… willing family members come in very handy. How do we write in shaving foam and sand…? Well, again…families are finding out all the weird and wonderful things that go on in a specialist dyslexia lesson and how they can join in. Anything is possible – except writing in flour, of course – there’s a shortage!

At Helen Arkell we are still here to help and offer advice and support to those beginning – or who are well underway – on their journey with dyslexia. But now of course, all slightly differently. Our hugely popular face to face parents course is happening online, our parents’ consultations have been continuing through online meetings, and we are still supporting teachers to become specialists in teaching and assessment. And of course, our specialist teachers are teaching online.

Meanwhile, we are planning to re-open for face to face assessments in Oxford from July onwards, with all the necessary precautions in place, and the charity’s main centre in Surrey will re-open in June.

If you want or need help and support concerning dyslexia at this time, we are here and will do what we can to help right now, and to prepare you for your eventual return to classrooms, college, university or your workplace…please get in touch, we would love to hear from you.


7 May 2020

This has been our seventh week in lockdown, and this is how things currently look…

I was a dog trainer in a previous life, and we used to have a view (entirely unscientific) that when dogs had been in training in a kennel environment for about 12 weeks, they hit a bit of a dip, and we knew that the sooner we could get them out into real homes, fully trained (their ultimate destinations) the better. As primates, I guess our own tolerance of lockdown is probably less than 12 weeks, and it feels that we are all currently suffering from stress, caused by a mix of fatigue, boredom and uncertainty, depending in whether we have been furloughed or not, and depending on whatever genes and experience we’ve been given (the good old nature vs nurture debate).

At Helen Arkell we still have 35 staff on furlough but also maintain a strong team of skeleton staff too, sufficient to deliver our services online. We had a virtual tea party this afternoon to check everyone’s ok in the furloughed gang, but were careful not to talk about work. It was great to hear about Sam’s painted stairwell and Meg’s extended absence from make-up and fake tan (and extended absence from absent extensions). Alice’s house is almost completely re-decorated now and Tracy has stumbled upon some brilliant backgrounds when she attends virtual meetings. This is our new world.

This weekend we all believe we may hear Boris’ roadmap. Whatever this may be, it’s bound to give us a bit more certainty about the way ahead. We suspect we may have to dip our toes into the world of PPE, perspex screens, and red and black tape on our office floors, which feels a bit weird. And telepractice is the new buzzword.

We’re hoping that we can start returning to a new normal in June. Of course everyone will work from home where possible, but we hope to re-start offering some face-to-face support to our clients too, re-designing our Centre, and regional hubs, to make this possible.

But until we know more it’s difficult to plan too far ahead. All we can say for certain is that we have a number of charitable services available (see website for details). We also have a number of brilliant supporters who are determined to ensure we get through this period, despite all our fundraising activities being scuppered. (Thank you National Lottery for your grant today, ensuring that we can continue to help people from lower-income backgrounds in the coming months). Thank you also to the amazing number of people who have jumped to our aid, in response to our Covid-19 appeal. Thank you! (You know who you are!)

Next week we welcome 42 + parents of dyslexic children for an in-depth on-line course, giving practical hints and tips. We also look forward to working with our team of educational psychologists and specialist teachers as we develop new ways of working in this new world. And of course, not surprisingly, the week starts off with a conversation with the bank, to ensure we have a safety net for the coming months of financial uncertainty.

Whatever your contribution, we thank you for helping us, and for your brilliant support.

Rest assured that we are working together to get through this period, and ensure the security of the charity’s future, and that at every step of the way, people with dyslexia are at the heart of what we do.

Onwards and upwards into this new world, whatever that may be!


4 May 2020

Some of you may not be aware that we have two Helen Arkell specialist teachers based at St George’s School, Ascot, working as part of the team at the school. Today I’m handing over the blog to Julia and Rosemary to give us an insight into the world of a specialist teacher when schools are currently operating remotely during lockdown. Over to you, Julia and Rosemary ..!

Julia’s perspective
Welcome to our remote tutoring world courtesy of St George’s Ascot, mostly ‘learnt’ (but not fully mastered) in the week before Lockdown. It’s a whole new world of….

Google Hangouts, Google Classroom,
Sharing videos using Loom
Dragonfly (the homework spy)
Textbooks on Kerboodle…
We’ve even got Squid to help us doodle (…but how does it work in ‘present’ mode?)

Yes… all this and more…. So… who needs Zoom?

First rule of working at home: ‘Structure a familiar routine’. I reasoned this obviously referred to establishing breaktime as if I were in school, but how to capture the unique atmosphere of the staffroom? I would have to persuade my two sons, both also working from home, to meander aimlessly right in front of the kettle and coffee jar while idly chatting, so I could stand behind them tutting and looking at my watch (btw they did comply because, well, chocolate biscuits…).

Ably aided and abetted by the ever cheerful, patient and good-humoured pupils who we support at St George’s, I have managed to negotiate most of our online lessons without too many glitches, apart from times when their screen has mysteriously frozen or their internet has cut out, which means having to rearrange lessons for another time (much easier to do than in ‘real’ life).

But usually they ‘pop up’ on screen at the appointed time and not only is it nice to see their smiling faces, but I am also treated to the rich tapestry of their various backdrops and the pets and family who from time to time wander into view. I have now met one impossibly fluffy cat, a bouncy dog, finally had a close up view of the fish tank (the contents of which I had already heard about last term as they entered the water one by one over a period of weeks with varying degrees of success), two waving mothers, two oblivious brothers… and a father.

Oh, the delicious irony of teenagers shooing away their parents in embarrassment because they are trying to work.

A week later and I no longer need post-it notes stuck to my laptop to remind me to follow all the safeguarding rules, including ‘switch on record’, ‘invite’ Senco to all lessons, email her if the lesson overruns, copy Rosemary into all emails to girls.

The content of online lessons remains more or less the same as in school with a few adaptations: we can still learn spellings, do proof reading exercises, compose essays and stories and continue with reading and comprehensions, and the essential study skills.

All the tech means we can continue with supporting classwork and prep, this week …explaining Hooke’s Law, French and Latin translations, mitosis, enlargements of shapes.

Another lesson searching for appropriate quotes from Medea, this time with the text uploaded on screen (progress) rather than as last week when the open book was thrust in front of the camera at me with a hopeful ‘Can you see it?’, so I could try to read the text.

And at the end of the lesson, a triumphant ‘I could understand the story much better and I was quicker at finding the right quotes this week’ from my pupil, and the beaming smile of success.

And that’s why we love what we do.

(With thanks to the great staff at St George’s and Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity who are always so supportive).

Rosemary’s perspective
You would think that working from home would be less stressful than going in to school: no getting up at the crack of dawn and leaving home at 6.30; gaps between lessons filled with gardening or cake-baking; no queues of traffic through Bagshot to get home. It doesn’t seem to have worked quite like that, though. For one thing, there is the constant presence of the tiptoeing husband trying to keep out of the way and then talking constantly to me between Hangouts, when I am trying to write up what we have just done or organise the next lesson. And don’t get me started on the Internet provider! No, really, don’t. I could go on for hours about their general uselessness and failure to have any human being on the other end of a desperate call for help.

The school has, I think, been very efficient. All credit to them for setting up a virtual school that has lessons provided, assemblies, year meetings – even PE – being offered to the pupils, so that they are working what is pretty much a normal school day. Music lessons, LAMDA, cookery, our lessons – it is amazing how well they established this in a remarkably short time. And kudos to the girls, who have, almost without exception, joined our Hangouts Meets at the right time and responded well to whatever we are doing. This, since their ages span from 11-17, has ranged from spellings to Psychology notes, number bonds to poetry analysis and covered many things in between.

A typical day? Well, there are no typical days really, since the number of lessons on a Monday is half that on a Tuesday, and a request to change a lesson time on a Thursday has left me with a four hour gap. Two days start at 7.30 and keep me busy until 4.00 and the other two have later starts. I have to think early what we will do during the lesson, as I need to scan, type or find in my folders the sheets and then e-mail them in time for the girls to print them for the lesson. And there is always the chance that they won’t have checked their inbox or claim their printer is out of ink. Then the technology has to work. I’ve almost got the hang of presenting my screen, but I still prefer writing on the whiteboard and holding it up to trying Squid. I have held up my hands at times and asked the girls how to make things work – they are always more skilled with all of this than I am. And I think they secretly like being the ones in the know.

On the whole, I am quite enjoying the experience of remote teaching and learning. It is hard at times, but it is enjoyable to be sharing this unusual situation with the girls and trying to provide some routine to a very strange and frightening time.

I shan’t be sorry to get back to normal, though.

24 April 2020

Well it all got pretty exciting this week, when we were featured in the national press …

Yes, Thursday started with a bang, when the Mail and Express led the way in picking up the news that our brilliant Patron, Princess Beatrice, had kindly produced a heartfelt video clip in support of our efforts at this difficult time. In particular, she stressed the fact that we are open for business, fulfilling our mission, albeit online and by video chat in the current lockdown.

Responses to the video have been flooding in from all over the world, and a lifestyle magazine in Germany had already picked it up by 9.15am, asking if they could also use it. (Or I think that’s what they were asking. I never did German at school). So, to be honest, it’s probably reached more places than we are even aware of. Suffice to say, the clip has been viewed many thousands of times, and lots of new people are now aware of our work and have signed up to receive our e-newsletter this week. It’s a growing Helen Arkell family. Thank you Princess Beatrice, we are lucky to have you as our Patron.

Speaking of the HA family, did you know that three of the team have had birthdays this week? Julie, Tory and Katherine. (You probably knew that already). So we had a mini birthday celebration by Microsoft Teams. There were candles and everything. Tory blew them out and got wax all over her laptop. Tracy knocked over a cactus, Alice showed us her newly-painted cupboards and Sam got Alexa to sing happy birthday and make various rude noises. So it was quite an occasion.

We were also delighted to receive a grant this week from our friends at Community Foundation for Surrey, via their Coronavirus Response Fund, to help us through the current crisis when all our fundraising events are cancelled. Farnham Institute Charity, Loseley and Guildway charitable trust, and a whole host of generous individuals have also donated, which has been absolutely extraordinary and extremely heart-warming. Thank you!!

More important than anything is the fact that a whole load of children and adults have been coming through our virtual online doors, to receive the help they so desperately need when they are struggling at home, either home-schooling or home-working. Our team of specialists have been busy, and have been very much appreciated. This is just one excerpt from some feedback that came in this week (names removed to protect identities):

“J adores her Helen Arkell specialist teacher and she has made great progress with her memorable strategies which really help her not only to understand, but also to retain the information as she has very poor working memory”.

Not surprisingly, many people have approached us for bursary-funded help at this time, either for themselves or their children, as they have either been furloughed, put on reduced salaries or made redundant. We’ll always help if we can. That’s what we’re here for.

What’s quite clear is that many parents and children are getting particularly stressed by home-schooling during the lockdown, and when dyslexia is involved the effects are magnified many times over. One mum was in tears this week, as she was so grateful to receive some 1:1 help from our specialist. You are not alone. We are with you, and can help. As well as the 1:1 sessions, we also have a variety of courses, so have a look and get in touch.

As I write, it’s Friday evening which can only mean one thing: it’s time to drum up support for our hot-shot team in this weekend’s 2.6 challenge. Personally I am absolutely dreading it, as my challenge is stupidly difficult and I can’t think why on earth I volunteered to do it. For me, Sunday will be a disaster and a nightmare and a total waste of time unless I can raise some funds to help save the UK’s charities and particularly to help save our small-but-perfectly-formed charity. (There’s a hint there).

So please donate to whichever of the following challenges floats your boat (or indeed set up your own challenge – it’s not too late). You’ll make us very happy and ensure we survive this period, so that we can continue doing our best to help people with dyslexia.

Ladies and gentlemen, (drum roll please), I give you the Helen Arkell 2.6 challenge team and all their various pages!!!!!:

James Barrett: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/james-s-2-6-pogo-stick-challenge4066

Andy Cook: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/AndyCook2020

Liz Crossley: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/liz-s-2-6-challenge1243

The Radnor Family: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/HazelRadnor1

Rachel Rhodes: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/my-2-6-challenge-1e4d09f8-848d-44d0-84a1-8737b4c9524b

The Sparks Family: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/family-sparks-2-6-challenge

Pete Watson: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/pete-s-26-days-of-beginner-s-yoga

Terry Whitestone: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/terry-s-2-6-challenge

Emma Wootton: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/my-2-6-challenge-ce234823-46f4-4cbc-84ec-2182e1c9ffe9

Sara Worraker: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/my-2-6-challenge-e7c46267-cf62-4436-aec6-0e3dfa9e4d86

16 April 2020

Today I’m handing over the blog spot to the brilliant people at The 2.6 Challenge – I can’t wait to hear all your weird and wonderful ideas for making 26th April (and beyond) both memorable, fun and very worthwhile….

Dear Supporter of the amazing Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity

We hope you’re well during this unprecedented time. We’re inviting you, your family and friends to take part in The 2.6 Challenge from Sunday 26 April to help to save the UK’s charities in general, and Helen Arkell in particular.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on charities, with the cancellation of thousands of events and the loss of billions in fundraising income.

In response, the organisers of the biggest mass-participation sports events across the country have come together to create a new campaign to raise vital funds to help to save the UK’s charities. And we’re so pleased to have Helen Arkell involved!

The 2.6 Challenge will launch on Sunday 26 April. This should have been the date of the 40th London Marathon, the world’s biggest one-day annual fundraising event. You probably know that Helen Arkell had 5 runners all ready and waiting to take part (they’ll have another go on 4th October).

We’re not going to let 26th April go to waste just because we’re all social distancing. So we’re asking you to take part in an activity of your choice based around the numbers 2.6 or 26 and fundraise or donate to support Helen Arkell via twopointsixchallenge.co.uk

People of all ages are taking on The 2.6 Challenge with a host of activities – from walking, running or cycling 2.6 miles, juggling for 2.6 minutes, to holding online workouts with 26 friends. The ideas and options are endless!

The only requirement is that you must follow Government guidelines on exercise and social distancing. Most people are taking part from Sunday 26 April but you can do your activity whenever is most convenient for you.

There are just five simple steps to take:

  1. Dream up your 2.6 challenge – if you need help there are lots of ideas here
  2. Head to twopointsixchallenge.co.uk to donate £26 (or whatever you can afford), to Helen Arkell or to set up a fundraising page and select Helen Arkell as the benefitting charity (VirginMoneyGiving and Justgiving are both set up with Helen Arkell, so take your pick).
  3. Ask all your friends and family to sponsor you and challenge them to do their own 2.6 Challenge
  1. Complete your challenge
  2. Share a photo or video of your challenge on social media with #TwoPointSixChallenge

For further information on The 2.6 Challenge, including a list of partners and supporters, and for more ideas about what your activity could be, visit twopointsixchallenge.co.uk

We hope you’ll join the nation in The 2.6 Challenge to support Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity and help to save the UK’s charities.

Meanwhile, keep doing what Helen Arkell does best – helping people with dyslexia (we love what you do!)

Best wishes
The 2.6 Challenge Team

8 April 2020

Today I’m handing over the blog to Fintan O’Regan, renowned expert in all matters relating to ADHD and other behaviour, learning and motivation issues… thanks for your help, Fin! Best wishes, Andy, CEO.

“Dear Mr O’Regan……….Please find my laundry enclosed”

At this time when everybody is trying to adjust to the issue of the Coronavirus and with schools closing down, please spare a thought for parents and families who will be supporting children with learning, behaviour and socialisation issues such as ASD (autism spectrum disorder) and ADHD.

For many families, weekends and holidays supporting children with conditions such as ASD or ADHD can be very stressful so this unexpected and unplanned extended period of time may appear extremely daunting especially if families are expected to monitor learning tasks.

With this in mind I was reminded of an incident that some years ago when I was teaching in a specialist school in South London.

One morning when I was collecting in the Science homework of my year 8 class, Billy came up to me and said “Sir”, “my mum said to give you this”

What was described as “this” happened to be a white sock with a yellow post-it note on it.

“It’s not my sock, Sir” said Billy “it’s my brother Tom’s”

Puzzled, I took the sock and read the note on it which read as follows “Dear Mr O’Regan, I spent 4 hours last night trying to help Billy with his Science homework, please find my laundry enclosed”. This was a task that should not have taken more than 20 minutes.

Billy was a bright but very active 13-year-old boy with ADHD and had major difficulties with organisation and completion of homework.

Overall he was fine in class but it was at break times and lunchtimes that he displayed more difficulties and could be disruptive and defiant.

In terms of homework, no amount of positive reinforcement or consequences for non- completion appeared to have any effect. I had many conversations with his Mum about this issue.

Whilst re-reading the note, the penny dropped. Billy was a child that did well in structure and class time was structured. It was in non-structured time that issues developed in school and therefore possibly at home when any other amount of distractions would be available.

For Billy’s Mum, trying to prepare dinner while organising her children for the evening, alongside walking the dog, paying the bills, hoovering the house, preparing bath time, doing the ironing and the washing…..homework for Billy, for whom 4 hours of supervision was required, was a bridge too far.

What the Mum was trying to say was “could we help her”? Home can be a difficult environment for children with ADHD due to their hyperactive and impulsive traits as well as sustained difficulties with focus on tasks that involve writing and reading.

In terms of homework, research shows it takes a child with ADHD three times as long to complete the same task at home than at school.

As a result of understanding and appreciating this we were able to have Billy complete his homework mostly at school and provided differentiated tasks that he took home.

This will be the norm for families with children with ADHD so with Covid-19 closing schools for an extended period and with the isolation restrictions in place, this will create many additional challenges for children, their parents and possibly their siblings also.

As a result as much support as we can possibly and practically provide will be welcomed by families.

There are no magic solutions but there are various tips to pass onto to parents…

…to be continued.

You can sign up to receive tips and advice from Fin here, in an online session that is ready to download from Bank Holiday Monday onwards for 3 days, followed by a live Q&A with Fin on Thursday 16th April.

Thanks for your help, Fin! Andy, CEO.

3 April 2020

I hope everyone out there is bearing up ok in this dreadful situation that we find ourselves in at the moment, and managing to get essential supplies. In particular, I hope that the health of your nearest and dearest is not affected. It has all happened so suddenly – one can scarcely believe where we’ve come to. As I write, we have just had another 684 people die from the virus in the last 24 hours.

Against that backdrop, our challenges at Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity may seem minor, but lives are affected in many different ways. A large number of our team were furloughed this week, as we do everything we can to survive this crisis. Small charities like ours don’t have large reserves, so the cancellation of our fundraising events has hit us hard.

Our challenge is to raise £15,000/month from donations over the coming weeks (and months?), so that we can live to fight another day, and continue to support more people with dyslexia. Can you help us smash that target?

People are so generous: on Wednesday, we received a donation of £5k from a charitable Trust; yesterday a generous soul donated £100 in response to our e-newsletter; today we received an amazing donation of £1,000! Not only that but we have been inundated with offers of support from our brilliant team of specialists. The Helen Arkell community is really rallying round.

I appeal to anyone reading this to please chip in to support this charity, which has been helping people with dyslexia to turn their lives around since 1971. A donation of £475 can change a person’s life profoundly, giving them increased confidence and new strategies. If everyone chipped in with £30, we’d soon get there.

If you like what we do, please donate here

We are offering all sorts of different services via phone or video chat, fulfilling our mission by using new technology to help people, as you will see from our website:

  • If you’re a parent, you will find hints and tips for helping your children with dyslexia, ADHD and lots more besides.
  • If you want your own individual consultation with one of our experts by phone or video chat, regarding your child, just book yourself in.
  • Likewise if you are an adult with dyslexia, you can arrange a chat with one of our friendly team, who can help with your own specific situation and give you some practical advice.
  • Lots of people are wanting 1:1 tuition for their dyslexic children, as they struggle with home-schooling. We can help with that too. As I say, we’ve been helping people with dyslexia since 1971 and we’d love to help you too.
  • In addition, there’s a whole range of other e-learning courses on offer, for members of the public, teachers and classroom assistants …. just browse the pages of our website.

As soon as the lockdown lifts, we will definitely be open again for full diagnostic assessments, so by all means register your interest, and we’ll get in touch with you.

Above all, please do take care of yourselves at this difficult time. Between us we will get through this situation!

Thank you for your support of our work,


23 March

Following the prime minister’s announcement at 8.30pm on 23 March, all staff of Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity are working from home until further notice.

Please keep an eye on www.helenarkell.org.uk for the latest information regarding the charity’s services, many of which are still available via phone call or video call. We regret that face to face dyslexia assessments cannot be provided at this time.

While the offices are closed, please do not leave messages on our answer machine, as they will not be heard, but instead please email enquiries@helenarkell.org.uk where your query will be directed to the most relevant member of our dedicated, home-working team, who will be happy to help.

Please bear with us at this time when we are dealing with unprecedented numbers of queries.

Andy Cook

23 March 2020

It’s hard to believe that at last month’s staff meeting we were brainstorming various ways in which we could ‘go greener’, to do our bit to save the environment. Various exciting developments appeared on our Green Charter, including collaboration with Hart Wildlife Rescue who want all our old shredded paper for their hedgehogs (sweet!); new soap dispensers that are refillable and reduce our use of plastic; car-sharing initiatives for our staff and a renewed determination to use the number 19 bus wherever possible.

And now here we are, barely a month later, avoiding public transport and other busy, confined, shared spaces, and our priorities have switched to an all-out effort to join the world in beating coronavirus or at least limiting the damage. Things have changed so quickly.

A common theme between our Green Charter and our coronavirus plan is to quickly move to a more online world, where more people with dyslexia can access our services without having to get in a car. In common with many schools, we are now switching to providing dyslexia support remotely, via video calls, and likewise offering our HELP Parents Courses online, along with a number of other courses. Contact us if you’d like to receive our specialist dyslexia support online or in a phone consultation, or if you’d like to book a space on an online course.

As with everyone else, we are having to adapt on a daily basis. Sadly, on Friday, we had to take the decision to stop operating any face to face support at our hubs, because these are spaces that are also used by other organisations. Most of our staff are now working from home, as best they can, with just a minimal skeleton team on site. Currently we can still offer assessments at our Centre, with strict control measures in place to ensure clients only meet one person (our assessor), and the room is sanitised. Our latest coronavirus state of affairs is described just underneath this blog here (see blog update of 20 March).

The Helen Arkell team has been amazing, pulling together to find solutions to the various difficulties we have faced, and helping each other out when things haven’t gone smoothly. We are learning new things very quickly – we’ve delivered our first online workshops; we’ve held our first online staff meetings; this Thursday we’ll hold our first online Trustees meeting.

Meanwhile we have made progress in other areas, not least the receipt of a generous gift of £5,000 in a supporter’s Will, and a donation of £9,500 this week, for the provision of bursary-funded dyslexia support to children from lower-income families. Thank you so much! It’s your support that is keeping us going.

We have also received great feedback from a number of recent clients, including the following:

“I would like to stress that we are absolutely delighted with the assessment and report – it is very thorough and V really understood E’s difficulties. Please could you pass on our thanks to V?”

“Please thank H for all her hard work with S. He enjoyed his visit, which made this process so much less stressful. She was very professional and made a real effort to make him, and me, feel at ease. Thank you!”

“It’s a very comprehensive report and I’m glad we took that step. The letter for E is lovely, please pass on my thank you.”

“Just wanted to say thank you, you helped us along so much. When T is older I will explain to him how brilliant Helen Arkell are.”

“I think it is clear that XXX has been badly let down and the lack of support has led to much wider problems. I would like to thank the Helen Arkell Centre for allowing me to move this forward to the point we are at now. I would not have persisted with the OT referral or with the school without your report and guidance.”

These are difficult times for charities like ours – if you like what we do, please, please, please make a donation to help us get through the coming weeks and months so that we can continue to help people with dyslexia long into the future.

Thank you for anything you can spare


May 2020

20 March 2020

Coronavirus and Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity – updated 20 March 2020

We are determined to continue to support people with dyslexia during the current outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) whilst following the latest government and NHS advice. The health and safety of you, our clients, our staff, volunteers and the public at large, are our top priority.

Courses – we are running a number of different courses online. These include courses for parents of children with dyslexia, giving helpful hints and tips, and a variety of other dyslexia-related specialist courses. All you will need, in order to participate, is a device that you can use at home, that enables sound and video.

1:1 dyslexia tuition, coaching and skills-building for children and adults – our team of dyslexia specialists are ready to help you, at the end of the phone or using a collaboration tool such as Microsoft Teams or Skype (whichever works best for you and them). Just get in touch and we’ll book you a slot with whichever specialist is best suited to your situation. For this, and all other enquiries, contact us here.

Dyslexia consultations – you can book a 45 minute telephone or collaborative online chat slot with one of our dyslexia experts, to discuss your specific circumstances, answer your questions, address your concerns and see what further options may be appropriate for you. Parents of children with dyslexia will find this particularly useful, as will adults who suspect that they may have dyslexia themselves.

Dyslexia assessments – we are open for dyslexia assessments at this time, delivered at our Frensham site. These are an aspect of our work that can only be provided face to face and therefore we have put in place various control measures during the coronavirus outbreak, such measures to be kept under continual review following up to date government and NHS advice:

– clients and assessors will complete health screeners before the meeting takes place and will ensure that no parties fall within one of the identified vulnerable categories; client and assessor will meet in a room that has been cleaned and sanitised beforehand, and will sanitise at intervals during the assessment; parents or guardians will be required to stay on site while children are assessed, and will remain in their vehicle rather than in a communal waiting room. A toilet is made available that is in a separate area, and strict hand washing guidelines are in place.

Unfortunately, we have had to stop providing assessments at any other venues for the time-being, due to the fact that we cannot put such stringent control measures in place at facilities that are also used by third parties. As soon as circumstances improve, and we re-open our hubs, we will let you know. In the meantime, clients are welcome to contact us about accessing our assessment services at Frensham.

Our procedures will be kept under continual review in light of new Government and NHS guidance and updated information will be communicated on our website.

During this period the majority of the charity’s staff are allocated to work from home with the exception of a small ‘coronavirus crisis team’ who are present to oversee the health and safety of those present, including strict cleaning and sanitation procedures, and to hold the fort with those duties that must necessarily be performed at head office.

For the foreseeable future all community fundraising events planned by the charity have been put on hold. This is an extremely difficult time for the country at large, and charities such as ours will only survive a prolonged period of disruption if we receive sufficient donations and support to keep our services going.

Please do donate to help us get through the coming weeks and months. We really need your support.

Useful resources:

Contact us: for all matters relating to Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity including the above.

NHS latest advice

Latest UK government response

18 March 2020

Coronavirus and Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity – updated 18 March 2020

We are determined to continue to support people with dyslexia during the current outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) whilst following the latest government and NHS advice. The health and safety of you, our clients, our staff, volunteers and the public at large, are our top priority.

Courses – we are running a number of different courses online. These include courses for parents of children with dyslexia, giving helpful hints and tips, and a variety of other dyslexia-related specialist courses. All you will need, in order to participate, is a device that you can use at home, that enables sound and video.

1:1 dyslexia tuition, coaching and skills-building for children and adults – our team of dyslexia specialists are ready to help you, at the end of the phone or using a collaboration tool such as Microsoft Teams or Skype (whichever works best for you and them). Just get in touch and we’ll book you a slot with whichever specialist is best suited to your situation. For this, and all other enquiries, contact us here.

Dyslexia consultations – you can book a 45 minute telephone or collaborative online chat slot with one of our dyslexia experts, to discuss your specific circumstances, answer your questions, address your concerns and see what further options may be appropriate for you. Parents of children with dyslexia will find this particularly useful, as will adults who suspect that they may have dyslexia themselves.

Dyslexia assessments – we are also open for dyslexia assessments at this time. These are an aspect of our work that can only be provided face to face and therefore we have put in place various control measures during the coronavirus outbreak, such measures to be kept under continual review following up to date government and NHS advice:

– clients and assessors will complete health screeners before the meeting takes place and will ensure that no parties fall within one of the identified vulnerable categories; client and assessor will meet in a room that has been cleaned and sanitised beforehand, and will sanitise at intervals during the assessment; parents or guardians will be required to stay on site while children are assessed, and will remain in their vehicle rather than in a communal waiting room. A toilet is made available that is in a separate area, and strict hand washing guidelines are in place.

Our procedures will be kept under continual review in light of new Government and NHS guidance and updated information will be communicated on our website.

During this period the vast majority of the charity’s staff are allocated to work from home with the exception of a small ‘coronavirus crisis team’ who are present to oversee the health and safety of those present, including strict cleaning and sanitation procedures, and to hold the fort with those duties that must necessarily be performed at head office.

For the foreseeable future all community fundraising events planned by the charity have been put on hold. This is an extremely difficult time for the country at large, and charities such as ours will only survive a prolonged period of disruption if we receive sufficient donations and support to keep our services going.

Please do donate to help us get through the coming weeks and months. We really need your support.

Useful resources:

Contact us: for all matters relating to Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity including the above.

NHS latest advice

Latest UK government response

7 February 2020

You can always tell when Spring is round the corner because the odd bulb pokes its head above the parapet and the staff start putting the Lego through the dishwasher….

Yes, Spring is in the air and to prove it, our intrepid London marathon runners have only 11 weeks to go until their big day. Spare a thought for Tope, Lee, Charlotte, Patrick C and Patrick T who are trudging round in this cold, wet weather, with head torches on before and after work, getting the miles under their belts. All with the brilliant purpose of raising funds for Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity. To spur them on, please do give them some sponsorship. Today let’s shine the spotlight on Patrick’s page (supporting him supports everybody, as this is a team effort).

Likewise, the fantastic team of Childeric Chasers are in the closing stages of their training for the Vitality Big Half which takes place in 3 weeks’ time. You can read their story and support them here.

So the BIG QUESTION is…..what would YOU like to do, to challenge yourself and raise some much-needed funds at the same time, supporting children and adults with dyslexia?? We look forward to hearing from you, with whatever weird and wacky ideas you come up with in 2020…

Talking of weird and wacky, we went down to meet Mark earlier this week! (I’ve known Mark for years so I’m allowed to say that). Mark is the unconventional mastermind behind Help for Heroes. He set up the charity alongside Bryn and Emma Parry, and their success in creating this inspirational support system for injured servicemen and women has been amazing. As Mark says, his experience in a long military career basically prepared him for digging trenches and being shot at. So it came as just as much of a surprise to him as it did to everybody else, that his, Bryn and Emma’s efforts to fundraise for a swimming pool at Headley Court military rehab centre mushroomed into the phenomenon that is H4H today.

Tory and I were meeting with Mark and the other guys based at Tedworth House Recovery Centre, to see what we can do to help H4H and their people with regard to dyslexia support. Between us, we think we can do a lot to help injured servicemen and women and their families, as many people who join the armed services community have dyslexia in their genes. More on our collaborative partnership in due course.

It’s not by complete coincidence that we were in Wiltshire meeting H4H. It’s also because we now have a Wessex hub, based in Salisbury, so Tedworth House is on our doorstep. Our next big excitement is to announce that we will be running our first HELP Parents Course in Salisbury, starting on 27 April. If you’re a parent wanting practical hints and tips to support your children with dyslexia, this is the course for you.

This is a tried and tested course, and we have just finished one at our Frensham Centre. If you can’t make it to Salisbury, don’t worry as we have another HELP Parents Course coming up in Surrey in May and we will also be running another in Oxford later in the year.

Talking of Oxford, we will soon be open for business for dyslexia assessments and consultations in our brand new Oxford hub. More on that shortly, but in the meantime, if you’d like to register your interest in having some help in Oxford, just drop us a line.

Must dash now, the Lego is out of the dishwasher so it’s time to play! (And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, just pop into our Reception and all will be clear).

Enjoy your Spring cleaning and your New Year’s resolutions


10 January 2020

New Year, new hub…

It’s been a funny week. We all started off by opening every conversation with “Happy New Year; how was your Christmas?”, but barely five days later it’s more a case of “Christmas? What Christmas?!”

The thing is, the New Year has brought so much new excitement, we’re looking forward rather than back and I barely know where to start.

On Monday, we welcomed Rachael into the brand new post of Oxford Hub Coordinator. This is a big step forward for us, as we announce that Helen Arkell will officially be coming to Oxford very soon. Just as soon as Rachael has had a chance to catch her breath, get her feet under the table and identify a suitable base.

Also on Monday, our Tory headed off to Southwark to work with the guys at Communitas Education Trust and John Keats School, where we have our London hub. As with Rachael, Tory also finds herself in a brand new post that didn’t exist last year. Tory is our Head of Projects and is pushing forward with various new ideas and initiatives. She came back from Southwark buzzing with ideas, which we will have great fun taking forward in the coming months; all with the aim of helping more people with dyslexia in ever-more innovative ways.

Whereas on Monday Rachael came down to Frensham for her induction, on Tuesday it was my turn to head up to Oxford, to start working with her and hatching plans for our new hub. We had an all-day meeting in the local café, which had great carrot cake and therefore fitted brilliantly with my new resolution to eat more healthily in 2020. No sooner were our plans hatched than they blew across the café, which had quite a draughty door, so I think we may have advertised that ‘Helen Arkell comes to Oxford’ to all the local community, without really meaning to.

If you would like an assessment in Oxford, we will be with you soon. We just need to find an ideal base first, which will take a couple of weeks. By all means get in touch and we will come to you as soon as possible. Likewise, if you know of an ideal base, we’d appreciate the tip-off.

Meanwhile back in Frensham, our cohorts of Level 5 primary students (Tuesday), Level 5 secondary students (Wednesday) and Level 7 students (Thursday) were all back with us, starting the new term. This means our hall is buzzing again (as is our car park).

On Thursday Rachael was back down in Frensham for the next stage of her induction. She is an experienced specialist assessor and just wanted to become steeped in ‘the Helen Arkell way’ that is so important to us.

Then on Friday, it was all about our Wiltshire hub, as Tory headed West to join up with our team of specialists who work at our hub in Salisbury and the surrounding area.

This year we are determined to help more people with dyslexia, and to make ourselves available to people from a wider geographical area, which is where our hubs come in. 2020 will be an exciting year of development and we look forward to working with more than a thousand children and adults with dyslexia, as well as parents, teachers, classroom assistants, employers, workplaces and the public.

In particular we want to raise money so we can give free or subsidised help to people from lower-income backgrounds. If you are inspired by that, and want to help, please do get involved


Christmas and New Year

As we say goodbye to 2019 and look forward to 2020, here’s a brief round-up of how this year has gone for us at Helen Arkell. Here’s our year in numbers….

28.08.2019 – on 28th August 2019 we said our farewells to our inspirational Founder, Helen Arkell MBE, who leaves us with a big hole in the dyslexia world but an equally big determination to carry on where she left off, helping a lot more people with dyslexia. Thank you for everything you did to make life better for people with dyslexia, Helen;

1,138 – that’s the number of children and adults with dyslexia we helped this year, face to face. Yes, we provided 1:1 assessments, consultations, coaching and specialist tuition to one thousand, one hundred and thirty eight people with dyslexia (which is 121 more people than last year);

2 – we set up our second regional hub this year, in Salisbury, Wiltshire, which means we now have 2 hubs (our other is in Southwark, South London);

3 – hub number three is on the horizon and will be opening in Oxford in 2020….this is very exciting for all of us at Helen Arkell as we look forward to helping more people in Oxford and the surrounding area. We will have more news about this after Christmas;

19 – we provided 1:1 support to children and adults with dyslexia from 19 different counties across the UK in 2019. We hope to reach even more people as our network of hubs grows…

60,000 – we are proud to have given away £60,000 of free bursary-funded support this year to children and adults from lower-income backgrounds. We would dearly love this to be a lot more, but one step at a time as we build up our fundraising…

126 – that’s the number of children and adults from lower-income backgrounds who benefitted from the above;

58 – we trained another 58 teachers, classroom assistants and other interested parties so they qualified for their Level 5 and Level 7 diplomas in teaching and assessing learners with dyslexia. This means they are better equipped to help children with dyslexia back in their own classrooms and local communities;

684 – we provided dyslexia-awareness training to 684 school representatives by means of inset days;

131 – we gave hints and tips to 131 parents of dyslexic children with our HELP Parents courses;

414 – that’s the number of children and adults who attended a whole range of other dyslexia-related course with us during the year;

7 – we had 7 brilliant runners in the London Marathon and a whole load of others doing a variety of challenges in aid of Helen Arkell. Special mention of Aston this year, for his amazing SEN Challenge (Aston was still at Primary School when he climbed to the top of Toubkal Montain)! What will YOU decide to do as a challenge next year?!

90% – in a recent survey, over 90% of participants said that their Helen Arkell dyslexia assessment resulted in them feeling more confident; 90% said it had helped them feel less anxious and frustrated; 96% said it had helped them access more support; 100% said it helped them to understand themselves better, including their strengths and weaknesses; and 90% said it led to improved literacy;

7 – This Christmas spare a thought for 7 year old Anne-Marie (name changed). She feels so bad about falling behind at school (she’s already 2 years behind), that she’s started self-harming and avoiding going to school. Her mum is desperate to get help for her and is convinced that dyslexia is at the root of her issues. Trouble is, there’s no way Lucy’s mum could possibly afford to pay for any help, as she’s unemployed with no current prospects, and is already dependent on benefits. So….we will give some free help in the new year, thanks to various individuals who have kindly made donations to make it possible for us to help people in this way. Hopefully 2020 could be a new start for Anne-Marie.

And Anne-Marie is just one of many people queuing up to be helped by us next year.

Bear in mind that on average it costs £475 to change a person’s life, so a donation of £475 can make all the difference.

As that’s a lot of money, it helps if lots of people chip in with small donations. Lots of us are signing up to become Friends of Helen Arkell, with donations of whatever £££ we think we can afford.

Please do help us to change a life this Christmas, or as your New Year’s resolution.

A one-off donation or become a Friend of Helen Arkell

Thank you so much!

Happy Christmas everyone!!


6 December 2019

Yes, Hazel and I are buzzing, as we’ve just returned from the exclusive premiere of Frensham’s annual Christmas Tree Festival in St Mary’s Church, complete with nearly 40 trees decorated along a range of different themes. The drink was flowing (‘mine’s a tea, white, no sugar please, Eunice’), and the music was really rocking (Mike was practising for his organ recital).

This year our little tree is all about our founder, Helen, who passed away in August. Her smiling face beams out from its branches, for all to see. Let’s hope lots of members of the public see it over the weekend, as they pass, and learn a bit about our charity. And maybe even vote for us.

It was members of the public who voted for us in Waitrose recently, by putting their green tokens in our charity box. This resulted in a donation of £300 from the Community Matters Scheme, which is brilliant! Thank you Waitrose in Farnham, and thank you everybody for selecting us! Now it’s your turn to nominate us in Ecclesiastical’s 12 days of giving please!

Of course raising awareness and funds is not an end in itself, but rather the means by which we can help more children and adults with dyslexia. And trust me, we’ve been doing a lot of that! This year, 1,138 people with dyslexia have come through our doors for some 1:1 help, either here in Frensham, or at our new hubs in Southwark and Salisbury. Many of those were seeking diagnostic assessments.

By the time people come to us, they are often feeling ‘down’ about their progress and looking for some help to work out why they are not progressing as they should. We lose count of the number of people of all ages, from 7 to 70 years old, who say they feel ‘stupid’, and not as good as other people. The good news is that having an assessment is often the first step towards improving things. We put this to the test recently, by asking our clients what they thought. This is what they said:

  • 100% of respondents agreed that having a dyslexia assessment helps the person to understand themselves better, including their strengths and weaknesses
  • Over 90% of respondents reported that the assessment led to improved confidence
  • Over 90% of respondents reported that the assessment led to reduced frustration and anxiety
  • 96% of respondents agreed that having a dyslexia assessment helps you to access further support
  • Over 90% of respondents reported that the assessment led to improved literacy
  • 100% of respondents said they would recommend Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity to a friend

Other things that have been keeping us busy recently, include our Saturday Morning Lecture with Judy Hornigold, which attracted a brilliant audience of over 130 attendees. Our HELP Parents Course is again fully booked and two sessions have already taken place, with a third to come next week. We are also currently training 50 students in the support of learners with dyslexia, leading to Level 5 and Level 7 diploma qualifications.

Next week we open our doors to all and sundry for Christmas Drinks in our sweet little hall, which always looks particularly sweet when the Christmas lights come out (and the mulled wine!). You’re very welcome to come – just let us know.

Then we head down to Porton Down for an Open Day with our friends at DSTL, whose employees we support with their dyslexia.

So it’s all go here (and I haven’t even mentioned that we’re about to open a third regional hub).

Please wish Helen’s Christmas Tree the very best of luck and vote for us with Ecclesiastical!


CEO’s Blog 23 December 2019

As we say goodbye to 2019 and look forward to 2020, here’s a brief round-up of how this year has gone for us at Helen Arkell. Here’s our year in numbers….

28.08.2019 – on 28th August 2019 we said our farewells to our inspirational Founder, Helen Arkell MBE, who leaves us with a big hole in the dyslexia world but an equally big determination to carry on where she left off, helping a lot more people with dyslexia. Thank you for everything you did to make life better for people with dyslexia, Helen;

1,138 – that’s the number of people with dyslexia we helped this year, face to face. Yes, we provided 1:1 assessments, consultations, coaching and specialist tuition to one thousand, one hundred and thirty eight people with dyslexia (which is 121 more people than last year);

2 – we set up our second regional hub this year, in Salisbury, Wiltshire, which means we now have 2 hubs (our other is in Southwark, South London);

3 – hub number three is on the horizon and will be opening in Oxford in 2020….this is very exciting for all of us at Helen Arkell as we look forward to helping more people in Oxford and the surrounding area. We will have more news about this after Christmas;

19 – we provided 1:1 support to children and adults with dyslexia from 19 different counties across the UK in 2019. We hope to reach even more people as our network of hubs grows…

60,000 – we are proud to have given away £60,000 of free bursary-funded support this year to children and adults from lower-income backgrounds. We would dearly love this to be a lot more, but one step at a time as we build up our fundraising…

126 – that’s the number of children and adults from lower-income backgrounds who benefitted from the above;

58 – we trained another 58 teachers, classroom assistants and other interested parties so they qualified for their Level 5 and Level 7 diplomas in teaching and assessing learners with dyslexia. This means they are better equipped to help children with dyslexia back in their own classrooms and local communities;

684 – we provided dyslexia-awareness training to 684 school representatives by means of inset days;

131 – we gave hints and tips to 131 parents of dyslexic children with our HELP Parents courses;

414 – that’s the number of children and adults who attended a whole range of other dyslexia-related course with us during the year;

7 – we had 7 brilliant runners in the London Marathon and a whole load of others doing a variety of challenges in aid of Helen Arkell. Special mention of Aston this year, for his amazing SEN Challenge (Aston was still at Primary School when he climbed to the top of Toubkal Montain)! What will YOU decide to do as a challenge next year?!

90% – in a recent survey, over 90% of participants said that their Helen Arkell dyslexia assessment resulted in them feeling more confident; 90% said it had helped them feel less anxious and frustrated; 96% said it had helped them access more support; 100% said it helped them to understand themselves better, including their strengths and weaknesses; and 90% said it led to improved literacy;

7 – This Christmas spare a thought for 7 year old Anne-Marie (name changed). She feels so bad about falling behind at school (she’s already 2 years behind), that she’s started self-harming and avoiding going to school. Her mum is desperate to get help for her and is convinced that dyslexia is at the root of her issues. Trouble is, there’s no way Lucy’s mum could possibly afford to pay for any help, as she’s unemployed with no current prospects, and is already dependent on benefits. So….we will give some free help in the new year, thanks to various individuals who have kindly made donations to make it possible for us to help people in this way. Hopefully 2020 could be a new start for Anne-Marie.

And Anne-Marie is just one of many people queuing up to be helped by us next year.

Bear in mind that on average it costs £475 to change a person’s life, so a donation of £475 can make all the difference.

As that’s a lot of money, it helps if lots of people chip in with small donations. Lots of us are signing up to become Friends of Helen Arkell, with donations of whatever £££ we think we can afford.

Please do help us to change a life this Christmas, or as your New Year’s resolution.

A one-off donation


Become a Friend of Helen Arkell

Thank you so much!

Happy Christmas everyone!!


11 October 2019

Last week’s Dinner for Dyslexia was a brilliant warm-up act, which meant we were already buzzing when we entered Dyslexia Awareness Week itself. We had a number of activities planned, starting off with the first session of our HELP Parents Course, which was a full house as always, run by Claire. (Places are already full for the next course too, so we will get another one in the diary asap. Watch this space).

As with everyone who has attended the Centre this week, our course participants have found themselves surrounded by more cup-cakes, Victoria sponges, cookies and buns than you would normally find in the Bake Off tent. This has been a brilliant week-long bake sale in celebration of Dyslexia Awareness Week, and helping to raise a few more funds.

While Claire was working her magic in Frensham, Tory, Simon and I were in London with the guys at British Land for their Lunch & Learn session. We were blown away by the infectious enthusiasm and engagement of everyone who attended – over 100 staff. Not only did we spread the word about dyslexia but we also made a lot of friends and vowed to work closely together in future.

Our next stop was Croydon, where we had a wonderful opportunity to give a presentation of our work to the parents of Trinity School. We were alongside various other charities, both UK-based and overseas, from which just one charity would be selected as ‘charity of the year’. All seven charities were brilliant causes, and we were all very happy to accept that a charity was chosen that supports local children with cancer. The charity provides the children with robots that attend classes for them, kitted out with cameras and microphones which are controlled by the children from their hospital beds, using iPads. It was very sweet to see the robots’ ears light up (which means their child wants to ask a question).

From Croydon we returned to Frensham for our Ambassadors Training Evening, where another group of dedicated volunteers got together to learn about more ways they can help our overall team effort at the charity. If you would like to join our budding taskforce of volunteer ambassadors, just get in touch and we’ll book you into a training session.

Our hall was quickly turned around in readiness for the following day’s cohort of Level 7 candidates, studying with us for their diploma in supporting pupils with dyslexia (more cake and buns!). The big excitement was Go Green for Dyslexia, where we joined in with our friends at Nessy Learning, who have an annual campaign during Dyslexia Awareness Week. My green wig was a bit scary and extremely itchy. Thank goodness Go Green only lasts for one day…

We then moved into Farnham Maltings, where Glynis ran a session for local workplaces regarding the support of employees with dyslexia. It was excellent that so many people attended from so many different industries. There is a growing willingness in the UK to maximise employees’ dyslexic strengths, but there is still a lot more work to do in this area.

Meanwhile, back at the Centre, Fintan O’Regan was conducting a course on Oppositional Demand Disorder. This specialist subject attracted another full house. It’s fantastic to see our Hall being put to so many good uses, for such a variety of different talks, topics, courses and sessions…..and of course the cakes!

Last but by no means least, as Dyslexia Awareness Week draws to a close, we have two teams preparing to brave the elements at the weekend: our Royal Parks Half Marathon runners (you can sponsor Peter here, in memory of his grandmother, our founder Helen) and our collecting tin volunteers, poised and ready to hit the streets of Farnham for a collection day. Good luck to both teams, in this appalling wet weather. If things get cancelled we’ll take comfort from the fact that at least we’re not trying to organise a Rugby World Cup in the midst of a typhoon.

Well done everyone for another brilliant Dyslexia Awareness Week, and thank you for your help.


PS Have you voted for us yet in Farnham Waitrose???

4 October 2019

It’s not every day you dress up in dinner jacket and black tie to have a sandwich at Prêt, but Tuesday wasn’t just a normal day.

We were on the way to our inaugural Dinner for Dyslexia, at the Cavalry & Guards Club.

It’s fair to say there was a bit of excitement in the air, as we don’t do these things very often. So much excitement, in fact, that our Gill promptly spilt chocolate all down her front, and had to spend the rest of the evening carefully buttoned up, and therefore rather hot. And of course our Hazel had her arm in plaster, following her holiday incident. So we were a slightly ramshackle crew when we knocked on the door of the venue. Made worse by the fact that by now I was sporting Julie’s rather fetching fuchsia pink coat because the heavens had opened and I was the only one without coat or umbrella (idiot!).

Thankfully our guests made up for our lack of glamour. What a brilliant array of fancy frocks and dashing DJs, with a smattering of uniforms and medals! The Cavalry and Guards Club is a majestic setting, and it was all thanks to our brilliant supporters at the Feltmakers livery company that we were given the opportunity to hold an event there.

Our guests included more than 30 Feltmakers. And many representatives from the charity’s extended community. Fourteen members of our founder Helen’s family also attended, which was particularly poignant. Helen sadly passed away recently, aged 99, but we know she would have loved looking down on her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren in all their finery, having a fantastic time. Everyone enjoyed pre-dinner drinks in the Field Marshals’ Room, and then a three course dinner in the Coffee Room upstairs, stopping briefly on the way for a group selfie on the grand, sweeping staircase. How often do you get a chance to do that?

Dyslexia was at the heart of everything. Once dessert had been cleared away, the floor was handed over to Samantha, a lawyer and a Feltmaker, to talk about her personal experience of dyslexia. She was very open about the fact that she had received lots of support for her dyslexia while growing up, which had helped her overcome many challenges along the way. She wondered how a different Samantha, in a different world, would have fared, if that support had not been available. Things can go very wrong if you don’t receive the help you need, when you need it.

Chris then spoke, proudly wearing his military uniform and medals. Not only is Chris a dyslexic pilot, but he is also a grandson of Helen herself, and received help from the charity in his childhood. He spoke passionately about his determination that this charity will continue to help children and adults with dyslexia, long into the future, in just the way that Helen would have wanted.

Then our auctioneer, Will, came to the lectern. Will is also dyslexic, and a former beneficiary of the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity’s help, so who better to lead us through the live auction? As with so many others who contributed to the success of the event, Will had given his time free of charge.

After completing our live and silent auctions (where our guests were amazingly generous), we were amazed to find that we had succeeded in raising £21,000 to enable us to change the lives of more people with dyslexia. How good is that?! All that remained then was to happily wend our weary way back to Frensham, catching the last train by the skin of our teeth.

A huge thank you to everyone who helped to make our Dinner for Dyslexia such a success – we couldn’t have done it without you!


20 September 2019

Wednesday was the day when we celebrated our founder Helen’s life. I’m not sure Frensham Church has been quite so full since the day when Harry and Meghan attended a wedding there.

It’s a real testament to Helen that so many people were present, from so many different connections. People had come from all over the world, not just the UK. By the time we get to 99, most of our peers have moved on, so it was amazing to see the church bursting at the seams with people of all ages. There were four families represented: her own family, with three children, Peter, Jill and David, and her many grandchildren and great grandchildren (to whom she was always ‘Dandy’); then there was the ‘Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity family’; the whole wider family of the great and the good in the dyslexia world; and the ‘Frensham family’ who, as Jane the vicar said in her address, have been praying for Helen’s health for the last four years, to a point where Helen once told Jane; “Do you think I’m well enough now that you should take me off your list, Jane?”, and then soon afterwards: “Jane – I think you’d better put me back on the list!”

Helen’s family did her proud, with all generations playing a part in a real celebration of her life. Grandson Peter read the poem “You Can Shed Tears”, and then Carlotta gave a rendition of “God Be In My Head”, which put the hairs up on the back of your neck it was so amazing. Rose then read the poem “Life Goes On” before PJ then read ‘An Appreciation’ on behalf of the family. This gave a brilliant insight into Helen’s life. She was inspirational in so many ways. How many of us grow up speaking five languages? How many women born in the 1920’s make a second career for themselves in middle age, as single parents with three children, setting up a charity, becoming a dyslexia campaigner, and continuing to do 1:1 literacy support sessions with prisoners well into their 60’s?

We heard the story of the day when Helen’s handbag was stolen in prison. And how the other prisoners were so fond of Helen, they clubbed together to steal it back and return it to her. They even gave her a huge bunch of flowers too.

Helen’s love of Norway and Denmark was strong, and she was perhaps never happier than when walking in the hills, surrounded by nature, with the family and the dog, armed with a kettle and a primus. “The trouble is”, said PJ, “my job was to bring the matches and I always forgot”.

David then read his own poem, “Thank You Mum”, which was incredibly touching. You could imagine Helen looking on, giving him encouragement, and I’m sure she was delighted. What shone through so strongly in the service was just how encouraging and supportive Helen was – not just of her family and friends, but of people she’d never met before, through all her 1:1 support of people with dyslexia. We heard how she operated an ‘open door policy’ when she settled back in Frensham, with her home always full of people and laughter. Ironically, she opened lots of doors herself, though all her battles with the education authorities to get dyslexia recognised. People with dyslexia have been going through those doors ever since.

The tea party in the church hall after the service was buzzing. It’s typical of Helen that, even after she’s gone, she’s still bringing people together from all different walks of life and all different parts of the world. All the great-and-the-good of the dyslexia field were there, paying their respects and comparing memories of Helen. Various generations of the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity were there too, including my predecessors Bernadette and Rosie, who took their turns in leading the charity forward after Helen’s retirement. Princess Beatrice was there in spirit, if not in body. She was unavoidably out of the country so Charlotte attended in her place. Princess Beatrice is a huge admirer of Helen, and even visited her at home earlier this year, to thank her personally for everything she’s done for people with dyslexia. It was this work that earned Helen her award as “Pioneer to The Life of The Nation” (where she rubbed shoulders with Nelson Mandela), and the MBE.

Some people use their lives to make a real difference in the world, and Helen was definitely one of those. We have so much to thank Helen for, and particularly, in our case, for setting up this charity in 1971, with a determination to help as many people with dyslexia as possible. Always with ‘the personal touch’, and always with a sense of humour.

All of us in the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity are determined not only to continue the charity’s work in her name, but also to reach out to even more people over the coming years. Helen, we hope we will do you proud!


29 August 2019

Helen Arkell MBE. 17 August 1920 – 28 August 2019

It is with great sadness that the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity announces the passing of their founder and namesake, Helen Arkell, aged 99, on 28 August 2019.

Born in Holland on 17 August 1920, Helen’s father Emil Huitfeldt was in the Norwegian diplomatic service and her English mother, Dorothy Latham, was born and bred in Frensham, Surrey. Helen’s childhood involved frequent moves, from which resulted her particular love of Norway and Denmark. She could speak five different languages.

Helen lived a full and inspirational life, as a pioneer in the world of dyslexia, pushing back boundaries of knowledge. Passionate about championing the special abilities of people with dyslexia, Helen earned a worldwide reputation and was awarded an MBE in 1999 for her services to people with dyslexia. In 2003 Helen was honoured as a ‘Pioneer to the Life of the Nation’ at a Buckingham Palace reception, where other guests included Nelson Mandela.

Dyslexic herself, at a time when the condition was poorly understood, Helen knew of the negative effects that dyslexia can bring, if not properly supported. Helen is quoted in The Spellbinder*, the story of her life, as saying about her childhood education experiences:

“All the time I was terribly aware of my own inadequacy. When you’re with a group of people who can do things without too much difficulty and you just can’t, the inevitable conclusion is that you’re ‘thick’. And when you think you’re stupid it not only affects your school life, your confidence gets a big knock. Since I’ve come to understand dyslexia I’ve felt much the most important thing is not the reading or spelling but the knock to the confidence.”

On the other side of the coin, Helen also exhibited many of the amazing strengths that frequently accompany the dyslexic way of approaching life, including heightened creativity, the ability to think ‘outside of the box’, and a strong sense of grit and determination.

Helen became an inspirational figure for many who felt the benefit of her support, advice and expertise. Children who were chronically dyslexic but successful in adulthood give her the credit for changing their lives.

Helen spent many years battling to ensure that dyslexia was taken seriously, by the education authorities in particular and by the public in general. She rubbed shoulders with the leading influencers in the field of education at that time, as well as forging links with organisations such as Great Ormond Street. Helen also worked closely with offenders at a detention centre in Woking, where she quickly understood that people with low literacy skills are particularly at risk of ending up in prison due to negative life choices. She really was ahead of her time. Her influence was all the stronger because of her infectious laugh, twinkling eyes and wicked sense of humour. As well as a healthy dose of understated fearlessness, humility and a keen and perceptive mind.

In 1971 Helen joined forces with Joy Pollock and Elisabeth Waller to set up the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre, initially in Parsons Green, London, then subsequently in 1987 in Frensham. The charity’s mission is the same today as it was in 1971 under Helen’s leadership: to remove barriers to learning and life for people with dyslexia by providing expert, personal and life-changing support. Plus an ambition to provide free support to people from lower income backgrounds.

“All of us at the charity feel Helen’s loss badly”, says Andy Cook, chief executive at the charity, “she was our inspiration and our guide. We are determined to honour Helen’s life by progressing the charity in her name, in the way she would have wanted, as a lasting tribute and legacy. We will help as many people as possible to find new ways forward in their lives that play to their strengths rather than allowing their dyslexia to hold them back.”

The final months of Helen’s life were spent peacefully at home. This peace was interrupted briefly in April this year, when she received a special visit to her home by Princess Beatrice, Patron of the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity, who is passionate about the cause of dyslexia, as she has personal experience of the condition herself. Princess Beatrice joined Helen in her home for a tea party and was able to thank Helen for having done so much for the cause of dyslexia.

Helen passed away peacefully in her own bed, on 28 August 2019, eleven days after celebrating her 99th birthday. The thoughts and prayers of everyone in the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity community are with her children, Peter, Jill and David, and her extended family of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Looking back on her life, on the charity’s 40th anniversary in 2011, and reflecting on progress, Helen said:

“It’s absolutely incredible that 40 years on the Centre is still there and growing. I really do feel surprised and fortunate and happy that it’s made a difference. Forty years is quite something, isn’t it?”

The charity will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2021, in memory of Helen.


* ‘The Spellbinder, Helen Arkell’s Story’, Adrian Williams (2011), available from Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity

Based in Frensham, on the outskirts of Farnham, Surrey, the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity has been supporting people with dyslexia since 1971. The charity’s mission is to remove barriers to learning and life for people with dyslexia by providing expert, personal and life-changing support. The charity helps over a thousand children, young people and adults each year, as well as giving advice and support to parents of dyslexic children, employers, workplaces, schools and communities. The charity also trains teachers and teaching assistants in the support of dyslexic pupils, leading to Level 5 and 7 qualifications. The charity’s latest drive is to reach out to more people with dyslexia by opening regional hubs in London and Wiltshire, as well as providing increasing levels of free support to people from lower income backgrounds. To donate to the Charity’s work or receive further information, visit www.helenarkell.org.uk call 01252 792400 or email enquiries@helenarkell.org.uk .

2 August 2019

I have been asked by Andy to take over the blog as Bev, Kate and I have been working with ten lovely people who came to our Centre in Frensham from near and far to attend our annual Professional Summer School this week. People travelled from Essex, London, Claygate, Bognor Regis, the Cayman Islands and even Bordon!

Monday dawned bright and sunny, and the countryside looked lovely, which was particularly appreciated by our visitors from the Cayman Islands. We spent the day talking about the characteristics of dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties and how these impact on individuals. Everyone enjoyed the lunch – beautifully organised by Julie and Sam each day!

Tuesday started badly for some; it was raining, the trains were running late and the traffic around Farnham was awful, but everyone reached the calm of the Centre eventually. The focus of the day was informal assessment to set a teaching programme and everybody worked hard learning how to administer some auditory tests, undertake miscue analyses, spelling error analyses and set appropriate targets. This will help them support their learners really effectively.

The travel situation improved on Wednesday, and so did the weather (although some of our visitors were still feeling the cold)! Wednesday was ‘Reading Day’ and we exchanged lots of ideas for strategies and resources to help improve learners’ reading accuracy and comprehension. On Thursday we went on to discuss writing, spelling and numeracy, and Friday was study skills and differentiation in the classroom.

We certainly managed to cover a lot in a week and it was great to see/hear everyone exchanging ideas and thinking about how they could use some of the suggestions – or encourage colleagues to adjust their teaching to make it more accessible for dyslexic learners. It was also encouraging to hear how much good stuff is already going on. Here are a couple of comments from attendees:

‘I had a lovely week in Farnham at the Helen Arkell Centre. It was great to meet so many different people – EP’s, SENCo’s, 1 to 1 teachers and as a group to all grasp onto lots of content which can better inform all of us to better support children with a variety of needs’

‘Great takeaways to add to your lessons and teacher toolbox, especially for those students who learn differently and have various challenges.’

Thank you to all our lovely visitors for contributing so much to the course. We loved working with you!


26 July 2019

The school holidays are upon us, and it’s time for all those hard working teachers and teaching assistants to take a well-earned break. Equally importantly, it’s time for all those hard working pupils to have a break too.

Suddenly the roads are clear, and the airports (and Cornwall) are full.

However, life very much continues at a charity like ours.

Our rooms are used all summer, with children and adults receiving 1 to 1 expert help for their dyslexia, delivered by our team of specialist assessors and educational psychologists, tutors and coaches.

In many ways this is an ideal time to get a bit of extra help, before starting the new academic year, or even starting at a new, unfamiliar school. Many people have chosen to book personalised learning sessions with us, while others have booked assessments.

Next week sees a touch of glamour come to Frensham (not that Frensham isn’t always glamorous – what about the Scarecrow Festival, hey? It doesn’t get much more glam than that, does it, in a dog-walking, welly-wearing sort of way?).

No, we have a different type of glamour next week, with our Professional Summer School seeing several participants fly in from the Cayman Islands, amongst other places, to benefit from our expertise. This charity really does have an international reputation and over the years we have trained education professionals from all sorts of places across the globe.

People don’t just come to us because of the quality of our expertise and knowledge. They also come because they know we will look after them with the personal touch. That’s our ‘Helen Arkell way’.

Here are some notes that have been sent to us in just the past few days:

“I’m sure my deputy head would authorise the day as it was her that recommended you. She had an assessment completed for her daughter and was extremely impressed with the level of care and we were both blown away by the in-depth report that came back.”

“P doesn’t need to respond, it was just something I forgot to mention yesterday. He was absolutely fantastic with xxx (and me). You all are really lovely!!”

“I just wanted to write to you to say thank you so much for the bursary-funded help you have provided for our grandson xxx. This additional support and teaching has had such a positive impact on xxx. He has made so much progress in all areas but especially in reading and writing. We were delighted to read his end of year report from school, which stated that he had made above-expected progress and that he demonstrates a fantastic attitude to learning. Your support and funding really has made such a positive difference”.

Of course we couldn’t do our work if we didn’t receive such fantastic help from our funders. Special mention of the Worshipful Company of Feltmakers, Farnham Rotary Club and the Eye Academy who have all taken us on as their ‘charity of the year’.

And hot off the press, a massive THANK YOU to Farnham Lions who have made a donation today so that a school-in-need can receive special help from us in the coming academic year, supporting their pupils, their teaching staff and their parents. Thank you Farnham Lions!

Enjoy your weekends everyone, and don’t get too hot


28 June 2019

  1. We’ve learned that our Level 5 and Level 7 students are very clever, very resilient and much more knowledgeable about dyslexia now than they were this time last year, having completed their professional courses with us. All have handed in their assignments and evidence of their course work and now wait with bated breath for the external verifier’s visit in a few weeks’ time. Well done all of you for your hard work through the year, and all your help of local children with dyslexia who have benefited from your teaching practice! You have done us proud!
  1. Places are booking up fast for next year’s courses, which start in September. Five people have applied just this week. We have limited spaces available so please do get in touch asap if you would like to book a place. This is just one of the comments from one of this year’s students:

“The course is so supportive and well organised. This is hands down the best place to complete the Level 5 and I would highly recommend it for anyone thinking of doing the Level 5. Having a tutor group throughout the process is invaluable and aids learning in a way no online course could.”

  1. Our Helen Arkell teachers and assessors learned all about Specialist Vision Assessments from our friends at Eye Academy, who are specialist independent opticians with practices in Banbury, Cobham, Guildford, Windsor, Ferndown, Strood and London. We also learned that Eye Academy have decided to take us on as their chosen charity, so you will soon see our lovely colourful Helen Arkell collecting tins in all their stores. How great is that?!
  1. We joined our patron Princess Beatrice while she was visiting Edinburgh, to launch the Oor Wullie Big Bucket Trail. (We sort of learned what that was all about, but not completely). Her Royal Highness was keen to have us there on the day, both at the Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and also on a section of the trail. We are really lucky to have Princess Beatrice as our patron – she speaks very openly and movingly about her dyslexia and is really inspiring for the children and adults she meets.
  1. When visiting Edinburgh, we were delighted to join up with our friends at Dyslexia Scotland, with whom we have so much in common, with a joint aim of supporting children and adults with dyslexia. We learned what a great charity they are!
  1. Stop Press: Helen Arkell comes to Southwark! We opened for business at our new South London hub in Southwark, where we have joined forces with John Keats School and their colleagues within the Communitas Education Trust. If you live in London and require a dyslexia assessment, just get in touch!
  1. Stop Press Again!: Helen Arkell is also now in Wiltshire! We have now started conducting assessments at our Wiltshire hub. Let us knowif you’d like us to meet you at Sarum College, Salisbury, for an assessment. We’d be delighted to help.
  1. Our monthly Dyslexia Support Group has continued to meet in our hall after work, kindly sponsored by Frensham Village Shop and Farnham Town Council. The latest sessions have been helping parents of children who are struggling with maths (run by our very own Sally), and then we were lucky to have Nessy tell us about their various materials that have been designed to help children to read, write and spell in a fun way. This really helps children with dyslexia.
  1. We met up with John Hicks, celebrated dyslexia blogger, to explore ways of collaborating. John and I both learned that wherever you go for a chat in a pub in London, you will always have a loud speaker right above your head. We also learned that we have a lot in common, and I once trained a dog for someone who John knows. Small world …
  1. Likewise, we met up with our friends at Dyslexia Action to look at ways we could work together. We also learned we have much in common, (but there are no dog connections in this case).
  1. We braved the unpredictable weather at Frensham Fayre to fly the Helen Arkell flag in our local community. We learned that our tent is top quality and resistant to being blown away in strong winds. (Other people were not quite so lucky). We also learned it’s sensible to have two Teddy Games in case Hazel leaves one of them at home in her lounge. Teddy Edward Arkell Bear came out to answer people’s questions, while Hazel and volunteer Katie gave people lots of hugs. (Or maybe that was the other way round).
  1. We learned that the Council for the Registration of Schools Teaching Dyslexic Pupils (CReSTeD), is ‘a very good thing’. (Actually we already knew this). CReSTeD accredits schools and teaching centres for their provision of learning support, and we are delighted to house their administrator, Liz, at our Frensham offices. (Liz doesn’t actually live here, to be clear. She goes home after work. This is in direct contrast to Teddy Edward Arkell Bear who does live here, and shares a room with Tracy).
  1. We learned that the Cavalry & Guards Club is a stunning venue in London, and will be an amazing backdrop for our Dinner for Dyslexia on 1st Come and join us for this very exciting event in our calendar, and play your part in raising much-needed funds so we can help even more people with dyslexia.
  1. We learned about some amazing people with dyslexia, from all different backgrounds, and we were interviewed for a new book which will feature some of their stories. Watch this space as it will be published soon …
  1. We learned that it is good to sometimes get away from the office as a group, to focus on training and future plans. Our Strategy Awayday was only half a mile away, in a room kindly lent to us by our friends at More House School, but it was a great opportunity to work together as a team, with expert input from Isobel and Simon. We have lots of exciting plans in the months and years ahead, all with the aim of helping more people with dyslexia.
  1. At the Awayday we also learned that most people within our team would choose scrambled eggs over fried, but there is a strong undercurrent of momentum towards the poached. In all cases, the most crucial thing is the ketchup.
  1. Probably more importantly than the above, we learned that we have already helped over 100 people with free bursary support this year, with 2 months still to go in our year. This is the equivalent of nearly £50,000 of specialist dyslexia support. And we are determined to help even more people in the coming years.
  1. The above has only been possible because of some amazingly generous supporters – thank youso much for your donations, and for undertaking so many different challenge events in aid of Helen Arkell. And thank you for joining the growing number of Friends of Helen Arkell. Between us we can really do something special.
  1. On that note, we learned that Aston is a complete hero. The fact that he scaled the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains would be remarkable enough – but when you learn that he’s still at primary school, he is simply extraordinary. Just shows what brilliant things you can do if you have dyslexia! Everyone has got different strengths and different abilities. Aston raised over £1,000 for Helen Arkell, as a way of saying thank you for the help he has received. Isn’t that fantastic?!
  1. Finally, we learned that we have brilliant staff and volunteers (we knew this already, of course) because they have all rallied round to take part in Farnham Carnival and run our sweet little stand. If you want to meet the team in person and learn more about our work, come and find us there!

Thank you for all your support

Until next time


20 May 2019

What a heart-warming event that was, in the Helen Arkell calendar. And not just because the sun was shining and we all got hot! The Big Frensham Walk was more than a walk – it was a coming-together of a number of strands within this growing Helen Arkell family of ours.

Leading our intrepid walkers was Alison, who played a major role in organising the route. Alison used to be Shop Manager at Helen Arkell before retiring a couple of years ago, so it was great to have her back in the team now as a volunteer.

Likewise Linda. This time last year Linda happened to drop in on one of our Open Days, to take a trip down memory lane, as she used to work in these very offices 20 years ago. Linda was Administrator for the then Principal, Rosie Wood. Wind forward 12 months, and Linda can now be seen sporting a hi-viz jacket at the Big Frensham Walk as she has become one of our most loyal volunteers. Likewise, Katie, Lorna and trustee Pete who acted as marshals, ensuring that everyone got round the route safely.

As if that weren’t enough, we were bowled over at the help we received from Diane, as a member of staff at the Rowledge branch of Southern Coop, who have taken us on as their Charity of the Year. When companies partner with charities, it’s great to get some hands-on help from members of staff so the organisations really work together side by side and get to know each other while they’re fundraising.

The same goes for our budding relationship with the Worshipful Company of Feltmakers. A fortnight ago, a gang of Feltmakers came down for an induction day with us, having nominated us as their charity; then a week ago we had Feltmaker Jeremy take part in our annual Golf Day; and then this weekend we were joined by Feltmaker Louise who took part in the Big Frensham Walk with us. Absolutely brilliant stuff to work so closely together.

And so it was that over 60 of us set off from our Centre, wending our way through woods, over hills, across streams and passing ancient landmarks before reaching the holy grail that is the selection of Magnums sold in the café by Frensham Little Pond (other ice cream refreshments are available).

Everyone enjoyed themselves, with some choosing the long walk version (about 10k), and others the 6k alternative, before making our way back to the centre where they were plied with well-deserved refreshments, including tea, squash, cakes and lollies from our friends at Rowledge Coop.

Special mention of our brilliant team of staff, led by Hazel, who organised this in the midst of a particularly hectic time in our calendar. Ably assisted by Julie who looked after everyone on their return to the Centre, and Gill, Tory and Katherine who brought friends and family with them on the walk, as did trustees Gary and Pete.

This was a big team effort, which brought in lots of new people who have never visited our little Centre before.

Last but by no means least, what can I say about Vickie? Vickie is a close friend and neighbour of Helen’s. That’s the Helen who set up this charity of ours in 1971. At 98 years old, Helen is no longer able to take part in events like this, and so she asked Vickie to walk the route on her behalf…..and Vickie walked the whole 10k. After finishing her tea and cake, Vickie then set off to visit Helen and show her the photos. So as you can see, Helen still watches closely over this charity that she set up to support people with dyslexia.

And now it’s Monday morning and we have already transformed the Hall in readiness for our next event. Today we are joined by 38 parents of children who have dyslexia, to learn more about how to support them.

Meanwhile, the materials have already been delivered in readiness for Thursday’s excitement, when we have a team of willing volunteers from Lenovo joining us, led by intrepid Kate, who is soon to cycle the Pru Ride London 100 in aid of Helen Arkell. Our Lenovo friends have a full day of painting and tidying ahead of them, to give our Centre a proper Spring Clean.

A quick mention of our friends at John Keats School in Southwark, where we are about to open our new South London hub. It was great to welcome Nick and Steve to us last week to hatch various plans for this exciting collaboration. Likewise thank you Fintan for delivering your sell-out course with us last week, with a packed room of teachers, teaching assistants and other interested parties furthering their continuous professional development with us.

Thank you everybody, for all your help.

Onwards and upwards for the Helen Arkell family!


13 May 2019

I can’t possibly include everything so here are Ten Things That Happened Recently in the World Of Helen Arkell, in the order that they occurred…..:

  1. A few days after writing the last blog, we were delighted to take part in the All Party Parliamentary Group on Dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties, held at the House of Commons. Between us, and a whole host of other organisations and individuals, we are raising awareness at government level of issues associated with dyslexia, and reminding people of the role Helen Arkell has to play.
  2. Later that week, Hazel and I returned to London to support our amazing runners in the Virgin Money London Marathon. Between us we managed to see all our runners on the course and afterwards, who thankfully all completed the 26.2 miles safe and sound. Between them, they have raised over £13,000 for Helen Arkell which is amazing! Take a bow, Kate, Julia, Ed, Michelle, Vicky, Guy and Ben!
  3. Three days later we welcomed our runners, and a whole host of other guests, to a lunchtime reception in the Tithe Barn at Loseley Park, kindly hosted by Michael and Sarah More-Molyneux. This was a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness of our work, in stunning surroundings, and both to thank existing supporters as well as meeting potential new ones.
  4. The following weekend, we were delighted to welcome to our Centre key members of the Worshipful Company of Feltmakers, who have taken us on as their charity. This was an opportunity to induct them into the ‘inner circle’ of the charity’s workings, so that they feel properly part of the Helen Arkell team and can encourage their fellow Feltmakers to get similarly involved. The Feltmakers feel inspired by our mission, to make a difference in the world.
  5. Next stop was Liphook Golf Club where we ran our annual Golf Day in aid of Helen Arkell. The sun shone on a fabulous course, and a great time was had by all. Not only did our players thoroughly enjoy themselves but have also raised over £7,000, with more still to come. Special thanks to Sue and Ewan Stradling for being the masterminds of this particular event, as special volunteers.
  6. You may have noticed on our website recently, that we were advertising for a Communications/PR Assistant. Latest news, hot off the press, is that it looks like we have found ourselves a great addition to the team. More news on that once all has officially been signed and sealed.
  7. Likewise, you may also have seen we were advertising for Specialist Teacher/Assessors, in line with our determination to help more people with dyslexia. Again, I am delighted to report that we had a brilliant response, and as a result we are adding four more specialists to our team.
  8. Today we opened our doors to 38 parents of dyslexic children, for our latest Help Parents course. This course is designed to give parents useful tips and information, to help them support their children. Our mission doesn’t just involve giving direct support to people with dyslexia, but also helping those people around them, whether parents, teachers, workplaces or schools.
  9. Of course it costs us money to provide specialist help to more people with dyslexia, particularly when we are trying to provide more free work to people who are from lower income backgrounds. It has therefore been brilliant to receive news last week that Farnham Rotary are taking us on as their charity of the year from July onwards, and that a very generous grant-making trust, who shall remain nameless, have donated £6,500 to our work this morning. Thank you to our ever-growing list of supporters! It is thanks to you that we are able to help more people with dyslexia.
  10. The Big Frensham Walk is fast approaching, on Sunday 19thMay…..please do come and join us, and get some exercise while raising some funds to help us support more people with dyslexia. See you there!

Onwards and upwards for the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity!


18 April 2019

Things are hotting up, and not just the weather.

The sheep in our surrounding fields have all had their lambs, who are enjoying lots of frolics in the sunshine. Various assorted flies and wasps have started waking up prematurely and are buzzing out of our roof space in the offices, confused into thinking that Summer’s arrived. And it’s going to be a hot sunny Bank Holiday Easter Weekend, which I’m not sure has ever happened before.

Things are hotting up in the world of Helen Arkell too….and they were already pretty hot with the royal visit to our Centre by HRH Princess Beatrice a week last Friday. Our brilliant patron.

For starters, we are now open for business in Wiltshire! Last week we opened our doors to our first clients at Sarum College, Salisbury. So if you can’t easily get to our Surrey centre or our London hub and would find Salisbury more convenient, just give us a call.

Just because it’s the Easter holidays, doesn’t mean that we stop helping people with dyslexia! Our personalised learning sessions have been busy through the holidays, and so have our various courses. Roly came all the way up from Cornwall for our Touch Typing course – now, that’s dedication!

In fact, we’re helping so many people now that you may have seen we’ve been advertising for additional Specialist Teacher/Assessors. The deadline closes tomorrow (Good Friday), so why not throw your hat in the ring, if you meet the criteria and have the right qualifications. We would love to hear from you, whether you are looking for full time, part-time, or just ad hoc work.

We’re also looking to recruit a brand new post of Communications/PR Assistant as we aim to increase awareness of our work. This will be an exciting step for us. The deadline for that post is 29th April, so you have a bit of time to put your application together.

Things are also hotting up for our intrepid marathon runners, with the big date coming around very quickly on 28th April. We’ll be there to cheer you on, on behalf of the whole Helen Arkell family. You are really doing us proud. Please do make a contribution to our runners’ sponsorship totals – all donations go to a very good cause!

Meanwhile we are all set for two big fundraising days in the Helen Arkell calendar. Do you play golf? If so, our Annual Golf Day is for you. Liphook Golf Course is absolutely stunning and is a rare opportunity, if you are a golfer wishing to experience new courses.

Our other event is The Big Frensham Walk, which is also coming up swiftly on the horizon. Heard of Frensham Ponds but never been there? Well, this is your chance. Join in the fun on Sunday 19th May and let’s make it a day to remember!

There’s so much going on, I haven’t really got time to tell you about the visit from Oxford Brookes University this week, or the great meeting with the guys from Farnham Rotary Club. Maybe another time.

In the meantime, have great Easter breaks everyone!

Onwards and upwards!


5 April 2019

Princess Beatrice visits the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity, Frensham

Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice of York came to Frensham on Friday 5th April to meet children with dyslexia who are being supported by the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity, of which she is Patron. She then called in at the home of the charity’s founder and namesake, Helen Arkell, for a special tea party.

Princess Beatrice is passionate about the cause of dyslexia, as she has personal experience of the condition herself. She was delighted to meet children from local schools across Farnham, including Potters Gate C of E Primary School, Hale School, William Cobbett Primary School and Highfield South Farnham, and enjoyed hearing their stories. Above all, she was inspired by hearing how the specialist 1:1 tuition that they have been receiving from the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity has helped them to find new ways forward that work around their dyslexia, and play to their strengths.

“I was so excited to meet a Princess”, said Pearl, 9, who presented Her Royal Highness with a posy of flowers. “She was really nice and told me that my dyslexia means I think differently in a way that can be very useful”.

During her visit, Princess Beatrice also met Matilda, 12, who was at the centre for a specialist tuition session with one of the charity’s tutors, Ginny. Matilda explained how Ginny was helping her to make the most of her different abilities. “We are just looking at how it helps me to draw mind maps, to help me organise my thoughts and ideas better”, said Matilda. “The Princess told me that she finds this useful too, and that she still uses tips that she learnt from her Helen Arkell tutor when she was my age. I told her that I might struggle at some things at school but I’m really good at triathlons. And I like cars. So Princess Beatrice thinks I might be a brilliant racing driver one day!”

After waving goodbye to the children and all the charity’s staff, Her Royal Highness then visited the house of Helen Arkell, aged 98, who founded the dyslexia charity in 1971. Princess Beatrice was able to thank Helen for having done so much for the cause of dyslexia and for establishing the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity.

Helen’s son, David, also joined today’s special tea party, “She [Princess Beatrice] is such an inspiration, and wears her dyslexia with pride – she’s a brilliant ambassador for this charity. My mum was a pioneer in her day, breaking new ground in the field of dyslexia, and setting up this charity to help more people. She is so delighted that the charity is going from strength to strength”.

Photos from the visit can be downloaded here.


Additional information: based in Frensham, on the outskirts of Farnham, Surrey, the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity has been supporting people with dyslexia since 1971. The charity’s mission is to remove barriers to learning and life for people with dyslexia by providing expert, personal and life-changing support. The charity helps over a thousand children, young people and adults each year, as well as giving advice and support to parents of dyslexic children, employers, workplaces, schools and communities. The charity also trains teachers and teaching assistants in the support of dyslexic pupils, leading to Level 5 and 7 qualifications. The charity’s latest drive is to reach out to more people with dyslexia by opening regional hubs in London and Wiltshire, as well as providing increasing levels of free support to people from lower income backgrounds. To donate to the Charity’s work or receive further information, visit www.helenarkell.org.uk call 01252 792400 or email enquiries@helenarkell.org.uk .

29 March 2019

There are 8 things to tell you about this week:

  1. A packed hall full of people enjoyed learning tips for remembering how to spell tricky words at our Saturday Morning Lecture, with Andy Salmon (aka Sir Linkalot). Above all, this was about building people’s confidence. Children and adults all felt confident enough to give it a go, without worrying about making mistakes. It was great to see the progress that was made.
  2. Dyslexic performance artist Becks Turner put on her Melonade Show at the Camden People’s Theatre this week, nominating the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity to receive donations on the night. Thank you Becks – great show!
  3. Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity has come to Wiltshire! We loved meeting everybody at our Information Evening the other evening! We will now be open for businessat Sarum College, Salisbury, booking rooms once a month initially, to provide dyslexia assessments. We will increase our presence as time goes by, depending on the demand for our services from people in the area. This is the next big step for the Helen Arkell charity.
  4. We had an exciting time at the Cyclathon organised by Farnham Rotary. This was the first year we have taken part, and our two teams did amazingly well, coming 3rdand 20th respectively out of 36 teams. More importantly, our intrepid cyclists have raised over £1,000 to help more people with dyslexia. How amazing is that?!
  5. Special mention of the legend that is Rosie Wood, former head honcho at Helen Arkell up until she retired in 2006, who popped in for a coffee with us this week. The team loved meeting her again, and catching up with stories from the earlier days at Helen Arkell. It is thanks to a whole load of people, working so hard over so many years, that this charity is where it is today, and has helped thousands upon thousands of people with dyslexia along the way.
  6. Talking of legends, Linda, Rosie’s former PA, was then with us on Wednesday. Linda retired several years ago, but recently re-joined us as a volunteer. She was kept extremely busy at the RBL Hall, selling our charity goods and raffle tickets at the Village Lunch, which was in aid of Helen Arkell this month. We broke all previous records and raised £159.41!
  7. We were then joined by Alison, former shop manager at Helen Arkell, who is again helping us out post-retirement. In Alison’s case, she has helped us decide the best route for our inaugural Big Frensham Walk. She trialled the route, and took our Hazel and Julie with her. It’s fair to say the pace was a bit brisk for Julie and Hazel’s liking (Alison is a keen rambler), but they still came back with smiles on their faces, sand in their shoes, (and aches and pains in their legs).
  8. So now all you’ve got to do is join us on 19thMay for the Big Frensham Walk itself, which is going to become a big event in the annual calendar. Come on folks: let’s do this!!

Have good weekends everybody, and don’t forget the clocks are changing….


15 March 2019

Wow. What a day it was on Monday. It all started for me at 7am on platform nine and three quarters at Kings Cross Station. Not because I had any particular plans to take the Hogwarts Express but just because I was early for the charity fundraising ‘breakfast event’ that was taking place round the corner. A lack of leaves on the line meant I had time to kill.

Rob Woods of Bright Spot fundraising led proceedings and spoke about the resilience, or grit, you require when trying to raise funds for charity. This rang all sorts of bells for me, partly because resilience is something that is so important to people with dyslexia, and partly because he cited various experiments that had been conducted with dogs to show different ways that animals approach set-backs, either overcoming them or retreating into their shells. As a dog trainer by background myself, this reawakened various dim distant memories. Kim van Niekirk then gave a talk about engaging with ‘major donors’, and particularly sought to bust various myths that exist when it comes to fundraising. All very interesting and useful for a charity like ours which aims to raise funds in order to give away free expert work to people with dyslexia.

Next stop on the Hogwarts Express was Farnham Castle, where we were joined (by video) by our royal patron Princess Beatrice, who welcomed everyone to our Graduation Ceremony. This is the occasion when we celebrate, and congratulate all those dedicated students who passed their Level 5 and Level 7 courses with us last year, learning to provide specialist support to learners with dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties.

The force of nature that is Kate Griggs gave our keynote speech and handed out all the certificates to our graduates and prize winners. Our founder Helen was with us in spirit – sending her son Peter to join us on this occasion. It was a great night for the Helen Arkell community and you can read more details elsewhere in Latest News on our website. Special thanks to our friends at Nessy for sponsoring the event. Thank you!

From there we progressed to our Support Group on Wednesday evening, where Paul Cowell spoke about his experiences of employing and working with people with dyslexia. Paul runs a ‘high end’ landscaping business and is also a trustee of Helen Arkell, as he is so passionate about the positive attributes that people with dyslexia can bring, provided they are given the right support.

On Saturday (tomorrow) we welcome Andy Salmon, aka Sir Linkalot, for our latest Saturday Morning Lecture. This is fully booked so promises to be a good day. The chairs are all set up and the urn is ready for the initial onslaught of teas and coffees. Then first thing on Monday we start our next Parents Course, providing more advice and tips to parents of children with dyslexia.

A couple of other things… we would dearly love you to give us any prizes for the bric a brac stall and raffle at the Frensham Village Lunch on 27 March, where we have been nominated as the benefitting charity. Bottles, toiletries, bottles, chocolates and bottles would all be very warmly received. Did I mention that bottles always go down well?! Please do search your cupboards and see what you can spare.

On another fundraising note (every penny helps us to do more of our work), I’d love it if you would sponsor me to complete the Cyclathon Challenge next weekend. We have two teams entered and we are determined to push through the pain barrier – all we need is your sponsorship to spur us on and make it all worthwhile.

Please add a bit of sponsorship here

So what have hedgehogs got to do with it, I hear you cry? Well, Hedgehogs of Farnham, who do fantastic fundraising for the local community, and never show a prickly side or roll up into balls in your flowerbed, have told us that they intend to make a donation of over a thousand pounds to help us support people with dyslexia. How amazing is that?!! We await precise details, but in the meantime extend a massive thank you to them and all our other donors, who help us to get this job done.

Thank you!

Until next time


15 February 2019

It’s fair to say it’s been another busy and varied week in the life of Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity and I’m just going to sprint through it really quickly as I know everyone’s in a rush to crack on with their half term plans.

The castle in question was Farnham Castle. This is where we will be holding our graduation ceremony next month for all those brilliant, dedicated people who passed their Level 5 and Level 7 courses with us last year. Julie, Yvonne and I crammed ourselves into Yvonne’s mini to go and do a recce of the site, and to pick some delicious nibbles for everyone to enjoy on the day. It’s an amazing venue and we are so grateful to our friends at Nessy for their support of the event as Silver Sponsors. Thank you Nessy!

Next stop for me was St George’s School, where we have a special arrangement whereby two of our staff are based on site at the school, supporting the learners there. It was brilliant to meet up with head teacher Liz, and her deputy Jeremy, as well as Marina as head of learning support.

From there, my travels took me to London, with chair of trustees Gary, for a meeting with the team at EY (Ernst & Young) who have produced a really ground-breaking report looking at the value of dyslexia in the modern workplace. The EY report was masterminded in a collaboration between EY and our colleagues at Made by Dyslexia, led by Kate Griggs. All credit to everyone involved as the report clearly describes how the skills that will be increasingly useful in the modern workplace are closely aligned to the skills possessed by so many people with dyslexia. That is really good news, and equally good news that a company like EY is prepared to shout about it. Kate, by the way, will be our keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony in Farnham Castle.

The next day involved a trip to Oxford to meet with the team at Oxford Brookes Uni, together with trustee Geraldine. Imagine my surprise when I arrived in the psychology department, to immediately bump into Selina, who I used to work with as a dog trainer at Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, and then subsequently at Dogs for Good. “What on earth are you doing here?!” we both said, unoriginally. How crazy is that? Turns out Selina is doing a psychology qualification now, looking at animal assisted therapy, while I’m looking at ways of working with Oxford Brookes psychology department to further our knowledge of dyslexia.

Geraldine and I had a very productive meeting with Vince and his team from Oxford B. Hopefully there will be things we can do together. All very exciting. It was also a slight trip down memory lane for me, as I used to cycle past Oxford Brookes every day on my way to school. Not all pleasant memories, unfortunately, as pupils from Cheney School, which is also located there, used to generally hurl rotten apples and insults as I cycled past, wearing the MCS school blazer.

Then yesterday the excitement continued with a trip up to visit Nick, head teacher at John Keates School in Southwark, who also oversees the Communitas Education Trust, which is an umbrella for four schools in Southwark and Lewisham. It was brilliant to hear Nick’s vision and to explore potential avenues of collaboration. So watch this space on that one…!

All in all, a busy week, but all good!

The dragon’s just arrived (a Hungarian Horntail if I’m not mistaken). Where’s St George when you need him?

Until next time. In the meantime, enjoy your half term breaks if you are taking some time off.


24 January 2019

January’s a weird month, isn’t it? One minute you’re watching the fireworks on telly and grabbing the nearest person for a bit of Auld Lang Syne, the odd determined Christmas tree needle still sticking persistently in your jumper. The next you’re back in the swing of things with New Year just a distant memory. Meanwhile dry January stretches ahead of you like an endless black hole. (Or is that just me?)

During the intervening couple of weeks we have really started 2019 with a bang. Big excitement was to have the privilege of meeting with our patron, Princess Beatrice, in her rooms in Buckingham Palace. We are so lucky that our little charity has a real-life princess for a patron. Not only that, but to have a princess who understands dyslexia so deeply from personal experience and is so determined to push forward the cause of the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity. The requisite suit and tie were dusted off for the occasion. The shoes weren’t particularly shiny but they were at least a matching pair. Unlike the socks (but you have to be realistic in these things). Princess Beatrice is absolutely delightful, and completely down to earth. She was really interested in all our plans for 2019 and is hoping to join us on several occasions throughout the year, leading from the front.

Her next meeting after me was with the organiser of the Education World Forum at which Princess Beatrice is keynote speaker and will talk about her dyslexia. I was introduced to him on my way out, so our charity can now say we rub shoulders with world leaders in the education field. I even wondered if my shoes were slightly shinier than his.

The next excitement to announce is that Helen Arkell is coming to Salisbury! Yes, we are setting up our next regional hub, following on from the success of our first hub in Dulwich, South London. On the afternoon/evening of Weds 20th March we will hold an Information Session from 5-7pm at Sarum College, Salisbury (opposite the Cathedral). Just let us know if you’d like to come along and hear more. Then from April onwards we will have a team based at Sarum College once a month, and will build up as required.

As if that wasn’t enough, we have also learned that the Feltmakers livery company have selected us as their chosen charity, which is amazing news. This week we had a brilliant get-together to plan our activity for the year ahead, and we aim to hold a Dinner for Dyslexia during Dyslexia Awareness Week (first week of October). They are particularly keen to help us to assist more adults with dyslexia in the Greater London area….so that’s what we’ll do!

Other plans for 2019 include the support of more children and adults with dyslexia than ever before, and particularly to help a lot more people who are on lower incomes. The more fundraising we do, the more people we can help. So please do enter a team of four, to take part in the Farnham Cyclathon on Saturday 23rd March in Farnham Maltings.

Or join us for our Golf Day on the superb Liphook Golf course on Friday 10th May. Or else, how about one of our dyslexia-related courses or Saturday Morning Lectures?

Meanwhile, spare a thought for our seven runners in the London Marathon, who have 13 weeks to go till the big day. This week we shine the spotlight on Julia. Please visit her page and make a donation to help her along the way!

Onwards & upwards in 2019!


21 December 2018

I look at my notes and see that it’s been over a month since I wrote anything for the website (and even then it was only some nonsense about fridges), which is awful and I can only apologise!

In my defence, it’s been a crazy busy month, which seems to have flashed by in two seconds flat – a bit like the whole of 2018 to be honest! If time flies when you’re enjoying yourself, then we’ve been having a great time in 2018, and here are just a few of the highlights…

We provided direct support to 1,017 children and adults with dyslexia.

We provided specialist assessments to 893 people, through one of our specialist assessors or educational psychologists. These were a real mixture of all sorts of people, at different stages in life.

We provided specialist coaching or tuition to 124 people with dyslexia.

We provided face-to-face advice, help and teaching to 1,133 parents whose children are or may be on the spectrum for dyslexia or other specific learning difficulties, through consultations, feedback sessions, Parents Courses and our new Dyslexia Support Group.

We provided expert face to face teaching in dyslexia to 50 teachers and teaching assistants, who became qualified to OCR Level 5 or Level 7 this year. They now return to their schools and local communities with the tools to provide better specialist support to pupils with dyslexia.

We opened the first of our regional hubs, and are now ‘open for business’ in Dulwich on Fridays, courtesy of our friends at Bell House, as well as offering our whole range of services from our Frensham centre.

We ran Saturday morning lectures, touch-typing courses, our new ‘Supporting Learners’ course and more besides…we also survived an icy, snowy March and a boiling hot July where the roads melted!

Looking forward to 2019 we have some big plans, particularly with the aim of touching the lives of many more people with dyslexia. As always, our determination is to fulfil the wishes of Helen Arkell herself, who set up this amazing charity in 1971. Helen, who celebrated her 98th birthday this year, is our inspiration. As part of this mission we will be opening another regional hub in 2019 so watch this space. Helen Arkell could be coming to a town near you…

A really big thing for us this year was to give away twice as much free specialist help to people with dyslexia who are on lower incomes. (At the bottom of the page, a note from Jo is just one typical example).

In 2019 we need your help to raise more funds so that we can give support to even more people. In the diary we have 8 runners participating in the London Marathon on 28th April, plus spaces for 60 golfers to take part in our special charity Golf Day on 10th May at Liphook Golf Course.

How about gathering a team of four, to join me in a sponsored Cyclathon in Farnham on 23rd March? It’s a good thing to aim at for your New Year’s Resolution! Just email events@helenarkell.org.uk for more details.

If you would like to join our overall team effort in any way whatsoever, just let us know.

Above all, if you would like to make a valuable contribution, to help us to help another person with dyslexia, please make a donation, large or small. Just drop us a line.

Thank you for all your help and support!

Happy New Year!!


PS Here is a note from Jo:

“My school years were a great struggle, ‘she must try harder’; if she spent less time looking out the window, she might learn something’. We all just accepted that I didn’t have what it takes and we can’t all be good at everything! I left school at 15 with a few CSE’s, but have absolutely no regrets where my life has taken me.

When my youngest son started showing difficulties with learning at a young age, I pushed for an assessment through the school and he was diagnosed dyslexic. I knew he was, I had this ‘gut feeling’. Seeing his struggles, lack of confidence and belief in himself was a mirror image of myself, and that made me start to question: am I dyslexic rather than just not very clever?!

I had attended a course for parents with dyslexic children through Helen Arkell and knew they were the people for me.

I work, but as a single parent, my incomings are low and my outgoings are high. Thankfully the benefits I receive help keep our heads above water. When I contacted the charity and explained my desire to answer my own questions of ability, they were supportive and discussed the bursary option. I wasn’t made to feel embarrassed by this and was able to pay the suggested amount we discussed.

Following on from my assessment I was told I had dyslexia, I cried, tears of relief I think.

On my report, the Helen Arkell assessor concluded that I do have potential to succeed in my chosen academic pursuits. This has been a huge turning point now in my life. I have started a health foundation degree and I’m soon sitting my English and Maths functional skills. This will give me the required entry skills to start my Physiotherapy degree at university!

I’m 47 and it’s never too late! I will have the extra support I need through this study time.

I do struggle with quite often the simplest of tasks, but now I understand why and no longer criticise myself and my abilities. My diagnosis has given me the confidence and belief in myself that I have lacked for many years. Without the Helen Arkell charity and the bursary I wouldn’t be making these changes.”

16 November 2018

Today there’s been a funny smell in the Centre. We quickly tracked this down to the fridge (after all, we’re not complete idiots) but still couldn’t actually pinpoint it. Out came the cans of Fanta left over from the Summer Show back in July. Out came the remainder of the lunch we bought for our friends from Fairley House. Out came the piece of cheese that looked suspicious but didn’t actually smell. Out came Hazel’s pot noodles. But we still couldn’t find it.

Eventually it was Tracy who got to the bottom of it. (That’s the same Tracy who happily told us: “in all my days at Helen Arkell that’s the worst smell I’ve ever experienced”, which is a great quote and should probably feature on our website in the ‘testimonials’ section). Anyway, she identified the smell as being ammonia from the workings of the fridge itself, and all the fridge’s contents were actually red herrings (did I mention that we found a load of red herrings in the fridge?)

So now it’s sorted, the fridge has been evicted using the emergency evacuation procedure, and Black Friday is coming up, so we can get a new one using Amazon Smile, so the charity benefits from the donation. Alternatively, if any kind person out there would make a small donation so we can buy a small new fridge, that would be AMAZING.

In any event, please register with Amazon Smile and click on The Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre as your chosen charity, and we get a small donation every time you buy something – forever, not just during Black Friday and Christmas.

Talking of donations, we received an anonymous donation of £1,000 this week. Thank you so much! This will help us achieve our mission, to reach out to more people with dyslexia this year than ever before. Thank you!!

Apart from sorting out smells, we have also been preparing for the Helen Arkell Saturday Morning Lecture tomorrow morning, with Neil MacKay as our brilliant guest speaker. An amazing 170 people have booked in to hear him speak, so we have been busy getting everything ready for our delegates, with certificates and welcome packs. Julie and Sam have masterminded the whole thing and the rest of us will do what we’re told, like a well-oiled machine. Or a well-oiled fridge.

Our guest speaker at last week’s Support Group was also brilliant. Caroline Bateman guided us through the various types of technology that are available for people with dyslexia and people loved it. It was a really hands-on practical session so we all came away with some great tips. Next month’s session is at 7pm on December 5th with a ‘show and tell’ of various resources that can help people with dyslexia, led by our very own Yvonne and Sam. And we will all enjoy a glass of mulled wine too, no doubt. All welcome!

This has also been a week of linking up with other organisations: CReSTeD on Wednesday (the Council for the Registration of Schools Teaching Dyslexic Pupils); Fairley House yesterday, a specialist school for children with specific learning difficulties, and also Oxford Brookes University.

Meanwhile, our Centre has been buzzing (that wretched fridge again!). We have had a constant flow of people coming through our doors to benefit from our specialist help. And 60 teachers/teaching assistants/interested parties are nearing the end of their first term with us, learning to support pupils with dyslexia. They have reached the stage where they are learning ‘for real’, and are working with various dyslexic pupils in our local schools, under the watchful eye of our tutors. In addition, our latest HELP Parents Course is reaching its conclusion, with Gilly taking the final session next Monday.

So you can see it’s been a busy week….and we have lots more planned between now and Christmas. Watch this space.

Anyone want an old fridge?

Onwards and upwards!


23 October 2018

So much has been going on since I last put finger to keyboard (just the one, of course). I don’t really know where to start.

You’d probably like to hear about the Dyslexia Fair at Bell House, Dulwich. Or that we have now started working from Bell House with a regular fortnightly slot, so people can access our services in South London even if they can’t make it down to Surrey.

Or maybe you’d prefer to hear about all the fun and games during Dyslexia Awareness Week, where we joined our friends at Nessy and the BDA by going green for dyslexia. Hazel and a gang of our staunchest volunteers flooded into Farnham on World Dyslexia Awareness Day (Farnham being the centre of the world, obviously) with collecting tins and leaflets, and we returned at the end of the week to run dyslexia awareness training for local workplaces and businesses, with our Glynis taking centre stage.

Alternatively, you might like me to fill you in on Soraya’s amazing fundraising exploits, raising £825 for Helen Arkell by running the Clarendon Half Marathon, or maybe you’d prefer to hear about Sarah and Pete’s Dinner for Dyslexia which raised £635.

Or the fact that the Downlands Educational Trust donated £60,000 to help us do our work, particularly reaching out to people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to get help with their dyslexia. (How amazing is that??!!!)

But then again, some people might be particularly interested in hearing all about the Global Summit organised by our friends at Made By Dyslexia, where we heard speakers from the Department for Health & Social Care (Matt Hancock MP is dyslexic himself so really ‘gets’ what we’re talking about), the Department for Education, OFSTED, EY, Microsoft, GCHQ, and a number of celebrities who have personal experience of dyslexia, including Richard Branson, Chris Robshaw, Kelly Hoppen, Nick Jones and Maggie Aderin-Pocock.

Meanwhile back at the ranch we have been inundated with applications from people wanting to work for us, as Receptionist. So many, in fact, that we are bound to disappoint a lot of people as we only have one job available – sorry!

But rather than talking about any of the above, I think I’ll just hand you over to some of the people who recently took part in our course, teaching people how to support learners with dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties:

“This was a wonderful course – I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and have been so inspired.”

“It’s a long time since I’ve been in education and this was a blissful experience for me.”

“I loved this course and it was a great insight into SEN learning.”

“I was impressed by all the lecturers, and their commitment to the Helen Arkell approach to helping their learners.”

“Wonderful presentations – thank you!”

“I feel so much more confident. The course has given me an understanding of the real difficulties experienced, and practical strategies, reinforcing a multisensory approach.”

“I love all the practical ideas. Also being able to look at such a variety of ideas/strategies/games which can be adapted to any individual.”

“This has been a great course! I understand a great deal more about dyslexia and other SpLD than I knew before.”

“This course has made me feel much more confident in my role as a Special Needs Assistant and given me new ideas to try – I enjoy my job even more knowing the theory and evidence behind what I practise! Thank you!!”

“Such an informative course.”

Finally, have you booked your slot at our forthcoming Saturday Morning Lecture, at Frensham Heights School on 17 November, where Neil MacKay will be talking?

I look forward to seeing you there!

Onwards & upwards!


14 September 2018

It’s been a week where I have met loads of really interesting people, and expanded my understanding of this field of dyslexia, which is still relatively new to me.

My first trip was to Woking, to visit Jeremy and his team at Notetalker, where they are launching some new technology to help people with dyslexia, pushing back the boundaries in the world of assistive technology. Students with dyslexia will find this particularly useful, as you will see if you visit their website. Jeremy came to speak to all our Helen Arkell specialist teachers earlier in the Summer, so I thought I’d pop over to see his offices in person.

Next stop was Bristol, on a day when the Great British Weather tried to make up for the fact that it’s mainly been dry this year. By the time I arrived at the offices of Nessy, I was like a drowned rat (but without the ratty tail, which was a relief as it would have looked a bit odd walking across Bristol town centre). Mike is the brains, inspiration and force of nature behind Nessy, which is an online tool designed to help children to read, write, spell and type. It helps all children but is particularly great for those who learn differently, like those who have dyslexia.

Mike is particularly passionate about helping people with dyslexia because he is dyslexic himself, and has a fascinating personal story to tell, from failing at school and feeling miserable, to being home-schooled by his mum Pat and ending up as a high-flying lawyer.

Mike then devoted his life to helping others, initially by becoming a specialist teacher, and then by developing the Nessy programme of online materials, in order to potentially reach a lot more children, far and wide. The principle is that if learning is fun and engaging, it’s much more effective. Enter a big boisterous bovine called Silly Bull, who teaches us all about syllables by stamping his feet. Silly Bull is just one of the characters who make all the learning happen in a playful and accessible way.

There’s lots that Helen Arkell and Nessy can do together, so watch this space, and for starters you can Go Green For Dyslexia as part of dyslexia awareness week!

Having dried out nicely at Nessy’s offices, I then got soaked again, crossing to the other side of Bristol to pay a visit to Mike’s mum Pat, and her fantastic Bristol Dyslexia Centre. The Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity and the Bristol Dyslexia Centre share a determination to help people with dyslexia – so it is great that we can compare notes and explore ways that we can potentially work together in different parts of the country.

Pat is an inspiration. Having provided specialist home schooling to Mike, they both then worked together to set up Nessy while also running a busy dyslexia centre and a specialist school too. Centre Manager, Cate, showed me round and explained how they provide assessments and 2:1 tuition to about 500 children a year, and it was fascinating to compare notes. Working in the same field, and sharing the same sorts of values, it is great to work together collaboratively.

Next stop was our own Dyslexia Support Group at our Frensham Centre, where Laxmi from Boyes Turner LLP led a workshop on how parents can get help for their children if they suspect they may have dyslexia. In particular she focussed on how to get an Education, Health and Social Care Plan in place (EHCP), (which used to be known as getting your child ‘statemented’). It’s a tricky process, so Laxmi’s advice and information was really helpful for all of us who attended. She clarified what legal rights you may have, once an EHCP has been put in place, and how to appeal against decisions if you do not believe they are in the best interests of your child. I found it fascinating, and am now going to mug up on Section 36 (8) of the Children and Families Act 2014.

Last, but by no means least, it was absolutely fantastic to visit the guys at the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham, where we have lots of ideas for working together. David, Director of Library & Student Services kindly met me and Hazel despite being slightly the worse for wear after his trip to see Joan Armatrading on the previous night (apparently she was brilliant, and we should all be revisiting Drop the Pilot again, on Spotify). The UCA has a reputation in its field that is second to none, as has the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity, and we’re both in Farnham, so it’s only right that we should hook up together…..watch this space!

All in all, a busy and brilliant week!

Onwards & upwards


31 August 2018

I’ve been lucky enough to work at this charity for ten months now, and I still haven’t got completely used to the fact that we operate on the academic year, rather than the calendar year. That’s probably because I’m not an academic. And it’s been a while since I was at school.

We all recognise that slight chill in the air, the odd heavy dew in the morning, and the Back to School Sale notices in the windows (a slogan which must have been invented by someone who really had it in for schoolchildren, and presumably doesn’t approve of Christmas either). It means autumn is on its way, and for our charity it means that tomorrow is the start of our new year. So, Happy New Year everyone!

As we move from the old year to the new, what better time to have a look forward to what’s in store?

Our main aim is to help more people with dyslexia in this coming year. We want to make it a record and help well over a thousand people with dyslexia, either with 1:1 consultations, assessments or tuition sessions. All with the aim of setting them on a new path that makes the very best of their attributes. And to reassure them that dyslexia doesn’t have to hold you back, and can often be a real advantage once you understand your strengths and weaknesses better.

We also have 60 teachers and teaching assistants champing at the bit to come and join us for their Level 5 and Level 7 Courses in supporting dyslexic pupils. It’s exciting to work with a new cohort of teachers, each of whom could potentially help many hundreds of pupils through the course of their careers.

Not only that, but we aim to reach out to more areas of the UK, starting with our first regional hub in Dulwich, from which we will be offering assessments and some courses too. Our Dulwich hub, in collaboration with the guys at Bell House, is an exciting first step, but there will be many more steps over the course of the next 12 months.

I could also fill you in on our exciting plans for helping more people through our bursary scheme, so we can reach people regardless of their ability to pay, as far as funds allow. This is why we have been so grateful to a variety of generous supporters this year. People like Farnham Lions who sent us a cheque this morning for £1,500 to provide bursary support to dyslexic children in the Farnham area; or the EKCT Trust who gave £1,000 for disadvantaged children with dyslexia in Sussex to receive some free help if they need it. And particularly all those people who have signed up to become Friends of Helen Arkell this year, with donations large and small to help us achieve our charitable aims.

All of the above, and more besides, is summed up in our mission, which is:

(1) to remove barriers to learning and life for people with dyslexia by providing expert, personal and life-changing support;

(2) to deliver our services free of charge to people who could not otherwise afford them wherever possible;

(3) to cover every stage of life;

(4) to encompass not just those with dyslexia but also teachers, parents and the wider community; and

(5) to undertake research in order to advance our Vision and Strategy.

If you would like to do something amazing today, and make a real difference to our ability to help people, please make a donation and we will be eternally grateful.

Other news this week, apart from getting set for a cracking start to the new year:

– our touch-typing course for children aged 10+ has gone really well and has just finished a moment ago. Thank you Roly for leading this course so expertly!

– our team of specialist assessors and educational psychologists have been busy working with children at the Centre….and our behind-the-scenes team have been busy booking slots for more people through September and beyond, both here at the Frensham Centre and at the new Dulwich hub.

– various supporters have started using Amazon Smile to do their internet shopping, and have nominated us to be the charity that gets a donation every time they do so, just by visiting the Amazon Smile website and selecting Helen Arkell.

– we have booked a free dyslexia awareness training session for employers, taking place at Farnham Maltings from 10am – 12pm on Friday 5th October, as part of Dyslexia Awareness Week. Have you confirmed your staff-member’s place yet?

– and talking of Dyslexia Awareness Week – what are YOU going to do to get involved this year and ‘do your bit’? … only 31 days left to make up your mind …

Happy New Year!


23 August 2018

The excitement is building as we prepare to start offering our specialist dyslexia services from our new London base, courtesy of Bell House, Dulwich. If it’s easier for you to find us in South London rather than Surrey, then please do call us and get yourself an appointment. We will have Helen Arkell specialist assessors as well as educational psychologists available on many Fridays from late-September onwards.

Bell House is a special place, and is a charity in its own right. Owners Angus and Fabienne are working hard to restore this unique building to its former glory – a real labour of love. They aim to make the house increasingly available to the local community once all work is complete. The fact that they share our special interest in helping people with dyslexia means that this collaboration between Bell House and Helen Arkell is a match made in heaven.

It was Katherine, Gill, Claire and I who made the trip to Dulwich today, with our various bits and bobs in the boot of the car, including a filing cabinet to house paperwork in the rooms that we will be using for dyslexia assessments. Chloe met us there, from the Bell House team, as we discussed final details. She found time to offer us all an opportunity to ring the actual bell of Bell House, which was very exciting. Claire proved to be a natural (she’s young).

Back at the Centre, this week’s Touch Typing Course for 7-10 year olds continued, with Gemma leading the session with a full complement of youngsters. It’s a real bonus to learn to touch type properly at a young age (something I never did, which is why my two fingers are getting sore now), particularly if you have dyslexia. Next week it’s the turn of children who are aged 10+. During the School holidays we are delighted to run these extra useful courses, and we will also be running them in Dulwich in future, so watch this space…

Of course we must spare a thought today for all those people who got their GCSE results. A stressful day, with highs and lows. Congratulations to everyone who got the results they were hoping for, but to everyone else, remember that there is a lot more to life than exams, and that if you have struggled at school, it doesn’t have to mean that you will struggle in life. There are loads of people who bear testimony to that, Richard Branson being one of them. And remember – we’re here to help at any stage in your lives.

Finally, a big ‘hurrah’! Thanks to those generous people at The Farnham Institute Charity, we have a much-needed new roof over the awning outside our reception (they have also bought us some new chairs, ready for our courses in the hall). Thank you!!

Enjoy your bank holiday weekends!


17 August 2018

It was on this day 98 years ago that our founder Helen was born.

Helen was born in Holland on 17 August 1920. Her father Emil Huitfeldt was in the Norwegian diplomatic service and her English mother Dorothy Latham was born and bred in Frensham, the Surrey village which was eventually to become the home of the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity.

Helen went through her entire childhood and early adult life believing she was stupid. “I was terribly aware of my own inadequacy. When you’re with a group of people who can do things without too much difficulty and you just can’t, the inevitable conclusion is that you’re thick. And when you think you’re stupid it not only affects your school life, your confidence gets a big knock. Since I’ve come to understand dyslexia I’ve felt much the most important thing is not the reading or spelling but the knock to the confidence.”

Not until she was well into her twenties did she become aware that she might be suffering from a condition which at that time was known as word-blindness and is now recognised as dyslexia. The discovery was to change her life in ways she could never have imagined as she struggled through her schooldays. For further details of Helen’s story, read on.

Helen forged different ways forward in life to work around her dyslexia and become an inspirational figure for many who felt the benefit of her support, advice and expertise. Her resilience and determination to push back the boundaries of life are very typical strengths of people with dyslexia. Children who were chronically dyslexic but successful in adulthood give her the credit for changing their lives.

Helen spent many years battling to ensure that dyslexia was taken seriously, by the education authorities in particular and by the public in general. She was a true pioneer and hers is a wonderful story of triumph over adversity. We are indebted to Helen for founding the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity back in 1971, and for setting us up in the right direction, supporting people with dyslexia ever since. You are our inspiration, Helen. Happy Birthday!

Of course this week is one that fills people with dread if they had a difficult time at school. The week when A Level results came out. Then GCSE’s next week. I can feel my heart rate increasing just at the thought. It’s hard to explain to people who are going through the stressful process of finding out their results, good and bad, that actually it’s not the be-all-and-end-all. There is a whole life out there, and it will be your post-school days that will define you as a person in the long run. For those people with dyslexia it may well be that the school years were not plain sailing, and filled you with the same feelings as Helen felt. But you only need to look at her example to see that life is there for the taking, and you can do extraordinary things if you set your heart on it. The trick is to do what you want to do, rather what you think should be expected of you.

If you have chosen to go to university and succeeded in getting a place, that’s great! But if you are worried about it because you have, or think you have dyslexia, then by all means join us for a short session, to help prepare you for learning at university. Just click here for more information.

And if you are relieved to have left full time education, good luck in whatever you choose to do. If you need help from us at any point in the future, through the course of your life, you know where we are.

That’s it for this week, apart from the fact that we were delighted to welcome Arran Smith from Microsoft UK to our Centre on Tuesday, to explain everything that Microsoft is doing to help support people with dyslexia through technology; and we welcomed Linda as a volunteer on Thursday (thank you for your brilliant help, Linda!); and then possibly the biggest news of all, we got a new loo seat on Friday. Real pine so not just any old rubbish. Fitted expertly by maintenance man David, so no wobbling at all. What a week!

Happy Birthday Helen!


  1. Only 45 days till Dyslexia Awareness Week…

3 August 2018

Obviously it’s been hot again, after a brief respite last weekend. Hot enough that when I cycle home, the tarmac will have melted so it feels like cycling through treacle (which I’ve never actually done so I’m just guessing). There have been lots of shorts and t-shirts in evidence this week, which is great. We are not a school, we are a charity, and we want people to feel as comfortable and at-ease as possible.

It makes me and Teddy Edward Arkell Bear smile to think that only a few weeks ago we were manning the phones on a day when snow had stopped play and the roads were closed. Teddy Edward can bearly believe it (do you see what he did there?).

Doors open somewhere around 8.15am so we have everything ready for the first visitors through the doors at 9am. The team takes it in turns to cover the early shift. Our specialist teachers, specialist assessors and educational psychologists like to arrive in good time, so they are fully prepared for their various appointments through the day.

This week we have had a constant flow of people benefitting from 1 to 1 ‘personalised learning sessions’. The summer holidays are a good opportunity to do a bit of catching-up with some special help, before starting the new school year, or maybe moving to a new school. (We also help adults).

This means that the lego in reception has been well used, while people wait for their session to begin. We’ve had a variety of lego ships, lego towers and lego houses built this week, which has been nice for the lego people who live in our Reception.

We’ve had various heart-wrenching stories this week. People who are relying on some help, to try to get a better understanding of their dyslexia. Or indeed to get some confirmation that it is indeed dyslexia or other specific learning difficulties that is a root cause of some of their issues.

We encourage people to let us know if they can’t afford to pay for an assessment or tuition. We then do everything we can to help, and are immensely grateful to those generous funders who make it possible. People like those who donated £10,000 to us this week, who shall remain nameless to spare their blushes. With their help, and the help of others like them, we will be able to provide ‘free work’ to three times as many people next year. So a huge Thank You!

Of course it’s the small things that matter when it comes to raising funds, which is why we’ve joined Amazon Smile. From now on, if you do your Amazon shopping through the www.smile.amazon.co.uk site instead of the main amazon site, the charity will receive a small donation, at no cost to you. Just search for Amazon Smile for details. Thank you for doing this for us; we really appreciate it.

The big news this week is that we are ready to start providing assessments from Dulwich from September onwards, so if it’s more convenient for you to find us there, then just let us know and we’ll book you in. Our new hub will be based at Bell House, Dulwich one day a fortnight. Meanwhile we will also be doing all our normal range of work from Surrey too. Our plan is to open up more regional hubs before long so watch this space…

The day is now almost done. Steve the cleaner is here, which means it’s the end of the working week, and we will be tidied up for more personalised learning sessions on Saturday.

Time to vacate the premises and leave Teddy Edward and the lego people to run riot as they normally do in the evenings.


27 July 2018

What a week it’s been! Hot hot hot! The thing about charities is they don’t have spare cash for the finer things in life. Things like air con for example. We are much more interested in spending our energies and resources on helping people with dyslexia, with a particular determination to raise much-needed donations so we can give away increasing amounts of ‘free work’.

Despite the heat, the Centre has been buzzing. (And that’s not just because of the wasps). We have a constant flow of people coming through our doors in need of help of one sort or another, relating to their dyslexia. Our team of specialist dyslexia assessors and coaches have been kept extremely busy, and we were even joined this week by educational psychologist Gavin, who flew in from Canada to join the team effort.

Monday saw the start of our week-long Professional Summer School, where teachers and learning support assistants joined us to upskill their specialist dyslexia knowledge. Participants came from far and wide for this. Including Slovenia. Such is the worldwide reputation of our little charity. The week flew by and I was delighted to present the certificates to all participants on Friday, at the end of the course.

We’ve also had a lot of fun on the fundraising front. Big ‘thank you’ to volunteer Laura, who helped man our stand at Bourne Show at the weekend. Teddy Edward Arkell Bear had a fun outing, until the wind caught him and he ended up with grass on his head. The perils of being a slightly wobbly bear. He really prefers sitting in our Tracy’s office, where he helps to prepare the accounts and it’s a grass-free environment.

All week we have been following the progress of National Citizens Service Group UO201 who have been undertaking challenges in aid of Helen Arkell, to help more people with dyslexia. They would love it if you would donate to their challenges. The 15k Trek was just one of their events, with a Quiz Night being another highlight. The fact they did the walk in fancy-dress onesies on the hottest day of the year definitely deserves a donation! Thank you guys!!

Other heroes are the people at Waitrose in Farnham, and their lovely customers, who are raising money for Helen Arkell through the Community Matters scheme. There’s still time to pop another token in our box if you’re passing through Waitrose in Farnham before the end of the month…

We are here all through the year, including the summer holiday season, so it can be a good time to book yourself in for some help if you have dyslexia, either with a specialist assessment or a bit of 1 to 1 coaching. Just contact us and we’ll do our best to book you in. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Loads of people have dyslexia, and it can be a really positive advantage in life.

Other news hot off the press, is that we also have slots for doing assessments at Bell House in Dulwich, starting from this autumn, so just let us know if you’d like us to book you in, if it’s easier for you to find us there.

All good stuff!


17 July 2018

Although all weeks are busy weeks when you’re in the business of providing support to over a thousand people with dyslexia a year, and running over four thousand individual one-to-one coaching sessions, the end of the academic year is particularly hectic.

All 50 of our candidates for Level 5 and Level 7 courses have completed their work and celebrated their final day by ceremoniously handing over all their written evidence. This will be checked over by the OCR external verifiers before marks are distributed. We are hugely proud of this cohort of candidates and wish them luck for their grades. All of these people will now be better equipped to support pupils with dyslexia back in their schools and local communities.

Having waved goodbye to our candidates, at least for the summer (some will be returning in September to continue their studies, progressing up the levels), we then welcomed all of our specialist teachers for a day’s continuous professional development. Our first guest speaker was the brilliant Andy Salmon, otherwise known as Sir Linkalot, followed by Laxmi Patel from Boyes Turner solicitors, talking about the EHCP process (putting Education, Health and Care Plans in place). Angela Cairns, from Turning Pages, then gave a presentation on a new, structured and simple way for adults and teenagers to learn to read. Finally Jeremy Brassington spoke about the Notetalker app and software, an all-inclusive productivity tool for making sound and vision notes, which is particularly useful for students with dyslexia.

Once all the talks were over, we moved through to the garden to enjoy a BBQ together, in the bright summer sunshine. Big thanks to our Yvonne for organising the day, which even extended to bringing in all the BBQ food and salads. Unfortunately the CEO burned the sausages but you can’t have everything.

The next excitement was our Summer Open Day, on the following day. Hazel was the brains behind this event, as we opened our doors to people from the local community and from further afield so that they could find out a bit more about our work. It was lovely to meet all our visitors and forge some new links as well as renewing some older links. Thank you for coming and we look forward to seeing you again soon! After the Helen Arkell Open Day, England’s efforts in the World Cup could only be an anti-climax.

The next stop was Appleford School near Salisbury, where we had been invited to participate in their end of year Prize Giving and Speech Day. I was honoured to be invited to speak at their special day and was very touched to be involved. Headmaster David King gave his ‘state of the nation’ address, describing the various amazing activities that have taken place at Appleford this year, not least a school trip to India and a team taking part in the Welsh 3000’s challenge, whereby they conquered 14 of the highest mountains in Wales. This school specialises in the education of children with dyslexia and other related specific learning difficulties, and is particularly keen to prepare these pupils for the wider world, encouraging them to maximise their own potential in whichever way that might be, and to always be confident in their own abilities. A great array of cups and prizes were presented by Mike Osment, mayor of Salisbury, and The Hon John Glen MP.

After a few days of catching up ‘back at the ranch’, where we have a full programme of assessments and tuition taking place at our Centre, our next outing will be to the Bourne Show on Saturday 21st. We will have a stand with information about our work. Teddy Edward Arkell Bear will also be there, playing the teddy game, and we will have various bits and bobs for sale, that are useful for people with dyslexia. So do drop in and see us if you’re passing, and if you might like to join our budding taskforce of volunteers, we would love to hear from you.

All in all, a busy couple of weeks…

Onwards & upwards for everyone in the growing Helen Arkell family!


29 June 2018

Here are just a few snippets of news from our week here at Helen Arkell:

  1. Waitrose in Farnham have selected Helen Arkell to be one of the participating charities in their token scheme – please vote for us!
  1. Frensham Village Stores have donated £700 to us, to help cover the costs of our local Dyslexia Support Group, along with co-sponsors Farnham Town Council. Thank you so much!
  1. Our brand new Helen Arkell charity tent and teardrop flags have arrived – and official mascot Teddy Edward Arkell Bear has been kitted out in his special T Shirt (who could resist his charms??).
  1. We are now ready for the summer show season, and have already enjoyed taking part at Frensham Fayre…..next stop is our very own Summer Open Day on Saturday 7 July. Come and join us and have a look round our Centre.
  1. The main news this week, however, is that all our Level 5 and Level 7 students have completed their ‘Box Days’ whereby they officially hand over all their written work (in boxes), which will be looked over by the OCR verifier in September. Well done to all of you. We are proud of you!!!


PS And another 3 people have signed up to become Friends of Helen Arkell

8 June 2018

Tuesday evening was a cause for great excitement in the camp. Not only did we pile into my old VW and head up to London (hence why everyone arrived coated in dog hair as my car hasn’t met a hoover for a while), but we broke new ground for Helen Arkell in the process.

5th June 2018 will be remembered as the date when Helen Arkell and Bell House first joined forces to help support people with dyslexia in Dulwich and the surrounding areas. Back in the 1970’s Helen Arkell had a London base as well as Dyslexia Support Buses from which specialist help and advice were provided. So Tuesday evening was the first step in Helen Arkell moving back into South London.

The Bell House venue is lovely but the guys who run it are even lovelier still. Angus and Fabienne, aided and abetted by Chloe, have a vision of restoring the house to its former glory whilst also offering it up as an asset for the local community. They also have a very personal interest in dyslexia, hence why they are so keen that Helen Arkell sets up its new London Dyslexia Hub at Bell House.

The evening took the format of a Panel Discussion, with invited guests (a full house) being given the opportunity to ask a variety of questions regarding dyslexia support. The Panel comprised Angus from Bell House, and Katherine and Yvonne as the experts from Helen Arkell, as Head of Assessments and Head of Education respectively. Chloe acted as the official Chair. I was also on the Panel, but mainly so that people could see if I would fall off the high stool, rather than because of any ability to contribute to in depth discussions on dyslexia.

It was a highly engaging session and we met some hugely enthusiastic people. We all agreed that our new Hub will be busy and much-used, so we will now firm up plans for progressing with the next step.

Thank you to Bell House, and watch this space!!


11 May 2018

A quick update today, after returning from our annual Golf Day at Liphook, which was again organised by our staunch volunteers Ewan and Sue Stradling, and this year supported by Silver Sponsors Stevens & Bolton LLP and Bronze Sponsors Herbert Parnell.

Most of all though, it was supported by the 52 players who enjoyed this superb course and battled it out for the Leightons Helen Arkell Challenge Trophy.

The sun shone and everyone was well fed and watered from start to finish. We had such a great time that we have already set the date in the diary for next year, so Friday May 10th 2019 it is!

We were honoured to be joined by our founder Helen’s family, who participated fully and we were all touched when Helen herself joined us by ‘video link’ (or by mobile phone actually), to wish us well, and her son David was able to relay back our best wishes to her in return. At 97, Helen is no longer able to attend in person, but she is still the most important player in our team, as this charity wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her pioneering work setting us up back in 1971.

Gary Hay, our chair of trustees, then presented all the various prizes. Full report to follow, but a quick count up shows that, between us, we raised over £8,000 and still counting… a wonderful day for the whole Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity.

Thank you to Ewan and Sue for all your hard work and thank you to everyone for taking part – we look forward to doing it all again on May 10th 2019!


PS Back at the ranch, we were delighted to welcome Fintan O’Regan back to lead his celebrated course: ‘The Curious Case of ADHD’. Thank you Fintan!

27 April 2018

It all started last Sunday in the blazing temperatures and carnival atmosphere of the London Marathon. The day was tinged with anxiety, as it was clear that many runners were struggling, and ultimately we heard the tragic news of Matt Campbell. So it was a huge relief to see our brave gang of three making it safely home and we are so grateful for all their efforts, raising £5,907.50 so far and still rising!

Three days later we were back in London, but in our glad rags this time, because we were on our best behaviour at the House of Commons. This event was made possible by the fact that Jeremy Hunt, our local MP, kindly booked us a slot in one of the lovely rooms within the House, which can hold 50 guests. So it was that 50 guests came to join us for tea and cakes and we were able to congratulate our runners in person.

Indeed we asked one of our runners to give the main speech. We were all very moved by Hannah’s story about her experience of dyslexia and overcoming her fear to tell everyone that she was dyslexic when she set up her fundraising page for the London Marathon. As Hannah said, “Whilst people with dyslexia struggle in school, they excel in life”, and she is demonstrating that beautifully.

No sooner did we return to base, back in rural Frensham, than we were getting busy for our next event this weekend. Over a hundred teachers and teaching assistants are coming for our Saturday Morning lecture, where Sharon Goldie will be taking the stage. These events not only provide people with ongoing continuous professional development in the field of dyslexia and specific learning difficulties, but they are also a big reunion because many of the delegates have been trained by us here. It will be great!

Then on Sunday we have been invited to be part of a charity event at our local church, St Mary’s in Frensham, so we will be back on our best behaviour again and enjoying the opportunity to talk to more people about the great work we do here.

Thank you for all your interest and support

Onwards and upwards!


23 April 2018

Our runners did us proud at the London Marathon on Sunday and I’m sure you will be relieved to hear that they all completed the course safe and sound.

They will definitely be sore for a few days but have the satisfaction of knowing that they completed one of the biggest challenges there is, on one of the most challenging days in the history of the marathon, in record high temperatures.

Sarah, Hannah and Jude – we salute you and we thank you for everything you have done to further the cause of dyslexia in general and the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity in particular.

And as an added bonus, we know that at least one of our runners featured on the TV coverage, as Hannah’s friends spotted her and managed to take a photo of her on the TV screen!

A round of applause for all our runners! Take a bow, Sarah, Jude and Hannah!!

20 April 2018

What a week! Not only did we launch our Dyslexia Support Group on Wednesday evening but the sun even shone properly for more than a few minutes at a time, which was quite a novelty. Now it will be unbearably hot for our marathon runners. You can’t win, can you?!

We had a great time with our much-awaited Support Group coming to fruition, thanks to some sponsorship from our friends at Farnham Town Council. There was great energy in the room as we brainstormed all the various things we would like the support group to cover over the coming months, including inviting external speakers to come and share their personal experiences of dyslexia as well as providing useful tips on various subjects relating to dyslexia in today’s world. If you would like to be involved in future sessions just let us know and you will be very welcome. Before long we will advertise on our website which topics will be covered on which evenings.

We say a big Thank You to volunteer Laura, who coordinated the whole thing, working around her almost full-time job at Credit Suisse, and also turned up with several bottles of wine to help the evening go with a swing. Thank you Laura!

From one great volunteer we move on to four others – our brilliant London Marathon runners, who have spent so much of their time training in recent weeks but also fundraising too! We are gutted for Nina, who went through all the training but has had to pull out at the last minute through injury. It just wouldn’t have been sensible or viable to put her body through 26.2 miles without causing lasting damage. Such a shame for her when she undertook so many months of training, pounding the streets through the dark winter months. Maybe next year?

So it is Hannah, Jude and Sarah who will be flying the Helen Arkell flag for us on Sunday. Spare a thought for them, because they will need all your positive vibes to keep them going for four, five or possibly six hours, proudly displaying their posh Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity vests.

Please give them a big cheer from the comfort of your garden, as you sit enjoying the sunshine. And please do your bit by adding to their brilliant fundraising efforts.They thoroughly deserve your support. Here are their fundraising pages:

Please sponsor Sarah

Please sponsor Jude

Please sponsor Hannah

Go runners go! Do it for dyslexia! And a massive thank you from all of us for putting yourselves through this challenge for our little charity. See you on Sunday!


29 March 2018

Our centre has been buzzing this week with a constant flow of people coming through our doors for specialist consultations, assessments and 1 to 1 coaching. We were even joined by educational psychologist Gavin who flew into the UK for a few days to help us meet the demand for our services, before then heading back out to his home overseas.

Many people travel to us at our Centre in Frensham, but we are also looking at ways we can help people who live further away. On that note, I was delighted to visit the guys at Bell House this week, to see if we could work with them to support more people from their base in South East London. It’s good when charities work together.

Yesterday’s excitement was in our local village, where we were invited to be the benefitting charity at the Village Lunch in the British Legion Hall. We had a great time and were delighted to be there. We made many friends and sold lots of bits and bobs (all donated to us) for 50p each. This added up to an amazing £136.81 by the time everything was counted up. That’s a lot of 50p’s!

Then today’s big news was that one of our London Marathon runners, Hannah, was successful in gaining sponsorship of £250 from a company called Mazars. Hannah is dyslexic herself, so feels the cause very strongly.

We sent out our monthly e-newsletter this week, so you’ll find lots of other news there. If you don’t receive this currently, and you’d like to know what’s going on (such as our brand new Dyslexia Support Group), just get in touch.

Likewise, if you know of any company, or club who you think might like to raise a few 50p’s for us, to help us provide our services to more people with dyslexia, just let us know.

Happy Easter!


23 March 2018

What a wonderful evening we had a few days ago, in the beautiful surroundings of Farnham Castle, which provided the fitting back drop for the glitz and glamour that is the annual Graduation Ceremony for all recent Helen Arkell graduates from our Level 5 and Level 7 courses in the specialist teaching of learners with dyslexia and specific learning difficulties.

Our graduates took centre stage, and rightly so, but we also took the opportunity to say a big thank you to all their hard working tutors too, who basked in the glory of their brilliant pupils.

The occasion was made all the more special by the fact that everyone was dressed in their glad rags to mark the occasion (it took a while for everyone to recognise each other!). A huge amount of hard work and dedication goes into these course from all parties, and this was the opportunity to relax and recognise the great achievement.

Our graduates come from far and wide, and are now furthering the cause of specialist teaching for people with dyslexia out in their local schools and communities. This is such an important part of this charity’s mission, because it is through these committed and caring teachers that so many more people with dyslexia will receive special personalised teaching from someone who understands their difficulties. They will feel encouraged and supported by these teachers who have such a special interest in adapting their approach to the needs of the individual learner. People think and learn in different ways, and our graduates enjoy helping them to find the way that works best.

Jonathan Hetherington, headmaster of More House School, gave an inspirational keynote speech and was clearly delighted to be part of our Big Day. Links between Helen Arkell and More House School are strong. We really appreciated that Jonathan took time out from his busy schedule to join in the fun.

This was a big team effort, but taking the lead with the organisation for this event were Julie, Sam and Yvonne, who masterminded the whole thing and organised the rest of us within the Helen Arkell team.

Special mention of our volunteer photographer Rob, who made sure that everyone could get a fitting memento from their big day.

On a different note, spare a thought for our four marathon runners who are getting ever closer to the day of the London Marathon itself. I’m sure the date of 22nd April is scaring the living daylights out of them. They are working so hard to gain sponsorship too.

Also spare a thought for Victoria who was due to run the Reading Half Marathon for Helen Arkell, but snow stopped play.

Thank you for everything you are doing to support us in our work.

We really appreciate it.


9 March 2018

This week has been typically busy, with many people coming through our doors for their consultations and specialist assessments, or to take part in the many courses we offer, giving people greater awareness of dyslexia. The hall has been full every day of the week with one group or another, and as I write this, the last participants are just departing from their Supporting Learners Course.

Away from the Centre there has been lots going on too. Yesterday I was delighted to spend the day with Rosemary and Julia, our Specialist Teachers who are in situ at St George’s School, Ascot. Working at a distance from the Centre, they are still very much part of the team.

As regards the wider team of volunteers and supporters, this week we shine the light on four amazing people who, despite the weather, are trudging round their local streets, gritting their teeth through sheer pain, because they are so determined to do us proud in 6 weeks’ time when they will have to put one foot in front of another for the 26.2 miles of the London Marathon. Not only that, but in their spare time they have to do something equally painful, which is to ask their friends, family and work colleagues for money, which is never easy! So please give a big salute to our intrepid and inspiring runners, Jude, Sarah, Hannah and Nina…..and please help them along their way by sponsoring them for £10, which would make you equally amazing! £10 really does make a big difference, and helps us to provide another 1 to 1 session for someone who needs it. Thank you!!

Nina’s story
I’m running the London Marathon in support of Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre hoping that I can raise some money to help supporting those who can’t afford getting help and to raise awareness. It is important to me because I see the battle my 3 dyslexic children fight on a daily basis just getting through the schoolday. Read on…

Hannah’s story
First off, I’m dyslexic and for many years I have been very embarrassed to admit it but now I’m proud of it. Read on…

Sarah’s story
When I was 6 my teacher tapped my bottom because she thought I was not paying attention when I was unable to read to her, at her desk. Read on…

Jude’s story
Helen Arkell is a really important charity providing dyslexia support. Which is particularly close to my heart, as two of my eldest children both suffer from dyslexia to varying degrees. Read on…

2 March 2018

‘At last Spring is here’, we all said, and then look what happened!

There is no doubt that this week has been dominated by the snow. Our hearts go out to all those people, up and down the country, whose lives have been turned upside down by Storm Emma or ‘The Beast from the East’. People’s safety is more important than anything else, so it was with reluctance but in the knowledge we were doing the right thing, that we took the decision to close for business on Thursday and Friday.

With over a thousand appointments booked in a year, it’s no surprise that there was a lot of extra work involved, calling round all the people who were booked in for assessments, coaching or specialist tuition here at the Centre or out and about in the regions. All these appointments will be re-booked of course, as soon as we thaw out.

We were lucky, however, to get some extra help…

Just occasionally in life somebody comes along who is particularly special and has a heart of gold. In this particular case it was a special little bear (or not so little actually, compared with most bears). Teddy Edward Arkell Bear, to be precise. Ted has been an absolute invaluable help this week, manning the phones, franking the post, and making a start on the monthly accounts. He has managed to get into the Centre each day despite the snow, mainly due to his furry feet which have good grip in icy conditions. I particularly appreciated his help as I also managed to make it into the Centre (because of a mountain bike rather than furry feet), and Teddy Edward helped me stuff lots of envelopes, as we prepare for our Springtime events. (Ha! Springtime? What Springtime!) When things get back on an even keel, Ted will return to his normal duties, entertaining the children who come through our doors for help with their dyslexia. Or maybe we’ll just promote him to CEO.

Despite the snow closure, we still managed to put out our monthly e-newsletter. This month, our big headline was Thank you Farnham Town Council! This is because the guys at FTC have chipped in with some sponsorship for us to set up a monthly Dyslexia Support Group. The first of these will take place on the evening of Weds 18 April so do get in touch if you’d like to hear more about it. Likewise, if you’d like to be added to the list to receive the monthly e-newsletter, let us know too, then you won’t miss out on news about events, fundraising and generally what’s going on in the world of Helen Arkell.

Earlier in the week, before the snow fell too thickly here, we were delighted to welcome Dan to see us, who is the head at Edgeborough School just down the road. We’d like to see if there are ways we could work together, as well as with other schools in the area. Then our next visitor was Peter, who is a grandson of our charity’s founder and namesake, Helen Arkell herself. It was great to catch up with Peter and hear about the old days as well as sharing all our (many) plans for taking the charity forward into a future where we aim to help lots more people with dyslexia.

I’d better go now. Teddy Edward Arkell Bear is packaging up the post and it sounds like he needs rescuing from some particularly sticky sellotape.

Stay safe in the snow!


23 February 2018

It’s been another busy week in the life of Helen Arkell. We were delighted to join up with More House School and take part in their Open Day, talking to the 200 prospective parents who came through their doors. Both More House and Helen Arkell are centres of excellence and it’s unusual that we are on each other’s doorstep, making collaboration so easy. A school and a charity can work brilliantly together.

This afternoon’s excitement was to hook up with the guys at Help for Heroes to see if there might be ways we could work together to support people from armed forces backgrounds and their families. Yvonne and I were so impressed by everything at Tedworth House and it was brilliant to catch up with Mark again, one of the prime-movers in the development of H4H. The whole ethos at H4H is fantastic. It’s all about helping the guys in whatever way works best. And at Helen Arkell we will certainly do our bit to help out too, where we can.

Apart from that, it’s been a busy week in all sorts of other ways. Our four marathon runners are training hard and fundraising like mad. Our Charity Golf Day is taking bookings, with six people already having told me they’re signing up just this afternoon. Plus we’re getting ready for our Graduation Ceremony at Farnham Castle which takes place in a few weeks.

Meanwhile our dyslexia specialists have been hard at work, supporting people day in day out. On that note, I’m going to hand you over to Sara, who is going to tell you a bit about her role, to give you an idea of what goes on here. Over to you Sara…

My journey to becoming a dyslexia assessor began when I was a primary school teacher. I was curious as to why some children seemed to struggle so much with literacy when they were verbally able, achieving in other areas of the curriculum and keen to learn. My interest led me to the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre and now my weeks are busy with assessing students at the Centre.

I assess students of all ages, from infant to secondary school and their academic needs vary from support with phonics, writing, spelling, reading, study skills and Access Arrangements for exams. Despite their different ages, many of the students I see have a number of similarities. For example, whether they are 5 or 15, they all want to achieve their potential and it is our role as assessors to help them achieve that.

Whilst students come to us to find out whether they have dyslexia, part of my role is also to give them and their teachers recommendations, based on the findings from the assessment. After a detailed analysis of their literacy skills and assessment of other aspects of learning, such as memory, I am able to put together a detailed profile of each student and this informs the recommendations that I make. These will then help the student to learn effectively.

Parents also play a role in the assessments. Not only is it sometimes their ‘gut instinct’ that led them to us for an assessment but they are also often looking for support. After my conversations with parents during the assessment session, we often finish in the book shop where there are numerous resources and books for them as well as their children. Parents are also interested in the courses that we offer, such as the HELP course and the Revision course for parents who want to learn more about how they can support their children when exams are looming. And also courses, such as touch-typing for children.

By the end of an assessment, the student has an understanding of why they are finding some aspects of school more challenging and what we can do to help them, as well as their areas of strength and how they can use these strengths.

Importantly, they also understand that all our brains work differently and that this is OK.

16 February 2018

This week I have had the pleasure of spending time with two dozen young people who are coming up to their GCSEs. We spent a couple of hours on Tuesday and Wednesday looking deeply into how their brains work best and how to keep them happy during learning, reading, revision and exams.

As is often the case, I learnt a great deal from them whilst guiding them through strategies and techniques. They were positive about sharing ideas that had worked for them in the past, in developing strategies for the future and also about talking through problems they face when learning and trying to remember detailed information across an array of subjects. New to me was the practical dilemma that some students face – that they are not permitted a watch on their desk in exams and must rely upon a wall clock somewhere in the distance across a crowded exam hall! If this is the case in your school or for your child, please consider how you may guide them to keep an eye on passing time and be aware of how to use it effectively under the stress of exam conditions.

We explored many ideas for learning and remembering and keeping that brain happy! At the end of each session we considered the strategies that they found most useful and these fell into 2 main themes.

The first related to how they learn. They felt that school gives them lots of what to learn, but not much time is spent on how to do it. Once this very individual concept of metacognition is understood and explored, the student can develop their own resilience for learning best, no matter what the subject matter may be; Spanish vocabulary, history, learning to drive or quantum physics!

The second related to anxiety and how to keep it at bay. Although it may seem far away right now, the exam season will soon be upon us with all its stresses and worries. Staying organized, communicating across the home and family about how everyone can help to keep things calm, learning to reward for effort and keeping the ‘exam thing’ in its place will help. This is true for everyone, however neurodiverse.

So if you are unsure how to help, take a look elsewhere on our website or give us a call. We try our best to respond to what you want, be you teacher, parent, student, grandparent or neighbour. The truth is that we all have to go through tests, exams, training, CPD, and updates at work whether paid or volunteering. So keeping our brains happy and functioning well is relevant to us all and will help with learning throughout our lives.

Good luck everyone!


2 February 2018

“Excuse me, Gilly, but exactly why were there a group of parents jumping up and down and waving their arms around in the courtyard this morning?”

You may well ask!

The HELP! Parents Course is back in action and after a somewhat harrowing first week when parents got to hear everything there is to know about being dyslexic, we’ve put the tissues away and are now on the up exploring ways of learning and taking time to discover all the strengths our dyslexic children have… and there are many. Kindness seems to be at the top of the list and parents this week shared many examples of their children’s exemplary behaviour, great leadership skills and empathy with others….in today’s world that’s great to hear.

So, why the jumping up and down? Well, we were exploring different ways of learning. Ways that would make learning more fun, more hands on and, most importantly, very memorable. The task set was to learn just three lines of a poem by trying out a different way of memorising to the way we had done it in school. Pictures were drawn, dances made up, actions rehearsed – WHOLE poems were learnt in just 10 minutes – and remembered! And for one father this was a first!! Thank you to everyone who stepped out of their comfort zone and gave it a go….the volume of noise and the giggling were testament to the fun we were having!

This multi-sensory approach is something we teach on all our courses and hug ourselves with glee when, after weeks of encouraging our students to ‘just give it a go’ we hear comments like: ‘It works!’ “We had SO much fun learning this week…’, ‘They remembered my teaching – a breakthrough moment!’

A lovely story from one parent was when she related that after Week 2 of the Parents’ Course she had sat with her daughter who was attempting to write a story for homework. The mum sat and scribed for her daughter writing down on a plan all the ideas that, through discussion, were pouring forth. Once these were down they decided that the story would start with a dramatic chase. The mother, remembering her poem learning experience and keen to give that multisensory ‘thing’ a try, decided that a fast run around the block would give insight to what it felt like to be chased. Puffing and panting sometime later the story was being written. Imagine the father’s amazement, when on returning from work and before he had got in through the door, his I-can’t-write-a-story daughter was thrusting a page of writing at him proudly exclaiming her new found prowess as an author!! Top marks – and thank you for giving it a go!

We hear lots of stories like this and are proud of our parents for giving up six mornings to come and explore the world of dyslexia and learning– mind you, you don’t have to have a dyslexic child to come and join us! If you think your child may be struggling with learning then come and learn about learning with us. Hope to see you. The course takes place termly and details are here

My other Helen Arkell hat is keeping our Facebook and Twitter pages full of interesting, fun, controversial and sometimes thought provoking articles, pictures and news. I feel very strongly that we need to focus on the positive and move away from the doom and gloom that can surround dyslexia. There are some amazing projects taking place out there. Whether it’s a new book, a new resource or a writing competition I’ll find it and share it with you. We are at the forefront of all things dyslexic and like to keep you involved.

To this end I spend time each day sifting through the millions of posts that hit social media second by second, hour by hour, and pick out the best for you. You will have to forgive my dallies into the etymology of words – do you know what an Interrobang is? – quotes from Winnie the Pooh, YouTube clips of people dancing on giant piano keys, the latest news on education from Westminster or stories from those who are “Made by Dyslexia”. I start the day with the ipad and a cup of coffee and may have travelled the world, entered numerous businesses, read articles, checked out many resources, ‘met’ new and interesting people over an hour later. Hope you enjoy what you see! It certainly gets you all talking. So thank you for commenting on the posts and sharing them with your followers!

As our links with you all grow and more and more of you join in the conversation and travel with us on the journey through dyslexia we become a more formidable and knowledgeable family of multi-skilled and talented people. With so much positivity and enthusiasm flowing we will make a difference and stop the historic and dated belief that failure is the destiny for dyslexics.

It’s very exciting.


26 January 2018

This week started off in London, joining up with colleagues from the field of dyslexia to discuss a combined approach for raising awareness of dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties in government circles. Contrary to what you may have heard, charities do work together whenever possible, because we are stronger when we pull in the same direction. Helen Arkell is pleased to play its part and sit at the same table as other organisations in this field.

On returning to our Frensham Centre, there was big excitement, for two reasons. Firstly, it was Day One of our latest HELP Parents Course, where a new group of parents joined us, all with a keen desire to learn more about dyslexia from our expert trainer Gilly. Most of these people will have had a son or daughter diagnosed with dyslexia and will be looking for hints and tips as to how they can support their child more effectively. The room was full to capacity and there was a really positive buzz about the place.

The second reason for all the excitement was that we received a wonderfully generous donation from a supporter who is keen to ‘do their bit’ to make life better for people with dyslexia. I won’t name them, for obvious reasons, but they know who they are, and they know how immensely grateful we are. The more donations we receive as a charity, the more people we can help.

On that note, our doors are open to provide help and support to children and adults with dyslexia in any way we can. We expect to directly help over a thousand people with dyslexia this year, whether through initial assessments or ongoing coaching and tuition. This week has been particularly busy, which is good because it means we are fulfilling our mission in life.

Meanwhile our professional courses are progressing well. Things are hotting up for the students who are nearly half way through their OCR Level 5 and 7 courses. We are delighted to work with local schools in providing our students with real life teaching practice, working with specially identified pupils. In this way we can ‘give back’ to the local community as well as providing specialist dyslexia training to teachers.

Thank you for visiting our website. You will find there’s lots going on, and all sorts of ways in which we may be able to help you, either by providing an assessment or coaching, or enrolling you onto a course that is appropriate for you.

If you would like to get involved and join the Helen Arkell family, we would love to hear from you.

Thank you for all your support!


12 January 2018

Hannah is the Direct Marketing Manager at dennis.co.uk, a company whose vision is to be the most dynamic media company in the UK.

Hannah also happens to be dyslexic.

This is her story, as told to me earlier this week:

For as long as I can remember I have always been trying to hide the fact that I’m dyslexic. I think this is down to being treated as ‘different’ at school; being segregated when doing my exams and the embarrassment that I’ve got a weakness.

This has meant I’ve adapted and come up with my own way of working to try and keep up with everyone and I’ll work for hours on something which should only take a few minutes, to make sure there is no mistake. Whereas some of these are good qualities to have, on the other hand, I’ve been putting up an unnecessary barrier and get really upset when I talk about being dyslexic.

And this is the main reason I want to run the London Marathon on behalf of this charity. I want to get over the embarrassment and show people that I am proud to be different because I am, and how with the right support you can achieve anything. I’ve always believed this and want to inspire people to believe in themselves. I’ve achieved things I never thought would have been possible when I was struggling at school and recently won an industry award for the Subscriptions Team Member of the Year, and I believe this was down to being dyslexic. I’m creative, hardworking, and look and understand the world differently and that’s why I won.

My training is well underway, I was able to do lots of runs over Christmas and have clocked up over 70km in training already.

I’ve never run a marathon before so please help me! This is my fundraising page:


Please help me and donate to a brilliant cause, to help Helen Arkell help someone else like me.



3 January 2018

2017 has been and gone, and Santa has hung up his clogs for another year. Which means that 2018 is here!

The start of a new year always makes you look forward to fresh beginnings, and fresh challenges, especially now that the evenings are already getting a bit lighter. We will be welcoming a new group of parents to start their 6 week course with us in just a couple of weeks’ time. This is already fully booked so we are busy accepting bookings for the next course in April. Likewise, as winter gently moves into Spring we will be welcoming groups of learners through our doors for various other courses: GCSE Study Skills workshops, Supporting Learners with Dyslexia/Specific Learning Difficulties workshop, Saturday Morning Lectures, Touch Typing and more besides.

Already this week we have provided specialist assessments to several children and adults. We expect to help over a thousand people with dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties this year.

Meanwhile our current group of teachers and teaching assistants who are studying with us for OCR Levels 5 and 7 will be heartened by the success of their predecessors from last year’s courses. They will celebrate their graduation at Farnham Castle in March.

On the fundraising front, we are busy working behind the scenes with various events in the pipeline. For our intrepid London Marathon runners, the date of Sunday April 22nd is fixed in their minds as it means they only have 15 weeks left to complete their training. And the last week of that will be spent with their feet up eating pasta! It would really cheer them up if you would boost their spirits with a donation please! I just have, and it only takes a few seconds: Julian’s page is here, where you can also read his story.

And this is Sarah’s page, who is really worried about getting sponsorship, and she is so desperate to help more people with dyslexia. Thank you for any sponsorship you can give, however small.

If you’d like to join me in London to cheer on our runners on April 22nd, just let me know. 26.2 miles is a very long way to run, so we will cheer loudly!

Spring is also going to bring excitement in the form of our Golf Day on Friday 11th May, on the superb Liphook Golf Course. We are now actively accepting entries so please do register with a friend, or indeed three friends if the four of you would like to play together. Just enter here.

As I sit writing this, Gill has just brought me through an application to our bursary fund. It is from an adult who of course will remain nameless. They are desperately wanting some help and support for their dyslexia, in the hope that our expertise can help them to read with their children and ultimately to get into employment. Above all, like most people who come to us, they are severely lacking in confidence and seeking a new way forward in life. This is why we do this work, because we are all committed to helping people like this.

If you believe that 2018 is the year when you will choose to support Helen Arkell in some way, shape or form, we would absolutely love to hear from you.

Happy New Year!


22 December 2017

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! A huge thank you to everyone for all your help this year. As we look forward to 2018, here is a snapshot of 2017 in numbers…

We provided direct support to 1,115 people with dyslexia.

We provided specialist assessments to 953 people, through one of our specialist assessors or educational psychologists.

We provided specialist coaching or tuition to 162 people with dyslexia.

We provided advice, help and teaching to 1,362 parents whose children are or may be on the spectrum for dyslexia or other specific learning difficulties.

We provided expert face to face teaching in dyslexia to 57 teachers and teaching assistants, who became qualified to OCR Level 5 or Level 7 this year.

We held 16 events across the south of England, delivering training directly to 778 teaching staff. We worked with other organisations from the world of dyslexia in delivering this DfE-funded project.

We ran Saturday morning lectures, HELP courses for parents, touch-typing courses, a new ‘Supporting Learners’ course and more besides…

We look forward to 2018 with optimism, as we aim to touch the lives of many more people with dyslexia. As always, our determination is to fulfil the wishes of Helen Arkell herself, who set up this amazing charity in 1971. Helen, now in her 90’s, is our inspiration.

Our big aim in 2018 is to raise more funds so that we can help even more people. In the diary we already have 5 runners participating in the London Marathon on 22nd April , (Sarah needs your help) plus spaces for 60 golfers to take part in our special charity Golf Day on 11th May at Liphook.

If you would like to join our overall team effort, and contribute to the cost of providing help to a child or adult with dyslexia, please donate via the following link:

Thank you for all your help and support!

Happy New Year!!


15 December 2017

This week has been a brilliant mix of Scotland and Surrey, mostly spent in a haze of mulled wine.

Tuesday was about as exciting as it gets. For starters, there was snow on the ground in the run-up to Christmas. And I had a flight up to Edinburgh. And then to cap it all, I was given a nippy little red Fiat 500 as my hire car, to drive to Stirling, which is surrounded by snow-capped hills.

The biggest excitement of all though, was spending the day with the brilliant people at Dyslexia Scotland, and particularly with Cathy, their CEO. Those guys are absolutely amazing, and are doing some really fantastic work north of the border. Cathy and I talked for hours, comparing notes and hatching plans, and I really appreciated the opportunity of learning from somebody who has been in the business for a few years and who heads up a charity to be proud of. Go and check out their website and you’ll see what I mean.

We talked for so long and got so excited that I nearly missed my plane. But fate was on my side, as the flight was delayed due to the challenging weather conditions, so I ended up back in Surrey somewhere around 11pm.

Then it was straight on to the big excitement of our Christmas Drinks on Wednesday. How absolutely lovely to see everyone who managed to drop in and see us! It was excellent to open our doors to the local community, to extend our hospitality and to have the opportunity to explain what we are doing here, supporting over a thousand people with dyslexia every year.

The team pulled together and did us proud. Everyone mucked in to get the hall ready, and Julie and Gill bought all the provisions, which consisted of mulled wine and nibbles (but mostly mulled wine!). Our centre looked so sweet, all decked out with Christmas decorations and subdued lighting.

Our guests went home happy, and so did we, as many of our neighbours have offered their support in some way, shape or form. Five people have already signed up to become Friends of Helen Arkell; four people are keen to enter our annual Golf Day on 11th May 2018; somebody has signed up to participate in our next HELP Parents course which starts in January. And our raffle proved extremely popular, making the princely sum of £120. (The prize was a hamper full of goodies that have all been donated by our staff – how fantastic is that?!)

The final excitement of the week is that our five entrants in the Virgin London Marathon are stepping up their training now, with 18 weeks until the big day. This is a really difficult time of year to undertake the training, with most runs having to take place at the weekend or otherwise with a head torch around dark streets after work. And it’s cold, trudging around in wet winter. To give them encouragement as they all try to overcome this immense challenge, we will put the spotlight on each of them between now and D Day, to help boost their fundraising efforts, and give them some positive reinforcement.

For starters, here is a link to Julian’s story, and I know he would love it if you could help him get closer to his fundraising target. He has dodgy knees so would particularly appreciate any help you can give! https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/julian-keites

Thank you so much for visiting the pages of our website – we are doing great things here, always with the aim of providing help and support to people with dyslexia. If you know of anybody who you think might benefit from our expert help, please do encourage them to give us a call and we’ll see what we can do.

Best wishes


7 December 2017

December is here and we are getting ready to open our doors for Christmas Drinks on the evening of Weds 13th December whilst also thinking ahead to next Spring’s charity Golf Day.

First things first, though. This week began with the final session of our six week course for parents, run by Gilly. It has been wonderful to see this group develop, and their feedback forms have clearly shown how much all the participants appreciated the course. They have learned a lot about dyslexia and also formed friendships with other people ‘in the same boat’. We are hoping to set up a monthly support group soon, so that people can continue to keep in touch, and join the Helen Arkell family for advice and help. Watch this space on that front!

Our next 6 week course for parents starts on 22nd January, and is already booking up fast, but at time of writing there are still some places available. I highly recommend it.

Meanwhile over in Hale School, we were delighted to work with staff and also parents of dyslexic pupils, providing expert advice and support. Our Claire is leading on this special project, which is kindly funded by the Downlands Trust. As well as providing advice to teachers and parents we are also giving special support to some pupils.

Back at our Frensham centre, our team of Helen Arkell specialist assessors and educational psychologists have been busy this week with a steady flow of children and adults booking one-to-one sessions. This year we expect to work with over 1,000 people with dyslexia. I had a very interesting meeting with Peter during the week, one of our long-standing educational psychologists on the team, looking at ways we can further grow our ability to support people with dyslexia, with specialist teachers and educational psychologists working together.

This week has also been busy for all those people who are currently undertaking their Level 5 and Level 7 courses with us, gaining specialist qualifications in dyslexia. They are at the stage where they are practising their skills in real classrooms with real pupils, and we are delighted to work with a number of local schools to achieve this. It also means we can ‘do our bit’ to help pupils in our local area, with some additional specialist support.

I was delighted to meet up with Ewan and Sue in London this week, who are preparing for our annual Golf Day, at Liphook Golf Club. This will take place on Friday May 11th so please do put that date in your diary if you would like an outing on this very special golf course. More about that in due course (no pun intended). Entry forms will be available soon.

While I was in London, I was pleased to also take part in the All Party Parliamentary Group on dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties. This group is an opportunity to engage with decision-makers in parliament, so of course the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity is there.

Next stop for me was Appleford School in Wiltshire. Yvonne and I made the trip to Salisbury, to see if there are ways in which we can work together with this specialist school, supporting more people with dyslexia in that part of the world.

I had better go now – we need to order some mulled wine and canapes ready for our Christmas Drinks next Wednesday evening (13th December). Book your free place here if you’d like to join us. We would love to see you!

Best wishes


24 November 2017

It’s been a week of surprises. I went for tea with a real life princess on Tuesday, at Buckingham Palace.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I haven’t told you about last weekend, when the force of nature that is Dr Susie Nyman inspired all the assembled delegates with her Saturday Morning Lecture on the use of multi-sensory techniques in the classroom. Blimey! If I had had a science teacher like that when I was at school I might not have given it up quite so quickly. As I said to Susie afterwards, the only thing I can remember from many years of trying to learn chemistry is the day back in 1980 when Mr Smith said “now watch the board while I go through it”. Which we all found hilarious.

Susie’s ideas led nicely into Monday, when in the morning our Gilly was explaining the same sort of innovative techniques in her workshops with the parents in her class, and in the afternoon we were visited by David and Carolyn from Appleford School near Salisbury, where they specialise in teaching pupils with dyslexia. So we really are all talking from the same page (or tablet, or whiteboard, or massive sheet of tablecloth paper if you’re Susie).

Then came a slightly surreal day, on Tuesday, when I found myself having tea and a custard cream with Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice at Buckingham Palace. Princess Beatrice is patron of Helen Arkell, and an absolutely brilliant supporter of this charity. As a newbie in the Helen Arkell team it was fantastic to have the opportunity to speak with her, not only about our charity, which is so close to her heart, but also about her own experience of dyslexia, and her ideas. You will be hearing more about these in due course, but I’ve probably said too much already.

After sitting with a princess in an incredible drawing room in Buckingham Palace one day, reality then kicked in with a bump, when my next meeting was in Pizza Express in Farnham. Luckily, the subject matter was fascinating, as we were discussing GDPR legislation, which comes into force next May. Enough said.

Then it was back into London, for a conference on Literacy and Specific Learning Difficulties, organised by our friends at the BDA, where several lecturers were presenting their latest research into this fascinating area. As the new boy at Helen Arkell, it is essential to learn about what’s going on at the cutting edge of research, and also to meet others in the field. I also felt very proud that Helen Arkell is at the heart of what’s going on in the world of dyslexia, and delighted that our little charity is doing its bit.

There have been other peaks of excitement this week, as well as meeting princesses. On Wednesday another person signed up to become a Friend of Helen Arkell (which just involves making a regular donation of any amount, to support our work). And one of our students made a donation of £20 earlier in the week which was really sweet of them.

Meanwhile our hall has been full all week, with people learning about dyslexia, whether they be teachers, teaching assistants, parents or others. A steady number of children and adults have visited us throughout the week, working with our specialist teachers and educational psychologists. And our team of expert tutors and coaches have been out and about working with people with dyslexia, helping them to find a way forward that works best for them as an individual, and gets around some of the barriers that you face when you have dyslexia.

It’s been a varied week, and an absolute privilege to lead the great team effort here at Helen Arkell

I look forward to updating you again next week


PS If you want to become a Friend of Helen Arkell, just click on the button below and select the monthly donation option, choosing any amount you like. We are just delighted that you’re joining the Helen Arkell family. Thank you so much!

17 November 2017

I think there are probably times in every CEO’s life when you have to pretend to be a grown up, and this week has been one of those weeks.

The thing is, it’s budget-setting time, and having come into the charity a month ago, the pressure’s on to get up to speed with everything quickly in order to set plans and budgets for the year, that are meaningful and well thought through. In actual fact I joined the team with two months of the year having already gone and ten months remaining so the pressure’s even more on. And if that makes no sense to you, as you are already thinking about Christmas and today’s Black Friday deals, you have to bear in mind that our annual cycle follows the academic year, and therefore starts in September and ends next August.

Just to complicate things, this is also the time of year when we wrap up all our recording of the last academic year and produce our annual report, which details how things went both operationally and financially. It’s the time when we open our doors to the auditors to have a thorough examination of everything, from which the report will be drawn up, and published. It would be wrong of me to pre-empt their work, but it is already apparent that from an operational perspective, we succeeded in helping over 1,000 people with dyslexia last year, as well as training another cohort of teachers to go back into their schools with additional qualifications for the support of their pupils with dyslexia.

So what does that mean my week actually looked like, you may wonder? Lots of meetings in a pin stripe suit and bowler hat? Well, sort of. Although jeans is fine in my world. (I don’t look good in hats). Monday was all about the finances, in meetings at Cobham motorway services with our treasurer trustee Gary, and Donna our finance bod. (Gary lives in Kent so Cobham is half way from our Surrey centre). Before finalising budgets for this year it’s important to have a good look at how last year went, and draw up plans for the new year accordingly. The main news, however, was that Donna and I had hot chocolate while Gary had a cappuccino and a ham roll.

Tuesday was then all about our fundraising plans, looking at what’s achievable this year. To help us with this, expert Isobel joined Sam and me, to draw up a plan of action that will hopefully ensure that we can help even more people with dyslexia next year. The more money we can raise, the more people we can help. It’s pretty much as simple as that.

Once you have a good idea of the amount of money that is likely to be available, the next step is to get the operational team to set plans for making best possible use of it, to fulfil our charitable mission. Our specialist assessors, dyslexia coaches and expert teachers are headed up by our Yvonne and Katherine who have been working in the field of dyslexia and specific learning requirements for many many years, (although they are both still 21, they tell me). So they know all about making operational plans.

Then yesterday we were ready to put the first draft of the whole plan together, after considering all the things we would need. Our most important resource are our people: all our Helen Arkell specialist assessors, educational psychologists, our coaches and ‘skills-builders’, and professional teachers, because these are the team who will be directly helping, advising and supporting all those people with dyslexia who will come through our doors this year. Coordinating this activity is a big job, ensuring that everything runs smoothly with over 1,000 assessments and coaching sessions taking place. Which is where the back room staff come into their own, quietly and efficiently getting the job done. People like Gill and Claire, Julie and Samantha, Tracy and Donna. And when I say back room staff, I also mean front room staff, as Alice and Sarah man the phones and reception, and act as the first port of call for most of our clients. They also supervise the children when they are playing with the Lego in reception. (They also supervise the CEO when he is playing with the Lego in reception).

It’s a big team effort, and today my senior managers will get together with me, to check that we’ve thought of everything. There will of course be minor tweaks to the plan, but we should be ready to present everything to the board of trustees in ten days’ time. And the various sub committees of the trustees have already been giving valuable and expert input, bringing lots of professional skills from the world of business management, finance and HR, so they have been very much involved.

In between times this week, I’ve managed to sit in on a few lectures on dyslexia, given by our brilliant teachers. On Monday Gilly was teaching all those parents whose children have been found to have a degree of dyslexia. And I managed to catch some of Tory’s lecture to specialist teachers later in the week. She was talking about the extraordinary resilience that is frequently developed by people who live their lives with dyslexia. Resilience to keep finding ways to make progress, even if barriers are put in the way. And resilience is probably one of the biggest assets to have in your toolbox, when making your way through life.

Then just when you thought the week was over, it isn’t. We will reconvene on Saturday, at Weydon School, with over 100 delegates to hear our latest guest speaker, Dr Susie Nyman, talking about how to make learning fun and memorable. And as if that wasn’t exciting enough, our Sharon and Sam (that’s our ‘shop Sam’, as opposed to our ‘fundraising Sam’) will be raffling a brilliant Christmas hamper which is full of all sorts of Christmas goodies that have been kindly donated. So somebody will be going home with a smile on their face.

It’s been a busy week. Let’s reconvene next week, and do it all again!

I look forward to updating you


10 November 2017

As I write this I’m half way through my fourth week at Helen Arkell and have learned lots more about the world of dyslexia and how this charity was set up back in 1971.

It all started on Monday, as all the best weeks tend to do. On this particular Monday I found myself up in London (again). I was with Jilly, the chair of trustees at Helen Arkell who, like all charity trustees, is a volunteer. There were many other things she could have been doing, but instead Jilly took the day off work to kindly accompany me to somewhere near Green Park, where she introduced me to Brendan from the organisation CReSTeD (The Council for the Registration of Schools Teaching Dyslexic Pupils).

Contrary to common belief, many charities work together, and as the new boy at Helen Arkell, it was important for me to meet Brendan who chairs the CReSTeD charity. They effectively accredit schools that make special provision for pupils with dyslexia or other specific learning difficulties. In his day job, Brendan is Headmaster of Ellesmere School in Shropshire, which was the school that first led the way in this field. So I learned much from Brendan about the background of the dyslexia movement in the UK. We will be working together, not least because Helen Arkell houses CReSTeD’s only employee, who coordinates the Register from her office just down the corridor from mine.

On Tuesday the learning curve continued, as I felt greatly honoured to meet with Peter Arkell, whose mum Helen set up the charity in 1970, along with fellow pioneers Elisabeth Waller and Joy Pollock. Peter is passionate about this charity, and not only because it bears the name of his mum, who still lives nearby. Peter reminisced about the history of the charity, and how his mum was determined not just to support people with specialist help but would also address bigger issues such as their confidence. As Helen herself said (and I quote from page 11 of Helen’s inspirational biography The Spellbinder):

“And when you think you’re stupid it not only affects your school life, your confidence gets a big knock. Since I’ve come to understand dyslexia I’ve felt much the most important thing is not the reading or spelling but the knock to the confidence.”

Throughout this week I have kept bumping into people in our team who are dedicated to building people’s confidence. That’s what Glynis does, particularly specialising with helping adults who are knocked because of their dyslexia. She has worked with several people today, either here at the Centre or through skype calls to people living elsewhere across the UK. All with the aim of helping them develop skills for life. And building confidence. Likewise Vicki, Sheila, Claire, Emma and Sara have all been working with children this week, again building confidence and helping people to understand what’s causing some of their difficulties. Above all, understanding that ‘you are not alone’.

It’s a dedicated team and we all have the aim of making life better for people who come through our doors. If you would like to come and meet us, we are holding a Christmas Drinks evening on Wednesday 13 December. All welcome. Just register here. Meanwhile I hope you’ve booked your place for next weekend’s course for teachers of all age-groups and for parents too (18th Nov). I’m really looking forward to it! Just click here for more info.

If you’d like an inspirational read, I recommend you buy a copy of Helen’s biography, The Spellbinder, from our shop. (Only £3.99!). Again I quote:

“The Spellbinder is not only a success story, but one with thousands of happy endings for those who have learned from Helen to cope with their own dyslexia”.

And if you want to know why Helen was known as the Spellbinder, you’ll find out on page 18.

I look forward to updating you again next week


3 November 2017

So there I was, sitting on the train, minding my own business and wondering what we were going to eat for tea, when the lady opposite suddenly said “Excuse me, you’ve just sent me an email.”

‘Oh my goodness,’ I thought (or words to that effect), ‘what have I done?!’ My mind was racing, thinking of how on earth I could have mistakenly blue-toothed an email to a random stranger. I started sweating profusely at the thought of what trade secrets I might have mistakenly given away. And then all became clear.

It transpired that the lady is a friend of ours, and has signed up to receive our monthly newsletters. It just so happened that our October latest issue pinged through on her phone just at the moment that she was sitting on a train opposite a man with a name badge on, declaring himself to be Andy Cook from Helen Arkell. We had a great chat all the way to London, where I heard about her personal interest in dyslexia and by the time we arrived at Waterloo she was even considering doing some fundraising for us. As I sit writing this, I hear that she has completed our application form to run the London Marathon in aid of Helen Arkell. How brilliant is that?!

And in case you’re wondering how we would make use of donations like this, it’s all about enabling people to access our services who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it. Just this week I have received letters from various people, explaining how their dyslexia is holding them back and becoming a big issue in their life. And how our help could make all the difference. This includes adults who are struggling in the workplace as well as children who are inexplicably underperforming at school, and feeling like failures as a result. If you think you could donate even just £10 to help us do this work, it would be amazing.

Another person who contacted me this week after receiving our newsletter is a writer, playwright and poet. She has had her plays performed on stage, and also leads poetry workshops. And she is dyslexic, describing herself as having overcome all sorts of hurdles to get where she is today. There are so many inspirational people with dyslexia – and the great thing is that they are getting in touch with us here at Helen Arkell to see how we can work together to help more people. Between us we can make a difference!

From all the above, you may get the gist that I am absolutely blown away by this charity! What you may not be aware of is that this is only my third week in post, so I have a lot to learn. To that end, as part of my induction, this week I attended our own training course for parents of dyslexic children, run by Gilly who knows exactly what she’s talking about because she has three dyslexic children of her own, and is a qualified tutor. I sat with 50 other parents who have dyslexic children (my stepson is dyslexic and an ‘old boy’ of Helen Arkell), learning more about the condition and practical ways to help. It’s a great opportunity to get people together who share similar experiences, and becomes a sort of ‘support group’ for people as well as teaching them about dyslexia.

The other great thing was that, when chatting to other parents on the course, it was clear that many people would like to join in the overall Helen Arkell team effort, either by volunteering their time, or acting as advocates for us out in their local communities. That’s absolutely brilliant and a great help.

And in case you’re wondering why I was on the train (which you probably weren’t), I was heading to London to attend a meeting of the Council for Disabled Children, of which we are members, working alongside other charities such as Barnardo’s or the National Children’s Bureau. There’s a lot that we can do together.

And so my life at Helen Arkell continues. Next week will be week 4. And before you know it, I won’t be the new boy any more.

I look forward to updating you on how next week goes!


27 October 2017

I’ve just completed my second week in the Helen Arkell team and it’s been quite a learning curve!

As the new kid on the block it was quite daunting to find myself sitting around a table with the combined brains of the country who are leading the way in the field of dyslexia. This was on Wednesday, during my second week at the charity. To my left was Bernadette McLean, former Principal of Helen Arkell, who has contributed so much to the dyslexia movement in the UK in general, and to the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre in particular. Sitting on Bernadette’s other side was Sir Jim Rose, author of ‘The Rose Report’ which is one of the most influential publications on dyslexia that has ever been produced.

As I was introduced to each other member of this committee by turn, it became clear that each is an expert. It was a real honour for me to sit at the same table and ensure that Helen Arkell has a voice at this level, which can potentially influence government thinking.

Of course while I myself may be new to the world of dyslexia, I am fortunate enough to head up a team that is crammed full of experts at many different levels. Not only experts in dyslexia, but also experts at treating people as individuals and helping them to find their own strategies in life, which will help them play to their strengths. My induction has so far included meetings with three educational psychologists, Gavin, Anna and Chris, who are part of our team, and who are called in to work with some individuals, whereas our team of specialist assessors, tutors and adult coaches may be called in to work with others. The golden rule is to bring in the most appropriate person to work with any given individual.

And in case you think that it must be scary to have an appointment with an educational psychologist or specialist assessor, I can assure you that when you see them making cups of ribena for the child with whom they are working (other fruit squashes are available!), or finding them a packet of biscuits, you really see the personal touch in action. Likewise every care is taken to put adults at their ease. Everybody’s aim here is to help people find a way forward in life that plays to their strengths, and being born with a degree of dyslexia should not be a barrier and can often be a positive advantage provided that you get the right help at the right time. (That’s a big proviso).

About 1 in 10 of us has been born with some degree of dyslexia (dyslexia frequently runs in families). This was brought home to me yesterday when I was in a room of 22 extremely senior and respected individuals, ranging from Crown Court Judges to chief executives, from Lieutenant Colonels to academic research scientists. At least three of these people informed me that they had personal experience of dyslexia and they would love to tell the world that dyslexia needn’t hold you back. Really really inspiring!

Meanwhile I’ve booked my place on Dr Susie Nyman’s course on the morning of Saturday 18th November, at Weydon School, Farnham. This is the course for you if you’d like to learn more about dyslexia in a very fun and entertaining way – whether you’re a teacher of any age group, or a parent, or just wanting to hear more about this fascinating subject.

Not only that but it’s a bargain at £25, and I would really love to meet you there!! Come and join in the fun by registering here:

Book Dr Susie Nyman on 18 November at Weydon School

I look forward to updating you on whatever next week has in store for me as my induction continues!


20 October 2017

Wow! What a week this has been! My first week in the team at Helen Arkell and my mind is buzzing!

It all started with the really important things in life, like how to work the dishwasher and where to find the replacement loo rolls. By the end of the day I was so at home I was even trusted with learning the locking-up routine, which felt pretty grown-up. Imagine my excitement when our Julie informed me that I was now officially inducted into the out of hours emergency contact rota, which means that if the alarm goes off at 2am it will be me who sorts it out in my pyjamas?!

I then took part in one of Yvonne’s lessons, in which she is teaching the OCR Level 5 syllabus where teachers and learning assistants gain an in depth understanding of dyslexia. This was a brilliant insight into the nitty-gritty of what we do, and I was bowled over by the feedback from the students who are attending the course, saying what a special place we have here at Helen Arkell, and the ‘personal touch’ that we provide is so appreciated.

The other good thing about working here is that there’s always lego to play with! We keep it in reception for the children and you wouldn’t believe the amazing structures that they build. I am sure we have many budding architects coming through our doors! Our dedicated team of specialist dyslexia assessors and educational psychologists are continually working with a steady flow of children, whose parents are seeking some advice and guidance regarding their children’s progress at school.

And it’s not all about children either. Many adults come here too, seeking help. This week we received a lovely heartfelt note from one such person, thanking us for the sensitive and kind way in which their case had been handled by Hedda in this instance.

Then the excitement went up another notch, as I was allowed out to represent the charity at a meeting with a friendly contact in Farnham. (To be fair, I was accompanied on this occasion by Sam, who is a responsible adult and has worked at the charity for many years and therefore knows what she’s talking about). The meeting went well and could result in some nice donations to our cause. Fingers crossed!

At Helen Arkell we are determined to help more people with dyslexia to get the best out of life, and we can only do it with your help. Please help us to do this life-changing work by making a donation, large or small. You really would make my day! Just click below:

Thank you so much!

I look forward to updating you on life behind the scenes at Helen Arkell as the weeks go by.


By |2024-05-09T14:10:44+01:00August 22nd, 2022|CEO blog|0 Comments


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