Excited pupils waved their union flags to welcome Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice of York to Lichfield’s unique Maple Hayes Dyslexia School this week.
The Princess, who herself was diagnosed with dyslexia when she was at school, was given an exclusive tour of the specialist school on Monday (April 27th) and found out more about how pupils are taught using an alternative approach to teaching literacy.
The 26-year-old princess met pupils in their classrooms, including Icon lessons which are a way children can make a link between the meaning and spelling patterns in words using flashcards. The icons, which the school calls the ‘morphological approach’ helps children learn and recognise the formation of words and are especially useful for those who have struggled to make progress using phonics. The school believes that mainstream education fails young dyslexics because they simply cannot learn by sound, so this early stumbling block prevents them from reaching their academic potential throughout their school lives.
Her Royal Highness was then officially invited to open a newly built room at the Abnalls Lane school and was presented with a specially engraved fountain pen as the school believes fountain pens help with each child’s handwriting and learning.
Princess Beatrice spoke about her own struggle with dyslexia but said she had never quite been at such as incredible place as Maple Hayes School.
Princess Beatrice said: “I have got dyslexia and every time I go out people always ask what it was like to grow up with this special requirement. It was never easy. School was hard but it also created an opportunity for me to come here today and talk to you. The one thing I want to do is to say not to give up. These methods are outstanding and I can see how valuable they are. I can really promise you that you only have to get through school and it will all make sense and be worthwhile.
“I feel so honoured to have come here this afternoon and hear about the great work that is going on in this school. Carry on with what you are all doing. Learning is the gateway to adventure and please take this gift and make yourself proud with it.”
The Princess was then presented with posies of flowers by 11-year-olds Lily Stevenson from Derby, who has been at the school since September last year, and Katie Maxwell of Great Wyrley, Walsall, who has been at the school for the past two years.
Principal Dr Neville Brown, who founded the school in the 1980s and set up its unique form of teaching said they were proud and honoured to welcome a Royal guest.
Dr N Brown said: “The Princess had done her homework on the school and knew about the work we do in advance. I was very surprised about how relaxed she was with the children. Hopefully we can see her again sometime.”
Dr Daryl Brown added: “It was fantastic to have Princess Beatrice come and visit us. The essential element of it is that you have someone who can empathise with the difficulties the students are having. Having dyslexia herself, that is the link. I hope she found this visit very interesting.
As someone doing these visits she has a very clear and confident way of dealing with people. Those children just opened up to her. She has to be congratulated about that and I think we can hopefully congratulate the school in what everyone has done to make her welcome.”
Katy Maxwell, aged 11 from Great Wyrley, Walsall, said: “It was really good today. I was very nervous this morning. But it was very exciting to meet someone from the Royal family who had dyslexia. When I gave her the flowers she said thank you so much Katy, they are beautiful and she shook my hand.”
Lily Stevenson, aged 11 from Derby, said: “When we were in lessons she came and looked at my work and I read something to her and she said it was very good. It was very good meeting a Royal.”
Oliver Finch, aged 11 from Lichfield, said he was excited and shocked to meet her.
“I heard her speaking but I didn’t manage to speak to her. It was a nice day and we are glad that she came to meet us,” he said.
Bradley Rose from Stoke-On-Trent, aged 12, said: “When I heard that Princess Beatrice was coming to school I was quite surprised. It was great that she came to the school and it was interesting to hear what she said about being dyslexic.”
Alex Blackham, aged 16 from Sutton Coldfield who is deputy head boy said: “It was an interesting visit. I shook her hand. She asked me how long had I been head boy and I said a year. I think it meant more saying that she was dyslexic and I was quite surprised to hear that. But it was a great visit and we are glad she came to our school today.”
The school, which has a roll of 120 students aged between seven and 17-years-old, was founded in 1982 by Dr Neville Brown, the school Principal.