Unlike most people, Andy loves Mondays. As one of the team of the Mental Health Trust’s designated English and maths initial assessors, he looks forward to every induction session for new staff so that he can help them assess their skill needs to make sure they can keep and progress in their job as well as meets the needs of existing staff, whenever they seek his help. “I tell them that I was in the same boat as them, cos it’s true. I struggled as a kid as I have Dyslexia and it was Bridges to Learning that got me underway, so I say to them, ‘The path I followed is the same path that you can follow’, and it’s worked wonders!” Andy has been a part-time union learning rep for three years, which he does alongside his day job as a healthcare assistant for mental health patients in the hospital’s intensive care unit and is delighted that he has been able to make such a valued contribution and make the service more client-centred in the process: “People get their assessment results on the same day now, whereas it used to take several days before, and it means that I can also feedback the results directly to line managers so staff members are really pleased that their needs are being recognised. After an initial pilot, when he first became the Trust’s UNISON Bridges to Learning project’s union learning rep, the Trust has incorporated him into the workforce development team. The pilot not only proved that having Andy undertake the diagnosis with staff went down very well but it also helped the Trust get a much clearer picture about the numbers of staff who need to improve their English and maths in order to ensure that they have the skills to record their interventions with patients, and be confident in using calculations set up and monitor drips and administer medicines. Like many people who develop a thirst for learning in later life, Andy faced real challenges during his years at school. He was in his twenties when he was first diagnosed with Dyslexia, Dyscalculia and Dyspraxia even though, as a child he was diagnosed with severe difficulties with walking and his speech. It was only when the headmaster of his primary school told his worried mother that he believed Andy only needed some additional help that things began to change: “My mum went to see him to talk about me because he had a reputation of getting the best out of his pupils. After that he used to see me for an hour or more straight after school and taught me to speak using a tape recorder.” Unfortunately though, not all of his teachers were so keen to help: “Some teachers used to say, ‘You shouldn’t be here, you should be in a special school.’ In fact one teacher regularly laughed at me in front of the whole class and called me terrible names in front of the whole class. That caught on quick with the other kids and as they came with me to the secondary school, I heard it nearly every day until I left school.” Leaving school without any qualifications, he won an apprenticeship to train as a roofer but after a few years was advised by the doctor that his knees could not endure the stress that came with being a roofer. In fact he predicted that, at this rate, Andy would be in a wheelchair by the time he was 40. Whilst this wasn’t exactly what Andy wanted to hear, his job search provided not one but two silver linings; he saw a job vacancy in the local newspaper for a trainee healthcare assistant and was referred by his doctor to the Dylexia in Action service in Middlesbrough. “The people were lovely and helped me understand the root of my problems, as well as giving me some really practical tips like, for instance, I can read much more easily of text is printed on peach, blue or green paper. They also helped me see my strengths, like problem solving and negotiating, and this really gave me the confidence to get on with my life and get some qualifications. I’ve had great help since then, not just to get on and sort out my English and maths from Bridges to Learning but they even got me voice recognition software to use in my role as a union learning rep and it has been a great help.” Despite being diagnosed as having dyslexia and dyscalculia, Andy has achieved level 2 in both Literacy and Numeracy in recent years and is preparing to get the new Functional Skills qualifications, which are necessary for him to keep his Band 3 post as a healthcare assistant in the Trust. “I think the new qualifications are useful because they make sure you can use your English and maths skills in the context of your work and your life, so I am really pleased I did the literacy and numeracy as I am much less afraid now of taking the functional skills. I already have proof that my skills are good enough, as I completed my Level 3 NVQ in Information, Advice and Guidance two years ago and my role as a learning rep means that I have to produce monthly activity reports, manage a budget and make presentations about my work. I just need a little more time than some people to do it, that’s all. The reward for me now is seeing people get the same kick out of learning as me. I love to see them at the end of the course and looking for the next thing, because they’ve enjoyed it, and then it’s my job to use my skills to help them onto the next rung of the ladder.