Student Who Overcame Dyslexia Pursues Olympic Dream

15 Aug 2019
Careers, Learning, Sports

Imogen Macdonald

A student at Benenden School has overcome severe dyslexia to achieve A Level results she never thought possible – and is now pursuing her dream of becoming an Olympic athlete.

Imogen Macdonald, from Hawkenbury near Staplehurst, discovered on Thursday that she achieved B grades in all three of her subjects: Design & Technology, Physical Education and Psychology.

Imogen’s dyslexia was such that when sitting the entrance exams at Benenden, she needed somebody else to read to her and a scribe to dictate her words to. Five years on and she has earned A Levels results that at one stage she could only have dreamed of.

“I was really happy and surprised,” she said. “I was really pleased because I did much better than I thought I would. I’d be lying if I said I was the hardest working person in the year; I just did my revision and kept a positive attitude. I just thought ‘it’s fine, you know you can do it’.”

She was most proud of her Psychology result, saying: “It’s an essay subject and I’m very bad at writing essays or any sort of structured writing so I was quite shocked. It turns out maybe I’m not so bad at them!”

Imogen has secured a university place to study Sport Performance but is hoping to delay her course after being offered a place on the World Class Start programme, a British Rowing initiative aimed at developing Team GB’s Olympic rowers of the future.

In addition, last week she won a separate scholarship place to be mentored for a year by one of ten Olympians under The True Athlete Project. She will discover the identity of her mentor in the next few weeks.

Imogen says she was inspired to follow an elite Lacrosse pathway by her Housemistress Lucy Lynch (who recently became the first female England Lacrosse player to reach 100 caps) and now says of her Olympic aspirations: “I haven’t really thought about it – it’s just a dream isn’t it.”

Imogen is one of Benenden’s top sports performers and is a member of the Welsh Women’s Lacrosse Squad. She also performed a solo parachute jump for charity in May.

Imogen has always been honest about her struggles with the academic side of school life. Earlier this year she spoke in front of a packed school theatre about her experiences as part of an evening of talks on the subject of ‘overcoming adversity’.

Asked what advice she would give to other young people with dyslexia, Imogen said: “I don’t want to say it means nothing because it will affect you in every day in your school and in your job for the rest of your life, but at the same time don’t let it control you because it doesn’t have to. You might have to work harder but if you want to do something then go and do it; there’s no-one to tell you that you can’t.”

She added: “I think at school I’ve been really well supported and I put a lot of it down to the teachers; I really appreciate the teachers I have had.”