Illiterate star of The Write Offs, 31, who couldn’t spell a two-letter word – leaves viewers ‘sobbing’ as he leaps FIVE school years in just 16 weeks after reality show’s teachers helped him
- Father-of-two Craig Cooper, from Ilford, left school unable to read and write
- Two-part Channel 4 show The Write Offs saw him crowned ‘most improved’ of the group of eight 22 to 66-years-olds with adult illiteracy who appeared
- The first episode of the show saw him asked to spell the word ‘at’, which he spelled out as ‘ant’ – as he was judged to have a ‘nursery school reading age’
- Last night, he showed how his spelling had improved over 16 weeks, as he was able to spell words like ‘because’, ‘change’ and ‘Monday’
- Viewers tuning in admitted the high emotion of the students’ achievements had left them ‘sobbing’
A 31-year-old father-of-two who couldn’t read and write after being failed by the education system and called ‘thick and stupid’ at school left viewers of Channel 4’s The Write Offs in tears after he leapt five school years after just 16 weeks of lessons.
Craig Cooper, from Ilford, who had previously been sacked from five jobs in a row because he wasn’t able to fill in the forms modern life demands and had at one point become suicidal, left those watching at home in tears as he correctly spelled words including ‘because’, ‘change’ and ‘Monday’ during the final episode of the two-part reality show.
The series tested the reading age of each of the participants at the start of the series. None of them were rated higher than 10 years old and Craig, who is married to Jessica and has a daughter Freya, three, and son, Jack, 21 months, had the reading age of a child in nursery school.
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Father-of-one Craig Cooper, from Romford, left school unable to read and write; in the final episode of Channel 4 show The Write Offs, he showed how his spelling had improved over 16 weeks, as he was able to spell words like ‘because’, ‘change’ and ‘Monday’
The delighted dad joined the show with a nursery school reading age but has since leapt five school years in just four months after getting help from specialist teachers
Craig’s wife Jessica and daughter Freya watched on proudly as he spelled a string of words correctly in front of an audience at Queen Mary’s University. Craig also a son Jack, 21 months
In last week’s episode, he failed to correctly spell the word ‘at’, which he spelled out as ‘ant’.
Watching his transformation, and that of the other students on the reality series, which is hosted by former Bake Off star Sandi Tsokvig, left many viewers taking to social media to praise the show for highlighting adult illiteracy.
Craig was asked to spell a number of words in front of an audience at Queen Mary’s University and while he struggled with some of the words he was asked to spell, he impressed the audience with how far he’d progressed.
His wife and young daughter watched on as he correctly spelled a string of words.
On Twitter, many said the show had made them emotional; @emcharlotteross wrote: ‘Absolutely weeping at #thewriteoffs. Thank you. @sanditoksvig and the team. What a beautiful show.’
@CharmaineIsHis agreed, writing: ‘@sanditoksvig you little star. That had my household weeping start to finish. #TheWriteOffs is award winning tv. Never been so proud of strangers.’
He was crowned ‘most improved’ of the eight-strong group of illiterate people who joined the show
Craig’s fellow students clapped him as Sandi told him how his reading age had dramatically improved
Pride: Craig had previously been sacked from five jobs in a row because he wasn’t able to fill in the forms modern life demands and had at one point become suicidal (Pictured: his wife Jessica and daughter Freya)
He’s come a long way: The first episode saw Craig barely able to sit at a desk faced with a pen and paper because it brought back memories of the shame and upset he felt at school
During his spelling bee, he raised a laugh when he accidentally spelled clock ‘c**k’ joking, ‘sounds about right’ afterwards
@RachelADarke added: ‘#thewriteoffs is among the best TV ever made. We are both sobbing with joy. Thank you for making it.’
The first part of the programme had seen Craig barely able to sit at a desk faced with a pen and paper because it brought back memories of the shame and upset he felt at school.
He said: ‘It just reminded me of how no one knew what to do with me’.
Pictured, The Write Off group: (L-R) Paul, Benny, Dean, Carol, Sandi, Viv, Craig, Emily, Tommy
‘Whenever there were tests at school the teachers would tell me to go outside and play. As a kid I thought it was a great opportunity to get out of class, but it was only when I became an adult that I realised how mortifying it was.
‘I was sent to a secondary school for special needs children, but while I had dyslexia there were children with much more serious problems so I never got any attention and never had the help I needed. I was bullied and called thick and stupid.’
The show was hosted by Sandi Toksvig, who had a very particular reason for wanting to take part. Her son Theo, now 26, had profound dyslexia and was more or less written off himself.
‘At that time I found it very difficult to access information,’ she recalls of first learning of the issue 22 years ago.
‘There were many people who were very helpful in the education system, but there were also those who wanted to sideline him and say that he was obviously not very bright, and so on. I knew that wasn’t the case because just from speaking to him I knew there was a good brain, he just couldn’t read.’
The Write Offs is available on Channel 4 On Demand
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