Thursday, October 14, 2010
Entrepreneur to open school for dyslexic children
The not for profit Tomorrow’s Generation Trust will initially provide specialist dyslexic teaching during the school holidays and during weekends.
The trust was set up by Swedish-born entrepreneur Anders Hedlund who, like his father and son, also has dyslexia.
The school is based at his home in Cardiff, in a 1,400 sq ft environmentally friendly building with solar panels and a rain harvesting system
Mr Hedlund, the founder of Christmas cracker-to-gift- wrap company International Greetings, said the strategy was to provide specialist teaching, based on dyslexia software such as Lexion, which is used with successful results in 80% of schools in Sweden.
“It has always been my dream to help dyslexic kids in Wales,” he said. “Our aim is to be the number one school for dyslexia in the world. It will take time, but the strategy is also to establish satellite schools in other cities in the UK and potentially overseas.”
Mr Hedlund said many youngsters with dyslexia were wrongly diagnosed with having behaviour problems, and as a result were unfairly labelled as “lazy and stupid”.
“It is therefore not surprising that youngsters with dyslexia suffer from low self-esteem,” he said.
“Our vision is to get the kids back into conventional schools as quickly as we can. And when they do, near the top of the class rather than the bottom.
“It is all about providing them with the right toolkit to be successful back in the mainstream.”
Initially the school accommodates up to eight pupils at anyone time – increasing to potentially 12 from next year. The plan is to have a mixture of children whose fees are paid for by parents – at around £350 a week – and, as it becomes established, taking pupil referrals from local education authorities.
As a charitable trust the school will also look at fundraising activities to subsidise places for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Each pupil will be provided with their own secured laptops so from home they can access the centre’s dyslexic learning software.
They will all be individually assessed before starting the school, which will allow for specific learning provision.
Trustee Sean Jenks said: “We want to work in partnership with local education authorities as well as looking to providing teaching during terms times from next year.”
The school is aimed at key stage two children aged from seven to 11. Mr Jenks said the strategy was also to work closely with the higher education sector – providing opportunities for postgraduate research into dyslexia, as well as a resource for trainee teachers.
Mr Hedlund said: “If we can accommodate 50 teachers a year they can then in turn teach 500 to 1,000 pupils a year.”
Trustees of the charity include former chairman of International Greetings and Welsh Water John Elfed Jones and the father of First Minister Carwyn Jones, Caron Jones.
Mr Hedlund said: “Lexion is used in around 80% of schools in Sweden. It has also been used in trials in Swedish prisons and has been incredibly successful with inmates who had not been able to read or write.”
The school, which will accommodate its first intake for next month’s half-term, will have a “hall of fame” showcasing people with dyslexia who have been highly successful, including entrepreneur Richard Branson.
by Sion Barry, Western Mail