How did you feel about your reading before you began working in the Literacy Centre?
I didn’t want to speak or read aloud in case people laughed.
How did you cope?
I would deliberately fall asleep. I got teachers to put me at the back of the room by saying that my glasses were too strong. It’s usually a bit darker there so they couldn’t see me as well. I would avoid having to read. At home I would say ‘I’ve read it already’ if I was asked to read something from school. At school sometimes I would say I felt sick in my stomach. I passed out once, so later on I would use that as an excuse sometimes too. I would also talk a lot so I would get in trouble and be sent out. I would also be rude to teachers so they would leave me alone and not ask me anything.
How did you feel about having a LSA working with you in class?
I would say ‘I don’t want you’. It was depressing. Other people look at you as if you’re cheating, or they just look at you funny. It clouds how you are seen. It made people think I was incapable of working on my own.
“I’ve always wanted to be a pilot and I’m not going to give up that dream. So I’ve researched the courses I need to do and there’s a course I’m interested in at university.”
“I learnt that you have to work, to get the work done, to be able to get something at the end. And you can’t always depend on someone else. You have to do some things for yourself.”
How did you feel about coming to work in the Literacy Centre?
At first I was happy because it got me out of lessons. But then I didn’t want to come because you made me work hard and I had to do things I didn’t want to do. Some teachers had been soft with me, but because I couldn’t get away with it here I learnt some skills. I got treated the same as everybody else. I learnt that you have to work, to get the work done, to be able to get something at the end. And you can’t always depend on someone else. You have to do some things for yourself.
It’s like it’s up to you if you do the work to do well or do it badly. But on the other hand you wouldn’t let us do it badly, so either way… It’s like driving a car – if you don’t actually do it, you’re never going to learn how to drive. And at the end of the day, when everybody else has learned how to drive, you’re still going to be stuck, if you didn’t grab the chance when you had it.
So how did you deal with the higher expectations here?
Well, in some subjects they did have higher expectations, and like my Mum and my Dad, they had high expectations, but in English they didn’t. In Maths I had no chance of running away, but everybody knew that English wasn’t my strong point.
So how did you feel when you graduated from the Literacy Centre?
Well, I would say that I was happy but also sad in a way. Like I asked Miss if I could carry on, but she explained that other people needed a chance on the programme too. But also I was really happy because I had actually completed something. And it was something really useful, it wasn’t something you just graduate from – you’re going to need to keep using it every day.
How has learning how to read affected your other lessons?
Quite a lot, actually, because when I get work from other subjects, even if it’s on the computer or something, I don’t have to spend as long working out a word. I used to spend ages stuck on just one word. Now I can work it out, it’s like it’s already there, in a way. And I read on to the end of the sentence, and look at the other words, and often it comes to you what the word is then.
How did you feel when you opened your GCSE results?
I didn’t actually, my Dad collected it. I remember I was shaking so much. Even though you’re having lots of fun, doing things with your mates and so on, when you have a quiet time it’s always your GCSEs you’re thinking about. I was mostly concerned about maths, English, science. I called a friend at the school who passed the phone to a teacher. She said, “OK, in English . . .” and then the phone cut! So I was sitting in my bedroom in Ghana with the phone cut and I had to go and put credit on my phone and call again. By the time I called my Dad’s call was coming in. I ended up with two Bs and three Cs. I was only expected to pass two GCSEs. All my other predicted grades were Ds and Es.
“I was really happy because I had actually completed something. And it was something really useful, it wasn’t something you just graduate from – you’re going to need to keep using it every day.”