Ella ex­cels in ex­ams in spite of fail­ing eye­sight

Kentish Gazette Canterbury & District - - Head Speaks Out - By Jodie Nes­ling jnes­ling@thek­m­group.co.uk @jo­di­enes­ling

A Herne Bay High School pupil who is reg­is­tered blind has over­come ad­ver­sity with a stun­ning set of GCSE results.

Ella East­wood achieved three As, in­clud­ing an A* in re­li­gious stud­ies, plus a 7 in English lit­er­a­ture and a 6 in maths.

The 16-year-old suf­fers with de­gen­er­a­tive eye dis­ease Star­gardt, which means she can see out­lines of peo­ple and ob­jects but no other de­tail un­less she is in­cred­i­bly close to them.

“I can’t see a per­son’s fea­tures or the colour of some­one’s hair,” she said.

The first signs of the con­di­tion emerged when Ella was seven and liv­ing in Tener­ife.

She moved back to the UK and was later re­ferred to the QEQM in Mar­gate, but baf­fled medics could not work out what was caus­ing her bad eye­sight.

“They thought I was mak­ing it up,” she said. “I’d had so many tests and af­ter a year of not be­liev­ing me I was fi­nally re­ferred to Moor­fields Eye Hospi­tal in Lon­don.

Within five hours of be­ing seen, Ella, then aged 11, re­ceived the shat­ter­ing di­ag­no­sis and was told there was no cure.

“My eye­sight stayed the same for a while but over the last 18 months it has re­ally de­te­ri­o­rated,” she said.

The tim­ing could not have been worse in the run-up to her ex­ams, but the plucky teenager, who has five brothers and sis­ters, did not let it stop her.

She added: “The school have been bril­liant and I could not have asked for more.”

Teach­ers were es­pe­cially help­ful when Ella dis­cov­ered only one exam board would blow up the text to 36 points so she could read the pa­per clearly.

Staff en­sured they en­larged all her other texts and made sure ad­e­quate read­ing and re­vi­sion ma­te­rial was al­ways avail­able.

Ella plans to stay on in the sixth form in a bid to achieve her dream of study­ing his­tory at univer­sity .

In the mean­time, she will be kept busy with the Na­tional Ci­ti­zen Ser­vice, which ar­ranges out­door ac­tiv­i­ties in col­lab­o­ra­tion with so­cial enterprise schemes and char­i­ties.

She also reg­u­larly raises funds for Kent As­so­ci­a­tion for the Blind and Catch­ing Lives.

Aside from Ella’s fan­tas­tic results, a host of other tal­ented pupils at the school were also cel­e­brat­ing im­pres­sive grades.

Nathan Jones, who achieved grade 8 in maths, and Jas­mine Amos, who achieved the same score in English.

Fur­ther along the coast at The Com­mu­nity Col­lege Whit­stable, star per­former was Court­ney Firminger, with a 7 and 8 in maths and English, and A and A* grades in fine art, sci­ence, ICT and food tech­nol­ogy.

Dy­lan Small bagged three As in the sci­ences, as well as an 8 in maths, while Os­car Jack­son se­cured a grade 8 in maths and an A for com­puter sci­ence.

Head teacher Ana Gib­son says the results demon­strate that the school is mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion and has a solid plat­form for fur­ther im­prove­ment.

Ella East­wood cel­e­brates her exam results

Whit­stable Academy stu­dents are cel­e­brat­ing

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