Phillip: succeeding with learning difficulties

I always struggled at school having dyslexia, dyspraxia and mild autism. I only just managed to get a D in maths and English GCSEs. My best grade was a double B in applied science and that was only because it was practice based. I then went on to do a level 3 BTEC subsidiary diploma in Production Arts (Theatre Technology). I managed to pass it despite not completing the entire two years. I had the knowledge to gain a distinction but with my learning difficulties and low grades I only got a pass.

First time in prison

I was remanded in November 2011. Whilst at my first prison, HMP Holme House I was placed in the textiles workshop making clothing for other prisons. It was quite monotonous, doing the same unchallenging work every day.

Stock photograph of a prisoner using a sewing machine


After being sentenced to three years in March 2012, I was transferred to HMYOI Deerbolt and that’s where my journey began. I started by gaining two Microsoft Office specialist qualifications, then Health and Safety at work level one. It became difficult when I moved onto maths. The other people in the class were uninterested and disruptive. I was bullied and physically attacked and was eventually put on one-to-one education. It took me about 3-6 months to gain maths level one but after that I was gaining a qualification every two months! I moved on to maths level 2, then Business level 1 and 2. I finished a few weeks before release with a level 2 in Food Safety in Catering.

Four weeks after being released I was recalled and ended up in HMYOI Swinfen Hall. Within a week I had started an Industrial Cleaning course and finished it ten weeks later and became a full-time wing cleaner. Whilst I have enjoyed the break from education I am now looking at distance learning courses. I see distance learning as a fantastic way of bettering yourself and finding a hobby. Art or creative writing courses provide a pastime and a way to relieve stress or release emotion. Employment can be gained through courses in catering, construction, or engineering as well.

The importance of education

My mantra now is ‘it doesn’t matter if you struggled at school, have learning difficulties or a criminal record, education will always be there and you can succeed’. This is because I have managed to gain meaningful qualifications and enjoy doing it at the same time. I hated being at school, and now I can’t see anything better and more important than education.

Encouraging others

I always recommend people do education, if anything it can be a way to escape your problems for while. It also helps you to learn a new skill and even give you a new career path. You are never too old for education so go for it and learn something new.