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Attainment of school pupils with a sensory impairment

Submission to the Scottish Parliament

Attainment of school pupils with a sensory impairment

To the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee

Text transcript of summary from BSL video:

BDA Scotland was recently invited to make a submission to the Scottish Parliament’s Education & Culture Committee on the attainment of school pupils with a sensory impairment. Here is a summary of our submission:

We asked deaf pupils and families of deaf children and young deaf people in Scotland to tell us about their experiences with schools and what improvements they would like to see. We received 21 responses, 8 of them from deaf pupils. 

Our key findings were:

  1. Government statistics clearly show that deaf children are far behind at school.
  2. Only 8% to 10% of teachers of the deaf in Scotland have BSL Level 3 or above.
  3. CRIDE 2014 survey says only 8 out of 32 local authorities in Scotland have staff with BSL Level 3 or above.
  4. There is little information available about BSL qualification levels for non-teaching staff working with deaf children. CRIDE 2014 said that there are just 10.4 full time equivalent posts for communication support workers or interpreters for the WHOLE of Scotland!
  5. A theme of the deaf pupils' feedback was a sense of boredom and social isolation at school because of generally small signing peer groups.

A few quotes from the report:

Hearing parent says “I have seen very poor signing from experienced Teachers of the Deaf. My son was really frustrated in school. It’s disgusting and it needs to change now. He is fluent in BSL and was studying National 5 level qualifications with support from a Teacher of the Deaf at level 1. In the end he told her to go away as he was better writing notes to the class teacher without her. I’d also like to say he had another ToD who had Level 4, and the difference was huge”

Deaf young adult says “We would learn so much more if their signing skills were better, like maths and science, And also, where is BSL on the curriculum? It isn't there. So that means deaf children are really struggling. They have had to wait a long time”

Deaf pupil says “In primary school I felt they were forcing me to be oral. In high school you have the option of using speech or sign language… Now I’m improving. I’m top of the class in five subjects.”

BDA Scotland suggests that it would be good practice for nursery, primary and secondary schools to insist that all teachers of the deaf should have achieved BSL Level 6:

  1. Early Years – local authorities should employ a qualified BSL expert to visit families of newly diagnosed deaf children with the teacher of the deaf, giving positive support and reassurance that the deaf child will learn both languages (BSL / English).
  2. Primary – local authorities should employ a Deaf BSL tutor supporting both parents and deaf children to learn in both languages to help reduce social and educational isolation.
  3. Secondary – local schools should employ Communication Support Workers with BSL Level 6 or above, ensuring that every deaf child is able to achieve better qualifications.

 In conclusion, we call upon the Scottish Education Department to:

  1. Set up a network of Sign Intensive Early Years bilingual language environments so that all deaf children can have access to a fluent first language before they start school
  2. Establish a strong sign bilingual practice in Scottish schools with higher expectations for deaf pupils and minimum BSL qualification level 6 for staff supporting them.

BDA Scotland and Deaf / BSL education experts are willing to advise and work with the Scottish Government to make these plans a reality.

Download a Submission copy here