A journey through education

Matthew chatting with female friend A Connect magazine article: From Issue 10 published December 2016

Matthew Clark is 23 years old, registered blind, but is partially sighted with Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis. He studies history and business management at the University of Glasgow. Having come through mainstream school, he then attended New College Worcester  (NCW) for blind and partially sighted students. He told us more about his experiences throughout the education system.

 

What was it about NCW that stood out to you?

“The environment at NCW felt so friendly and welcoming. The idea that I could go into a class and the teacher would communicate directly with me, providing  learning materials that are accessible by default. The teaching was right for me as an individual. It was education, how it should be.

Also, not being separated from or being different to my peers. We could be honest, proper friends, and I was so excited by the many wonderful activities the college provided that we could do together.

Looking ahead, my parents knew - and I know now - how amazing that has been for my development.

I’ve had all those experiences that make an interesting person who does cool stuff,  and wants to do more cool stuff. All these experiences make you independent, a go-getter and interesting to people. Even ‘normal sighted people’ in the real big world!”

 

How difficult was it as a young person in a mainstream school? Was there a lot of separation from your peers?

“Yes, there were special additional lessons I had to have. I was taken out of handwriting in my nursery class only weeks after we had started to be taught to handwrite.

So my handwriting now, each letter is more than an inch tall and looks like a three year olds’ - hideous.”

 

Comparing that to what it’s like for you at university now, do you feel that you’ve been given the tools and the confidence to have a different experience?

“Absolutely. I mentioned how I felt my experience at NCW equipped me to discover my potential. NCW also made  me aware of what I needed, in terms of access and reasonable adjustments, in order for that potential to be achieved.

Having that understanding and self-awareness, and all the positive experiences at NCW was vital.

From getting my Duke of Edinburgh (D of E) Silver Award, to going trekking in Nepal and sailing across the English Channel. Not to mention a host of smaller activities. These experiences meant I could look for those things when I arrived at university, knowing that I could do them.

Not all of them worked. I found the swimming club way too macho. I found the university’s rather small student-run D of E Award Group a lot more helpful. The president, who really helped me get started with doing my D of E Gold Award that year, is now one of my best friends.

He mentored me, and I became secretary of the D of E society in my second year. He told me, ‘You’re the best person to be president next year’. I thought he was talking rubbish! But he was confident that I was the best person to take over, and asked if I was interested in running.

Being president of a student society, and one running a programme as advanced as the D of E Award, was an incredible experience. I was able to do that because NCW taught me what I could do, how to get it, and then I looked for all these opportunities at university. I found a couple of good people along the way, and it all came together.”

Find out more 

Access a host of information around education and learning online, including resources for parents and education professionals. 
 
Visit the education and learning section, or call the Helpline on 0303 123 9999 to find out more.
 

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