Posted: 22.02.21 at 11:34 by Tim Lethaby
A teacher who lives near to Shepton Mallet is using her own personal experience of dyslexia at a new specialist school that opened last month.
Kirsty Haddleton is the humanities teacher at the new Abbot's Way School, in Meare, and she is part of a teaching team who are initially working with students between the ages of seven and 14 years old, rising up to 16 from 2022, and who will focus on supporting pupils with dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia.
Kirsty, who lives near Shepton Mallet, struggled with dyslexia, a learning difference, during her schooling.
She told Shepton Mallet Nub News: “Neither myself nor, more than 30 years later, my son were picked up as being dyslexic in our early years of school.
"In fact we both flew in those early days, and I think that is because the emphasis at this stage in education is on learning by doing.
"I was able to use a hands-on approach, which enabled me to process and apply information and create valuable memory hooks to embed information.
"Assessment, too, was in the form of visual activities which demonstrated my new found abilities as I grew.
"Most dyslexics begin to flounder in Key Stage 1, when the focus shifts to a more traditional, class-based approach and assessments tend to be more written based.
"My question is would dyslexic children struggle as much if their assessments and learning were still practical?
"Learning by doing is the Abbots Way way. I'm so excited to be part of this dynamic team - it lets my dyslexic brain shine as a teacher and every student finds their brilliance too.
"I'm given the freedom and support to teach in the way I know first hand is beneficial to neurodiverse intelligence.
"Nurture and wellbeing are the heartbeat of the school. We are acutely aware that the diagnosis of dyslexia can come with lowering of self-esteem and heightened anxiety.
"Abbot’s Way has developed a completely unique and all embedded approach with therapy, outdoor learning and social skills running through all that we do.
"Assessments are practically based, allowing students to demonstrate their skills in a variety of ways.
"This does not mean we shy away from the challenges of learning differences as we still hit these head on but that we do this by focusing first and foremost on their strengths, utilising these to assist with the hurdles which students face.
"My strength as a teacher is special educational needs. Within this fresh, forward thinking ethos that meets the child at need, teaching the way dyslexics learn best, I'm in the perfect position to help develop a curriculum and strategies that really work - themed approaches that allow lateral thinking, hands on learning that allows the problem solving creative brain to shine and that demonstrate the relevance of learning in the modern world.
"Young people seem to be put at ease the moment they step into our school, rightly sensing that here we do it differently.
"Being a small personal school, our staff body is incredibly close knit and driven by passion, bouncing ideas off each other and collaboratively working creatively to deliver a highly accessible unique presentation of the national curriculum that allows pupils to explore, discover and thrive."
Joint head teachers Hellen Lush and Gareth Wright said that initially there will be 15 pupils being taught at the former Shapwick School boarding house in St Mary's Road in Meare, but they are hoping to have 40 by the summer term.
Abbot's Way almost received approval in July, but the planning permission for the change of use from boarding house to school had not been approved so they had to completely start again from scratch with a new application and inspection.
However, the final green light was given on December 30 for a mid-January opening and Gareth said: "As a proud dyslexic myself, it has been hugely gratifying building a brand new out of the box specialist provision which can meet the needs of students with specific learning differences.
"We all share an intrinsic passion in supporting the education and development of young people that require a three-dimensional, multi-sensory approach to learning.
"Our welcome into the village has been gratefully appreciated as has the support from our neighbours."
For further details you can visit www.abbotswayschool.co.uk.