Sarah beats dyslexia to achieve teaching dream

Published: 14 November 2008 at 11:25

35 year old student had to learn to overcome ‘barriers to learning’ while studying for degree

A mature student from Hornchurch, Essex, who has just graduated with a first class degree began her studies not knowing that she had dyslexia.

Sarah Fryatt, a 35 year old mother of two children, had embarked on a BA (Hons) in Primary Education to achieve her dream of becoming a teacher when she finally discovered the challenge that she faced.  Struggling to keep up with the study schedule and, after discussions with her university lecturers, she sought advice and realised that support was needed.

In fact, her dyslexia was confirmed and she had to learn to teach herself the true meaning behind text before she could proceed with her studies.  Incredibly, she did this at the same time as she was studying for her degree. The group of mature students she was studying with were incredibly supportive of her newly increased workload and took notes on her behalf to cover the coursework that she missed while she was attending special tutorials.

Speaking about her experience, Sarah explains,

“Learning to interpret text while studying the coursework was the biggest challenge. There were times when I thought I wouldn’t be able to make it through but my fellow students were absolutely brilliant. They were determined that I would succeed and graduate with them.”

Sarah left school with just 3 O levels and joined a bank working as a trainee before becoming a cashier. She eventually left the bank to start a family, and then later began working at a local nursery. Always with the drive to do more, she obtained an NVQ in Childcare and then added to her workload by studying for additional GCSEs.

Her accumulated qualifications combined with her direct work experience, earned her a place on the degree course. It was only on her last assignment that she was able to benefit from using a new assessment process called Patchwork Text, where students can record their findings in 3D work rather than written text, if preferred.  She created a 3D camera, a 3D concept map and devised a new game, and as a result of perseverance over the three year course, she was awarded a ‘first’.

Sarah continued,

"I have to thank my fellow students at Anglia Ruskin University and the people who work within Student Support Services who helped me to obtain everything I needed, including a laptop computer, to enable me to complete the course.  Special thanks also go to my tutor Karen Gladwin, who helped to make my success a reality."

"I would like to encourage anyone who is dyslexic, children or adults, to carry on applying themselves to their work even if they do have problems with reading or writing. A variety of methods of teaching and learning will open up many new options for them in the future.  So my message is never give up."

"My family encouraged and supported me throughout my studies. They were brilliant and I have to thank them for being there.  In fact, my children are now both looking at higher education options because they have seen what benefits a degree can bring."

Sarah, now 38, is currently working at Pyrgo Priory Primary, in Romford, as a learning support assistant, and will be undertaking a Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) programme, in the New Year.