The British Association of Teachers of the Deaf
Promoting Excellence in Deaf Education

Future Training of Teachers of the Deaf in Scotland

Recently Dr Mike Gibson, Head of Support for Learning Division in the Scottish Executive, spoke to Teachers of Visually Impaired (VI) children at the Scottish Sensory Centre in Edinburgh and again to the heads of Sensory Services Forum . At these meetings Dr Gibson challenged the need for specific discrete qualifications for VI and HI teachers saying that all teachers could have the necessary competencies through local authority organised courses.

On the 30th September 2005 there was an amendment to the Scottish Statutory Instruments stating:

Requirement in the employment of teachers of hearing-impaired pupils

  • Without prejudice to regulations 3 and 4, where, in discharging their functions under section 1 of the 1980 Act and section (1) of the 2000 Act, an education authority employ a teacher wholly or mainly to teach hearing impaired pupils that teacher shall possess an appropriate qualification to teach such pupils.

In September 2005 Teachers of the Deaf were celebrating the legislation bringing about the mandatory qualifications for those working with deaf pupils. However it seems there are different ways the above can be interpreted.

Everything seems to hang upon the word 'appropriate’.

Across the United Kingdom there are university accredited post graduate courses to train Teachers of the Deaf. These courses, which mostly have distance learning elements, give solid grounding in theory, research, audiology and practical placements. These are nationally and internationally recognised as being of a very high standard. Teachers from these courses are well equipped to be working with deaf pupils and advising local authorities, social services and other agencies as the majority take up posts in support services/networks. This is indeed a valuable resource facilitating the educational inclusion of deaf pupils.

Why, when there is such good training, should Dr Gibson now be advocating that local authorities can opt to train their own teachers? Does this mean that a Teachers of the Deaf trained in Glasgow will have a different set of qualifications than those trained in Aberdeen? Who decides what an ‘appropriate’ course is and who monitors the quality of this course?

BATOD (British Association of Teachers of the Deaf) feels this to be a retrograde step in the quality assurance of teachers educating and supporting deaf pupils. BATOD is fully committed to promoting excellence in deaf education for all deaf pupils not simply in areas of Scotland with the best local authority course.

Dr Mike Gibson ‘reassured’ the members of the Forum that the university courses would still be an option for local authorities. Realistically what local authority will opt to spend money on a university course when they can fulfil their legal obligation by sending a teacher on a few courses and letting them say that this meets their needs?

As many of the experienced practitioners will be retiring in the near future who is going to monitor and quality assure that teachers working with deaf pupils have got all the right competencies to meet the needs of the deaf child?

Dr Gibson said that these changes had been done in consultation with ‘stakeholders’. It seems to have been a very small select group with no true representation from HI and VI services.

From the HI perspective we have grave concerns about the following questions that seem to have been overlooked in the list of competencies.

  • Who will pick up referrals from the New Hearing Screen?
  • Who will be working with families at the time their baby has a diagnosis of deafness?
  • Who will be developing linguistic/communication skills in deaf 0 – 3 year olds?
  • Who has the in depth knowledge on deafness to offer information and discuss deafness with families without bias?
  • Who has the skills and knowledge to prepare staff and schools for a deaf pupil?
  • Who will facilitate the transition phases and ensure the acoustic and audiological setting is optimum for education?
  • Who will be working on the language development programme post Cochlear Implantation?
  • Who will ensure that the deaf pupil has access to a deaf peer group/role models for their social and emotional well being?
  • Who will know how to arrange interpreter support or be able to judge its quality?
  • Who will teach children who use BSL?
  • Who will sign the content/rubrics of SQA exams and then transcribe SQA exams from BSL to written English?
  • Who will do/have the skills and take responsibility for the maintenance/alteration of audiological equipment?

If families feel that local authorities are failing to educate their deaf child they will request out with placements that will be very costly to authorities. These could be much more expensive than effectively training a teacher of the deaf through a university course.

We now – sadly – live in an age of litigation and authorities may be laying down expensive problems for the future by ‘failing to meet the needs of the child’. Other costs could be that failing children over time could become an economic burden to the authority.

Another important area for consideration is that of mental health. Working on early and preventative aspects of mental health is an area in which ToDs are becoming increasing involved. There is evidence that incidence mental ill health in Deaf people is substantially higher than in the hearing population. (Hindley P and Kitson N 2000 “Mental Health and Deafness” published by Whurr.) The mental health aspect alone has major implications on the quality of knowledge and understanding of deafness for working in this field. This is just a glimpse of some the issues in the area of mental health.

Is this just a money exercise now that sets up great debts for the future? Once the skills and expertise have gone it will be a very difficult and lengthy process to re-establish courses.

What consultation has there been with deaf pupils, their families and other interested groups, e.g. TODs, SCOD, NDCS, RNID, SDA, BDA, RNIB and SENSE Scotland, SENSE, EIS?

Is the Scottish Executive prepared to be responsible for a lost generation of learners that are Deaf and the impact on their lifelong mental health?

We may be a very small number of teachers serving a small number of pupils, but all deaf pupils are entitled to have their education supported by well qualified teachers with a wider knowledge and experience of deafness gained through one of the nationally recognised university courses.

BATOD Scotland is actively pursuing meetings with Mike Gibson, NDCS, RNID and The Scottish Executive to express our concerns.

If you have concerns about any of these issues or would like to add your thoughts, please contact