Princess Beatrice visited a Southwark school last week to talk to pupils and teachers about their work supporting children with dyslexia.
Princess Beatrice told a group of dyslexic pupils: "Dyslexia is not a pigeonhole to say you can't do anything. It is an opportunity and a possibility to learn differently. You have magical brains, they just process differently. Don't feel like you should be held back by it."
The Queen's granddaughter paid a special visit to Globe Academy in Harper Road and Bolingbroke Academy near Clapham Junction to see how pupils are supported by the Drive for Literacy programme, a partnership between ARK Schools and the Driver Youth Trust, to develop their reading and writing skills.
Pupils at both primary and secondary school are screened for dyslexia, and given small group and specialist tuition if they need extra support .The schools use a range of evidenced-based techniques including encouraging primary school pupils to form letters in a tray of sand or shaving foam to develop writing skills, as well as using magnetic letters and electronic spell checkers for older children and bespoke computer programmes. Specialist dyslexia training is provided to all teachers, to encourage a 'whole school' approach to literacy, whatever the subject.
The daughter of the Duke and Duchess of York told pupils: "I was diagnosed with dyslexia when I was seven and it was a bit of a struggle to begin with. It was a challenge as I began my school career – spelling and reading was something I couldn't really get my head around. I created what I describe as a 'toolkit' for myself of skills you learn and pick up over the years, which I still have to use today. A lot of my best friends were dyslexic so we used to study together, working at our own pace."
She said that she didn't like reading until the Harry Potter books came out when she was eleven: "The second the story came out, I couldn't put it down. Now I read so much quicker, so much better and I studied history at university which involved a lot of reading."
She praised the work that ARK Schools is doing in partnership with the Driver Youth Trust to support dyslexic pupils: “One of the most important things is to figure out what the best methods are to support young people. I came across the Drive for Literacy programme and the partnership between ARK Schools and the Driver Youth Trust – it is inspiring to see how every child in the classroom can be supported.
"I was really interested to see the way in which they do the screening process for dyslexia.
"It was particularly interesting to come to Globe Academy because there are real opportunities for children with special needs to really excel. Walking round the classroom and meeting the teachers, the support the pupils have in an area of London with people from a whole range of backgrounds is really important."
Arman Miah, a nine-year-old pupil at Globe Academy, said: "I was shocked and didn't expect her to come to my school. I really like coming to Globe, and I like writing."