David Johnson was just 11-years-old when he started at Maple Hayes School in Lichfield, having just very basic literature skills and a low self esteem due to his difficulties in learning at mainstream school and his battle with dyslexia.
But the 23-year-old said that the opportunity to study at Maple Hayes “transformed his life for the better” and he wanted to visit to thank headteacher Dr Daryl Brown and his former teachers for giving him the chance in life to reach his full potential.
“Having the opportunity to study here and be taught using their methods was a turning point for me and I’ll be forever grateful,” said David.
“My first few weeks were very different to anything I had ever experienced and it took me quite a few months to understand the methods they use, such as the icon system and using a fountain pen, because it wasn’t what I was used to.
“But I soon thrived in my education, writing and confidence.”
Maple Hayes teaches a system called the ‘morphological approach’, which uses a series of icons to make a visual link between meaning and spelling instead of pupils being taught using phonics.
The school believes in using fountain pens for cursive writing which, it says, helps a child learn correct spellings by the individual feel of each letter.
David's mum Vicky said seeing him adjust to his new school and improve beyond what she could ever expect, was a turning point for the whole family.
“Prior to coming to this school, David’s mood and learning was deteriorating fast, and he was also being bullied, which as a parent was very difficult to see.
“I heard about Maple Hayes after asking around for help and so started the process to get him transferred there, and I’m so grateful we managed to.
“From where he was to what he has become, is immense and I’m so proud of him,” she added.
The family travelled every day from their home in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, to the school.
“Because of the confidence I gained at Maple Hayes, I’ve been able to explore other hobbies and interests, such as sailing, public debate and have even achieved my Gold Duke of Edinburgh award,” David added.
“People even comment on my neat handwriting, which considering how poor it was when I arrived here, is fantastic.
“This is all from what I learnt at school and it’s second nature to me now.
Upon leaving Maple Hayes as a prefect, David went onto study A Levels at St David’s College in Llandudno before starting a BA in Product Design at De Montfort University, Leicester.
He graduated with an upper second class honours degree and has now started his Masters.
David took along some of his degree work to show Dr Brown on his recent visit, along with his graduation certificate from the autumn’s degree ceremony.
Dr Brown said: “We are so proud of David for his achievements and that we were able to start him on this journey of learning after such a tough start in his life.
“He could do all of these things because of the foundation he learnt here and that he could take these along with him in life, so it’s great to see him thriving.”
Maple Hayes School, rated outstanding by Ofsted, was founded by Dr Neville Brown, who created the school’s unique teaching method in the 1980s and who still works closely alongside his son Dr Daryl Brown to bring reading and writing skills to children in difficulty.