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.
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 ev[email protected] 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!
PS. 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:
Waitrose in Farnham have selected Helen Arkell to be one of the participating charities in their token scheme – please vote for us!
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!
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??).
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.
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.
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!!
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…
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.
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!
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:
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.