Cookies on Helen Arkell

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on the Helen Arkell website. However, if you would like to, you can change your cookie settings at any time.

CEO's Blog

Andy Cook pic

 

3 July 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you!

Andy


19 June 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andy

 

30 May 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the sunshine, everybody!

Andy

 

22 May 2020

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

Half term!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rachael

 

                                                                   

7 May 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andy

4 May 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s why we love what we do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

24 April 2020

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

16 April 2020

 

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

 

Dear Supporter of the amazing  Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are just five simple steps to take:
 

1.      Dream up your 2.6 challenge – if you need help there are lots of ideas here

2.      Head to twopointsixchallenge.co.uk to donate £26 (or whatever you can afford), to Helen Arkell or to set up a fundraising page and select Helen Arkell as the benefitting charity (VirginMoneyGiving and Justgiving are both set up with Helen Arkell, so take your pick).  
 

3.      Ask all your friends and family to sponsor you and challenge them to do their own 2.6 Challenge

 

4.      Complete your challenge

5.      Share a photo or video of your challenge on social media with #TwoPointSixChallenge


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

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

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

Best wishes
The 2.6 Challenge Team


 

8 April 2020

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…to be continued.

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

Thanks for your help, Fin!  Andy, CEO.

 

3 April 2020

 

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

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

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

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

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

If you like what we do, please donate here

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

  • If you’re a parent, you will find hints and tips for helping your children with dyslexiaADHD and lots more besides.

  • If you want your own individual consultation with one of our experts by phone or video chat, regarding your child, just book yourself in.

  • Likewise if you are an adult with dyslexia, you can arrange a chat with one of our friendly team, who can help with your own specific situation and give you some practical advice.
      

  • Lots of people are wanting 1:1 tuition for their dyslexic children, as they struggle with home-schooling. We can help with that too. As I say, we’ve been helping people with dyslexia since 1971 and we’d love to help you too.

  • In addition, there’s a whole range of other e-learning courses on offer, for members of the public, teachers and classroom assistants …. just browse the pages of our website.

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

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

Thank you for your support of our work,

Andy    

 

23 March

 

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

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

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

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

Andy Cook

 

 

 

23 March 2020

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for anything you can spare

PLEASE DONATE HERE 

 

May 2020

 

 

20 March 2020

Coronavirus and Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity – updated 20 March 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Useful resources:

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

NHS latest advice 

Latest UK government response

 

18 March 2020

Coronavirus and Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity – updated 18 March 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Useful resources:

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

NHS latest advice 

Latest UK government response

 

 

 

7 February 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy your Spring cleaning and your New Year’s resolutions

Andy

 

10 January 2020

New Year, new hub…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andy

 

Christmas and New Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you so much!

Happy Christmas everyone!!

Andy

6 December 2019

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

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

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

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

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

  • 100% of respondents agreed that having a dyslexia assessment helps the person to understand themselves better, including their strengths and weaknesses

  •  Over 90% of respondents reported that the assessment led to improved confidence

  • Over 90% of respondents reported that the assessment led to reduced frustration and anxiety

  • 96% of respondents agreed that having a dyslexia assessment helps you to access further support

  • Over 90% of respondents reported that the assessment led to improved literacy

  • 100% of respondents said they would recommend Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity to a friend

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

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

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

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

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

Andy

CEO’s Blog     23 December 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A one-off donation

or

Become a Friend of Helen Arkell

Thank you so much!

Happy Christmas everyone!!

 

Andy

 

11 October 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andy

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

 

4 October 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andy

 20 September 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andy  

    

29 August 2019

Helen Arkell MBE.   17 August 1920 – 28 August 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

ENDS  

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

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

 

2 August 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yvonne

26 July 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andy

28 June 2019

  1. We’ve learned that our Level 5 and Level 7 students are very clever, very resilient and much more knowledgeable about dyslexia now than they were this time last year, having completed their professional courses with us. All have handed in their assignments and evidence of their course work and now wait with bated breath for the external verifier’s visit in a few weeks’ time. Well done all of you for your hard work through the year, and all your help of local children with dyslexia who have benefited from your teaching practice! You have done us proud!

 

  1. Places are booking up fast for next year’s courses, which start in September. Five people have applied just this week. We have limited spaces available so please do get in touch asap if you would like to book a place. This is just one of the comments from one of this year’s students:

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

 

  1. Our Helen Arkell teachers and assessors learned all about Specialist Vision Assessments from our friends at Eye Academy, who are specialist independent opticians with practices in Banbury, Cobham, Guildford, Windsor, Ferndown, Strood and London. We also learned that Eye Academy have decided to take us on as their chosen charity, so you will soon see our lovely colourful Helen Arkell collecting tins in all their stores. How great is that?!

 

  1. We joined our patron Princess Beatrice while she was visiting Edinburgh, to launch the Oor Wullie Big Bucket Trail. (We sort of  learned what that was all about, but not completely). Her Royal Highness was keen to have us there on the day, both at the Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and also on a section of the trail. We are really lucky to have Princess Beatrice as our patron – she speaks very openly and movingly about her dyslexia and is really inspiring for the children and adults she meets.  

 

  1. When visiting Edinburgh, we were delighted to join up with our friends at Dyslexia Scotland, with whom we have so much in common, with a joint aim of supporting children and adults with dyslexia. We learned what a great charity they are!

 

  1. Stop Press: Helen Arkell comes to Southwark! We opened for business at our new South London hub in Southwark, where we have joined forces with John Keats School and their colleagues within the Communitas Education Trust. If you live in London and require a dyslexia assessment, just get in touch!

 

  1. Stop Press Again!: Helen Arkell is also now in Wiltshire! We have now started conducting assessments at our Wiltshire hub. Let us know if you’d like us to meet you at Sarum College, Salisbury, for an assessment. We’d be delighted to help.

 

  1. Our monthly Dyslexia Support Group has continued to meet in our hall after work, kindly sponsored by Frensham Village Shop and Farnham Town Council. The latest sessions have been helping parents of children who are struggling with maths (run by our very own Sally), and then we were lucky to have Nessy tell us about their various materials that have been designed to help children to read, write and spell in a fun way. This really helps children with dyslexia.

 

  1. We met up with John Hicks, celebrated dyslexia blogger, to explore ways of collaborating. John and I both learned that wherever you go for a chat in a pub in London, you will always have a loud speaker right above your head. We also learned that we have a lot in common, and I once trained a dog for someone who John knows. Small world …

 

  1. Likewise, we met up with our friends at Dyslexia Action to look at ways we could work together. We also learned we have much in common, (but there are no dog connections in this case).

 

  1. We braved the unpredictable weather at Frensham Fayre to fly the Helen Arkell flag in our local community. We learned that our tent is top quality and resistant to being blown away in strong winds. (Other people were not quite so lucky). We also learned it’s sensible to have two Teddy Games in case Hazel leaves one of them at home in her lounge. Teddy Edward Arkell Bear came out to answer people’s questions, while Hazel and volunteer Katie gave people lots of hugs. (Or maybe that was the other way round).

 

  1.  We learned that the Council for the Registration of Schools Teaching Dyslexic Pupils (CReSTeD), is ‘a very good thing’. (Actually we already knew this). CReSTeD accredits schools and teaching centres for their provision of learning support, and we are delighted to house their administrator, Liz, at our Frensham offices. (Liz doesn’t actually live here, to be clear. She goes home after work. This is in direct contrast to Teddy Edward Arkell Bear who does live here, and shares a room with Tracy).

 

  1. We learned that the Cavalry & Guards Club is a stunning venue in London, and will be an amazing backdrop for our Dinner for Dyslexia on 1st October. Come and join us for this very exciting event in our calendar, and play your part in raising much-needed funds so we can help even more people with dyslexia.

 

  1.  We learned about some amazing people with dyslexia, from all different backgrounds, and we were interviewed for a new book which will feature some of their stories. Watch this space as it will be published soon …

 

  1. We learned that it is good to sometimes get away from the office as a group, to focus on training and future plans. Our Strategy Awayday was only half a mile away, in a room kindly lent to us by our friends at More House School, but it was a great opportunity to work together as a team, with expert input from Isobel and Simon. We have lots of exciting plans in the months and years ahead, all with the aim of helping more people with dyslexia.

 

  1. At the Awayday we also learned that most people within our team would choose scrambled eggs over fried, but there is a strong undercurrent of momentum towards the poached. In all cases, the most crucial thing is the ketchup.

 

  1. Probably more importantly than the above, we learned that we have already helped over 100 people with free bursary support this year, with 2 months still to go in our year. This is the equivalent of nearly £50,000 of specialist dyslexia support. And we are determined to help even more people in the coming years.   

 

  1. The above has only been possible because of some amazingly generous supporters – thank you so much for your donations, and for undertaking so many different challenge events in aid of Helen Arkell. And thank you for joining the growing number of Friends of Helen Arkell. Between us we can really do something special.

 

  1. On that note, we learned that Aston is a complete hero. The fact that he scaled the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains would be remarkable enough – but when you learn that he’s still at primary school, he is simply extraordinary. Just shows what brilliant things you can do if you have dyslexia! Everyone has got different strengths and different abilities. Aston raised over £1,000 for Helen Arkell, as a way of saying thank you for the help he has received. Isn’t that fantastic?!

 

  1. Finally, we learned that we have brilliant staff and volunteers (we knew this already, of course) because they have all rallied round to take part in Farnham Carnival and run our sweet little stand. If you want to meet the team in person and learn more about our work, come and find us there!

 

Thank you for all your support

Until next time

Andy

 

20 May 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you everybody, for all your help.

Onwards and upwards for the Helen Arkell family!

Andy

 

13 May 2019

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

  1. A few days after writing the last blog, we were delighted to take part in the All Party Parliamentary Group on Dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties, held at the House of Commons. Between us, and a whole host of other organisations and individuals, we are raising awareness at government level of issues associated with dyslexia, and reminding people of the role Helen Arkell has to play.

  2. Later that week, Hazel and I returned to London to support our amazing runners in the Virgin Money London Marathon. Between us we managed to see all our runners on the course and afterwards, who thankfully all completed the 26.2 miles safe and sound. Between them, they have raised over £13,000 for Helen Arkell which is amazing! Take a bow, Kate, Julia, Ed, Michelle, Vicky, Guy and Ben!

  1. Three days later we welcomed our runners, and a whole host of other guests, to a lunchtime reception in the Tithe Barn at Loseley Park, kindly hosted by Michael and Sarah More-Molyneux. This was a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness of our work, in stunning surroundings, and both to thank existing supporters as well as meeting potential new ones.   

  2.  The following weekend, we were delighted to welcome to our Centre key members of the Worshipful Company of Feltmakers, who have taken us on as their charity. This was an opportunity to induct them into the ‘inner circle’ of the charity’s workings, so that they feel properly part of the Helen Arkell team and can encourage their fellow Feltmakers to get similarly involved. The Feltmakers feel inspired by our mission, to make a difference in the world.

  3. Next stop was Liphook Golf Club where we ran our annual Golf Day in aid of Helen Arkell. The sun shone on a fabulous course, and a great time was had by all. Not only did our players thoroughly enjoy themselves but have also raised over £7,000, with more still to come. Special thanks to Sue and Ewan Stradling for being the masterminds of this particular event, as special volunteers.

  4. You may have noticed on our website recently, that we were advertising for a Communications/PR Assistant. Latest news, hot off the press, is that it looks like we have found ourselves a great addition to the team. More news on that once all has officially been signed and sealed.

  1. Likewise, you may also have seen we were advertising for Specialist Teacher/Assessors, in line with our determination to help more people with dyslexia. Again, I am delighted to report that we had a brilliant response, and as a result we are adding four more specialists to our team.

  2. Today we opened our doors to 38 parents of dyslexic children, for our latest Help Parents course. This course is designed to give parents useful tips and information, to help them support their children. Our mission doesn’t just involve giving direct support to people with dyslexia, but also helping those people around them, whether parents, teachers, workplaces or schools.

  3. Of course it costs us money to provide specialist help to more people with dyslexia, particularly when we are trying to provide more free work to people who are from lower income backgrounds. It has therefore been brilliant to receive news last week that Farnham Rotary are taking us on as their charity of the year from July onwards, and that a very generous grant-making trust, who shall remain nameless, have donated £6,500 to our work this morning. Thank you to our ever-growing list of supporters! It is thanks to you that we are able to help more people with dyslexia.

  4. The Big Frensham Walk is fast approaching, on Sunday 19th May…..please do come and join us, and get some exercise while raising some funds to help us support more people with dyslexia. See you there!

Onwards and upwards for the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity!

Andy

 

 

18 April 2019

Things are hotting up, and not just the weather.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the meantime, have great Easter breaks everyone!

Onwards and upwards!

Andy

 

5 April 2019
 

Princess Beatrice visits the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity, Frensham

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos from the visit can be downloaded here.

ENDS   

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

 

 

29 March 2019

There are 8 things to tell you about this week:

  1. A packed hall full of people enjoyed learning tips for remembering how to spell tricky words at our Saturday Morning Lecture, with Andy Salmon (aka Sir Linkalot). Above all, this was about building people’s confidence. Children and adults all felt confident enough to give it a go, without worrying about making mistakes. It was great to see the progress that was made.

  2. Dyslexic performance artist Becks Turner put on her Melonade Show at the Camden People’s Theatre this week, nominating the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity to receive donations on the night. Thank you Becks – great show!

  3. Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity has come to Wiltshire! We loved meeting everybody at our Information Evening the other evening! We will now be open for business at Sarum College, Salisbury, booking rooms once a month initially, to provide dyslexia assessments. We will increase our presence as time goes by, depending on the demand for our services from people in the area. This is the next big step for the Helen Arkell charity.

  4. We had an exciting time at the Cyclathon organised by Farnham Rotary. This was the first year we have taken part, and our two teams did amazingly well, coming 3rd and 20th respectively out of 36 teams. More importantly, our intrepid cyclists have raised over £1,000 to help more people with dyslexia. How amazing is that?!

  5. Special mention of the legend that is Rosie Wood, former head honcho at Helen Arkell up until she retired in 2006, who popped in for a coffee with us this week. The team loved meeting her again, and catching up with stories from the earlier days at Helen Arkell. It is thanks to a whole load of people, working so hard over so many years, that this charity is where it is today, and has helped thousands upon thousands of people with dyslexia along the way.

  6. Talking of legends, Linda, Rosie’s former PA, was then with us on Wednesday. Linda retired several years ago, but recently re-joined us as a volunteer. She was kept extremely busy at the RBL Hall, selling our charity goods and raffle tickets at the Village Lunch, which was in aid of Helen Arkell this month. We broke all previous records and raised £159.41!

  7. We were then joined by Alison, former shop manager at Helen Arkell, who is again helping us out post-retirement. In Alison’s case, she has helped us decide the best route for our inaugural Big Frensham Walk. She trialled the route, and took our Hazel and Julie with her. It’s fair to say the pace was a bit brisk for Julie and Hazel’s liking (Alison is a keen rambler), but they still came back with smiles on their faces, sand in their shoes, (and aches and pains in their legs).

  8. So now all you’ve got to do is join us on 19th May for the Big Frensham Walk itself, which is going to become a big event in the annual calendar. Come on folks: let’s do this!!

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

Andy

 

15 March 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please add a bit of sponsorship here

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

Thank you!

Until next time

Andy

 

 

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.

Andy

24 January 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Onwards & upwards in 2019!

Andy

 

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 [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!!

Andy

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!

Andy

 

 

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!

Andy

 

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

Andy

 

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.

Make a donation using Virgin Money Giving

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!

Andy

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!

Andy

 

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!

Andy

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.

Andy

 

  

 

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!

Andy

 

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!

Andy

 

 

29 June 2018

 

Here are just a few snippets of news from our week here at Helen Arkell:

 

  1. Waitrose in Farnham have selected Helen Arkell to be one of the participating charities in their token scheme – please vote for us!

 

  1. Frensham Village Stores have donated £700 to us, to help cover the costs of our local Dyslexia Support Group, along with co-sponsors Farnham Town Council. Thank you so much!

 

  1. Our brand new Helen Arkell charity tent and teardrop flags have arrived – and official mascot Teddy Edward Arkell Bear has been kitted out in his special T Shirt (who could resist his charms??).

 

  1. We are now ready for the summer show season, and have already enjoyed taking part at Frensham Fayre…..next stop is our very own Summer Open Day on Saturday 7 July. Come and join us and have a look round our Centre.  

 

  1. The main news this week, however, is that all our Level 5 and Level 7 students have completed their ‘Box Days’ whereby they officially hand over all their written work (in boxes), which will be looked over by the OCR verifier in September. Well done to all of you. We are proud of you!!!

 

Andy

 

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!!

Andy

 

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!

Andy

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!

Andy

 

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!

Andy

 

29 March 2018

Our centre has been buzzing this week with a constant flow of people coming through our doors for specialist consultations, assessments and 1 to 1 coaching. We were even joined by educational psychologist Gavin who flew into the UK for a few days to help us meet the demand for our services, before then heading back out to his home overseas.    

Many people travel to us at our Centre in Frensham, but we are also looking at ways we can help people who live further away. On that note, I was delighted to visit the guys at Bell House this week, to see if we could work with them to support more people from their base in South East London. It’s good when charities work together.

Yesterday’s excitement was in our local village, where we were invited to be the benefitting charity at the Village Lunch in the British Legion Hall. We had a great time and were delighted to be there. We made many friends and sold lots of bits and bobs (all donated to us) for 50p each. This added up to an amazing £136.81 by the time everything was counted up. That’s a lot of 50p’s!

Then today’s big news was that one of our London Marathon runners, Hannah, was successful in gaining sponsorship of £250 from a company called Mazars. Hannah is dyslexic herself, so feels the cause very strongly.

We sent out our monthly e-newsletter this week, so you’ll find lots of other news there. If you don’t receive this currently, and you’d like to know what’s going on (such as our brand new Dyslexia Support Group), just get in touch.

Likewise, if you know of any company, or club who you think might like to raise a few 50p’s for us, to help us provide our services to more people with dyslexia, just let us know.

Happy Easter!

Andy

 

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.

Andy

  

9 March 2018

This week has been typically busy, with many people coming through our doors for their consultations and specialist assessments, or to take part in the many courses we offer, giving people greater awareness of dyslexia. The hall has been full every day of the week with one group or another, and as I write this, the last participants are just departing from their Supporting Learners Course.

Away from the Centre there has been lots going on too. Yesterday I was delighted to spend the day with Rosemary and Julia, our Specialist Teachers who are in situ at St George’s School, Ascot. Working at a distance from the Centre, they are still very much part of the team.

As regards the wider team of volunteers and supporters, this week we shine the light on four amazing people who, despite the weather, are trudging round their local streets, gritting their teeth through sheer pain, because they are so determined to do us proud in 6 weeks’ time when they will have to put one foot in front of another for the 26.2 miles of the London Marathon. Not only that, but in their spare time they have to do something equally painful, which is to ask their friends, family and work colleagues for money, which is never easy! So please give a big salute to our intrepid and inspiring runners, Jude, Sarah, Hannah and Nina…..and please help them along their way by sponsoring them for £10, which would make you equally amazing! £10 really does make a big difference, and helps us to provide another 1 to 1 session for someone who needs it. Thank you!!

Nina’s story
I'm running the London Marathon in support of Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre hoping that I can raise some money to help supporting those who can't afford getting help and to raise awareness. It is important to me because I see the battle my 3 dyslexic children fight on a daily basis just getting through the schoolday. Read on…

Hannah’s story
First off, I’m dyslexic and for many years I have been very embarrassed to admit it but now I’m proud of it. Read on…

Sarah’s story
When I was 6 my teacher tapped my bottom because she thought I was not paying attention when I was unable to read to her, at her desk. Read on…

Jude’s story
Helen Arkell is a really important charity providing dyslexia support. Which is particularly close to my heart, as two of my eldest children both suffer from dyslexia to varying degrees. Read on…

 

 

2 March 2018

‘At last Spring is here’, we all said, and then look what happened!

There is no doubt that this week has been dominated by the snow. Our hearts go out to all those people, up and down the country, whose lives have been turned upside down by Storm Emma or ‘The Beast from the East’. People’s safety is more important than anything else, so it was with reluctance but in the knowledge we were doing the right thing, that we took the decision to close for business on Thursday and Friday.

With over a thousand appointments booked in a year, it’s no surprise that there was a lot of extra work involved, calling round all the people who were booked in for assessments, coaching or specialist tuition here at the Centre or out and about in the regions. All these appointments will be re-booked of course, as soon as we thaw out.

We were lucky, however, to get some extra help…

Just occasionally in life somebody comes along who is particularly special and has a heart of gold. In this particular case it was a special little bear (or not so little actually, compared with most bears). Teddy Edward Arkell Bear, to be precise. Ted has been an absolute invaluable help this week, manning the phones, franking the post, and making a start on the monthly accounts. He has managed to get into the Centre each day despite the snow, mainly due to his furry feet which have good grip in icy conditions. I particularly appreciated his help as I also managed to make it into the Centre (because of a mountain bike rather than furry feet), and Teddy Edward helped me stuff lots of envelopes, as we prepare for our Springtime events. (Ha! Springtime? What Springtime!) When things get back on an even keel, Ted will return to his normal duties, entertaining the children who come through our doors for help with their dyslexia. Or maybe we’ll just promote him to CEO.

Despite the snow closure, we still managed to put out our monthly e-newsletter. This month, our big headline was Thank you Farnham Town Council! This is because the guys at FTC have chipped in with some sponsorship for us to set up a monthly Dyslexia Support Group. The first of these will take place on the evening of Weds 18 April so do get in touch if you’d like to hear more about it. Likewise, if you’d like to be added to the list to receive the monthly e-newsletter, let us know too, then you won’t miss out on news about events, fundraising and generally what’s going on in the world of Helen Arkell.

Earlier in the week, before the snow fell too thickly here, we were delighted to welcome Dan to see us, who is the head at Edgeborough School just down the road. We’d like to see if there are ways we could work together, as well as with other schools in the area. Then our next visitor was Peter, who is a grandson of our charity’s founder and namesake, Helen Arkell herself. It was great to catch up with Peter and hear about the old days as well as sharing all our (many) plans for taking the charity forward into a future where we aim to help lots more people with dyslexia.

I’d better go now. Teddy Edward Arkell Bear is packaging up the post and it sounds like he needs rescuing from some particularly sticky sellotape.

Stay safe in the snow!

Andy

 

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!

Claire

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.

Gilly

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!

Andy

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:

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/HannahManningSwallow

Please help me and donate to a brilliant cause, to help Helen Arkell help someone else like me.

Thanks 

Hannah

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!

Andy  

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:

Make a donation using Virgin Money Giving

 

Thank you for all your help and support!

Happy New Year!!

Andy

15 December 2017

This week has been a brilliant mix of Scotland and Surrey, mostly spent in a haze of mulled wine.

Tuesday was about as exciting as it gets. For starters, there was snow on the ground in the run-up to Christmas. And I had a flight up to Edinburgh. And then to cap it all, I was given a nippy little red Fiat 500 as my hire car, to drive to Stirling, which is surrounded by snow-capped hills.

The biggest excitement of all though, was spending the day with the brilliant people at Dyslexia Scotland, and particularly with Cathy, their CEO.  Those guys are absolutely amazing, and are doing some really fantastic work north of the border. Cathy and I talked for hours, comparing notes and hatching plans, and I really appreciated the opportunity of learning from somebody who has been in the business for a few years and who heads up a charity to be proud of. Go and check out their website and you’ll see what I mean.

We talked for so long and got so excited that I nearly missed my plane. But fate was on my side, as the flight was delayed due to the challenging weather conditions, so I ended up back in Surrey somewhere around 11pm.

Then it was straight on to the big excitement of our Christmas Drinks on Wednesday. How absolutely lovely to see everyone who managed to drop in and see us! It was excellent to open our doors to the local community, to extend our hospitality and to have the opportunity to explain what we are doing here, supporting over a thousand people with dyslexia every year.

The team pulled together and did us proud. Everyone mucked in to get the hall ready, and Julie and Gill bought all the provisions, which consisted of mulled wine and nibbles (but mostly mulled wine!). Our centre looked so sweet, all decked out with Christmas decorations and subdued lighting.

Our guests went home happy, and so did we, as many of our neighbours have offered their support in some way, shape or form. Five people have already signed up to become Friends of Helen Arkell; four people are keen to enter our annual Golf Day on 11th May 2018; somebody has signed up to participate in our next HELP Parents course which starts in January. And our raffle proved extremely popular, making the princely sum of £120. (The prize was a hamper full of goodies that have all been donated by our staff – how fantastic is that?!)

The final excitement of the week is that our five entrants in the Virgin London Marathon are stepping up their training now, with 18 weeks until the big day. This is a really difficult time of year to undertake the training, with most runs having to take place at the weekend or otherwise with a head torch around dark streets after work. And it’s cold, trudging around in wet winter. To give them encouragement as they all try to overcome this immense challenge, we will put the spotlight on each of them between now and D Day, to help boost their fundraising efforts, and give them some positive reinforcement.

For starters, here is a link to Julian’s story, and I know he would love it if you could help him get closer to his fundraising target. He has dodgy knees so would particularly appreciate any help you can give!  https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/julian-keites

Thank you so much for visiting the pages of our website – we are doing great things here, always with the aim of providing help and support to people with dyslexia. If you know of anybody who you think might benefit from our expert help, please do encourage them to give us a call and we’ll see what we can do.

Best wishes

Andy

7 December 2017

December is here and we are getting ready to open our doors for Christmas Drinks on the evening of Weds 13th December whilst also thinking ahead to next Spring’s charity Golf Day.  

First things first, though. This week began with the final session of our six week course for parents, run by Gilly. It has been wonderful to see this group develop, and their feedback forms have clearly shown how much all the participants appreciated the course. They have learned a lot about dyslexia and also formed friendships with other people ‘in the same boat’. We are hoping to set up a monthly support group soon, so that people can continue to keep in touch, and join the Helen Arkell family for advice and help. Watch this space on that front! 

Our next 6 week course for parents starts on 22nd January, and is already booking up fast, but at time of writing there are still some places available. I highly recommend it.  

Meanwhile over in Hale School, we were delighted to work with staff and also parents of dyslexic pupils, providing expert advice and support. Our Claire is leading on this special project, which is kindly funded by the Downlands Trust. As well as providing advice to teachers and parents we are also giving special support to some pupils.

Back at our Frensham centre, our team of Helen Arkell specialist assessors and educational psychologists have been busy this week with a steady flow of children and adults booking one-to-one sessions. This year we expect to work with over 1,000 people with dyslexia. I had a very interesting meeting with Peter during the week, one of our long-standing educational psychologists on the team, looking at ways we can further grow our ability to support people with dyslexia, with specialist teachers and educational psychologists working together.

This week has also been busy for all those people who are currently undertaking their Level 5 and Level 7 courses with us, gaining specialist qualifications in dyslexia. They are at the stage where they are practising their skills in real classrooms with real pupils, and we are delighted to work with a number of local schools to achieve this. It also means we can ‘do our bit’ to help pupils in our local area, with some additional specialist support.  

I was delighted to meet up with Ewan and Sue in London this week, who are preparing for our annual Golf Day, at Liphook Golf Club. This will take place on Friday May 11th so please do put that date in your diary if you would like an outing on this very special golf course. More about that in due course (no pun intended). Entry forms will be available soon.

While I was in London, I was pleased to also take part in the All Party Parliamentary Group on dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties. This group is an opportunity to engage with decision-makers in parliament, so of course the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity is there. 

Next stop for me was Appleford School in Wiltshire. Yvonne and I made the trip to Salisbury, to see if there are ways in which we can work together with this specialist school, supporting more people with dyslexia in that part of the world. 

I had better go now – we need to order some mulled wine and canapes ready for our Christmas Drinks next Wednesday evening (13th December). Book your free place here if you’d like to join us. We would love to see you!

Best wishes

Andy

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

Andy

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!

Make a donation using Virgin Money Giving

 

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

Andy

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

Andy

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!

Andy

Make a donation using Virgin Money Giving

27 October 2017

I’ve just completed my second week in the Helen Arkell team and it’s been quite a learning curve!

As the new kid on the block it was quite daunting to find myself sitting around a table with the combined brains of the country who are leading the way in the field of dyslexia. This was on Wednesday, during my second week at the charity. To my left was Bernadette McLean, former Principal of Helen Arkell, who has contributed so much to the dyslexia movement in the UK in general, and to the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre in particular. Sitting on Bernadette’s other side was Sir Jim Rose, author of ‘The Rose Report’ which is one of the most influential publications on dyslexia that has ever been produced. 

As I was introduced to each other member of this committee by turn, it became clear that each is an expert. It was a real honour for me to sit at the same table and ensure that Helen Arkell has a voice at this level, which can potentially influence government thinking.  

Of course while I myself may be new to the world of dyslexia, I am fortunate enough to head up a team that is crammed full of experts at many different levels. Not only experts in dyslexia, but also experts at treating people as individuals and helping them to find their own strategies in life, which will help them play to their strengths. My induction has so far included meetings with three educational psychologists, Gavin, Anna and Chris, who are part of our team, and who are called in to work with some individuals, whereas our team of specialist assessors, tutors and adult coaches may be called in to work with others. The golden rule is to bring in the most appropriate person to work with any given individual.

And in case you think that it must be scary to have an appointment with an educational psychologist or specialist assessor, I can assure you that when you see them making cups of ribena for the child with whom they are working (other fruit squashes are available!), or finding them a packet of biscuits, you really see the personal touch in action. Likewise every care is taken to put adults at their ease. Everybody’s aim here is to help people find a way forward in life that plays to their strengths, and being born with a degree of dyslexia should not be a barrier and can often be a positive advantage provided that you get the right help at the right time. (That’s a big proviso).

About 1 in 10 of us has been born with some degree of dyslexia (dyslexia frequently runs in families). This was brought home to me yesterday when I was in a room of 22 extremely senior and respected individuals, ranging from Crown Court Judges to chief executives, from Lieutenant Colonels to academic research scientists. At least three of these people informed me that they had personal experience of dyslexia and they would love to tell the world that dyslexia needn’t hold you back. Really really inspiring!

Meanwhile I’ve booked my place on Dr Susie Nyman’s course on the morning of Saturday 18th November, at Weydon School, Farnham. This is the course for you if you’d like to learn more about dyslexia in a very fun and entertaining way – whether you’re a teacher of any age group, or a parent, or just wanting to hear more about this fascinating subject. 

Not only that but it’s a bargain at £25, and I would really love to meet you there!! Come and join in the fun by registering here:

Book Dr Susie Nyman on 18 November at Weydon School

I look forward to updating you on whatever next week has in store for me as my induction continues!

Andy

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:

Make a donation using Virgin Money Giving

Thank you so much!

I look forward to updating you on life behind the scenes at Helen Arkell as the weeks go by.

Andy

 

Website by Dewsign  |  UI Design by Sam Barclay

Registered Charity in England and Wales (1064646) A company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales company number 3432423.