Holidays…what holidays?

Sometimes people assume we’ll be shut during school holidays, because they see us as being something like a school, but I can assure you that’s not the case. As a charity, we’re here to help people all year round. Often people grab the opportunity during the school holidays to seek out some extra help for their children, or indeed for themselves (we help people of all ages).

So you might be surprised to hear that we’ve been manic busy this week, and will be the same next week too.

All week Giulia has been running Touch Typing courses for children, with 3 courses taking place every day, in our own hall on the 1st floor of our home in Farnham. (If you will use technology to the max in your life, which our guys will, then it’s good to learn to type properly at an early age).

Meanwhile, on the top floor, our 4 consultation rooms have been in constant use all week, for a mix of 1 to 1 assessments, and 1 to 1 specialist tuition and coaching. Normally our specialist teachers tend to work with clients after school or at the weekend, but during the Easter holidays we’ve been offering daytime slots for specialist personalised learning sessions. Ginny, Ceri and Sally have been so busy they’ve hardly drawn breath, with new clients arriving every hour, or every half-hour, for their next session.

Talking of which, the little chap who Ceri has just been working with asked his mum if he could stay and do some more learning with Ceri, even though his time was up. “It’s been brilliant!”, he said, “I’ve really enjoyed myself!”. As they went down the stairs I could hear his mum reply “That’s amazing! You’ve done really well. If only you always enjoyed learning so much.” The thing is, after spending a few sessions with our specialist teachers, we hope that our clients will feel inspired with a new approach to learning, that will spill over into all aspects of their lives, including the classroom. And these are generally individuals who came to us for help because they hated learning, had given up trying and thought they were stupid with no hope.

You can tell we’ve been busy, and also that our clients have been mad-keen to enter into our special world here in 24 West Street, by the fact that the doorbell’s been ringing so frequently and so enthusiastically all week that it broke yesterday. It didn’t break in a subtle ‘silently-not-working’ sort of a way, but rather in an irritating ‘I’m-going-to-get-stuck-and-ring-constantly’ sort of a way. As ever, Julie sorted it out. (She also sorted the boiler, and the sticking window).

Of course, our work doesn’t all happen just here in Farnham. All around the country, all week, clients have received help from our dyslexia specialists in various regional venues across the UK, as well as online video calls. They’ve been busy with consultations for parents, tuition and assessments of all different types. We’ve just started using a second venue in London, which will be exciting. More on that in due course.

Meanwhile we’re on a mission to reach out to more adults too. Dyslexia doesn’t go away just because you get older. There are huge numbers of adults with dyslexia who have never received any help, and many come to us because they are struggling.

Our other big mission is to help more people with dyslexia from lower-income backgrounds, and who are not coping in this cost-of-living crisis. Over the past 7 months we’ve already signed-off bursary funded support to 283 individuals who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to get the life-changing help they so desperately needed. On average each of those individuals has received £596 of support. So, on the plus side, it’s good that, thanks to the generosity of our amazing donors, we’re able to help more people. But on the less positive side, it’s a sign of the times that we are receiving more pleas for help than ever.

Of course, we couldn’t do our work without you. Our supporters are second-to-none, and a growing number are becoming Friends of Helen Arkell, or signing-up to run half marathons or organise bake sales etc.

This Easter, if you fancy joining our big team effort and helping us to change the lives of more people with dyslexia, just let us know.

Happy Easter everyone!

Andy

By |2024-04-24T09:33:26+01:00April 6th, 2023|CEO blog, Homepage featured, Latest news|0 Comments

The trouble with leaving it, is it becomes a nightmare …

One minute I’m busy going about my business, the next I look up and see that well over a month’s gone by since I last wrote a blog. How bad is that?! The trouble with leaving it so long, is that there’s then too much to tell you, I can’t fit it all in, and it becomes a nightmare …

So in this blog, there’s no time to tell you about the cheque presentation of £1,000 from 11-year-old Charlie with his specially painted hen that he sold as part of the Haslemere Hens fundraiser (what an amazing donation!).

Nor can I mention our participation in Farnham’s Literary Festival, as we flung our doors open to the public, to hear our Claire speak about supporting children with dyslexia.

Any passing allusion to our recent Spotlight Session about the EHCP process, given by Rachael Allison, is going to have to be given a miss.

Likewise, our appearances at More House School Open Day, the community event at The Shed, Bordon, and Frensham Village Lunch (including over £200 taken in raffle ticket sales) will have to be left out.

Even a passing mention of our dyslexia training sessions with the General Medical Council and Lily’s Kitchen (part of Nestlé Purina) are going to have to be left on the editor’s cutting room floor.

I’m completely gutted that I won’t be able to tell you about Rachael and Katherine’s trip down to visit our friends at Bristol Dyslexia Centre, who are doing great work. (We meet up from time to time to compare notes, and see if there are ways we can work together. Such a shame that I can’t mention it).

So, the only thing there’s room for, is a quick bit about last weekend’s Dyslexia Show, which is the brainchild of Arran Smith, famous advocate of all things dyslexia and wearer of outrageous shirts.

It was an early start, I’m not going to lie. The alarm went off at 4am, I think. Luckily the car was packed already and ready-to-go, despite there having been an evening Trustees meeting on the night before, followed by a bridge lesson back at our house that finished later than any of us can remember.

Having arrived safely at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC), Birmingham at 7.30am, set up the stand by 8.30am and been joined by grown-ups Rachael and Claire (my senior management team), we were all set to welcome the public at 9.30am which is when the Dyslexia Show officially opened. And boy were we busy! A constant stream of interested parties queued up to talk about their experiences of dyslexia in the family, or in their workplace, and were keen to find out how they could be supported by Helen Arkell.  Lots of teachers and teaching assistants joined us to find out what training they could receive from us, or to re-engage with us having trained with Helen Arkell in the past.

At the end of the day, Rachael and Claire headed back down the motorway to Oxford and Farnham respectively, leaving me to attend the evening events that brought together all the stand-holders. It was good to catch up with all my colleagues in the field – there’s a real sense that we all work together as best we can, with the common aim of helping more people with dyslexia.

The following morning brought big excitement – not just because our Katherine had arrived (it was just the two of us on the stand this time) but also because there was some sort of Comic Book/Super Hero event going on in the next-door hall, which meant there were hundreds of punters in fancy dress. I’ve never seen so many Batmen and Wonder Women, let alone queued up behind them at Costa. A Dalek very politely let me go ahead of him (her?), as they were torn between a latte or a flat white. (Daleks are notoriously indecisive when it comes to coffee. I think it’s because we tend to have more choices than they’re used to).

Meanwhile, back on our stand, we sold out of nearly all our dyslexia resources. By the time we came home, we had sold nearly £2,000 of stock, most of which cost about £5, so you can tell how busy it was.

Of course, the main thing about shows like this, is to raise awareness of dyslexia in general, and to connect with people, making them aware of the services that we could provide to them. Needless to say, we came home with a long list of contacts to follow-up on, which will be brilliant if they come to fruition.

Big thanks to Arran and his team for organising this event. Let’s do it all again next year!

Andy

By |2024-04-24T09:33:27+01:00March 31st, 2023|CEO blog, Homepage featured, Latest news|0 Comments

Farewell Sir Jim

It is with heavy heart that I pass on the sad news of the passing of Sir Jim Rose CBE. This comes as a great blow to the whole dyslexia world, which loses one of its most pioneering, respected and popular figureheads.

Jim’s renowned ‘Rose Report’ of 2006 led to important changes to the way reading was taught in schools, and his definition of dyslexia has been instrumental in enabling countless thousands of children and adults with dyslexia to access the help they need.

Some people leave a lasting mark in their lives, which continues for generations and generations to come, and Jim is one of those people. His dedication in the field of specific learning difficulties was second to none, and so trusted was he by the authorities, that the government of 2009 committed £10 million to the training of 4,000 specialist dyslexia teachers, on the back of one of Jim’s many independent reviews.

Above all, Jim was a lovely, helpful man. A real gentleman. He was a great friend to Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity, as he lived just down the road.

He had already worked closely with several of my predecessors before I joined the charity in 2017. At that time, Jim was chair of the Dyslexia/SpLD Trust, so I had the honour to meet him on several occasions, as I attended on behalf of Helen Arkell. He had a great sense of humour and bottomless patience when explaining the issues surrounding the subject of dyslexia to me as a new boy in the field. He sent me countless links to research papers and articles, to help me settle in, and I was so grateful for that.

The last time I saw Jim was just before Christmas, at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Dyslexia and Other Specific Learning Difficulties. Sadly, this was again on Zoom, which did not give the opportunity for a cup of tea and a catch-up, but he was clearly still deeply committed to the cause of education in general, and dyslexia in particular, right up to the end.

Jim, you will be sorely missed by the whole dyslexia world and by the whole Helen Arkell community. We will do our best to carry on where you left off, and to show the same passion and commitment as you did. You left the world in a much better place for people with dyslexia than when you joined it, and you should be extremely proud of everything you achieved.

Our thoughts, best wishes, and most sincere condolences are with all your family.

Andy

PS A note from Bernadette McLean, former Principal at Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity:

Jim Rose’s passing is a sad loss, not just for his family and friends, but for all who knew him in the world of dyslexia.

His professional accomplishments were many and his influence on policy was instrumental in achieving extra support for pupils and their families.

First and foremost, Jim was an educator embodying all the aspects of good teaching, particularly patience and observation of what works and what doesn’t. These qualities were not confined to the classroom but to the whole of his professional life and these attributes ensured that he and HADC founder, Helen Arkell were kindred spirits.

Retirement did not slow him down. He was busier than ever and involved in a multitude of educational projects. After he suffered a serious car accident some years ago, we shared car journeys to many venues. On these I came to learn of the many interests Jim had well beyond the teaching of literacy; his passions included poetry, music and gardening.

Jim and his late wife, Pauline had moved to Surrey to be closer to their grandchildren who remained an important part of his life. He encouraged his family to call his grandson Ben, a phonic regular word, easy to learn. Always the teacher!

His words and wisdom will endure but he will be missed.

Bernadette McLean

PPS, from Dr Geraldine Price, Trustee of Helen Arkell

Sir Jim Rose: friend and inspiration

Sir Jim Rose was a champion for dyslexia and reading. He was a former head teacher so knew the education system from all levels, warts and all. He was passionate about providing the best and most appropriate education for ALL children. His depth of knowledge and understanding of SEN insured that his voice was heard. He was influential and people in power listened to his words of wisdom. I was privileged to work with Jim when asked to join the government-commissioned committee which looked into the identification and teaching of young people with dyslexia and literacy difficulties. The outcome of this is known as the Rose Report. The committee consisted of different professionals involved in this educational field: all with differing views and different research bases. It is to Jim’s credit and expertise that some consensus was achieved. Indeed, the definition of dyslexia is used widely in schools today as a benchmark in the identification process.

Jim was always down-to-earth and asked incisive questions when the debates within the committee were intense. He made us all sit up and reconsider our ideas. Thus, he helped professionals to look at things differently. He guided us to take practical solutions which were all adopted by the government. He achieved this with his sense of humour and kindness.

He worked tirelessly with many dyslexia charities and educational associations. He was generous with his time with Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity. He will be sorely missed.

Geraldine Price

By |2024-04-24T09:33:57+01:00February 1st, 2023|CEO blog, Homepage featured, Latest news|0 Comments

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