News, events and schools' information for families across Bath and West Wiltshire

Oliver Chadwick from Ralph Allen School scored A*AA in his A Levels, despite not being able to read or write.

Now 18, Oliver is so profoundly dyslexic that he has the reading age of a six-year-old. Through constant support from his family and his school, and his own determination and hard work he achieved grades of A*AA in mathematics, further mathematics and chemistry, and is now embarking upon an engineering mathematics degree at the University of Bristol.

“My dyslexia affects me quite a lot, but also surprisingly little if you think about it,” explained Oliver. “When people hear that you can’t read or write, they think you can’t do anything, but it only really affects me day-to-day when I can’t read things like signs.

“At A Level, I studied maths, further maths and chemistry. I picked maths because it is something I can do mostly by myself and this makes me feel more independent.”

Oliver began to fall behind with his literacy in junior school. His mum, Sophie, took the lead and organised additional lessons for Oliver with the Dyslexia Association for two hours a week every Saturday, and reduced her own working hours so that she could help him with his reading and writing at home. Unfortunately, there was little progress and two further dyslexia experts confirmed that he was one of the most profoundly dyslexic persons they had ever seen.

Undefeated, Oliver and Sophie chose to focus on his strengths rather than his weaknesses. Oliver continues, “It wasn’t until year six that I started to notice a difference between myself and my classmates, but I never felt stupid, I just knew that reading was something I couldn’t do and there was no point getting upset about it.”

When he started at Ralph Allen School, Oliver got through most of his lessons by listening intently to what the teacher said, alongside one-to-one teaching support for some of his classes. Although Oliver sometimes found the change of support difficult, his mum believes Oliver’s experience of interacting with different teachers and teaching assistants helped to develop his interpersonal skills.

Throughout his GCSE studies, Oliver had one-to-one support 50% of the time, and throughout his A Level years he had an assistant for all three subjects. In addition, he has a reading pen that can read out printed text, line by line, and computer software that can read words on-screen. For exams, Oliver had his own room so that he could dictate his answers to a scribe.

Ralph Allen staff were instrumental in his achievements. Mrs Morgan, his maths one-to-one, was actually due to retire during this time, but she said she would stay on specifically to see Oliver through his A-Levels. Mrs Watson, was also a constant source of support for Oliver for seven years. In terms of his teachers, Mrs Haggett completely adapted her teaching and started making videos for him to watch – everyone else in the class benefited from this new approach.

Oliver added, “There is no point in stressing. I always feel quite chilled because there could always be something you’ve forgotten, but you have to accept that and move on.”

His can-do attitude has seen him through every educational hurdle up until now. A lot of his success is down to him being an incredibly hard worker and his decision not to let his dyslexia limit him.

Mum Sophie added, “The support he has had at Ralph Allen School has also been phenomenal, particularly from the SEN department. They have their own extension line which had been just invaluable to me as a parent.”

Andy Greenhough Headteacher of Ralph Allen, said, “I was astounded when I saw Oliver’s results on results day. We have known Oliver for seven years and have supported him through his GCSEs previously. This was never going to be an easy journey, but we all knew how capable he was. It has been a labour of love with the staff who have been completely dedicated to helping Oliver achieve. I also want to mention Julie Campbell who supported Oliver with his Chemistry and made resources for him to use at home. This was a real team  effort to support Oliver to achieve these results. We are all extremely proud and delighted for him. This was a moment that burns brightly and will long remain in our memories.”

Now, Oliver is preparing to start the next chapter of his life at the University of Bristol. There, he will get some study skills support, as well as a postgraduate mentor to help him find the right books and a peer mentor who is in his class.

To find out more about Ralph Allen, you can visit their website here.