TONI Pleasance-Brown is proof that it is never too late to learn – even what many would consider the basics.

Toni, who celebrates her 70th birthday this year, suffers from dyslexia. The condition runs in her family – and while her grandmother couldn’t read or write, her mother was highly educated.

Toni left school without any qualifications and was often punished at school and at home because the problems brought about by dyslexia were mistaken for her ‘not trying’ and being ‘lazy’.

It was when Toni moved to South Africa and enrolled onto a Matrix course to pursue her career in hairdressing that the tutor recognised that she had problems with words.

Toni said: “The tutor said the course was designed to prove my knowledge rather than my reading and writing, which was checked for me – and I passed the qualification with distinction.”

Her desire to learn and determination to overcome obstacles took a new turn when Toni moved to Peterborough in 1986 and she signed up for a college course to improve her English.

She said: “I can remember how many times I turned up at the college and walk away again because I was embarrassed. It took a lot of confidence to walk into the classroom, but my tutor Mrs Galwin helped me so much and I achieved my English qualification.

“I owe so much to my tutor and the college. They helped me with basic reading, writing and even putting together my CV for a job. They really gave me the courage and encouragement to progress my studies.”

Toni – one of the 70 specially invited guests to the college’s 70th birthday party in May – continued her studies, passing a further exam in creative writing and then going on to study psychology.

She went on to teach people with learning disabilities, and is currently writing a book about her life.
Toni is pictured (above) with fellow 70th birthday party goers
Maureen Ward and Terry Sharp.