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Cambridge Marketing College’s dyslexia toolkit ‘celebrates holistic gift’

Cambridge Marketing College (CMC) has started a unique initiative to provide practical support and to help learners with dyslexia, as well as their tutors and employers.

Kiran Kapur, CEO, Cambridge Marketing College. Picture: David J Thorpe
Kiran Kapur, CEO, Cambridge Marketing College. Picture: David J Thorpe

Having conducted original research among students and alumni into the difficulties faced by adult learners, CMC has created a toolkit for students, tutors and employers of marketing apprentices. Students are encouraged to see dyslexia as a gift and to find their own learning style. The hope is that this positive approach will help to see dyslexia recognised more as a different set of skills – even an asset – rather than as a problem to be solved.

Tutors are shown how to adapt their teaching style accordingly.

The college has taken on Julian Berridge – himself dyslexic – as learning styles research intern, to lead, encourage and support dyslexic students to reach their full potential. Julian recently returned to the village after leaving Nottingham University. He had been studying biochemistry and genetics, until the pandemic shifted the focus towards virtual studying methods, which didn’t work so well for him.

“CMC is a professional training provider for students and Level 3 apprentices, so it’s A-level and upwards,” Julian says on a Zoom call from CMC’s Swavesey base. “I started in May. My job is to research how we could improve our teaching methods for dyslexics through an apprenticeship.

“We teach 200 apprentices here and have a number of students as well. I offer one-to-one dyslexia talks to offer advice and help, most of which is available in toolkits.

“Sometimes I’ll be talking to a dyslexic person whose outlook is very positive, and some have experienced negative responses – most people don’t have a very good view of dyslexia, if they have one at all,” continued 19-year-old Julian, who’s been a Pampisford resident all his life.

He adds: “Most people look down on it, and I’d expected a little of that in school, but less so at university.

Julian Berridge working on his dyslexic student toolkit at Cambridge Marketing College, Swavesey. Picture: Keith Heppell
Julian Berridge working on his dyslexic student toolkit at Cambridge Marketing College, Swavesey. Picture: Keith Heppell

“Dyslexia is not a bad thing in and of itself: you lose some skills in some areas but gain in others. For me, reading now is fine – I just use a different method.

“My handwriting is terrible, but I’ve gained a lot of 3D and visualisation skills. Large-scale picture thinking has helped me and thinking holistically can help in terms of coming up with ideas, maybe in conversation or while you’re doing something.

“Holistic skills are not encouraged in our culture and that’s why people look down on us – we’re good at visualisation and it’s not getting recognition.

“Even in the way I landed this job... I got talking to the CEO on the train on the way back down from uni, and we talked about dyslexia, and I made a very impassioned speech to her and she said: ‘Please come and work for me and teach people.’

“The job is mostly research and putting together a toolkit: as the intern I am in the office, though no one seems to want to drink the tea I make!”

CMC’s toolkit was launched on Monday (November 1). It’s a free resource – two resources in fact, one for students and a second, for tutors, is to follow. It’s part affirmation, part information and part solution-finder. But the fact is, every dyslexic person is dyslexic in their own way.

Dyslexia vector brings gifts too
Dyslexia vector brings gifts too

“It’s wired in early,” says Julian. “There’s nothing to treat, in a way. It’s the way your mind works, probably from two months old. There’s no ‘cure’ – not that I’d want one anyway.

“Dyslexia is not linked to intelligence: people should know that, but it doesn’t mean that they do. One of my students said he doesn’t mention it as it didn’t help him when he did mention it in an interview situation. But even GCHQ [the UK’s intelligence and counter-intelligence headquarters] advertised for dyslexics recently.”

Very Enigma Code – perhaps these holistic and ‘large-scale big picture’ abilities are a bit of a hidden gem?

Kiran Kapur, CEO at CMC, said: “I have wanted to better support our dyslexic learners for some time, and Julian’s passionate argument that dyslexia is not something to ‘cure’ but to be celebrated was intriguing.

“This is the first time the college has employed someone specifically to research learning styles. Julian’s research found that there was little to help adult dyslexics deploy their gift.

“The result is an ebook toolkit for dyslexics with tips varying from: ‘What to do if you are overwhelmed’ to ‘How to break down a written task’.”

The toolkit is freely available here or by contacting julian@marketingcollege.com.

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