Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Provision for deaf students at Highlands College

Here is a Freedom of Information request I made recently, with answers, and comments from correspondents of mine.

Note the photo is a generic one, not one of teachers or students in Jersey.

[Note: dDeaf is deliberate as a capital D is used to show the Deaf community who rely on Sign Language where as the small d is to represent the Hard of hearing community who don't sign.]

Support for deaf students at Highland's College by a teacher of the Deaf British Sign Language Key Worker ceased in September 2016, and the post has not been replaced.

An anecdotal survey of deaf students says that this lack of support has made taking courses much more difficult, as the substitution of a note taker rather than a proper BSL trained support worker is not adequate. This makes it much more difficult for students to achieve higher grades in their courses.

A: What plans are there in the future for reintroducing BSL key workers for support of students at Highlands?

Response A

Highlands College currently employs two people that are trained to British Sign Language (BSL) Level 2 and who work to support students. They also have other staff in College support students who have hearing loss. The roles of support staff in College are Lead Key Worker(s) and Team Leader(s).

This academic year, Highlands College has worked to ensure that more of their teaching team are trained and able to support students who are dDeaf.

Any future recruitment, like previous recruitment, will stress the requirement for BSL at Level 2 or above.

Comment on Response

From a dDeaf person who uses BSL: Level 2 BSL nowadays is not adequate. Years ago when it was the old stage 2 BSL it would have been as the standard was a lot higher back then. Nowadays the standard has dropped and been lowered to encourage more people to learn BSL and pass. There was a very low pass rate years ago hence this happening. Level 2 is like learning basic sentences in Holiday mode such as Where is the Toilet, what time is the train? For education purposes it really is not adequate.

This reply states that there 2 people employed at Highlands who have BSL level 2, but if there are more than 2 students who are dDeaf, which has been the case recently, where is the other key worker to support the extra student who has no one who can sign to them? When the third signer on their staff left in July 2016, no recruitment was sought.

As far as general staff support is concerned, everyday staff are now expected to learn about Deaf students but cannot possibly be expected to remember everything especially now as there are many other special needs students have such as Autism, blindness, Dyslexia, etc the list is endless. Is that fair expecting the staff to “take over” the role the Teacher of the Deaf once had?

There is also access to a BSL tutor but I understand they have other jobs and works elsewhere some of the time, so is there adequate provision in practice, rather than on paper?

Since the TOD (Teacher of the Deaf) retired last July 2016 there is no one with expertise over here in the island, they were also based at St Clements and Le Rocquier schools where there is a Total Communications Unit.

B: Had any official feedback been made of deaf student’s opinions on the adequacy of the substitution of a "note taker" instead?

Response B: 

All students in receipt of one to one support are asked to complete a questionnaire for feedback as part of the Quality Assurance and Learner Voice practice at Highlands College. This evaluation has yet to be circulated or analysed and therefore, the information is not held.


Informal feedback from the dDeaf community suggests that not enough is done to make hearing students understand why signing is important for their communication, and why they may ask for something to be repeated. This may mean that some dDeaf students feel oppressed.

This is also something that feedback should address, and also the need to ensure that deaf students are not picked upon because of their inability to hear or hear well.

Note taking does not seem to be considered an adequate substitute for BSL signing, but unfortunately the evaluation is not complete from Highlands, or this would probably emerge.

C: Has any professional advice been given by Deaf Agencies here or in the UK as to best practice?

Response C: 

Highlands College have liaised with the Education Department’s Inclusion and Early Intervention Team (formerly EST) who have an audiologists and SEN Managers who guide and advise policy and practice in each of the Education Department’s schools and colleges.

All new arrangements for the support of dDeaf students at Highlands College were also discussed with the Senior Practitioner for dDeaf and Hard of Hearing People on island, and the Senior Teacher of the dDeaf from Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospital.

This area expert stated that the provision was good, the transition into Highlands College was supportive and the focus at post-16 education should focus on the transition into adulthood and their emotional needs, and to ensure the promotion of well-being and independence.


This does not state who now does tests with specialist equipment looking at sound fields and reverberation of noise in the classroom. It says there is a team who advise, but it does not say who does this and what is tested.

For example, if equipment like Soundfield is not properly calibrated, as anecdotal evidence suggests is the case, students may find the channel too loud and needing re-configuring to meet multiple students needs.

A few years ago, experts from the hospital in the UK came over to look around St Clements, Le Rocquier and Highlands College to see what provisions was in place. At that time there was a Teacher of the Deaf, Key workers assigned one to one to every dDeaf student.

This would not be the case if they were to come over and assess the situation now. The answer doesn’t say how up to date the assessment was but I suspect it is taken from what is now an out-of-date report.

No comments: