George | 02 February 2022
Dyslexia wasn’t recognised when I was at school and I would often mess around in the classes to hide my insecurities. This would usually get me kicked out the class or even suspended on some occasions, which at the time felt better than being embarrassed by not being able to do the work.
Over the years after leaving school, I’ve managed to create coping strategies which helps me manage its effects and – although reading, writing and spelling can still be a challenge – I have discovered dyslexia does have its benefits.
I’ve learnt that my brain just works in a different way to most people and where I lack in some areas, I excel in others, such as logical subjects like maths and computers.
I wanted to push myself and you don’t know what you can achieve until you try
I decided after being sentenced I wanted to make the most of my time whilst in prison and use the opportunity it provided, by gaining the qualifications I missed out on at school.
Initially, I started just doing the courses which were offered in the education department, mainly focusing on the subjects which would help me run a business upon my release, as this was my long-term goal.
I did courses in IT (Word, PowerPoint, Excel) and Preparing for a Business Venture. I applied to Prisoner’s Education Trust (PET) to study Sage Computerised Accounting for Business Levels 1 and 2, where I learned about the responsibilities of bookkeeping and how to produce invoices and reconcile accounts.
Prison isn’t the easiest place to do a degree
Then I heard about the Open University (OU) and I saw they offered a Business degree, where you could learn how businesses develop strategies, handle risk and take decisions. I wanted to push myself and you don’t know what you can achieve until you try, so I decided to give it a go.
I applied to PET again for funding to do the OU’s Introduction to Business Studies course, which was the start of a six-year journey that would have lots of obstacles to overcome along the way.
Prison isn’t the easiest place to do a degree. There were numerous times when I received course material late or there were problems trying to send my assignments off on time.
Relying on other people and having no control over the issues which occurred was stressful at times, although the OU were understanding and often made allowances to help.
The biggest challenge for me being dyslexic though, was being placed on a computer ban and stopped from using the education department. I was one of many prisoners nationwide who was put on this computer ban, and no one has ever told me why I was on the list.
I was put full time in a workshop and had to do all my assignments in cell and by hand. The ban lasted for about twelve months and throughout that time I was doing a level six course [degree level study].
It wasn’t easy for me at the time but I managed to pass the course, although the marks weren’t as high as I would have liked.
Starting my own online business has been my motivation and long-term goal from the start
Despite all the obstacles that were put in my way, at the end of the six years I gained a 2:1 honours degree in Business Management. This gave me a huge sense of achievement, especially after coming into prison with no qualifications and the issues I have with dyslexia.
It also provided me with a lot of self-belief and gave me the confidence to apply for a master’s degree in Digital Marketing. I am glad to say I was accepted and I am due to start the course this year, although this time I will be attending the university on ROTL and I’m looking forward to the experience.
This master’s degree, along with all the other courses I’ve done, will provide me with all the knowledge I need to start my own online business upon my release, which has been my motivation and long-term goal from the start.
Focusing on education has been the best way I could have spent my time while being in prison. Not only has it provided me with knowledge and qualifications I can use when I’m released, but it has also kept my mind busy and made the time go quickly.
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