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Ex-Unicorn Cycles 1,000 Miles to Raise Funds for School

03 February 2016

Ex-Unicorn Cycles 1,000 Miles to Raise Funds for School

Ex-Unicorn School pupil Jamie Gordon will be cycling from Land’s End to John O'Groats this summer to raise funds for the school. Jamie, now aged 15, joined The Unicorn School in 2008. He is now preparing for his GCSE's and believes that his time at The Unicorn School gave him an essential foundation for his current studies.

"I have decided to use this opportunity to raise funds for The Unicorn School" says Jamie, "as a mark of appreciation of all the good work the teachers and school have done for me and to increase awareness for dyslexia".

Jamie will undertake the gruelling journey over 14 days in July and August 2016, he will lead a team of cyclists who will traverse the length of the country, cycling between 80-100 miles each day. Enthusiasts can follow Jamie's training and fundraising progress on his Facebook page at

Last week Jamie revisited The Unicorn School and explained his epic journey to our current pupils. Jamie shared a message of determination and perseverance, he is proud of his achievements both in the classroom and beyond and he showed our current Unicorns that a learning difficulty like dyslexia need not stop us from achieving our goals.

The Unicorn School celebrates its 25 year anniversary this year. In that time we have supported more than 500 pupils with specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia. As we enter our second quarter-century our next exciting development is the introduction of our GCSE programme, commencing this September. This will make us unique as Oxfordshire’s only dyslexia-specialist school to offer GCSE education.

We are proud of all of our pupils past and present and we are enormously grateful to Jamie and his quest to raise funds and awareness for our school. Jamie, you are an inspiration!

Please support Jamie’s fundraising for The Unicorn School by donating to his Just Giving web page:

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Ancient Egypt in Ash Class

27 November 2015

Ancient Egypt in Ash Class

Today our pupils of Ash class proudly displayed their homework project on ancient Egypt.  The boys and girls of Ash had been asked to create works on any topic relating to ancient Egypt, using the media of their choice.  Our pupils really let their imaginations go, producing sculpture; information books; hieroglyphs; replicas of pyramids, sphinxes and tombs; mummies; an ancient Egyptian recipe book and even mummy cookies!  Their work was beautifully executed and showed an amazing level of research. Well done Ash!


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Mrs Chappelle in National Golf Championship, Spain

24 November 2015

Mrs Chappelle in National Golf Championship, Spain

The Unicorn School is very proud of teacher Mrs Dee Chappelle who is currently in Spain, competing in the grand finals of The Mail on Sunday National Golf Club Classic.  Mrs Chappelle and her team "Oxford Ladies" are one of four women's and men's clubs who are battling it out at Andalusia's El Rompido course.

Mrs Chappelle emailed us yesterday:  "The weather is perfect for golf and I think I caught the sun today!  The practice round went well, but there are many tricky holes and greens! As we finished the round the green keepers were ironing the greens so they'll be fast tomorrow eeeeek!"

Mrs Chappelle is taking part in a big game today, and hopes her team will be crowned champions of The Mail on Sunday Classic, the world's largest golf club team tournament.  We wish her the very best of luck!

Author Louise Ludlow visits The Unicorn School

20 November 2015

Author Louise Ludlow visits The Unicorn School

This week The Unicorn School welcomed Mrs Louise Ludlow, author of the upcoming children's novel "Jasper's Big Adventure".  The story follows the adventures of a young Harp Seal who sets off from his home in the Svalbard to embark on an epic journey around the North and South Atlantic Oceans.  His aim is to find the legendary Sealie, a mystical creature that is half seal and half human.

Mrs Ludlow first spent time with our Year 3, 4, 5 and 6 pupils.  She read chapter's from " Jasper's Big Adventure" and discussed some of the environmental issues raised in the story.  We found out biological facts about some of the characters we met in the story and our pupils couldn't wait to share their own knowledge about the marine creatures of our oceans.

Mrs Ludlow then spent time with our Year 7, 8 and 9 pupils discussing careers in writing.  Having had a successful career in travel journalism and fashion journalism herself, Mrs Ludlow has a wealth of experience to share.  Our senior school pupils discussed the variety of different career choices open to budding writers including fiction writing, sports journalism, and script writing for films; and they compared the different writing styles appropriate to each job.  Mrs Ludlow had an important message: a specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia does not have to be a barrier to a career in writing.  To be a writer all you need is an active imagination, something that our Unicorn School pupils have in abundance!

Our thanks to Mrs Ludlow for a fascinating and inspiring visit.

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Cedar Class Fly to Australia

20 November 2015

Cedar Class Fly to Australia

On Friday morning the pupils of Cedar class took a plane flight to Australia, in their imaginations of course! 

The activity links to this term's topic of Australia, and was designed to bring to life concepts of geography, intercontinental travel, time zones and cultural differences.  Teacher Mrs Allison recognises the importance of using concrete experiences when learning abstract concepts, today's flight used practical activities to make sense of the relationship between flight times and time zones.

Our Cedar pupils came well prepared for their outing, kitted out in holiday clothes, sunglasses and sunhats, and bringing in in-flight snacks, passports, sleep masks, travel toothbrushes and everything needed for an intercontinental flight. 

Starting at London Heathrow, Cedar class tracked their progress on a map as they flew across Europe and Russia, stopping at Hong Kong to enjoy a spot of sunbathing on the roof of a towering skyscraper and an evening stroll along the harbour.  Once in Australia they visited the various sites they had chosen themselves, including the Great Barrier Reef, Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House, The Daintree Rainforest and Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock).  On the homeward-bound journey they flew via Kuala Lumpur and arrived back in class in time for afternoon lessons.  We hope they will be over their jet lag by Monday!

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A Special Visitor!

18 November 2015

A Special Visitor!

Today The Unicorn welcomed a very special visitor, Baby Maggie Hill.  Maggie came with proud Mum, our Speech and Language Therapist Hannah Hill, and Dad Joe.  Our Unicorn pupils were overjoyed to meet gorgeous Maggie, and Oak class even treated her to an impromptu verse of "Silent Night". 

Hannah is currently on maternity leave and we will welcome her back next year.  Thank you for visiting Maggie, we hope to see you again soon!

Oak Pupils Perform "Street Child"

18 November 2015

Oak Pupils Perform "Street Child"

This afternoon Oak Class gave a marvellous performance of part of Berlie Doherty's book "Street Child".  The story follows Jim Jarvis, an orphan living in the streets of Victorian London. 

Dressed in Victorian costume our Oak pupils gave a moving performance that brought to life the plight of Victorian street children, many of such difficulties being shared by homeless young people today.

Congratulations to our Oak pupils for such great acting!

Outreach Seminar: Supporting Literacy at Home

11 November 2015

Yesterday evening The Unicorn School hosted the first of our Outreach Seminars to support parents of children with literacy difficulties.  Aimed at parents of primary school aged children Key Stage 1 and 2, the seminar discussed and demonstrated ways in which parents can support their children's literacy at home.  Parents rotated around "carousel" of tables, at each table specialist teachers from The Unicorn School addressed a different aspect such as sound games, reading, spelling, handwriting and mind-mapping.

The seminar was led by The Unicorn School's Outreach Co-ordinator Mrs Clare Roberts, and supported by teachers Mrs Chappelle, Mrs Carlini, Mrs Davies, Mr Day, Mrs Day, Miss Johnson, Mrs McIntyre and Mrs McMullen.

The Unicorn School is an independent school specialising in teaching children with dyslexia and related learning difficulties.  Our outreach programme is designed to share what we do at our school, free of charge, with parents and carers of children in the local area.  We plan to run similar seminars in the future, the next one directed at parents of senior-school aged children Key Stage 3.  Parents wishing to join us should contact the school to register a place.



DRT Bake Sale with Christine Wallace Saturday 7th November

03 November 2015

DRT Bake Sale with Christine Wallace Saturday 7th November
DRT Bake Sale with Christine Wallace Saturday 7th November

This Saturday The Unicorn School joined Bake Off Quarter Finalist Christine Wallace at the Dyslexia Research Trust's Bake Sale and Raffle in Oxford.  The event ran from 12 noon to 4pm in Oxford's Bonn Square, Christine joined us to chat about baking, Bake Off recipes and to sign autographs.

The event was organised by the Dyslexia Research Trust, with all funds raised going towards the 200 free appointments the DRT offer to children in need.  Attending the event were representatives of the DRT, The Unicorn School and the Oxfordshire Dyslexia Association. 

Thank you to all of our Unicorn School staff and visitors to the stall, who helped make the event such a success!

For more information about the Dyslexia Research Trust follow this link.

Amazing Inventions by Ash Class

03 November 2015

Amazing Inventions by Ash Class

Ash Class have run their very own "Dragon's Den" with pupils tasked to design their own machines or inventions, the more creative the better!

Connor WJ designed and built this fabulous "Bubble Gum Removal Machine" inspired by his recent trip to London where thye streets were paved less with gold than with gum.  The machine features a wealth of technological gadgetry including control panels, a spray nozzle, detergent and scraper, and even blows bubbles!

Congratulations Connor and Ash Class, the future of technology lies with you! 

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Cedar's Chicks

03 November 2015

Cedar's Chicks

Cedar Class welcomed two very special visitors today, Black Ball and Chewliette the chickens!  Our Cedar pupils have been following the progress of the chicks as part of their work on life cycles.  Mrs Allison has been taking care of them for Cedar since they were eggs, and has raised them through incubation, "pipping", "zipping" and hatching.  Cedar pupils have watched their development everyday via photos and videos, and were overjoyed to finally meet the chicks in person.

Mrs Allison designed the project to bring the subject to life, engaging the pupils in every stage of the chicken life cycle by using real and meaningful examples.  Cedar are now studying the chicks in terms of adaptation to environment, Black Ball and Chewliette  have a fine career in teaching ahead of them!

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"Opening DAWs" Exhibition of Artwork by The Unicorn School

27 October 2015

"Opening DAWs" Exhibition of Artwork by The Unicorn School
"Opening DAWs" Exhibition of Artwork by The Unicorn School

This month The unicorn School presents "Opening DAWs", an exhibition of artwork, sculpture and descriptive works, in support of The British Dyslexia Association's Dyslexia Awareness Week (DAW). The exhibition runs at Abingdon's prestigious County Hall Museum from Saturday 24th October to Sunday 1st November.

The exhibition explores dyslexia as both a closed door and an open door.  Themes include Ideas of Self and Uniqueness, and how dyslexia impacts upon our perceptions of Self.  The exhibition celebrates our pupils' creativity and explores some of the specialist learning techniques used at The Unicorn School.  There is an extremely positive message:  we are all unique, we all have our unique strengths as well as difficulties to overcome.  When we see ourselves in terms of our strengths we can stop seeing ourselves in terms of our weaknesses... we can start to open doors. 

The Unicorn School is a leading, specialist day school for pupils aged 6 years and up, who have dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, or who need support with Speech and Language.  Our pupils are a vibrant collective with a wealth of talent and skills, we are thrillede at the opportunity to showcase their work and we hope that you will enjoy the exhibition.

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Happy Halloween

16 October 2015

Happy Halloween

Maple, Redwood and Beech Classes have been preparing for Halloween with a variety of festive activities. Maple and Redwood transformed their classrooms into spooky caverns whilst Beech baked delicious toffee apples, the traditional treat of the season. Pumpkin lanterns added to the haunting atmosphere!

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Generous Donations to The Abingdon Food Bank

16 October 2015

Generous Donations to The Abingdon Food Bank

Maple Class delivered donations to the Abingdon Foodbank on behalf of The Unicorn School's pupils and their families.  We have been collecting donations of food as part of our harvest celebrations.

Maple delivered the donations of tinned and dried foods to the Foodbank, they were taken on a guided tour of the organisation and found out how the service acts as a much needed lifeline to families in crisis. 

We thank all of our pupils and their families for their generous donations to this worthy cause. To find out more about the Abingdon Food Bank please follow this link

Head's Half Term Assembly

16 October 2015

Head's Half Term Assembly

Head Teacher Andrew Day brought the first half term to a fitting close with an inspirational assembly to the whole school.  A propos to the season of Harvest and Giving, he compared personality traits of generosity and kindness with less selfless traits, whilst our pupils demonstrated their language skills with a variety of relevant adjectives.

Andrew  paid tribute to our pupils' achievements over the first half term of the academic year, and the assembly ended with a rousing rendition of Katy Perry's "Firework"

The Unicorn School wishes all of our pupils and families a wonderful and well-earned half term break. 

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Cedar Join Mini Olympics at St Helen & St Katherine School

13 October 2015

Cedar Join Mini Olympics at St Helen & St Katherine School

This afternoon Cedar Class represented The Unicorn School at the "Mini Olympics" at the School of St Helen and St Katherine. The event was organised by Year 10 pupils of SHSK, and featured special guest Heather Fell, Olympian silver medallist for Heptathlon.

The Unicorn School competed alongside pupils from SHSK and Thameside School in a range of track and field activities. Our Cedar Class pupils showed athletic prowess and great sportsmanship, we are immensely proud of their achievements.

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Mayor Opens Senior School Study Centre

28 September 2015

Mayor Opens Senior School Study Centre
Mayor Opens Senior School Study Centre

September marked the opening of The Unicorn School's brand new
Senior School Study Centre. 
The Mayor of Abingdon-on-Thames,
Councillor Helen Pighills, officially opened the Study Centre with a traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony.  Councillor Pighills and a guest list of parents, Head Teachers and Dyslexia Specialists then toured the building and enjoyed tea and cake in our courtyard garden.

The Unicorn School is a leading, specialist day school for pupils aged 6 years and up, who have dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, or who need support with Speech and Language.  The school is undergoing ground breaking developments which will make us unique as the only dyslexia-specialist day school in Oxfordshire to provide GCSE education.  Developments are well underway, with Year 9 provision already in place and GCSEs introduced from September 2016.

The Unicorn School provides a nurturing environment in which every pupil is helped to build self-confidence, appreciate their learning difficulties and develop their own personal learning style.  All our teachers are specialists in working with dyslexia and related difficulties, equipping our pupils with the strategies for learning that will enable them to succeed in their future education and beyond.

The Unicorn School has a proven record of providing specialist education for both girls and boys from Year 2 and above, and pupils will now have the opportunity to complete their secondary education at our school.  We are delighted to have opened our dedicated senior school building and we hope that you will share our enthusiasm.

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Mayor of Abingdon to Open Senior School Study Centre

23 September 2015

Mayor of Abingdon to Open Senior School Study Centre

The Unicorn School is proud to announce the opening of our brand new Senior School Study Centre on Monday 28th September.  The Mayor of Abingdon-on-Thames, Councillor Helen Pighills, will officially open the Study Centre with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.  After which parents and special guests will be invited to view our Senior School facilities and enjoy tea and cake in our courtyard garden.

The Unicorn School is a leading, specialist day school for pupils aged 6 years and up, who have dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, or who need support with Speech and Language.  The opening of our Senior School Study Centre marks the first stage in our development to encompass Years 9, 10 and 11, which will make The Unicorn School unique as the only dyslexia-specialist school in Oxfordshire to offer GCSE education.

The opening of our Senior School Study Centre is a significant occasion for The Unicorn School and we hope that you will share our enthusiasm.

High Tea with Beech

18 September 2015

High Tea with Beech

Beech Class treated the school office staff to a delicious High Tea today.  Mrs Kenyon, Mrs Knowles and Mr Waltham enjoyed a sumptuous feast of sandwiches, cakes and scones served with tea (decaffeinated of course!).  The pupils of Beech Class baked and served the goodies themselves as part of their learnings about British Values.  Thank you Beech, your High Tea was marvellous!

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Welcome Back Autumn Term 2015

10 September 2015

Welcome Back Autumn Term 2015

A very warm welcome to all of our Unicorn School pupils and their families, as we start the new academic year.  We are delighted to greet our returning pupils and to welcome so many new pupils to our school.

Our Year 8 and Year 9 pupils are tremendously excited to be starting their Autumn term in the brand new senior school.  Our senior pupils now have their own dedicated study centre in "Stable Cottage", a beautiful building on our current site encompassing two classrooms a common room, kitchen area and courtyard garden.  The opening of Stable Cottage marks the first stage in our development to GCSE education.  Our GCSE programme commences in September 2016, giving our pupils the opportunity to complete their secondary education at The Unicorn School.

A warm welcome to you all, we look forward to sharing an exciting Autumn term with you.

With best wishes

The Unicorn School

Prizegiving Ceremony Celebrates our Pupils’ Achievements

05 July 2015

Prizegiving Ceremony Celebrates our Pupils’ Achievements

The Unicorn School year ended on a high with our traditional prizegiving ceremony.  The special assembly celebrated the achievements of our pupils and bid a fond farewell to those who are moving on to their next schools.

Head Teacher Andrew Day gave an inspirational speech about the importance of recognising and rewarding achievement both in school and beyond.  Donned in his Rugby Club tie, blazer and cap he spoke with pride of these marks of recognition he had received himself, and reminded us all that achievement extends beyond the academic into all aspects of life.

It was a proud moment for our pupils as they received their certificates and trophies, with such commitment, perseverance and talent they thoroughly deserved their awards.  Congratulations to each and every one!

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Grimm’s Tales Performed at the Upper School Production

02 July 2015

Grimm’s Tales Performed at the Upper School Production
Grimm’s Tales Performed at the Upper School Production

This summer's Upper School performance was a unique interpretation of Grimm's Fairy Tales.  Our Unicorn School pupils used song, dance and improvisation to bring these traditional tales to life.  Parents, staff and pupils were bowled over by the performance, which was in turn riotous, thrilling, sentimental and hilarious.

Congratulations to our upper school pupils for their dedication and great theatrical talent, and a huge thank you to Mrs Parvin and all those who worked hard to organise this wonderful event.

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Oak and Willow’s Wonderful Work

01 July 2015

Oak and Willow’s Wonderful Work

Oak and Willow classes' summer term has been filled with exciting topics and wonderful work.  Their work on North American history has explored the experiences and viewpoints of the Native Americans, the pioneer settlers, the civil war soldiers and the political figures of the time.  The pupils have created some amazing artwork inspired by the topic, including 3D models and a pioneer-style patchwork quilt.

Moving forwards to the space age, Oak and Willow have been working on plans for an amusement park on the moon.  The task developed their financial, logistical and artistic planning skills; and the figures show that Oak and Willow's Lunar Park will deliver a healthy profit margin!

Well done to all Oak and Willow pupils, you have worked hard and made great achievements this term.

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Splendid Sports Day

22 June 2015

Splendid Sports Day

Sports Day was a splendid event with our Unicorn School pupils really showing us what they are made of.  The skies may have been grey but our pupils showed their true colours; with determination, athleticism and fun all round.  Follow the link below to see photos of the day.


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“Do Not Give Up” – An Inspiring Assembly

11 June 2015

“Do Not Give Up” – An Inspiring Assembly

Today's assembly was led by a very special visitor, one of The Unicorn School's alumni Mr Christopher Angwin.

Christopher's assembly was based on the inspiring message "Do not give up".  As a former Unicorn School pupil himself Christopher knows first-hand the difficulties faced by children with dyslexia or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  With unfailing courage Christopher has overcome his difficulties and has made extraordinary academic achievements.   Having graduated with a BSc Honours degree in Bio-Veterinary Science, Chris is about to start a post graduate degree in Veterinary Medicine and Surgery at Edinburgh University

Christopher's academic success is a phenomenal achievement for a young man who was once told "You will never get as far as A-Levels".  He has earned his success through his own talents and determination, but Christopher's experiences at The Unicorn School have also played a vital role.  "The Unicorn School was absolutely fundamental to my current position" says Christopher, "It was the best school, the most appropriate school and the most helpful for that time in my life".

Christopher says "The Unicorn School taught me to work with, to like and to care about others…it was a huge change from my previous school but the staff really helped me to integrate.  Such a big change is always tough even if it's a change for the better.  The best thing about The Unicorn School was realising that I was safe and that I was going to be treated as a normal person."

Our current Unicorn School pupils were enthralled by Christopher's words of inspiration.  We all face difficulties of one kind or another but Christopher represents a wonderful example of what could be achieved.  In Christopher's own words: "You can do anything!"

The Unicorn School Has Fun In The Park

08 June 2015

The Unicorn School Has Fun In The Park

This weekend The Unicorn School joined in the celebrations at Abingdon Fun in the Park.  This year's event took place in glorious sunshine in the beautiful Abbey Grounds, and included a wealth of exciting attractions including a climbing wall, bouncy village, exhibitions by local Irish Dancing School, Gospel Choir, and Kick-Boxing Dojo, plus arts and crafts activities and community groups.

The Unicorn School ran a stall packed with fun activities including literacy and numeracy games and favourites such as squirty-water-writing and of course shaving-foam finger writing!  The stall was packed with children and families joining in the games, follow this link to see photos of the fun!

Our thanks to our staff members who hosted the event, and of course to all of our Unicorn School families who came along to support us!

Stable Cottage Development Work Commences

05 June 2015

Stable Cottage Development Work Commences

Today is an exciting day at The Unicorn School as development work has started on our new Year 9 building, Stable Cottage.  This morning our building contractors arrived and set straight to work in the former kitchen.   Year 9 will move into their new accommodation in September 2015.

Today marks the beginning of the next stage in our development to Year 9 and GCSE provision, we can't wait to see the newly refurbished Stable Cottage!

BBC News Features The Unicorn School

02 June 2015

BBC News Features The Unicorn School

Yesterday The Unicorn School was visited by a TV crew from BBC South Today Oxford, who interviewed pupils and teachers as part of a feature on dyslexia education.  The feature aired on BBC TV yesterday evening at both 6.30pm and 10.30pm. 

You can view the article on Youtube by following this link.

There has been great media excitement about The Unicorn School recently, as we initiate our GCSE programme which will make us unique as the only dyslexia-specialist school in Oxfordshire to offer GCSE provision. This recent media coverage is tremendously exciting and reflects the high standard of specialist teaching at The Unicorn School, and the calibre and charisma of our wonderful pupils.

A Memorable Month at The Unicorn School

26 May 2015

A Memorable Month at The Unicorn School
A Memorable Month at The Unicorn School

We look back at another memorable month at The Unicorn School.  Earlier in May the entire school enjoyed a fantastric trip to the Thinktank Science Museum, Birmingham.  The trip was funded by the amazing fundraising efforts of our Parents' Association, Friends of The Unicorn.  Our thanks to all of our Unicorn School families who helped make this possible.

This week saw the welcome return of our upper school classes, Oak, Willow, Beech and Redwood, from their unforgettable residential trip to Le Touquet, France.

On Wednesday afternoon our lower school classes, Elm, Ash, Cedar and Lime returned exhausted and exuberant from their three days adventure in Rookesbury Park Activity Centre, Hampshire.

On Thursday the entire school took part in our annual sponsored walk around Abingdon's Albert Park, to raise funds for our chosen charity The Mwalimu School in Tanzania.  Pupils, teachers, parents, and quite a few family pets joined in the fun in glorious sunshine, our pupils enjoying a refreshing ice lolly afterwards.

Finally on Friday we waved a fond farewell to our Unicorn School pupils and families for a well-deserved half term break.  We wish you a wonderful holiday and we look forward to welcoming you all back on Monday 1st June.

Click on the links below to see photos of all our recent events.

Follow this link to see photos of the school trip to Thinktank

Follow this link to see photos of Rooksbury Park

Follow this link to see photos of Le Touquet

Follow this link to see photos of the sponsored walk

Andrew Day Interviewed on Jack FM

15 May 2015

Andrew Day Interviewed on Jack FM

Exciting news at The Unicorn School, our Head Teacher Andrew Day was interviewed today for Jack FM radio!  Editor Jo Summerbell was fascinated to hear all about the school's expansion to GCSE provision.  As the first dyslexia-specialist school in Oxfordshire to offer GCSE Education, The Unicorn School is leading specialist education within Oxfordshire to new heights.  Andrew was delighted to discuss our development to GCSE and the very positive effect this will have on Oxfordshire and neigbouring counties.

Andrew's interview will be broadcast on Jack FM (106.8) and Jack 2 (107.9) this Sunday between 9am and 1pm, to an audience of over 65,000 listeners.  Why not tune in and listen too!

Young Artists Represent The Unicorn School

06 May 2015

Young Artists Represent The Unicorn School

The Unicorn School is immensely proud of the young artists selected to represent our school at the prestigious Young Art Oxford exhibition.  Arthur L, Jacob T, Flynn G, Oliver R, Louis M, Thomas W-M, Erin M, Millie Maye H-R, Tom F and Felix I-P  each had their work exhibited at Oxford's Ashmolean Museum alongside entrants from over 40 Oxfordshire schools.  Our pupil's artwork was selected from over 3,000 entrants, so being chosen to exhibit is a very impressive achievement.

Yesterday evening the school and families attended a private viewing of the exhibition, the quality of the artwork was extremely impressive and we were proud to be a part of it.  The exhibition is open until Thursday 7th May so we encourage you to take the opportunity view this inspiring collection from young artists across the county.

Young Art Oxford is an annual art exhibition open to all Oxfordshire schools with children aged between 5 and 13 years. It is a wonderful opportunity for young aspiring artists to have their work viewed by well known professionals and artists and to exhibit at the prestigious Ashmolean Museum.  Money raised from the exhibition goes to Cancer Research UK to fund research into cures and treatment for childhood cancers.  For more information please visit their website at

Our sincere thanks to Mrs Johnson for her hard work in organising The Unicorn School's entrants.  The Unicorn School is extremely proud of our young artists and we hope that you enjoy the exhibition.

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Food Bank Contributions

01 May 2015

Food Bank Contributions

The first group of children took the generous food contributions collected this week and a £10 cash donation to the Food Bank at Christchurch in Abingdon. They went into the room where all the food is kept, asked lots of questions and were shown how it is organised. The children were delightful, a credit to all.

The organiser said that they were short on hygiene items, toothpaste toothbrushes soap etc  and small bags of sugar (500g).If you find the logistics of getting food to school difficult, small donations of money, given to the secretary, are useful as it enables those running the food bank to buy fresh items such as bread from Budgeons, directly opposite Christchurch.

If permission slips are returned I will do my best to take as many children as possible on Fridays between now and the end of term.

Many thanks for your generosity.

Mike Pickett

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Welcome Back, April 2015

20 April 2015

A very warm welcome to the summer term, to all of our Unicorn School children and parents.  We hope that you have all had a wonderful Easter break, and we look forward to seeing all your smiling faces when school reopens tomorrow morning.

We are delighted to welcome Andrew Day, who joins The Unicorn School as Head Teacher this term.  Andrew joins us from Calder House School in Wiltshire where he has served as Head Teacher since 2008.  Andrew has extensive experience in education provision for children with dyslexia and associated learning difficulties, and is tremendously excited to be joining our school.

We look forward to seeing you all again tomorrow, and to sharing an exciting summer term with you. 

With best wishes

The Unicorn School.

Easter Fair and Spring in the Air!

25 March 2015

Easter Fair and Spring in the Air!

March has been a very exciting month at The Unicorn School with pupils, parents and staff getting into the swing of spring.  Last week we welcomed our Unicorn families to our Easter Fair where they joined in our games and events including our fiendishly tricky Easter Egg hunt.  The Easter cafĂ© was as popular as ever, serving a medley of yummy treats, with the chocolate fountain making its debut.  We had some wonderfully creative entries to the Easter Hat and Easter cake competition, and there were prizes galore at the raffle.  The Easter Fair was a huge success, raising £798.20 for The Unicorn School, thanks to the generosity of our Unicorn families and the hard work of those parents and staff who organised the event.

Friday 13th March had us all seeing red in our Comic Relief Red Nose Day event.  Pupils and staff came dressed in scarlet for the day whilst the pupils of Elm and Ash made their faces "funny for money" with hilarious results!  Follow this link  to see photos from the day.  The event raised £93.50 for Comic Relief charities, well done everyone!

Earlier in the month the whole school donned literary costumes to celebrate World Book Day.  Our pupils let their imagination lose with a huge variety of fancy dress, all based around characters from books.  Not to be outdone, many of our teachers and staff came in costume too!  We collected donations of almost £79 to support World Book Day charities, what a great result!

With so many exciting events at our school this month, we are all feeling a little like March hares!

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A Successful Open Morning

18 March 2015

On Tuesday 17th March The Unicorn School welcomed interested parents and professionals to our school open morning.  The morning was a huge success, our newly appointed Head Teacher Andrew Day introduced himself and spoke about The Unicorn School's plans for expansion to Years 9, 10 and 11.  The pupils of Redwood and Beech classes conducted parents on their tours and were marvellous ambassadors for our school. 

Our thanks to all those who visited us.  Our next open morning is scheduled for the Autumn term, and we are always happy to arrange individual appointments for parents to visit our school. To arrange an appointment please contact our Registrar, Rowan Knowles, on 01235 530222.

Emergency Shelters in Willow and Oak

17 March 2015

Emergency Shelters in Willow and Oak

Willow and Oak Classes have been researching emergency shelters as part of their Design & Technology and Geography work.  The pupils have been researching the topic with connection to places around the world that have or that do experience extreme weather conditions.  They used their findings to help them design and make a prototype of an emergency shelter taking into consideration durability, strength, mobility and weather resistance to ensure their effectiveness for use in a particular climate.  

This work was very thouroughly researched and beautifully executed, well done Willow and Oak!

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Flour Babies in Cedar and Lime

13 March 2015

Flour Babies in Cedar and Lime

The Unicorn School has welcomed some new arrivals this week as Cedar and Lime classes have created their very own Flour Babies! 

The pupils of Cedar and Lime have been learning about rights and responsibilities as part of their Personal Social and Health Education.  To bring these concepts to life each pupil has created a beautiful baby from a bag of flour, and has taken responsibility for caring for their little one night and day.  They have taken the challenge very seriously, even arranging a nursery to share childcare duties. 

We are so proud of our responsible pupils, and we love their little flour-filled bundles of joy!

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BBC Radio Oxford Visit The Unicorn School

10 February 2015

BBC Radio Oxford Visit The Unicorn School

Today The Unicorn School welcomed Lilley Mitchell from BBC Radio Oxford, who joined us to celebrate Safer Internet Day 2015.  Lilley broadcast four interviews live from The Unicorn School during Phil Gayle's Breakfast Show. 

The morning started with an interview with Vita Parvin, our Acting Head Teacher, who gave Lilly and the listeners an overview of SID 2015, a national event promoting the safe and responsible use of technology.  This year's theme is 'Let's create a better internet together', and Vita explained how The Unicorn School has planned a day of activities focusing on both the creative and positive things that children and young people can do online, as well as the importance of staying safe online.

Next Lilley spoke to Clare Roberts, a one-to-one teacher at The Unicorn School.  Lilley was fascinated to find out about our school's unique approach to learning, she joined in some of Clare's many sound and phonics games, and got her hands messy with Clare's famous shaving foam writing practice.  Lilley joined class teachers Rachael McMullen and Lucinda Allison next, she explored the Viking theme in Ash classroom and joined in sentence extension activities, using shapes and colours to help build and structure sentences.  Finally Lilley met with Alex de Jong and The Unicorn School pupils in the ICT suite, to talk about how we can use online resources to help us with our learning.  Shaun, Thomas, Felix, Madeline, James, Zak and Owen gave Lilley a wonderful welcome and were marvellous ambassadors for our school.  We are so proud of them.

Safer Internet Day is an opportunity to spend a whole day focusing on e-safety and the importance of staying safe online.  Every Unicorn pupil has made their own "e-safety pledge", which will be displayed on the SID 2015 wall in the ICT suite.  The day was filled with activities including interactive assemblies, specially planned lessons, and of course using the internet to listen to our own broadcast on BBC Radio Oxford.

Our thanks to Lilley Mitchell for joining us today.  It was a real treat to meet her and to be a part of the radio show.  If you missed the show or would like to hear it again simply follow the link below and click on "Phil Gayle".

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The Snow Queen and The Unicorn

09 February 2015

The Snow Queen and The Unicorn

This month The Unicorn School's very own thespian superstar, Mrs Helen Thrower, treated us to a magical rendition of a Hans Christian Anderson classic, The Snow Queen.  Adapted and directed by Peter Webster, The Snow Queen is the tale of a beautiful but cold-hearted queen who schemes to rule the world by scattering icy shards of glass into the eyes and hearts of good people.  The villagers, aided by the raucous Panto Dame Nelly, must overthrow the evil Snow Queen and free themselves of her wickedness.  Of course evil is its own undoing, and Nelly and her friends use their courage to defeat the Snow Queen and return summer to their homeland.

The Snow Queen was performed by Farringdon Dramatic Society and Nelly was played to perfection by our own Mrs Thrower.  The performance was enjoyed by many of Mrs Thrower's former pupils who reunited to cheer her on, followed by a celebratory lunch.  Mrs Thrower was bowled over by the encouragement of so many Unicorns past and present, and thanks them from her heart for their support.

Congratulations Mrs Thrower, we can't wait for your next performance!

A Fascinating Insight into the History of The Unicorn School Building

04 February 2015

A Fascinating Insight into the History of The Unicorn School Building
A Fascinating Insight into the History of The Unicorn School Building

This morning The Unicorn School was treated to a walk through history as we were visited by a very special guest, Mrs Marion Cox.  Marion's family has lived in and owned our school building for generations, and we were privileged to have her share her memories of her family home. 

Marion's family have owned and lived in our building for over 100 years until it was finally sold by Marion's father in 1970.  Four generations of the Challenor family, Marion's ancestors, have lived in the house since Bromley Challenor the First originally took up residence in the Victorian era.  Bromley Challenor, Marion's Great Great Grandfather, was succeeded by his son, Bromley the Second, and then by Bromley the Third.  The house then passed to Marion's uncle, Norman Challenor, who tragically was killed in action whilst serving in France during the First World War.  Norman Challenor's personal history has been recorded in a book, which is on display in the Abingdon County Hall Museum.  After Norman's death the house passed to his sisters, Gladys, Mercy and Ethel.  These sisters were Marion's aunts and she has fond memories of visiting them at the house as a child. 

Originally known as "The Firs", the house was a gracious Victorian residence.  The original carved fir cones still adorn the gateway, and the inscription is still visible on the stone gate pillar.  The house is very different today, the white stucco is a later addition and covers the original stonework.  Marion recalls the Victorian Fernery built into the front of the building, to the left hand side of the doorway.  Indeed Marion still has plants from the fernery and grounds which have found a new home in her own garden.  The grounds were originally extensive, stretching back to encompass a croquet lawn, orchards and tennis courts.  The family loved sports and tennis tournaments were a regular event.

Inside as well as out the building has undergone a transformation since the time of Bromley Challenor the First.  The hallways and rooms were once panelled in oak, and fireplaces of oak or marble graced every room.  Our own school office was then the Afternoon Sitting Room whilst Mrs Salisbury's Oak classroom was used as the Morning Sitting Room.  The room originally featured a magnificent fireplace of marble, with carved leaves surrounding the family crest.  Marion fondly remembers her childhood visits to her aunts, and recalls Ethel staggering under the weight of the afternoon tea tray, loaded with tea pots and silverware.

The original staircase was of carved oak, and three portraits hung on the wall.  According to Marion's family tradition, should a portrait fall from the staircase a misfortune would befall the family.  Marion remembers her father securing the portraits to the wall with wire to evade ill luck!  Upstairs were the family bedrooms, Aunt Gladys slept in what is now Mrs Chappelle and Mrs Johnson's room, whilst Mercy and Ethel resided in Oak and Redwood classrooms.  At the very top of the house where Elm and Ash classrooms are now, was the family ballroom!

We were delighted to have Marion visit us today, and share her fascinating memories.  Marion was accompanied by local historian Mrs Ruth Weinberg, who is writing a history of Abingdon through its buildings and people, and who is working with Marion to document the history of the Challenor family.  The history will shortly be available to view on the Local Authority's website, alongside many other fascinating stories about our town and our people.  To find out more please visit

Safer Internet Day at The Unicorn School

03 February 2015

Safer Internet Day at The Unicorn School
The Unicorn School is supporting Safer Internet Day 2015.

The Unicorn School is joining hundreds of other organisations across the UK in celebrating Safer Internet Day and promoting the safe and responsible use of technology.  Safer Internet Day 2015 is on Tuesday 10th February 2015, with the theme 'Let's create a better internet together', offering the opportunity to focus on both the creative and positive things that children and young people are doing online, as well as the role that we all play in helping to create a better internet. 

To celebrate the day The Unicorn School is engaging every pupil in activities that will help them to understand e-safety and why staying safe online is so important.  Every child will attend a special interactive assembly where they will discuss different aspects of e-safety such as cyber bullying and computer viruses.  The pupils will be asked to think carefully about online dangers and to discuss what they themselves might do in different situations.  The Safer Internet theme will continue in class lessons, with pupils exploring both the dangers and the positives of the internet.  They will be encouraged to think of ways in which they themselves can use the internet to make the world a better place, such as developing a "recipe for a better internet" and making pledges to undertake "good digital deeds."

Vita Parvin, Acting Head Teacher of The Unicorn School said "At The Unicorn School we consider the safety of our pupils to be of the very highest importance.  Keeping our pupils safe online is a priority, and we wish to celebrate the positive aspects of the internet whilst ensuring that our pupils have the knowledge and skills to be able to navigate the online environment safely and responsibly."

Welcome Back, January 2015

05 January 2015

A very warm welcome to the new term to all of our Unicorn School children and parents.  We hope that you have all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year, and we look forward to seeing all your smiling faces when school reopens tomorrow morning.

We would like to refer parents to the letter from our School Governors, sent out on 30th December 2014.  You should all have received the letter by email, and a copy is available on the parents' log-in area of the website.

2015 is an enormously exciting year for us all and we look forward to meeting with parents later this term to discuss the future plans for our school.  We thank you for your support and we look forward to sharing the new term, and the new year with you.


The Unicorn School 

Festive Fun at The Unicorn School

12 December 2014

Festive Fun at The Unicorn School

What a festive fortnight we have had at The Unicorn School! On Wednesday 3rd December we opened our doors to parents and children alike for the annual Unicorn School Christmas Fair.  It was an afternoon to remember with stalls, activities and the famous Unicorn Coffee Shop, what a way to usher in the festive season!

On Wednesday 10th December our Unicorn Children were invited to their very own Christmas party.  With music, dancing, festive feast, and gifts for all delivered by a very special visitor with a red cape and snowy white beard!   

Finally on Thursday 11th December all of our school parents and families were invited to join us for the now legendary Unicorn School Carol Concert at Trinity Church.  The children gave an incredible performance comprising solos, duets, full choir, instrumental pieces, rap music and of course tradidional Christmas carols.  Every Unicorn child had a part to play and they all performed beautifully.  They have been working so hard these past weeks and their efforts clearly paid off, we are so proud of them.

Our heartfelt thanks to all of you parents, children and staff who have worked so hard to make these events such a success.  Thank you so much. 

 This afternoon we waved a fond farewell to The Unicorns until the new term.  On behalf of our Head Teacher, Jackie Vaux, and all of our Unicorn School teachers and staff we wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Oak Class Produce Wonderful Work

10 December 2014

Oak Class Produce Wonderful Work

This term Oak class have been working hard on building Mayan Temples, as part of their topic work on The Mayans. Oak have been reconstructing the historical structures using a variety of media, including Lego, computer aided design, and even chocolate!  Please follow the link below to see the fruits of their labour.

Oak class have also written some wonderful historical stories, developing the themes of literacy and history that they have been studying this term.  To view their stories please click on the "View our recent work" tab at the top of the school website.

Well done Oak, we are very proud of you. 


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Fruit and Vegetable Alliteration

08 December 2014

Fruit and Vegetable Alliteration

There was a veritable variety of vegetables at The Unicorn School this week, as Redwood class created personified veg sculptures as part of their Fruit and Vegetable Alliteration project.

Alliteration - the art of combining words that start with the same sound - is a key component of Redwood's English curriculum this term.  They are studying poetry and vocabulary, and writing their own alliterative poems to go with their sculptures.  We had Colin the Confused Carrot, Odin the Ordinary Aubergine and Barley the Bewildered Broccoli to name but a few.

Redwood's sculptures are on display in the school office this week, so to view the various veggies pop in and see us!


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French Bake-Off

05 December 2014

French Bake-Off

Today the pupils of Willow class produced a feast of delicacies in their French Bake-Off.  Gourmet delights included a French Breakfast Bacon Croissant, Chocolate Gateu, Fruit tarts and an assortment of crepes.

The Bake-off not only exercised the children's cookery skills, but also their literacy and ICT skills.  Each pupil developed their own recipe inspired by traditional French dishes, and designed their own recipe and instruction cards which they produced on the school computers.

The result was a banquet of delicious treats,  which were judged by two chief tasters from the school office!  And the result? "C'est magnifique!"


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Story-Telling Extravaganza at The Unicorn School

28 November 2014

Story-Telling Extravaganza at The Unicorn School

This week pupils of The Unicorn School found their classrooms  transformed into a world of mystery and delight, as literature was brought to life in two mornings of story-telling.  The school was metamorphazised into scenes from imagination and literature, in "Tales before bedtime" the children feasted on cocoa and cookies in a Bedouin tent whilst overhead twinkling fairy lights recreated the star-lit desert sky. In "Smaug's Lair" the children encountered a Tolkienesque dragon's cave crammed with treasure, scary stories were told in "Tales of the Unexpected" and war stories narrated in a simulated world war trench. The children polished up their performance skills in "Dressing Up a Tale", acting out "Romeo and Juliet" in full costume, replete with diving flippers and space boppers!

The whole school joined in the story-telling event designed to get children directly involved in literature, using sight, sound, touch, taste and even smell to immerse the children completely in the atmosphere of stories and imagination. The event was tailored to build core literature skills such as speaking and listening, as well as developing drama skills.

"Teaching literature through immersion in story-telling is a wonderful way of opening up the joy of reading" says Jackie Vaux, Unicorn School Head Teacher. "Every year we run an immersive teaching event based on a different aspect of the National Curriculum. We have had great success with art, science and maths events. This year the theme is literature and we couldn't be more excited".

Judging by their looks of wide-eyed wonder, the children couldn't agree more!

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Fantastic Football

24 November 2014

Mrs Thrower is incredibly proud of our Unicorn School Football Team and their wonderful achievements last week. 

Our team played three away-matches, taking on Buckland, Uffington and Sunningwell Schools.  These were the first matches for this team line-up and our pupils showed great teamwork and determination, even playing on through the pouring rain!  The week ended on a high when our Unicorns won 4-1 against Sunningwell.

Our thanks to all those parents who supported our team from the touch-line, and especially to Thomas A's Dad who was called upon to referee!

Mrs Vaux and all The Unicorn School staff join Mrs Thrower in congratulating our fantastic footballers, well done!

No Pens Day at The Unicorn School

24 October 2014

No Pens Day at The Unicorn School

Ink stained fingers will be absent this week as the children of The Unicorn School put down their pens and pick up their language skills as part of national "No Pens Day".  The whole day will be devoted to speaking and listening activities, part of a nation-wide focus on language in learning, headed by the charity The Communication Trust. 

Freddie C, Erin M and their friends are looking forward to a day of fun including debate, role play and hands-on activities.  There's just one rule, no pens allowed! 

The Unicorn School is an Oxfordshire-based school for children with dyslexia and related difficulties.  "Supporting children's speech and language is absolutely core to our work here." says Lucinda Allison, Unicorn School Class Teacher and Speech & Language specialist.  "Developing good communication skills can have a profoundly positive affect on children's lives, influencing their behaviour, their social development and their academic performance.  No Pens Day is a wonderful opportunity for the whole nation to celebrate ways of learning through speaking and listening." 

An estimated 1 million children across the nation will be joining the fun on No Pens Day, according to The Communication Trust.  The Unicorn School is proud to be a part of this event.

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A Successful Open Morning

17 October 2014

On Thursday 16th October The Unicorn School welcomed interested parents and professionals to our school open morning.  Our thanks to all those who visited us.  Our next open morning is scheduled for Tuesday 17th March 2014, and we are always happy to arrange individual appointments to visit our school.

Jackie Vaux

Head Teacher 

School Open Morning

16 October 2014

We are delighted to welcome prospective parents to our school open morning, on Thursday 16th October 2014, from 9am until 12pm.  To view the Open Morning Programme click this link.

To confirm your place on our open morning, or to book an individual appointment to view our school, please contact us on 01235 530222 or by email at [email protected]  We look forward to welcoming you to our school.

Jackie Vaux, Head Teacher 

Parents' Curriculum Evening

19 September 2014

We were delighted to welcome so many of our Unicorn parents to our curriculum and social evening on Thursday 18th September.  We hope you enjoyed the evening as much as we did.

Best wishes  



Welcome back on Wednesday

01 September 2014

We are delighted to welcome our new pupils and parents  especially those who have moved countries to get here! We are looking forward to seeing our current Unicorn pupils and our new ones and are very excited to see you all again. Uniform will be on sale in the gym hall on Wednesday.

best wishes


Sponsored Walk - 18th June 2014

30 June 2014

The sponsored walk was a huge success at Albert Park. The glorious weather, the amazing effort of the children, along with the support of parents and grandparents made for a fun atmosphere in our efforts to purchase bunk beds and mattresses for the 300 children who board at Piaya School. Photographs can be seen in the school foyer after school each day and at the end of term picnic.


Sports Day - 24th June 2014

30 June 2014

The winning house in the school athletics competition was Ock. Congratulations. An excellent time was had by all at Tilsley Park Stadium. It was great to see so many parents and grandparents there to see the efforts of all the children. I was delighted with the impeccable sporting behaviour shown by each and every child. Many thanks to all the staff for their support too. Photographs can be seen in the school foyer after school each day and at the end of term picnic.

Residential trip to the Isle of Wight

14 May 2014

Residential trip to the Isle of Wight
Residential trip to the Isle of Wight

Children from Willow, Lime, Beech & Redwood have had 2 nights at the Isle of Wight residential trip now, they are all having a wonderful time - eating and sleeping very well. They have so far enjoyed many activities, including raft building, swimming and today they are going on a long walk around the coast.

Residential trip to Liddington

14 May 2014

Residential trip to Liddington
Residential trip to Liddington

The children from Ash, Elm, Oak & Cedar are on their final day of their residential trip to Liddington in Swindon. They have had alot of fun and their activites have included canoeing, raft building and aeroball. They are all having a wonderful time.

Second for The Unicorn Football Team

27 March 2014

Congratulations to The Unicorn Football Team, who came second in their group in the 6 a side tournament at Our Lady’s Abingdon on 24-3-14. They beat Milton and drew with Sunningwell and Our Lady’s to become the first Unicorn team to qualify for the Semi Finals. They then battled valiantly against the all-conquering Buckland, who went on to win the final. A really determined effort by all: the end of an excellent season in which the children were worthy ambassadors of the school. Many thanks for all the support at matches this year.   Mike Pickett

Food Friday

21 March 2014

Food Friday
Food Friday

Jacob, Callum, Ned, Alfie, Rose and Lily delivered this week’s produce donated by the children, teachers and parents. They got to look around inside the food store. Items they are short of include tinned spaghetti, instant hot chocolate, pet food and food for special diets such as gluten free.

Your donations make a difference as shown on the BBC Famous, Rich and Hungry, available on i-player.

Mike Pickett

Food Friday

07 March 2014

Food Friday

Yet another succesful delivery to the food bank. Three children from Year 6 met the organiser Sarah Fry who showed them the store and where the goods are kept. There were lots of longing gazes at the biscuits.

The children also interviewed Sarah as part of their literacy work on Journalism.

Thanks again to all the parents who have donated goods for our 'Food Friday'.

Mike Pickett


Match against Sunningwell - 07/03/14

07 March 2014

Match against Sunningwell - 07/03/14
Match against Sunningwell - 07/03/14

Another superb effort by our footballers in the play-off match against Sunningwell. They had amazing attitude and gave it their all in a full blooded (but sporting) encounter - that left them exhausted (see photo).

Sadly we didn't beat them this time (3-0) but we did beat them in our last game.

Thanks to all our amazing supporters who are there rain, sunshine or more rain.

6 a-side tournament coming up 24th March at OLA after school, details to follow

Mike Pickett

Another load dropped off at the Food Bank

28 February 2014

Another load dropped off at the Food Bank

Today three children delivered generous gifts, donated by the The Unicorn School parents and guardians, to The Abingdon Food bank. The end of the month is the hardest time for many who come to the food bank with many facing choices between food and heating. 

We will be doing this every Friday - we like to call it 'Food Friday'. A big thank you to all the parents and guardians supporting this!!

Mike Pickett 28-2-14

Oak and Cedar get evacuated to Hill End Camp, World War II style

28 February 2014

Oak and Cedar get evacuated to Hill End Camp, World War II style
On Monday 10th February, the children in Oak and Cedar classes were evacuated to Hill End Camp, as part of our World War II topic. The children experienced some activities that would have taken place during the war, including cooking, spy hunting, rationing and gardening. The day was made as realistic as possible for the children and they all brought their 'rationed' packed lunches and were dressed up in clothes from that era. The sun crept out for a little while and the children had a wonderful day.  More Images

Another well played football match

24 February 2014

Once again the intrepid Unicorn United Footballers went into battle against Sunningwell. On a sunny Friday afternoon, (honest, the sun did shine); they played a full part in an excellent match despite losing 5-3. There were 2 well taken goals by Jayden and a cool finish by Charles. Alex saved a penalty and then produced a save worthy of the Premiership. Captain Sebastian led by example with great tackling and forays into attack. Defenders Lewis and Owen rose to the challenge as Sunningwell attacked during the second half. Thomas, as ever, was immense, man marking their best player, helping defence and attack. A much better start to the match and some dogged determination along with skill kept the result in the balance right up to the end. The other highlights were the biscuits and the mud. You could hardly recognise Seb or Charles. A very enjoyable match; the children were a credit to the school. Mike Pickett

First football match of 2014

31 January 2014

The Unicorn football team travelled to league leaders Buckland for their first match of 2014. Despite a poor first 10 minutes, by which time they were 5-0 down, they showed tremendous character and perseverance over the remaining 40 minutes to keep the score to 5-0. Every player gave their all; they encouraged each other and played in a sporting manner. They were a credit to themselves and the school. Well done Alex, Patrick, Owen, Thomas, Charles, Sebastian and Jayden.

Mike Pickett

Enhanced ICAN Accreditation

13 December 2013

We are delighted to announce that we are the only school in Oxfordshire, and one of only nine schools in the country, to have earned the prestigious ICAN accreditation at an Enhanced level.

ICAN is a children's communication charity, which help schools develop their skills in identifying and supporting children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN).

Good communication skills underpin the development of a child's learning, thinking and social skills. Research suggests that children with dyslexia often have further language difficulties, and we feel it is particularly important to address the additional needs some of our children experience. This accreditation has helped us build on the already specialist teaching we provide, creating a communication-supportive environment for all children including those with mild-moderate speech, language and communication needs.

Successful Christmas Fair

28 November 2013

We had a very successful few hours yesterday at our Christmas Fair. Everyone enjoyed spending their pocket money at all the lovely stalls and we managed to raise an amazing £1044.

Our thanks go to the ladies of the Friends of the Unicorn who worked so tirelessly organising and preparing everything and to Mrs Thrower for all her extra hard work and enthusiasm too,

The School Council are keen that this money will go towards the castle/fort the children would like in the playground.

A big thank you and well done to everyone.

Amate Animalia

07 November 2013

Amate Animalia
Amate Animalia

We thoroughly enjoyed our hands on meeting with many rescued exotic animals at school recently.

Emilie from Amate Animalia helped us to learn about topics such as camouflage, habitats, conservation, ecosystems and wildlife tourism, as well as specific animals & their husbandry requirements in a fun way with all her friendly, patient animals.

Unicorn 3- Sunningwell 2

06 November 2013

Unicorn 3- Sunningwell 2
Unicorn 3- Sunningwell 2

A superb all round display saw The Unicorn football team beat last year’s finalists in a closely fought game.

With the wind behind them, quality goals from Charles and two from Patrick resulted in a 3-0 half time lead. Against the wind in the second half the team showed great commitment and skill from the defence of Owen, Lewis, and Sebastian with goalkeeper Alex once again in fine form. Midfielders Jayden and Thomas brilliantly linked defence and attack. A tough physical match ended with lots of biscuits, including the favoured Jaffa cakes.

Many thanks to all the parents and grandparents for their support, and for Mrs Purvis for transport, photos and her time.

Congratulations to the football team

04 October 2013

Congratulations to the football team
The Unicorn football team showed true grit and determination on Wednesday in the tournament, drawing the first match and narrowly being pipped at the post in the second . They showed a great attitude to the games and looked like they were having fun and we are very proud of them, Thanks to Mr Pickett and all the supporters.

Sponsored Walk

14 June 2013

Sponsored Walk

Congratulations to everyone who took part in our successful sponsored walk yesterday. An amazing 616 laps of Albert Park were walked, that is 265 miles in all.

A superb effort by all. There will be a slide show of photos of all the happy walkers in the foyer next week.

There is still time to get more sponsors to make every lap worthwhile. Remember we are trying to build a new classroom for our sponsored school in Mwalimu so every penny counts.

Can all monies be in school by Monday 1st July please.

Together we are making a difference.


The Giving Machine Fund Raising

19 April 2013

The Unicorn School has signed up to to help raise extra funds for the school.

Over 400 top online shops pay TheGivingMachine a sales commission for directing shoppers to them, including Amazon, M & S, eBay etc. They then convert commissions generated into free cash donations for the school.

It doesn’t cost you anything, but if we can get everyone to search via The Giving Machine whenever shopping online, a small percentage of the purchases will come directly to our school.

Wonderful Result Easter Fair

21 March 2013

A huge thanks to Cait and all our wonderful parents, children and teachers for running stalls at the fair. Everyone had a lot of fun spending their pocket money.

We raised £608 so far which is phenomenal!


Open Morning Tuesday 19th March

19 March 2013

Open Morning Tuesday 19th March.

We were delighted to welcome many enthusiastic and knowledgeable visitors to our school this morning - we hope, in due course, to be able to include their children in our school.

If you were unable to get to our open morning, we do have an 'open door' policy and are always pleased to welcome visitors and show you our unique school.

Semi Final Result

12 March 2013

Semi Final Result
Semi Final Result

We are delighted that our football team are playing so well this academic year. Despite losing in the semi final last week Mr Pickett is still really pleased with the sporting attitude and determination to succeed he has seen over the last few months in all of his players.

Our first Unicorn team to make it to a semi final! Maybe it will be the finals next year?

Very well done to all of our players.

Mwalimu School Solar Panels Installed

28 February 2013

Mwalimu School Solar Panels Installed
Mwalimu School Solar Panels Installed

We are thrilled to hear that the solar panels have now been installed in the Mwalimu school in Tanzania that we are supporting and raising funds for. The children now have electricity in their classroom.

Thank you to everyone for your contributions to this important cause so far. We will keep you informed of our next fund raising event, a whole school sponsored walk in the Summer term.

To find out more do use the attached link

Arthritis Research Fundraiser

21 February 2013

Arthritis Research Fundraiser
Arthritis Research Fundraiser

We are delighted to say that the enthusiastic children of Oak and Willow classes managed to raise £164.80 for Athritis Research UK with their cake sale and non uniform day.

All the children and staff paid to wear orange for the day and happily bought the delicious cakes on sale at playtime to raise money for this important cause.

Well done to Zenor and friends for organising this day and thank you to everyone who donated money.

Happy new year and welcome back!

10 January 2013

We are delighted to welcome you all back to the Unicorn and a particular welcome to our new families, the Sextons and the Balchins.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the Christmas fair to raise money for our new minibus. As most of you are aware, thanks to your amazing generosity, coupled with that of a wonderfully generous benefactor, we have now raised enough money to start our search for our new bus.

The weather is about to turn cold so please send your children into school with warm clothes so that we don't have to huddle together like penguins! Please also keep an eye on the website if it turns snowy over the next three weeks in case we need to take action.

Many thanks.


Nicola Blackwood MP visits the Unicorn

12 September 2012

We were pleased to welcome our local MP Nicola Blackwood who came to visit us to find out more about life at the Unicorn.

To find out more please use this link

Outstanding OFSTED Report

07 July 2012

We are delighted to share the findings of our latest OFSTED report in which our school is found to be outstanding in all areas.

The report says that "The Unicorn School provides an outstanding quality of education which fully meets its stated aim.

The curriculum is outstanding, as are the quality of teaching and assessment and the pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.

As a result, pupils make outstanding progress in their learning and in their personal development.

Their behaviour is outstanding.

Provision for pupils' welfare, health and safety is outstanding."

Click here to read the full report

Upper School French Residential

31 May 2012

Upper School French Residential
Upper School French Residential

Cedar, Lime, Beech and Redwood classes enjoyed an excellent week in Hardelot de Plage, France.

The itinerary included trips to a typical French bakery, a chocolatier and a glass factory. Many happy hours were enjoyed on the beaches in Hardelot and Le Touquet. The children also enjoyed spending their pocket money at the market at Etaples and buying typical French foods in the Auchan supermarket.

Welcome to Ric Egington Olympic Rower

16 May 2012

Welcome to Ric Egington Olympic Rower
Welcome to Ric Egington Olympic Rower

The Unicorn were delighted to welcome Ric Egington today to our special assembly. Ric, who is even taller than Mr Pickett at 6ft 6ins, is a world champion at rowing and won silver at the Bejing Olympics. He let all the pupils hold his medal and even ty it on!

We wish him the best of luck in 2012 and will all be watching him on August 5th.

Ric was inundated with questions from our children and answered as many as he could and was a great role model by saying that it was really important to find your talent and then really work at it until you succeed.

Ric was then "mugged "  for autographs. We are really honoured to have him visit the school and his easy manner talking to the children was very welcome.

Thanks to Mark Hatlee for organising the visit today.


Lower School Residential

14 May 2012

Lower School Residential
Lower School Residential
Elm, Willow and Oak classes had a wonderful trip to the Isle of Wight. All are safely back, slightly tired but very happy recounting all their adventures to the rest of the school.

If you missed our open day, you are still welcome

19 March 2012

Come and see us at the Unicorn during any normal working morning. We will be delighted to welcome you into our school and talk to you about your child's strengths and requirements

Thank you to all parents for the excellent response rate for the questionnaires from our inspector, Mr Fisher Smith

19 February 2012

Appreciation for The Unicorn's Fundraising Activities

24 January 2012

Appreciation for The Unicorn's Fundraising Activities
Appreciation for The Unicorn's Fundraising Activities

The Nomad Trust have posted several acknowledgements on their website blog for our excellent fund-raising activities.

With over £3,750 raised for the Mwalimu School it's great to hear about our funds successfully reaching their target.

Read the fund-raising blog by clicking here and click here for some more images and information about our partner school.

Next time you are in school look for the scrap book on the reception desk which has lots more information and some excellent pictures.

Keep up the good work Mr Pickett!!

Shop and Drop - at Waitrose in Abingdon!

16 January 2012

Shop and Drop - at Waitrose in Abingdon!

Next month (February), The Unicorn School has been chosen by the Waitrose supermarket in Abingdon to be one of the 3 charities to benefit as part of their monthly Community Matters Scheme.

Each time you shop at Waitrose you are given a green token to drop into a box for your chosen charity from the 3 for that month. At the end of the month the £1,000 pot is divided up among the charities according to the proportion of tokens they have in their respective boxes.

So, when you shop at Waitrose next month please don’t forget to drop your token into The Unicorn box and support the school.

Keira Knightley: 'Sometimes I just sit on the bathroom floor and burst into tears' - The Independent

10 January 2012

Keira Knightley: 'Sometimes I just sit on the bathroom floor and burst into tears' - The Independent

What's impressive about Knightley soldiering through that reading list is that she was dyslexic and still doesn't find it especially easy to read. She was six at the time her condition was noticed. "I tricked them," Knightley remembers of hoodwinking her teachers and parents when she was growing up in Teddington. "I would memorise when people read books to me and then I'd pretend to read back to them. They didn't figure it out for quite a while."

Through constant tutoring and the intervention of her parents, she was able to overcome the condition. "I am a slow reader. I always loved words, which is a strange thing given that I couldn't actually read them. By the time I was 11, they deemed me to have got over it sufficiently." She still can't sight-read, though. "If you gave me something and said, 'Read it out loud', there is something that happens that I can't really do that."

Read the full article here

Who the Dickens is Douglas Booth? - Sun

05 January 2012

Who the Dickens is Douglas Booth? - Sun

Meet TV's latest teen introducing thousands of women to Charles Dickens.

But Douglas Booth, who has just starred as Pip in BBC1's hit version of Great Expectations, only took up acting as he feared his dyslexia would block other careers.

The big-budget version of Great Expectations was the highlight of the BBC's Christmas line-up — and it has won the ratings war hands down. Six million watched the second episode of the three-parter — trouncing ITV's Christmas special, Fast Freddie, The Widow And Me, by nearly two million viewers.

Despite his youth, Douglas is no stranger to top-level acting. He was praised for his portrayal of Boy George in the 2010 TV drama Worried About The Boy, and in March he starred opposite Dr Who's Matt Smith in hit BBC2 drama Christopher And His Kind.

But Douglas was only attracted to the arts after finding school tough. He said: "I'm dyslexic and when I was at school I struggled with academics. "At first, I said to myself that if I can't become an academic then I'll become a musician and took up the trumpet. I became very good at a very young age. But that slipped away as I found acting because I fell in love with it."

Top Role for Chocolate Young Entrepreneur - Wolverhampton Express & Star

04 January 2012

Top Role for Chocolate Young Entrepreneur - Wolverhampton Express & Star

A young entrepreneur who set up his own firm when he was 12 years old has become an ambassador for one of the world’s largest chocolate companies.

Louis Barnett, of Kinver, who suffers from dyslexia and dypraxia started Chokolit, which has five employees, including his parents, Phil and Mary, and makes quality chocolate for specialist food shops, delicatessens and other retail outlets.

The company name Chokolit was borne out of the way in which Louis spelled chocolate due to his dyslexia.

Now the 19-year-old has been chosen as one of only 40 ambassadors across the globe for Swiss chocolate manufacturer Callebaut. The firm has about 6,000 employees in 27 countries with 40 production sites.

Mr Barnett said: “It’s amazing. Callebaut is one of the biggest chocolate companies in the world and becoming one of their ambassadors is like the Nobel Prize for chocolatiers.”

Mr Barnett will appear at trade conventions and help promote the brand across the world. He is also hoping it will boost the profile of his own brand. He recently signed a deal to export thousands of products to 13 states across America.

After dropping out of school at 11, Louis, who suffers from dyslexia and dyspraxia, began by supplying products to supermarket chain Waitrose. But he has seen sales fall in the UK in recent months so has decided to target overseas markets where larger brands are not competing.

He signed a deal earlier this year to supply a US distributor with 37,000 bars of chocolate after exhibiting at the Fancy Fine Food Fair in New York; and now 89 huge department stores in Mexico are stocking the chocolate, with another 20 due to get involved next year.


Viz creator gets serious about dyslexia help -

05 December 2011

STAND-UP comedian and co-founder of Viz, Simon Donald, is getting serious about helping people with dyslexia. Health Reporter Helen Rae explains why it is a condition close to his heart.

At the age of 40, Tyneside funnyman Simon Donald was diagnosed with a learning difficulty that explained why he had always suffered problems with reading and writing.

Former Viz adult comic creator Simon developed problems soon after starting secondary school yet his specific learning difficulties have never stopped him from enjoying a successful and varied career.

Read the full article here

Read More

Dyslexia Action Awards Dinner Is A Great Success!!

30 November 2011

Dyslexia Action Awards Dinner Is A Great Success!!

As well as honouring designer Steve Edge, The Saturdays’ Mollie King, It’s ME! Learning Fund beneficiary Kimberley Ward and ex-CEO of Dyslexia Action Shirley Cramer, CBE, tonight’s fundraiser has been a huge success.

Click here to read the full story 

Elaine C Smith ordeal over daughter's dyslexia -

28 November 2011

Elaine C Smith ordeal over daughter's dyslexia -

Actress Elaine C Smith has spoken of her struggle to come to terms with her daughter’s dyslexia after it was first detected when she was just four years old.

Smith, who is a former teacher, said she had first been told her daughter Hannah was dyslexic while she was at nursery school, but had “dismissed” the suggestion.

Read the complete article here.

Robots Arrive At The Unicorn School

28 November 2011

Robots Arrive At The Unicorn School
Robots Arrive At The Unicorn School

Pupils from The Unicorn School years 4 and 5 classes have teamed up with engineers from Faringdon Community College to build robotic dogs using Lego ‘Mindstorms’ kits to complement this term’s creative curriculum entitled ‘The Rise of the Robots’.

Two teachers and a technician from FCC are delivering the programme which runs for 5 Tuesday afternoons at The Unicorn.

“The aim of these courses is to bring engineering into the classroom in a fun and interesting manner”, commented Denis Scott, FCC course leader, “Within the Lego ‘Mindstorms’ module, the pupils build a robotic dog and learn the programming language necessary to control the robot in the completion of a number challenges.”

This module is linked to the Keystage 2 National Curriculum with other programmes available in podcasting, mechanisms, electronics and animation.

Supporting a child with dyslexia - BBC CBeebies 'Grown-ups' Website

25 November 2011

Supporting a child with dyslexia - BBC CBeebies 'Grown-ups' Website

Dyslexic children are just as capable of learning as everyone else – but some things will be a lot harder. The best way a parent can support their child is by being positive. Encourage their strengths and try not to emphasise their weaknesses.

Link to the complete article here 

Rugby star Kenny Logan talks of overcoming dyslexia at Camden centre - Ham & High Website

11 November 2011

Rugby star Kenny Logan talks of overcoming dyslexia at Camden centre - Ham & High Website

Rugby legend Kenny Logan has spoken about his own journey to overcome dyslexia opening a new learning centre in Camden.

The former Scottish international joined charity Dyslexia Action as it moved to its new centre in the Royal National Institute For The Blind offices in Judd Street, King’s Cross, from old premises in Victoria on Wednesday last week (November 2).

The centre has technology to help young people and adults in Camden and across London with a hidden disability such as dyslexia or literacy difficulties.

The rugby player, who kept his dyslexia secret for years, said: “As someone with dyslexia, I understand first hand the challenges that people with the specific learning difficulty can face.

“I was diagnosed with dyslexia aged 16 and it was a relief to know that there was a reason behind why I struggled with reading and writing. Growing up, I would have welcomed support like that Dyslexia Action provides.”

The centre is funded by Capital FM’s Help A Capital Child campaign.

All five of its computers have a new “multi-sensory” technology which helps with reading, spelling and memory.

The centre is also the base for Dyslexia Action’s Catch Up Club, a free after-school club for children aged 12-17, which helps to improve reading and spelling.

Hannah MacLellan, a senior teacher at the centre, is spearheading the club aimed at children in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. She said: “Children and young people who struggle with literacy are at a disadvantage at school and throughout life. It is therefore important to provide these learners with help and support so that they are not limited by their reading and spelling ability.”

Sally Gardner: Dyslexia is not a disease - Daily Telegraph online

10 November 2011

Sally Gardner: Dyslexia is not a disease - Daily Telegraph online

Leading author Sally Gardner admits she is still haunted by the jibes she faced as a child because she is dyslexic. In Dyslexia Awareness week, she insists that people need to see what dyslexic has to offer and not look at it as a negative.

It always struck me as strange that as a child I should be saddled with a word that I could neither pronounce or spell. I look back at my education with a sense of bewildered frustration, I had no idea why I should be shown a picture of a boat and when the picture was taken away I was, as if by magic, supposed to know what the picture spelt. It didn't matter how many phonic nutcases shouted at me saying B-O-A-T. Even now I have no idea whether o goes before a or a goes before o. And does it matter?

In those days it was called 'word blindness'. I wasn't diagnosed with dyslexia until I was 11. It was of no value in school that I was visually or emotionally intelligent. Still, in 2011, these qualities in a child are often overlooked in favour of academic intelligence. I believe we waste too many children in this country by failing to see the gifts they have. Instead we see dyslexia as a problem.

The word associated with dyslexia in schools, that I absolutely hate, is 'special needs'. Our special needs are that the non-dyslexic world stop telling us how we should be learning or what magic cure they have for us. It's not a disease. People need to see what it has to offer, and not look at it as a negative. It's a misconception that because you are dyslexic you don't like books. In fact, although I couldn't read them, I always thought words beautiful hieroglyphics that I longed to be able to translate.

The first book I ever read, at the ripe old age of 14, was Wuthering Heights. I think it was because everyone had given up on me that I finally broke the code. Up to the age of 21, it seemed to me that everybody had a cinema in their heads and could see a book as you would see a film: playing out in their mind's eye. I was studying theatre design at Central St Martins at the time, and working on The Tempest, when I first realised the director I was working with couldn't see a thing. He was visually blind. I can't tell you how cross that made me. All those years I had been able to see in 3D in my head. I had my own visual landscape and I realised that I was rich in an imagination that has turned out to be invaluable. All those years of only being told I was stupid, thick, a moron, brain like a sieve. Still those negative voices haunt me.

I am often asked how I write. It's a question I doubt non-dyslexic authors are asked. I say I write on a laptop. That never satisfies anyone. Do you use electronic dictation? No I write on my laptop. Do you have a ghostwriter? No, I write on my laptop. The only difference between me and other authors is that I send my work to a wonderful woman who understands my atrocious spelling and corrects it. Apart from that, I am a writer.

That's what I do, write.

Sally Gardner is an award-winning novelist from London. Her books have been translated into 22 languages and she’s sold over 1.5 million copies in the UK. Her fourth novel, The Double Shadow (Orion) is published this week.

Dyslexia training to be mandatory in Initial Teacher Training

08 November 2011

HM Government's Department of Education has issued an approved e-petition in response to the British Dyslexia Association's (BDA) concerns over dyslexia training for all teachers.

The e-petition wording is as follows:

The BDA proposes that Initial Teacher Training course providers should be required to deliver mandatory and consistent dyslexia awareness sessions.

The mandatory minimum should be the existing Department of Education 2005 module (to view this module click here). All teachers should be trained to understand dyslexia, its impact on learning and what constitutes dyslexia friendly practice. Teachers should be aware of when to signpost learners for assessment and when to provide appropriate intervention.

Access the petition by clicking here.

Comic Katy: I owe it all to pioneering grandmother who taught me to read - Evening Standard

07 November 2011

Comic Katy: I owe it all to pioneering grandmother who taught me to read - Evening Standard

Comedian Katy Brand said today she owes her "entire career" to her grandmother, a literacy pioneer who has spent decades helping children to read.

She will tonight accept a lifetime achievement award on behalf of her 82-year-old grandmother Violet, who created a new way of teaching reading and worked tirelessly to improve the literacy skills of prisoners and dyslexic children. Mrs Brand is not well enough to attend the British Dyslexia Association's ceremony in Marble Arch.

The comedian, 32, who is best known her ITV2 production Katy Brand's Big Ass Show, said: "We were very close and she was always playing word games with me. I put my career completely down to her. I am very comfortable with words and was always ahead of my peers in reading, and I feel very grateful."

Mrs Brand, from Canterbury, trained as a primary school teacher. In the Seventies she veered away from the traditional "look and say" way of teaching reading and created a new "phonics" based system - in which children learn the different sounds represented by letters - which was so successful she published a series of books that became international bestsellers.

She developed her own technique for teaching reading by grouping words into families.

Mrs Brand also set up the Watford Dyslexia Unit and went into prisons to teach inmates. Brand said her grandmother was one of the first people to notice the high levels of illiteracy in prisons.

The Brand family also pledged their support to the Evening Standard's literacy campaign by donating 100 of Mrs Brand's best-selling Spelling Made Easy textbooks to the cause.

Brand said: "Primary school teachers do a brilliant job, but it seems like they have a lot of children in their classes.

"You just can't beat the one-to-one attention."

Meet the New Staff Members

07 November 2011

The School is very pleased to welcome Clare, Mary and Vita to the teaching staff this term. They further strengthen the team with their teaching abilities. Let's find out a little more about each of them:

Clare Carlini -

I have been teaching on and off for the last twenty six years. I began my career in Bicester and I went on to teach in Birmingham and Abingdon. Most recently I was teaching at The Manor School, near Abingdon, as a reception teacher.

I live locally and I am married with three children, two of whom are at university and the youngest is at a local school.

I have always been interested in dyslexia as it has affected family members and I know first hand how it can make life more difficult. I recently completed a postgraduate course at Oxford Brookes on literacy difficulties. I feel privileged to be working at such a caring school with such a hardworking and dedicated staff.

Vita Collier -

Kia Ora! (Hello in Maori) I am the new teacher of Cedar class this year. I am all the way from New Zealand, home of the famous 'All Blacks' rugby union team.

I enjoy the outdoors, going for bush walks, bike riding and doing anything outside. I enjoy watching sport and I supported the All Blacks in their recent World Cup success! I also play touch rugby myself to keep fit and have fun.

I went to University in my home town of Wellington straight after I finished Secondary School to study psychology. After I completed my degree I took a year off to spend some time living and working in Western Australia. When I returned from Australia I went back to Victoria University in Wellington to complete a Post-graduate Diploma of Teaching.

After I qualified as a teacher I was lucky enough to get a job at the school I went to as a child in the small sea-side town of Eastbourne in Wellington. Some of the teachers who taught me were still there!

I taught Year 3 for two years at this leading school which was the first school in New Zealand to be recognised by the 4D for Schools programme as being Dyslexia Friendly.

I was very sad to leave such a highly regarded school but in December of last year I moved here (with my boyfriend who is doing a PhD in Geophysics at the University of Oxford) for my first ever White Christmas!

For the past 10 months I have really enjoyed living in Oxford and travelling around the UK and Europe. I am looking forward to many more exciting trips in the future.

I am so pleased to have the opportunity to work at the Unicorn and I am looking forward to learning a lot and getting to know all of the staff, parents and children of this fantastic school during the year ahead.

Mary Pegler -

I specialise in working with children with developmental language difficulties, speech and phonological problems and social communication difficulties. I have worked as a Speech and Language Therapist in London and Oxford with both NHS and private clients. My sessions involve an enjoyable variety of games and group activities, popular with children.

Prior to Speech and Language Therapy, I enjoyed a career as an actress in theatre, film and t.v. as well as research work for the RSC. I 'trod the boards' in West End Theatres as well as a brief trip to Hollywood. My first clinical employment as a Speech and Language Therapist was with Great Ormond Street Hospital in the Community, working in local clinics and outreach centres in north London.

Now settled in Oxford, with three children, aged between 14 and 7, I am able to indulge my love of reading as a member of two local book groups. I am also a contributor to the Good Schools Guide Special Educational Needs section.

I am delighted to be working at The Unicorn School, and have felt warmly welcomed by both staff and children.

A way into books for children with dyslexia - Daily Telegraph Website

02 November 2011

Dyslexia Awareness Week, an annual event celebrated around the world to raise public awareness about dyslexia, begins today and runs until Sunday 6th November.

It seems the perfect time to highlight some of the fantastic books from Barrington Stoke, an Edinburgh-based firm which is now 14 years old and the main British publishing house devoted to books for reluctant and struggling readers.

It's vital that children who are dyslexic have access to attractive, enjoyable reading and Barrington Stoke have top children's authors writing engaging, short books which offer a way for dyslexic children, or those struggling with other learning disabilities or simply reluctant to read, to enjoy the huge pleasures and vital learning experiences of reading.

Among the newer titles available are City Boy, by Alan Combes, a charming football story that is great for football-made teenagers who have a reading age of six to seven. The story is a heartwarming tale of a grandfather helping his young grandson to become a footballer - and a rounded person.

If it's rugby that takes a child's fancy, then there is also a dyslexia friendly version of the lively rugby tale Scrum! by Tom Palmer.

Dyslexia is certainly no indicator of lower intelligence (Picasso, Steven Spielberg and WB Yeats were among those were dyslexic) and children who enjoy good writing will love Anthony McGowan's witty tale of schooldays in Leeds called The Fall.

Barrington Stoke books are often bursting with humour, too. Mr Gum author Andy Stanton's Sterling And The Canary and The Story Of Matthew Buzzington provide plenty of laughs for any kind of reader.

The drawings used in their books make them inviting publications to read. Sonia Leong drew the illustrations for Chris Bradford's Ninja: First Mission and they complement the pacy story well. If you like a bit of scary horror, then Tommy Donbavand's Wolf - about a boy who turns into a werewolf - will have you eagerly turning pages.

But it is not just boys who suffer dyslexia and reading problems, of course. Bernadette McLean, Principal of the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre, said: "It has been known for many years that boys are more likely to be identified as dyslexic than girls but research in the United States indicates that this is because boys are easier to identify. Schools are more likely to pick up boys who are misbehaving for further referral as they tend to resort to bad behaviour more than girls. We find, at Helen Arkell, that by the age of 13 we are assessing as many girls as boys. It seems that girls can compensate for longer and cover over their difficulties, but when the environment becomes more demanding their difficulties become obvious."

So how welcome it is that there are specific girl-friendly titles among the 2011 Barrngton Stoke offerings. For teenage girls, whose reading age is 6-7, there is Jo Cotterill's Take Two, which is about two girls, Carla and Lily, who decide to get their own back on the cheesy, handsome captain of the rugby team who asks them both to go to the same prom.

For struggling teen readers who like history, and who have a reading age of around eight, there is Anne Perry's Tudor Rose, the first in the Timepiece series.

For the pre-teens, there is Candy Girl by Karen McCombie, which is about a girl called Dixie who finds out it's not all sweetness working at her favourite magazine - Candy. Some of the writers even use out-of-date picture bylines from when they were young and slim. Can that sort of thing really go on in publishing?

Books help children reach their full potential and Barrington Stoke, a previous winner of Children's Publisher Of The Year, are finding innovative and entertaining ways, without dumbing down or being patronising, of publishing accessible books for children who may need them most of all. Their books use all the means to be dyslexia-friendly - they are printed on thick, cream-coloured matt paper with good line spacing and concise sentences and the covers are wonderfully vibrant and draw you straight in.

It's also worth noting that these are the books for children. Barrington Stoke also produce books for adults, something rather essential given that their estimates are that around 11 million adults (18-65) have a reading age of 13 or below.

BBC Woman's Hour Feature on Dyslexia - BBC Radio 4 on 26th October 2011

02 November 2011

Click here for a link to this programme - 'Chapter One' on the page is the relevant piece 

Dyslexia affects up to 10% of the UK population to varying degrees, which means 2-3 children in every classroom.

Parents of dyslexic children struggling over their child’s homework will be cheered to know there are many highly successful dyslexics: Richard Branson, Jamie Oliver and the architect Richard Rogers to name a few.

Now a new book argues their kind of entrepreneurial success could be thanks to dyslexia, not despite of it. The authors, Drs Fernette and Brock Eide, argue that the dyslexic brain offers as many advantages as disadvantages - but is this an overly rosy view of dyslexia?

Jane Garvey is joined by Dr Eide, Dr Valerie Muter, consultant neuro-psychologist at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital and Ben Thomson, a highly successful dyslexic who is a corporate financier and Chairman of various organisations including the National Galleries of Scotland.

‘The Dyslexic Advantage – Unlocking the hidden potential of the dyslexic brain’, by Dr Brock Eide and Dr Fernette F Eide published by Hay House. ISBN 978 1 84850 639 8

Dyslexia: a parents' guide to dyslexia, dyspraxia and other learning difficulties by Dr Valerie Muter and Dr Helen Likierman (pub Vermilion) ISBN 978-0-09-192338-9

Dyslexia book released in time for awareness week - STV website 28/10/11

01 November 2011

Dyslexia book released in time for awareness week - STV website 28/10/11

Published by Edinburgh City Libraries, the book tells more than 100 personal stories.

Dyslexia and Us is a compilation of personal stories by people with dyslexia, or those who have been affected by it. Contributors include Princess Beatrice, Scottish rugby player Kenny Logan and Olympic rower Steve Redgrave, as well as members of the public.

The aim of the book, which features more than 100 sad, shocking and funny stories, as well as a foreword by Formula 1 champion Sir Jackie Stewart, is to help people learn more about dyslexia, as well as show what life is like for those with it.

Cathy Magee, chief executive of Dyslexia Scotland, who conceived and compiled the book, said: "Dyslexia Scotland is really excited at the forthcoming launch of Dyslexia and Us - it's a unique insight into what dyslexia means to over 100 people of different ages and backgrounds.

“We have been overwhelmed by the number of people keen to share their story as well as by the quality of the personal accounts. I'm really grateful to every single contributor and to Edinburgh City Libraries for making this book possible. If you want to learn more about dyslexia, this is the book for you."

The book was launched at the Central Library on Monday, October 31, marking the first day of Dyslexia Awareness Week 2011.

Councillor Deidre Brock, Culture and Leisure convener for the council, who has written an introduction for the book, will officially launch it.

She said: "It has been an honour to read these powerful life stories about dyslexia, especially as I know first hand from the experience of family members how debilitating this condition can be at times. Some stories will make you laugh, some will make you cry, but every single one allows you to view dyslexia through the eyes of those the condition affects.

"Reading and Learning is at the heart of Edinburgh City Libraries and this book shows how important it is for everyone to understand the obstacles and challenges that our storytellers have to overcome on a daily basis.”

Dyslexia and Us costs £7.99 and can be purchased from the Central Library’s reference library, Dyslexia Scotland charity shops or can be ordered through Dyslexia Scotland’s website.

Fonz star goes back to school to help make reading cool - London Evening 14th October 2011

17 October 2011

Fonz star goes back to school to help make reading cool - London Evening 14th October 2011

Too many children are embarrassed to admit they have problems reading, TV star Henry Winkler said today.

The actor, who played The Fonz in Happy Days, arrived in London to tell pupils of his problems with severe dyslexia.

He is visiting schools across the capital in a bid to boost the confidence of those struggling in class.

The tour follows his pledge to support the Evening Standard's literacy campaign, which aims to get more reading volunteers into schools.

Winkler, 65, revealed that he still fears having to read out loud - and ad-libbed in his latest film as a way of coping with his dyslexia.

He was invited back to London after a trip in July because he was such an inspiration to pupils.

"When I talk to pupils I tell them of my journey through school," he said. "I ask if anybody has trouble in school the way I did - only one or two raise their hands."

He said he then gives them confidence to admit their own problems by revealing he has had a successful career despite being in America's "bottom three per cent academically".

He went on: "When I ask the question at the end, all 300 kids put their hands up. I do this because at that age I wanted someone to say it was going to be OK."

'Klingon' helps Milton Keynes man deal with dyslexia - BBC Website 2nd October

07 October 2011

'Klingon' helps Milton Keynes man deal with dyslexia - BBC Website 2nd October

A Milton Keynes man has revealed how translating "Klingon" has helped him deal with dyslexia.

Jonathan Brown, 50, of Furzton spent 12 years learning the fictional language of the alien race from Star Trek films. Then, after being appointed as the lead "linguist" on a CD for others wanting to learn it, he found a different way of dealing with words.

He said: "It helped me identify my problem and found a way of working with my dyslexia."

Their language was invented by Marc Okrand, for use in some of the films. But rather than just inventing a few words to make them sound alien, he devised a complete language, with its own vocabulary, grammar, and usage.

Mr Brown, who is married with two children, said that he always loved the original TV series and first became interested in the language after discovering there was a Klingon dictionary.

"I had to buy it just to see what was going on. Then reading it and learning it, it was just so much fun. There are no niceties in Klingon, I think that's why a lot of people like it, it's very straightforward."

A member of the Klingon Language Institute, he translated all the scripts for the CD and was then involved in the recordings. He explained how he has always had difficulty with reading and also has what he describes as "name blindness" but while doing this work he realised that he could use a different part of his brain.

"Dyslexia is not something you get over, you live with it. It's not necessarily a hindrance, you just learn different ways to pick things up. Working on the translation has helped me understand where I've been having problems all my life with languages, I realised I'd been trying to remember the words in the name part of my brain and because I can't remember names, I can't remember the words.

"With the Klingon language games used on the CD, I tended to put words into a different place and it went into my long term memory. I've still got a long way to go to speak it fluently, but there are many people who do."

See the Unicorn School in Action!

04 October 2011

The Unicorn School is holding its next Open Morning on Tuesday 18th October between 9.00 and 12.00.

Come and take a look round and see the fantastic progress and achievements that are made by our pupils, our multi-sensory, hands-on and one-to-one teaching methods and the whole school in action.

Head teacher, Jackie Vaux, will be presenting a short talk, 'The Uniqueness of the Unicorn', at 10.30.

Staff will be available for personal discussions and our pupils will be happy to show visitors around until 12.00.

If you would like any further information please do have a look round the website or alternatively give the school a call.

We look forward to welcoming you to The Unicorn. 

I couldn't read until I was 10, says CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell - London Evening Standard

27 September 2011

I couldn't read until I was 10, says CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell - London Evening Standard

Children's television presenter Cerrie Burnell has revealed she could not read until the age of 10 - and used to memorise passages to read out in class in a bid to hide her dyslexia.

The 32-year-old admitted she asked her father to read her books the night before, which she would commit to memory in preparation for school the next day.

The CBeebies favourite, who was born without a right forearm and hand, spoke out as she backed the Evening Standard's Get London Reading campaign.

Burnell paid tribute to her parents' patience in reading to her night after night for finally combating her dyslexia and called on readers to support the Evening Standard's partner charity, Volunteer Reading Help, which sends mentors into school to help children who are struggling to read.

She said: "My parents were brilliant. They had to deal with the fact that I had a physical disability, one hand, and a mental disability, the dyslexia.

"When I was little, I couldn't really learn anything in an academic sense because I couldn't read. I remember my dad reading to me and I would memorise it and read it back to him but I couldn't actually read the words myself.

"I once pretended I could read a Rainbow Bright book in front of the class. I read out the first page, which dad had read to me and I had memorised, but the words didn't mean anything to me. They looked like a menu in a Japanese restaurant."

As the presenter prepares to move to Salford, Manchester, with the BBC children's department, she said every family should read to their child. "I read a lot to my three-year-old daughter - even when I get in after a 10-hour shift I try to read her three picture books a night."

To help cope with her dyslexia, Burnell's parents funded extra tuition. She learned the system Letterland, a phonic-based approach which teaches children to read by creating stories behind each letter of the alphabet.

She said: "One particularly special teacher, Sylvie Fontain, gave up her lunch breaks to read to me. It was the key to my education. Only through people reading to me, and me learning to read, was I able to understand the world. Stories are fundamentally important to how we interpret the world we live in."

Such is her progress that Burnell is now writing her first children's book, about an adopted girl. It explores the nature of being different and how it can be a positive, rather than negative, experience.

She said: "Dyslexic people are not a lost cause - school and teachers should recognise that. Illiteracy should not be a problem in this country. Parents should understand there are solutions if their children are struggling to read."

School Art Exhibition at the North Wall

26 September 2011

School Art Exhibition at the North Wall
School Art Exhibition at the North Wall

Illustrator Kate Brown officially opened the school art exhibition at the North Wall in Oxford on 20th September. There was a great audience of parents, pupils and staff who all enjoyed seeing the pupils' work beautifully displayed in the theatre's foyer.

Kate spoke about the love and freedom she got from her illustrating work and how privileged and lucky she felt to be able to earn a living from doing what she really loved. Kate urged all the pupils to be involved and to work hard at developing their clear abilities in the artistic world.

The pupils' work is complemented by pieces from dyslexic artists based around the country and it is interesting and inspiring to see the achievements these artists have been able to make.

The exhibition continues until Friday 30th and the school would urge all parents, pupils, staff and friends to go along and take a look; much of the work has already been sold contributing greatly to the school's bursary fund.

More Images

Software speaking up for Scottish pupils - Scotsman online

19 September 2011

A NEW voice technology has been unveiled to help young male pupils with communication difficulties.

Known as "Stuart", the technology will allow Scottish pupils with additional support needs to better express themselves.

Stuart joins "Heather", the current Scottish synthetic voice available to pupils, so that boys can, for the first time, have a male synthetic voice to use in their school studies.

Paul Nisbet, senior research fellow at CALL Scotland, University of Edinburgh, said: "From today, pupils with visual impairment, dyslexia or reading difficulties will be able to have books, learning materials and exam papers read out by Stuart, and boys with speech difficulties who use communication aids will be able to speak with a Scottish computer voice."

Henry Winkler gets honorary OBE for helping dyslexic children in UK - The Guardian

15 September 2011

Henry Winkler gets honorary OBE for helping dyslexic children in UK - The Guardian

Happy Days star Henry Winkler has been made an honorary OBE for his work on dyslexia in the UK.

The actor and director, who played the Fonz in the classic US sitcom, said it was "humbling" to receive the honour, awarded at the British embassy in Washington DC.

Having been diagnosed with dyslexia as an adult, Winkler has toured schools in the UK over the last two years to talk about the learning difficulty. He has also written books for children about Hank Zipzer, a boy with dyslexia, whose experiences are based on the actor's own childhood struggles.

In a statement on the embassy's website, Winkler said: "Receiving this honour is a very humbling experience. My goal when I started working with children was never to bring accolades on myself, but instead to change how people think about those around them for whom learning is a struggle. I am flattered to have had my work recognised in this manner, and hope to continue showing kids that their learning difficulty isn't a disability."

The British ambassador to the US, Nigel Sheinwald, presented the OBE during a ceremony at the embassy. Sheinwald said: "Through [Winkler], thousands of young people have seen a role model and an inspiration for overcoming their learning challenges."

The honour was presented in recognition of the star's services to children with dyslexia and special educational needs.

Student with dyslexia wins Brian Travers award - Birmingham Mail

14 September 2011

Student with dyslexia wins Brian Travers award - Birmingham Mail

A UNIVERSITY student whose dyslexia was only diagnosed three years ago has won an award named after UB40 musician Brian Travers for coming top of the class.

Kate Dean, aged 28, of Moseley has picked up the Brian Travers Award for Academic Achievement after gaining the highest marks for her first-class BA Honours degree in Media and Communication specialising in the Music Industry at Birmingham City University.

And Kate, who is a saxophonist like Brian, says receiving the award means the world to her, “I had really struggled with education in school and my dyslexia was not diagnosed until I went to university as a mature student. I had always thought I would never go to university and this award recognised that I had done really well there,” she said.

Kate was no sooner enrolled on the course at BCU than she decided to tackle her suspected dyslexia, “I realised I probably had it but it had never been diagnosed. I asked my tutors and then did lots of tests and then it was diagnosed,’’ she added.

“Having the diagnosis really helped as it meant that, when I was writing, if a sentence was not making sense or words were misspelled I knew why. It was also little things like using coloured sheets to help me read and knowing I needed to give myself more time to read papers.

“But dyslexia did not hold me back at all. It was an obstacle but that was all. What this award shows is that dyslexia does not need to stop you from doing what you want to. There are lots of people who are incredibly successful who have dyslexia.”

Mr Travers, who has worked with BCU’s School of Media on a range of projects including mentoring, said: “The School of Media produces some talented graduates and it is a pleasure to be able to offer them support and encouragement as they embark on their careers within the music industry.”

Prize-Winning Poet: Discovering 'My Dyslexia' At 58

09 September 2011

Prize-Winning Poet: Discovering 'My Dyslexia' At 58

As a child, Philip Schultz didn't understand why he couldn't learn. He was held back twice and both his classmates and teachers ignored him. When he revealed that he wanted to be a writer, he was ridiculed.

Schultz went on to become a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. But it wasn't until his young son was diagnosed with dyslexia that Schultz, then 58, had a name for the disorder that had plagued him his entire life.

The International Dyslexia Association estimates that nearly 1 in 5 people suffer from dyslexia, a learning disability that makes reading difficult. Like Schultz, many people with dyslexia go undiagnosed.

In his book, My Dyslexia, Schultz shares his childhood struggles, how he coped and what he hopes others can learn from his experience.


08 September 2011

Congratulations to former pupil James Helm for his success in getting into  university to study engineering.

Tom Lewis: 'If golf doesn't turn out to be my life, I'm going to struggle' - Independent Online

07 September 2011

Tom Lewis: 'If golf doesn't turn out to be my life, I'm going to struggle' - Independent Online

The 20-year-old, who lit up this year's Open, gave up on school a long time ago, so sure is he of succeeding when he turns pro next week. But first for Walker Cup glory!

Tom Lewis has been waiting for this week his entire life. As a young boy with dyslexia in a schoolroom which held no interest, he would sit there dreaming of the time he would beat the Americans for Great Britain and Ireland. And then, how the very next day he would turn pro and beat the rest for himself.

Nigel Edwards will be relieved to hear that, for Lewis, this weekend at Royal Aberdeen will be a case of "all or nothing". But then, the Walker Cup captain will know this has long been the young Englishman's soundtrack. In the run-up to this year's Open Championship, Edwards told anyone who would care to listen to watch out for Lewis. "Tom will make a splash at Sandwich," he promised.

Yet despite his dyslexia and his lack of interest there was the chance to further his education. The majority of those who will line up with and against him at the Walker Cup are on University scholarships and the talent-hunters focus on the scorecards rather than the exam marks. "I was asked if I wanted to go to US college and was told not to worry about my schoolwork – they would do it for me," said Lewis. "But I didn't want to do that. If I was going to do it, I was going to do it properly. I wasn't going to sit in class and let someone else do my work. What's the point of that?"

"It is exciting that it's so close, but my focus this week will be purely on the Walker Cup," said Lewis. "The Americans are a great team with great players and might have the advantage. But Royal Aberdeen will suit us. If we play well enough we'll win and if we don't we won't. It's a fine line in golf. All or nothing, really."

Harrow student reaches dream of going to Cambridge - Harrow Times 31st August 2011

31 August 2011

Harrow student reaches dream of going to Cambridge - Harrow Times 31st August 2011

A Harrow student has reached his dream of going to Cambridge University after overcoming dyslexia at school.

Alexander-Nicholas Christou Cakkos, 18, from Rooks Heath School, in Eastcote Road, achieved three A-levels with A* for psychology, A* for geography and A for economics.

He will be attending Robinson College, at Cambridge, to study a course in Land Economy.

Alexander said: “I wasn’t too worried on results day but I was so happy when I realised I had got into Cambridge.

“It’s such a massive opportunity both academically and socially. A lot of people supported me through this time including my parents, my teachers and my friends. In school it was mainly spelling and reading I was having some trouble with and I would often get frustrated and sometimes de-motivated.

“Through a lot of discipline and just working through the dyslexia step-by-step I got there and now I am off to Cambridge.

“I want to thank my head of year, Miss Lane, and our headteacher, Dr John Reavley, who have both stood by me offering a lot of support.

“I would say to any student with dyslexia to try your best, work hard and plan out what you need to do. Search for the right role models who will guide you through and most importantly believe in yourself.”

Alexander's father said, “I am very proud of him as it’s his work that has got him here. We as parents can only be there as guides. We want to thank the British Dyslexia Association and also the late Professor Beve Hornsby, from the Hornsby International Dyslexia Centre, who took a particular interest in him. His dyslexia only motivated him to work harder and focus on getting to Cambridge."

Aiden Bishop: Misspelled

31 August 2011

Aiden Bishop: Misspelled

Review of Aiden Bishop's show at the Edinburgh Festival - from the

This New York newcomer's show Misspelled is a definite single-topic solo show. His comedy revolves around his dyslexia and how it influenced his 1970s Queens upbringing. His affable performance, helped out by a projector and a computer-created voice delivers fairly consistant yet gentle laughs. Bishop has educated himself very well about the details of his dyslexia and his ultimate message about the condition is extremely positive, however his jokes never really make it to the level of the truly hilarious.

His observational imagery is good throughout as he proceeds to describe with admirable honesty the difficulties he faced in his upbringing as his dyslexia remained undiagnosed. His calm and measured delivery make a fairly tough deal in life seem less harsh, as he clearly uses it to derive humour rather than bitterness.

Dealing with subjects such as self-confidence, phonological slips and the myths surrounding dyslexia, his show is a fascinating insight into the world of the dyslexic mind. He provides examples of his own problems with writing, with an endearing self-deprecation, and he exposes the myths surrounding dyslexia with good humour. When he is in full campaigning mode, his jokes work best.

However, not all the jokes work as well as Bishop would like and though he is a very likable performer, the pace of the show is a little sluggish, there is very little in the show that is unlikeable, but you leave the Gilded Balloon feeling that Bishop's routine was building up to a fiery climax which never comes.

The very admirable aims of the show, to promote awareness about dyslexia, hit home well, and the audience finds itself better educated than when they went in, but as a comedy show "Misspelled" is a bit of a disappointment. It's not awful or unenjoyable by a long stretch, but the laughs it does deliver won't set the heather alight either.

If you are interested in learning more about Dyslexia in a funny and easygoing way, by all means go and see Aiden Bishop's show, you will certainly get something out of it. However if you want a top-notch comedy show, you might be a little disappointed at the pace and energy of this performance.

Kara Tointon: Don't Call Me Stupid

17 August 2011

Actress Kara Tointon presents a documentary about dyslexia and meets other dyslexics whose moving stories reveal the impact it can have on young lives without the right support.

'I want to know where my personality begins and dyslexia ends. I'm fed up with putting things on hold and having this vision that one day I'm going to be something different to who I am now'.

Actress Kara Tointon dreams about reading a novel cover to cover. Standing in her way is her dyslexia. Kara is now wondering whether this neurological condition is affecting her work as an actress and even her day-to-day life.

In this intimate documentary, Kara is tested and undergoes specialist help. She also meets other young dyslexics, many of whom share Kara's experience of feeling 'stupid'.

As Kara faces some difficult truths about herself, will she be able to take control of her condition and transform her life?

A very interesting programme and well worth watching it on the BBC i-player here:

Tiblo Lets Dyslexic Children Snap Words And Sounds Together Like Lego - from Co Design 8th August 2011

09 August 2011

Tiblo Lets Dyslexic Children Snap Words And Sounds Together Like Lego - from Co Design 8th August 2011

Sumit Pandey's prototype educational toy is part building block, part reading aid.

Tiblo (tangible interactive blocks) is an "open-ended learning aid" developed by Sumit Pandey and Swati Srivastava to help dyslexic children become more facile with words, letters, and phonemes by "connecting" them physically like puzzle pieces.

Each colorful Tiblo is a "modular interactive electronic block" that can record 10 seconds of audio, play it back, and snap with other blocks to form syntactical patterns based on the meaning the child has assigned to the block. (The blocks are also designed with a broad gridlike surface that children or teachers can decorate with pictures, letters, pushpins, or anything else they like.)

If a child is having trouble reading a written word or sentence, its component parts can be assigned to Tiblo blocks and sounded out individually in the teacher's voice or the child's -- and then reconnected in other orientations.

"Children [with] dyslexia, besides having problems with standard written text, are also known to have problems remembering sequences, like in spelling, math problems, and stories," Pandey tells Co.Design. "Also, quite often, children have problems relating to their fine motor skills as well. So by connecting blocks of different colors together and recording voice-based hints into the blocks, the children can build up their own methods of remembering sequences like using color sequences, or using the onboard grid to create visual hints. It also enables the teachers in designing teaching activities which are participatory in nature where children can 'create' personalised solutions to given problems."

Pandey and Srivastava were inspired to create Tiblo while conducting a research project as volunteers at a school for dyslexic children in Ahmedabad, India. They created their prototype out of "circuits from hacked Chinese toys," says Pandey, which has a practical benefit: "Each prototype block costs under $5, [so] they can be given to children permanently and the children can then personalise their look and feel by drawing or papercraft."

Dyslexia makes voices hard to discern, study finds - BBC News 29th July 2011

08 August 2011

People with dyslexia struggle to recognise familiar voices, scientists suggest.

The finding is the first tentative evidence that small sounds in the human voice that vary between people are difficult for dyslexics to hear. Writing in the journal Science, the scientists say that many people could have some degree of "voice blindness". And by studying it, scientists hope to better understand how the human brain has evolved to recognise speech.

Humans rely on small sounds called phonemes to tell one person from another. As we first try to form the word dog, for example, phonemes are the "duh"-"og"-"guh" sounds that our parents prompt us to make. But as we master the ability to read, we become less reliant on recognising these sounds to read, and eventually stop noticing them.

Despite ignoring them, however, phonemes remain important for voice recognition. The tiny inflections in the way people pronounce phonemes gives a listener cues to tell one voice from another. Because people who suffer from dyslexia are known to struggle with phonemes when reading, a US-based team of scientists wondered whether they might also struggle hearing them in people's voices.

To investigate, the team grouped 30 people of similar age, education and IQ into two camps: those with and without a history of dyslexia. The subjects then went through a training period to learn to associate 10 different voices - half speaking English and half speaking Chinese - with 10 computer-generated avatars.

The subjects were then later quizzed on how many of those voices they could match to the avatars. Non-dyslexics outperformed people with a history of dyslexia by 40% when listening to English. However, this advantage disappeared when the groups were listening to Chinese.

Dorothy Bishop from the University of Oxford thinks that this is because "when [they] are listening to Chinese, it is a level playing field, because no one has learned to hear [Chinese] phonemes".

The researchers think that dyslexics don't have as comprehensive a phoneme sound library in their heads, and so they struggle when they hear phonemes spoken by unfamiliar voices because their "reference copy" isn't as well-defined. "It is a very interesting result... the only thing that I would really like to see to convince me... is if they were to repeat the experiment using Jabberwocky."

Using Jabberwocky, the nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll, would allow the researchers to determine whether the listeners identify who's who from the meaning of what they are saying, or whether listeners are purely relying on the phonemes. Dr Bishop speculated that non-dyslexics may be worse at extracting the meaning of the words, meaning they under perform in this task.

Understanding the mechanics of voice recognition is important, said the study's lead author Tyler Perrachione from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, US, because it allows a listener to pinpoint a familiar voice above the hubbub of a crowded room. Mr Perrachione explained that very little is known about voice blindness, which is formally called phonagnosia. "In reality, phonagnosia is probably much more common," he explained, "but people who don't recognize that voices sound different may not even realize they lack the ability to tell voices apart."

Reading aloud in class broke my confidence, says chef Marco Pierre White

05 August 2011

Reading aloud in class broke my confidence, says chef Marco Pierre White

Chef Marco Pierre White has told of his battle learning to read - and revealed that he still relies on "giant picture books".

As he backed the Evening Standard's literacy campaign, the restaurateur said he used cooking as a way to cope with his difficulties reading and writing.

Pierre White, the youngest chef to attain three Michelin stars, said that at school he found reading aloud in class "very belittling, very humiliating".

"The teachers knew that I struggled and I could hear the other children laughing so it broke my confidence down. When I left school I was 16 years old. Did I struggle with how to read? Yes I did. Did I struggle with how to spell? Yes I did," he said.

He added: "I was very fortunate that I entered a world where I didn't have to read or write. I entered a world of cooking where I expressed with my fingers and so that built my confidence. Over the years I've taught myself how to read. I've taught myself how to spell.

"I still struggle but I have to read very slowly and because I read slowly and because I struggle to absorb, I tend not to read, even though I have thousands of books at home, they're all giant picture books."

Pierre White said he realised he was dyslexic when his son was diagnosed after his school alerted the family. "They went into great detail about dyslexia and that's when I was able to label myself as being dyslexic. They could have been talking about the same boy, but many years previous when I was a boy they never spoke of dyslexia."

He added: "It's not a stigma to be labelled with dyslexia. Individuals with dyslexia have great talents and great qualities."


Dyspraxia Foundation - Creative Writing Challege

04 August 2011

Team Dyspraxia know that young people with dyspraxia can be very imaginative so they have decided to launch this creative writing challenge. Can you harness your imagination and energy to produce a piece of creative writing for the Dyspraxia Foundation?

We are looking for pieces of non fiction, short stories and poems up to 500 words long on the themes of -

My Life

Hopes and Dreams


These will be published in a book which will be available to purchase from the Dyspraxia Foundation in time for Christmas.

This opportunity is open to members of the Dyspraxia Foundation aged up to and including 25 years. We hope to include around 100 entries in the book. If multiple contributions are submitted, the Dyspraxia Foundation reserves the right to select those that are published. If we receive more contributions than we are able to publish, they will be included on the Dyspraxia Foundation website.

Send your entry by email to:[email protected]

or post to: Team Dyspraxia Writing Challenge, Dyspraxia Foundation, 8 West Alley, Hitchin, Herts SG5 1EG

Include your name, address, contact details and age of contributor.

Entries to be received by 12 noon on 15th September 2011

New typeface helps people with dyslexia read - from Global News

27 July 2011

New typeface helps people with dyslexia read - from Global News

A Dutch designer has come up with an innovative way to help people with dyslexia.

Christian Boer is developing a new typeface, called Dyslexie, which he hopes will make it easier for people suffering from the learning disability to read.

People suffering from dyslexia tend to mix up letters, especially ones that look similar, such as ‘p’ and ‘q’. Boer says font designers have compounded the problem by creating typefaces based on aesthetic appeal rather than readability.

The font Dyslexie combats this problem by making changes to easily rotated or inverted letters. For instance, letters are bolded on the underside, the ascender or descender of a letter is lengthened so the difference between the letter ‘h’ and the letter ‘n’, for example, is exaggerated.

Figuring out a diagnosis for dyscalculia - from The Irish Times 26/7/11

26 July 2011

It has been estimated that we encounter more than a thousand numbers an hour. From speed limits to page numbers and the price of bread to the billions transferred to the banks, numbers provide a backdrop to daily life that most people process without effort. But when you have dyscalculia, a condition that impairs the ability to understand numbers, everyday tasks can present a real challenge.

Sabrina Dent, from Cork, was diagnosed with dyscalculia as a child. “I have difficulty with numbers and number order, so things like reading an analogue clock is difficult, as are tasks like reading and dialling phone numbers,” she says. “I am bad with distances, so I have a tape measure and use it much more than most people do. I also can’t count change. I hand the lady a handful of change and take whatever she gives back to me.”

Although many of us profess no love for maths, we routinely perform calculations without really thinking – such as working out if there’s time to press the snooze button again or which coins you need for the parking meter. People with dyscalculia, who lack an intuitive grasp of numbers, can struggle to perform the arithmetic involved in even seemingly simple tasks such as these.

“It’s a deficit,” says Dent. “The question is, how large a deficit is it going to be? It’s always going to be there – you’re just plugging the hole to the best of your ability.”

Dent grew up in New York where her dyscalculia was spotted at an early age. “I was lucky; I went to an extremely progressive school in New York that didn’t have grades. The teachers worked with me at my pace. If I had been in a public school, I can’t imagine what my experience would have been like, even with a support system.”

Despite being first identified in the 1970s, there is still relatively little known about dyscalculia.

MáirĂ­n Barry, a lecturer on special education needs at the UCD School of Education, says more research is needed to understand the condition in Ireland. “We’re probably where dyslexia was 30 years ago in terms of our understanding of dyscalculia,” she says. “The priority was literacy – to get everybody literate and able to leave school with the ability to read and write. Now we’ve turned our attention to this area.”

About 6 per cent of people are thought to be affected with dyscalculia and the earlier it is recognised, the better.

“The most specific diagnosis would be through an educational psychologist,” says Barry. “If it’s diagnosed at a younger age, we can help to develop number sense through the use of materials. Parents can help children learn about numbers with activities like pairing socks and setting a table: putting out one knife, one fork and one plate for everyone.”

Without learning support, numeracy problems can be reinforced at school. “Traditional teaching methods, while very effective at developing calculation skills if you have a good rote memory, tend not to develop good understanding of maths,” says Barry. “This continues through the system and you end up with people who in their daily lives agonise over how to pay a tip or how much material to order.”

By the time you’re an adult, dyscalculia can be hard to spot as it is compounded by other factors, such as maths anxiety and poor teaching methods. Research in the UK has shown that adults with numeracy problems – of which people with dyscalculia are one group – are significantly disadvantaged. By the age of 30, those with low numeracy have lower employment prospects, earn less, are more likely to suffer from physical and mental illness and are more likely to get in trouble with law.

Brian Butterworth, professor of cognitive neuropsychology at University College, London, and an expert in dyscalculia, says the biggest challenge for dyscalculia is getting wider recognition for the condition. “Kids who can’t learn arithmetic are regarded as being stupid. But they’re not; they’ve got this rather selective deficit. Recognition would mean that sufferers would have access to specialised help, just as sufferers from dyslexia do. Specialised help would raise their mathematical competence and make them more able to cope with the demands of a numerate society.”

Barry says that without greater awareness of dyscalculia, diagnosis and support is difficult.

“An acknowledgement of its existence is creeping in in Ireland, but there’s no formal approach. It is very frustrating because people have a very strong sense it exists, but it’s hard to approach because each individual’s experience would be compounded in different ways.”

For Dent, dyscalculia has affected every area of her life, from personal finance to her choice of career. “I make straightforward investments and I have a straightforward household budget – I bundle services to suppliers because it’s easier to deal with one set of numbers,” she says. “At college I was really interested in science, but couldn’t take the courses I wanted to because I couldn’t do the maths part. Now I work in visual design. It’s unfortunate for bright people to have opportunities closed off to them without the correct support.”

However, she says technological developments have helped enormously. “I used to spend my life running around going, ‘Does anybody have a calculator?’ and now Google will do maths for me,” she says.

A YOUNG photographer from the Duston Camera Club who has dyslexia and dyscalculia has overcome the odds to achieve a first class honours degree in photography

25 July 2011

A YOUNG photographer from the Duston Camera Club who has dyslexia and dyscalculia has overcome the odds to achieve a first class honours degree in photography

Kirsty Skears, aged 21, of Hassocks Hedge, Hunsbury, achieved a first in her degree at the University of Wolverhampton this year.

Miss Skears suffers from dyslexia which affects her reading and writing, and dyscalculia which affects her ability to work out mathematical problems and tell the time.

On her achievement, Miss Skears, who is considering studying for a masters degree in fine art before she starts work as a photographer, said: “I got lots of help at university and it was a lot of hard work but I am so happy that I have achieved this.

“I worked hard and studied constantly but I really enjoyed university and it was worth it.”

The University of Wolverhampton provided Miss Skears with special equipment to help her complete her degree course, including a computer which could type as she talked.

She added: “People at school used to think I was stupid because they didn’t understand, so it’s great to know that I have managed to do this.

“I hope that other people suffering with the same things might be inspired by this and realise that they can achieve in the same way too.”

Apprentice winner thanks his dyslexia

25 July 2011

Apprentice winner thanks his dyslexia

The Apprentice winner Tom Pellereau has spoken out about how being dyslexic helps him in the world of business.

Tom says his learning difficulties had enabled him to realise his strengths and weaknesses from a young age.

“Because of my dyslexia I was rubbish at some things like languages and English so I was always going to be scientific,” said Tom, 31.

“I discovered I could do things better than other people. If I had an idea, I could visualise it in my brain and spin it around.

“Not everyone can do that. Dyslexia for me has always been a massive positive.”

As The Apprentice winner, Tom gets to go into business with the show’s Lord Alan Sugar with a cash injection of £250,000.

Evidence grows that sport is a productive path for dyslexics

21 July 2011

Evidence grows that sport is a productive path for dyslexics

From The Independent

Oxford University's professor of physiology John Stein, brother of TV chef Rick, is chair of the Dyslexia Research Trust and suggests the idea that dyslexia ...

Sponsored Walk

18 July 2011

Our sponsored walk to raise money for our linked school in Tanzania went ahead on Wednesday, June 29th. It was lovely to have so many parents and friends walking with us as we experienced the long distance the children in Mmalimu school had to walk each morning. We finished tired but happy.

We are delighted that we have raised £2,550 from sponsorship money which will go a long way towards the funds needed to build the Tanzanian children their new classroom. Well done to everybody who walked and supported us in this event.


16 June 2011


What a party we had!!

14 June 2011

What a party we had!!

The marquee was erected, the scones were baked and the sun shone for The Unicorn Garden Party to celebrate 20 years of the school.

It was a glorious day and over 300 guests arrived. We were delighted to see current pupils and parents and to welcome back many pupils and their families from previous years. We were also delighted to see many former teachers and current and ex governors.

The afternoon was full of fun and games and we released over a 100 balloons in a race to celebrate The Unicorn's 20th Birthday.

We also welcomed to the school the winners of the first National Dyslexic Writing Competition, devised as part of the 20th Anniversary celebrations and prizes were awarded to 17 worthy winners. (The picture shows Unicorn School pupil Edward Woolley with Rebecca Bleasdale Head of Communications at competition sponsor RM plc and Naomi Hargreaves, fund raiser at the school).

We would also like the send a big ‘thank-you’ to all our sponsors:

Walker Books
RM Plc
Ben Burrows at Holywell Press
A&J Catering Limited
Ock Mill
Mark and Angela Chambers
Charlotte Bannister-Parker
The Handmade Cake Company
Pete Seaward – Photographer
Dairy Crest
Lulu Marquees of Henley
Fabulous Bakin’ Boys
Booker – Oxford
Andrew Bax
and of course Balloon Time and - a fast nationwide online service with low prices


The Unicorn School Gains Eco-Schools Accreditation

07 June 2011

The Unicorn School Gains Eco-Schools Accreditation

The Unicorn School in Abingdon has been accredited with Eco-Schools’ Bronze award.

The Eco-Schools programme is the largest sustainable schools’ programme in the world and in the UK is being run by Keep Britain Tidy. The programme requires schools to work on 9 environmental and sustainable topics:-transport, waste, water, litter, school grounds, healthy living, energy, biodiversity and global perspective.

Having initially registered online, the first job Mike Pickett, the teacher at the Unicorn over-seeing the project, had to do was to form an ‘Eco-Schools action team’; this comprised staff and pupils from the school who wanted to help make a difference.

His team’s first job was to conduct an environmental review and to develop an action plan; from there moving on to start work towards their Bronze Award by focusing on the actions of one of the topics, choosing ‘global perspective’.

Mike says “We decided to focus on a school in Tanzania who were in desperate need of some assistance. Friends had been raising money towards the building of a school for the Maasai villages around Loliando. One classroom is complete, two staff teach about 60 children each day, and a kitchen provides food from The World Health Organisation. Disposable cameras given to some of the school children allowed all our pupils to understand a little more about Maasai life and their schooling; we are learning much from them that we can apply to our own lives. Now we are in the process of raising money to support different projects there and this was a great way to look at the ‘global perspective’ topic for our Bronze Award.”

More information can be found at; in the meantime the Unicorn Action Team are making plans to win their silver award, the next step on the way to an ultimate ‘Green Flag’!

Private Film Viewing Raises School Funds!

23 May 2011

Private Film Viewing Raises School Funds!

Thanks to all who supported our private viewing of The Wildest Dream on Friday 20th May and who helped us raise OVER £2,500 with more to come!!

It is an excellent result and our thanks again to all who made this possible.

Please support these sort of events at the school - they are absolutely vital!!

Mwalimu School Fundraising

11 March 2011

Mwalimu School Fundraising
Mwalimu School Fundraising

Thank you to all children, parents, staff and visitors for all your spare coins which we have collected over the last few months to raise money for a school in Tanzania which has virtually no resources. We managed to achieve our aim of going right the way round our school building. We can now use our pocket money to buy basic resources such as paper, pencils and crayons for the Tanzanian children.

Thank you! 

Michael Morpurgo's Visit to the Unicorn School

07 October 2010

Michael Morpurgo's Visit to the Unicorn School

In honour of our 20th birthday celebrations and in association with Walker Books and RM

Michael Morpurgo

came to talk with our children on October 7th 2010

01 January 1970

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01 January 1970

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01 January 1970

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01 January 1970

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