“I just wanted to change things in my life”

Posted on: 30 August 2017

Matthew, centre, with his tutor Sam Gibb and Area Manager Ally Cooper

Congratulations to learner Matthew Harrington from Exmouth, who overcame autism and dyslexia to pass three maths exams and has been presented with our Outstanding Achievement award for the East region.

Matthew, 35, was presented with an embossed glass bowl and a certificate of achievement at the Kennaway Centre in Exmouth.

A few years ago Matthew suffered from a chronic lack of confidence. He lived at home, couldn’t work, couldn’t read and struggled with things many of us take for granted, including visiting the local shop.

He decided to turn his life around. He taught himself to read and signed up to one of our Improve Your Maths courses.

Now Matthew is well on his way to becoming independent. With help from Step One, an Exeter charity which assists those with autism into work, he has landed a job at Devon Cliffs Holiday Park.

Matthew also uses his new skills as a volunteer at the Cancer Research Charity Shop in Exmouth and has signed onto more courses.

“My maths skills were very poor,” Matthew said. “All my life I have had problems. I wasn’t able to work or go far on my own. I just wanted to change things in my life.”

Initially when Matthew joined the course he struggled. “I was nervous, lacking confidence and I failed my first exam,” he said.

“But I’m determined. I take one day at a time and I kept persisting and suddenly things started to make sense. My advice? Don’t think about it too much.

“The key is to take things in small steps and don’t worry about things, just do them – if you think about where you want to be it can be overwhelming.”

Matthew says he really likes his new job at Devon Cliffs and added: “My employers are really nice to me.

“I’ve cleaned 178 caravans so far. I like to keep a tally. My new-found maths skills have certainly helped with that!

“I am very grateful to Learn Devon and Haven Holiday Parks, they have helped give me the skill and confidence I needed.”

Councillor Stuart Barker, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member Responsible for Learn Devon, said:

“One of Devon County Council’s main priorities is improving opportunities for all and supporting those in our community who are less able to learn the skills they need to become economically active and independent.

“We recognise that it can be hard to find and stay in work, and that’s why we offer free courses, with experienced staff, extensive support and a bursary for disadvantaged learners.”

Allison Cooper, an Area Manager for Learn Devon, said: “I hope that Matthew’s story shows what can be achieved through perseverance and will inspire others.”

A spokesman for Devon Cliffs added: “It has been a pleasure having Matthew on board this season.”

Inspired by Matthew’s story? We run courses in maths, English and other skills from beginner level across Devon. Get in touch today to see how we can help you.