Ross Duncan interviews Mike Jones -Founder CEO Nessy Learning

  1. You were home schooled per a period of time by your Mother because of dyslexia. How did this make you feel?
  1. I did find it difficult and struggled with having my Mum as my teacher. My memories are hazy but I do remember lots of arguments and I certainly wasn’t easy to teach until I started to realise it was working

 

  1. How did the idea come about to set up a business to help children in a similar situation as yourself?
  2. I trained in Art and Law and kind of fell into education later. I had almost a phobia of schools and didn’t want to go anywhere near them until I started speaking to parents and children who were being emotionally damaged by their school experience, like I was.  I was so moved by that, it gave me a focus

 

  1. In what way was your Mother an influence in how you set up Nessy?
  2. I realised there were loads of great games and ideas being used that had been created by my Mother. However, there were only reaching a few children.  By creating an online computer program we would help many thousands rediscover a love of learning.

 

  1. How did the name Nessy come about? Is there a Scottish connection?
  2. The company was originally called ‘Net Educational Systems’ and it was the dyslexic acronym N E Sy. I decided to create a little green monster to go along with it.  I’m a quarter Scottish but that wasn’t really a factor in the name.

 

  1. How does Nessy adapt to each person’s differing needs?
  2. The programme includes a variety of strategies and types of games that address a range of learning skills.

 

  1. Can Nessy be a supplement or a replacement for conventional teaching?
  2. nessy is not designed to replace a Specialist Teacher but there are not enough specialist teachers to cope with the number of children experiencing dyslexia and similar type difficulties. Those with the most significant difficulty can be helped by a specialist while those who need additional support can be helped by the Nessy programme.  It’s affordable and can be managed by one tutor and with a large group.

 

  1. Can you tell me more about the Nessy Dyslexia Training Course?
  2. A thorough understanding of dyslexia is not a part of teacher-training. It’s really important teachers have this as a 10-25% of their class will have a difficulty.  Our course covers classroom identification and strategies which can make an immediate different to the lives of children with dyslexia.  The key objective is to ensure every teacher has a basic understanding and knows how to provide immediate help.

 

  1. Is the Nessy Dyslexia Training course only for qualified teachers?
  2. No, the course is available for everyone to take and we have quite a lot of parents already on the course who have taken it with the intention of better understanding their children and how to help them.

 

  1. Why is it so important for you to keep Nessy evolving?
  2. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I don’t think any program will ever be good enough. There’s always new technology and new opportunities to improve. Dyslexia covers a wide range of difficulties and those difficulties change as children mature.

 

  1. Why do you think that it’s important to not just involve a school but involve the parent(s) at the same time?
  2. Dyslexia is an issue that affects the whole family. For a start it’s not just about reading and spelling:  for example, organisation and memory can also be affected.  The more frequent the support, the more rapidly they will make progress.  So, combining time at home and school is twice as effective as just one.

 

  1. Dyslexia Quest – Nessy’s screening tool – can you tell me more about this?
  2. Assessments are very expensive and generally only available to those that can afford if which

shouldn’t be the case.  Technology allows us to offer a more affordable solution.  The app hasn’t yet developed to an extent where it can act as an alternative to a psychologist’s assessment but it helps people determine whether going on to that stage is appropriate.  Dyslexia Quest has been developed in conjunction with the Bristol Dyslexia Centre’s psychology team in order to ensure accuracy of results.

 

  1. A lot of people, including myself, are sometimes not identified as being dyslexic until after they leave school. Why do you think early testing and identification is to important?
  2. An effective programme that’s used from the ages of 6-8 prevents a whole range of difficulties developing. Ongoing research has found if you used Nessy with very young children, after they have used the programme they no longer show up on tests as having learning difficulties.  The program has developed their skills and phonics so they are no longer falling behind.

 

  1. What age can a child be tested and identified?
  2. The National Institute of Health has found that dyslexia is identifiable from age 5 ½ with 92% accuracy. Between the ages of 5-6 is the ideal time because that’s when an effective programme like Nessy has the most impact.

 

  1. Nessy is used in every school in Aberdeenshire. Your aim is for it to be used in every school in the UK.  What results or feedback have you received from Aberdeenshire?
  2. We surveyed 5 schools within the Region and found that within 12 weeks of using Nessy reading ages had increased, on average, by a year. Aberdeenshire continues to increase their licence size all the time which suggests things are going very well.  Unfortunately, no other regions have followed their lead – well, not yet!

Ross Duncan

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