A group of Chelsea Pensioners visited Maple Hayes Dyslexia School in Lichfield recently, after pupils wrote letters inviting them to come for a tour.

The scarlet-coated veterans made the 135-mile trip from their home at The Royal Hospital Chelsea to meet with year 6s and year 7s at the specialist school, before heading to the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas.

The visit was organised after the children read Michael Morpurgo’s ‘Billy the Kid’ during their English lessons, following which they penned letters to the Pensioners.

“Billy the Kid is a story told through the eyes of an 80-year-old Chelsea Pensioner looking back on his life,” explained Mrs Rhodes, English teacher at Maple Hayes. “As part of our lessons we looked at the non-fiction side of the story, and the pupils learnt all about The Royal Hospital Chelsea and who the Chelsea Pensioners are.”

Famous for their iconic scarlet uniforms, the Chelsea Pensioners date their history back to more than 325 years ago and the reign of King Charles II. Any ex-soldier of the British Army who is over the age of 65 and has no financial dependents can apply to live at The Royal Hospital Chelsea.

“The children were very excited to know that the Chelsea Pensioners had actually read their letters and wanted to visit,” continued Mrs Rhodes. “Knowing that their words had an impact on such important people is a huge boost for the pupils and hopefully it will encourage them to read and write more.”

Upon arrival the 11 Chelsea Pensioners enjoyed a cup of tea and biscuits with the pupils before taking a tour of Maple Hayes and later sitting down for lunch with the youngsters.

They heard about the school’s unique approach to teaching literacy to dyslexic children, called the ‘morphological approach’, which involves using icons to make a visual link between meaning and spelling instead of using phonics.

Dennis Morgan (71), who served for 23 years in the Royal Corps of Signals, said he was very impressed by the school’s approach to teaching its dyslexic pupils.

“We get invited to visit a lot of schools and it’s always good to see the younger generation and also to see the progress being made in our education system,” he said. “The teaching standard at Maple Hayes appears to be very high - it’s an impressive place.”

Dr Daryl Brown, headteacher at Maple Hayes, said: “It’s not every day you have the honour of welcoming the Chelsea Pensioners for lunch so we were delighted when they accepted our pupils’ invitation to visit the school.

“The children thoroughly enjoyed meeting the Chelsea Pensioners and we were thrilled to accompany them to the National Memorial Arboretum. We’d like to thank the Royal Hospital Chelsea once again for taking the time to organise the visit.”


PR by Reeves agency in Birmingham

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