Inspire! Award-winner’s second chance at education helped him learn to read at 34

John Spence

A medic who was diagnosed with severe dyslexia at the age of 34 has won an award for learning.

John Spence, was bullied at school because he couldn’t read. By the time he left, his confidence was so shattered he’d developed a stammer.

He joined the Army, serving as a medic in Afghanistan and Iraq. It was only when he left the Army and began a course in pre-hospital emergency medicine anyone discovered he couldn’t read or write.

John’s instructor encouraged him to re-join education as an adult to achieve his dream of working in medicine. He signed up to the Open University and was diagnosed with severe dyslexia, ADHD, and Meares-Irlen syndrome.

Now, after getting a second chance at education, he has a medical science degree and runs his own company training doctors all over the world. This year, John won the year’s Life Change and Overall Winner of the Year awards at the Inspire! Awards.

Overcoming obstacles

“In school I was made to stand on a chair to read in class while the others laughed. Teachers told me I was a waste of space and didn’t deserve to be taught with the others. The military is very physical so it was easy to hide, but I always knew I’d be terrible in an exam.

“When my secret was discovered it felt like everything was unravelling, but The Open University became the family I never had. They helped me at every step - arranging a computer and software for me, and the books I needed.

“They couldn’t believe I’d got as far as I had. I’d grown up thinking everyone saw words spiraling and jumping over the page when they read. Every time I rang the Cardiff office, I could feel the excitement. Everyone was rooting for me. I’d never had that in my life.”

A second chance at education

John completed a certificate of education, then a diploma, and eight years after returning to education, he completed a BSC honours degree. Last year, he graduated with a 2:1 in Medical Health Science at the age of 46.

“Education has changed my life completely. If only my teachers had believed in me and not dismissed me as a ‘naughty’ child. I now realise the power of education and how one person noticing your strengths can change your life.

“I never imagined life could be like this. I was failed by education the first time, but I’m so glad I was given a second chance.”

Want to return to learning?

There are many ways you can learn and update your skills at a pace that suits you.

Find out more about courses, options and funding.


Unemployed and looking for work?

The Employability Skills Programme is designed around you and offers high quality work placements and specific training to help you build the confidence, skills and experience you need to get a job.

  Find out more about the Employability Skills Programme


Live in the South Wales Valleys?

If you live in the South Wales Valleys and need to improve your chance of finding a job the Access Programme could be right for you. You could be eligible for a vocational training grant and tailored support.

 Find out more about Access


Need help to find out what support is available?

Want to gain more skills? Looking for help to find work? Employment Routes is a directory of programmes across Wales that could help you increase your skills and find a job.

 Find out what support you might be eligible for in Wales


Thinking about a career in health?

Health is a large sector with many types of jobs and demand is growing. Wales needs more healthcare professionals and support workers.

 Find out more about health careers in Wales


Let’s talk

phone icon Phone: 0800 028 4844

mobile icon Mobile: 029 2090 6800

email icon Email us

our centres Our centres

Funding and Support Guide 2018-2019

Funding and Support Guide 2018-2019

Find the right career for you

Try our career search >

  • No Tweets found

Croeso i Gyrfa Cymru

Dewiswch iaith


Welcome to Careers Wales

Please select your language