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Dyslexic pupil who was rejected by 30 schools now thriving in Wales

Jack Harley-Walsh is now 16 and preparing to take his GCSEs. Photo: ITV News

A teenager with severe dyslexia who was turned away by 30 schools in England because of his learning difficulties is now thriving and preparing to take his GCSEs at a school in Llandudno.

Jack Harley-Walsh is dyslexic and discalculic, which means he struggles with reading and writing, and with numbers. He's 16 years and studying at the private St David's College in the town.

Our Education Reporter Tom Sheldrick went to meet him:

What is dyslexia and what is provision like for most pupils in Wales?

Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that makes it hard to learn to read and spell. Dyscalculia is broadly similar, but affects arithmetic.

Around one in ten children have some form of the conditions - the majority are not able to attend private, or specialist schools - and will be receive mainstream education.

SNAP Cymru support families and young people in relation to additional learning needs. The charity's Chief Executive, Denise Inger, says young people with dyslexia often have problems with coordination, processing information, and self-esteem.

She told ITV News that "we have made some strides forward" in school provision for these pupils, but "diagnosis is still patchy", and there are concerns about the impact of budget cuts on specialist support.

Watch her interview with our presenter Andrea Byrne on Wales at Six:

The Welsh Government has acknowledged "more can be done" to help pupils with dyslexia, and it is introducing new legislation, and focusing on better training for teachers.

Local Authorities and schools must plan effectively, based on local need, to ensure all learners' requirements are catered for, including those with special educational needs.

In recent years we have seen an upward trend in the attainment levels of learners with dyslexia, however we recognise that more can be done. That's why we are introducing new legislation that will enable us to improve the planning and delivery of additional learning provision, so it is much more focused on individual need.

We are also developing resource materials aimed at school aged learners and practitioners supporting them. This includes a Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) Framework which aims to ensure a more inclusive education for learners with dyslexia and similar learning difficulties and improve senior practitioners' understanding of the challenges that these learners face.

In addition we recently introduced a 'new deal' to support teachers and school staff with their professional development. This includes a focus on increasing the capability of teachers and schools to meet the learning requirements of all pupils, including those with dyslexia.

– Welsh Government spokesperson

Jack's inspirational story:

Jack has severe dyslexia and discalculia, which means he struggles with both reading and spelling, and with numbers.

He's originally from Ascot, Berkshire, and our colleagues at ITV News Meridian, in the South East of England, filmed with him back in 2010.

He was 11 then and had struggled at primary school because of a lack of specialist provision for him. He could not find a secondary school - 30 in England turned him down because they could not accommodate his severe learning difficulties.

In 2010, Jack told us he didn't think many people understood his disability.

Eventually, his mother found St David's College in Llandudno. It is a private mainstream school, but specialises in providing for pupils with specific needs, particularly dyslexia.

Jack now boards here, more than 200 miles from home. It costs his mother nearly £30,000 per year in fees.

Around half of pupils at St David's College have specific learning difficulties.

When he started at the school three and half years ago, Jack could not even spell his own name.

But, at St David's, pupils like Jack get extra help with reading, writing and maths, in one-to-one sessions twice a week.

One-to-one teacher Susanne Clayton says Jack has particularly improved his reading accuracy and fluency.

Improvements in his key skills have boosted Jack's confidence, and allowed him to access other subjects.

All of the teachers at St David's are trained in providing for pupils with specific learning difficulties. There are normally only around eight pupils in each class.

Classes at St David's are small and interactive.

Jack is now 16, and preparing to take seven GCSEs this summer. He's aiming for C grades. He hopes to become an engineer in the RAF one day.