A former pupil of a specialist dyslexia school has paid a visit to his teachers to help celebrate his recent graduation from University - over a decade on from when he first stepped through the doors.
David Johnson was just 11 years old when he started at Maple Hayes School in Lichfield, having just very basic literature skills and a low self esteem due to his difficulties in learning at mainstream school and his battle with dyslexia.
But the 23-year-old said that the opportunity to study at Maple Hayes “transformed his life for the better” and wanted to return to thank headteacher Dr Daryl Brown and his former teachers for giving him the chance in life to reach his full potential.
“Having the opportunity to study here and be taught using their methods was a turning point for me and I’ll be forever grateful for. My first few weeks were very different to anything I had ever experienced and it took me quite a few months to understand the methods they use, such as the icon system and using a fountain pen, because it wasn’t what I was used to. But I soon thrived in my education, writing and confidence, and I’ll be forever grateful,” he said.
Maple Hayes teaches a system called the ‘morphological approach’, which uses a series of icons to make a visual link between meaning and spelling instead of pupils being taught using phonics.
They also believe in using fountain pens, using cursive writing which helps make every letter feel different, and is a form of kinaesthetic learning. A child with dyslexia can learn correct spellings by the individual feel of each letter.
His mum Vicky said seeing David adjust to his new school and improve beyond what she could ever expect, was a turning point for the whole family.
“Prior to coming to this school, David’s mood and learning was deteriorating fast, and he was also being bullied, which as a parent was very difficult to see. I heard about Maple Hayes after asking around for help and so started the process to get him transferred there, and I’m so grateful we managed to. From where he was to what he has become, is immense and I’m so proud of him,” she added.
The family travelled every day from their home in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, to the school, which was a 127 mile round trip.
“It’s been quite a journey but I’m forever grateful. Because of the confidence I gained at Maple Hayes, I’ve been able to explore other hobbies and interests, such as sailing, public debate and have even achieved my Gold Duke of Edinburgh award. People even comment on my neat handwriting, which considering how poor it was when I arrived here, is fantastic. This is all from what I learnt at school and it’s second nature to me now,” David said.
Upon leaving Maple Hayes as a prefect, David went onto study his A Levels at St David’s College in Llandudno before starting a BA in Product Design at De Montfort University, Leicester.
He graduated with an upper second class honours degree and has now started his Masters.
“I always had a fascination with art and drawing and being creative. Maple Hayes let me have that opportunity to go a bit further with that and my art teacher here pushed me to try new things and become experimental - and gain confidence in myself. So to now be studying this at university is fantastic and I’m so grateful to everyone for their support,” said David.
David took along some of his degree work to show Dr Brown on his visit, along with his graduation certificate from the autumn’s degree ceremony.
Dr Brown said: “We are so proud of David for his achievements and that we were able to start him on this journey of learning after such a tough start in his life. He could do all of these things because of the foundation he learnt here and that he could take these along with him in life, so it’s great to see him thriving.”
The Ofsted rated Outstanding Maple Hayes School was founded by Dr Neville Brown, who created the school’s unique morphological teaching method in the 1980s and who still works closely alongside his son Dr Daryl Brown to bring reading and writing skills to children in difficulty.