From education to employment

Dyslexic apprentice Molly inspired to support children with learning needs

Apprentice Molly Tanner’s personal experience of being a dyslexic learner has inspired her to become a teaching assistant supporting children with additional learning needs at Gowerton School in Swansea.

Molly, 23, who lives in the city, was not fully diagnosed as dyslexic until this summer but that has not diluted her passion to support children in the Special Teaching Facility at the school. She supports year nine pupils who have a range of additional learning needs.

The diagnostic assessment for dyslexia was arranged through her apprenticeship provider, Gower College Swansea, as part of the support available to apprentices

“I love working with the children,” she said. “I had a teaching assistant when I was in school and I want to give something back. “I asked myself: ‘When I was in school, how would I have wanted to be treated by somebody older than me?’

“Some of the children are embarrassed for having a teaching assistant but I tell them that I have been where they are. Having a teaching assistant was the best thing ever for me because I wouldn’t be where I am today had I not had someone by my side.

“The job I have is perfect, as it’s really rewarding to seeing children progress with their learning and make new friends.

“Becoming a teaching assistant was thanks to my primary school teacher, personal tutors and family friend Nicola Evans who always believed in me and helped me to achieve my goals.

“Nicola used to say ‘You will aways get there Molly, but it will take you a little bit longer. Don’t ever give up’. Sadly, Nicola passed away this year and never got to see me finish my course.”

Molly, who has worked at the school for nearly two years, hopes to complete her Apprenticeship in Support Teaching and Learning in Schools, delivered by Gower College Swansea, early in 2022.

She then plans to begin a sign language course, as she is already the communicator for her mum who is one of three members of her extended family who are deaf.

Holding a long-term ambition to work in a special school, Molly encourages other young people with additional learning needs to opt for an apprenticeship when they leave school.

“I feel I have had a lot more support doing my apprenticeship than I would have had doing a university course,” she said. “I have also had the experience of working whilst learning and the support I get from Emma Davies at Gower College Swansea is brilliant. I wouldn’t have progressed this far without her.”

Emma, Gower College Swansea’s additional leaning needs link for work-based learning, said: “Molly is so passionate about what she does because of her own experience which makes her empathetic towards the pupils she supports.

“I can’t think of anybody who is better suited to working in a school because she is so committed and dedicated to improving herself and helping her learners.”

Rachel Searle, head of work-based learning at Gower College Swansea, added: “We are passionate about ensuring that all apprentices have the support they need to succeed in their apprenticeship learning, work and future career development. 

“We are delighted with the progress Molly has made and wish her every success with her career ambitions.”

The college was recently praised in an Ofsted inspection for ensuring that apprenticeship programmes are accessible and ambitious for all learners, including those with additional learning needs and disabilities.

Humie Webbe, Apprenticeships Strategic Equality and Diversity Lead at the National Training Federation for Wales, said: “It’s so important for learners to know that support is available if they pursue an apprenticeship.

“Molly’s story demonstrates how the learning support she received shaped her route into an apprenticeship that harnesses her experiences to achieve outstanding rewards.

“We want to ensure that apprenticeships are perceived to be for all and thatbarriers to participation are removed.”

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