University of Edinburgh

Benchmarking Sign-Bilingual Education

Presented on Wednesday 12 January 2005

Deaf Toolkit: Best Value Review of Deaf Children in Education, from users’ perspective

University of Edinburgh, 12 January 2005.


  1. DEX set up in 1994 because international philosophy, research and anecdotal evidence indicates
  2. Deaf mainstreamed people, of all levels of deafness, are in limbo between two cultures.
  3. Deaf mainstreamed people have low self-concept as a result of social exclusion.
  4. Abuse/normalisation of deaf pupils in mainstream provision in deaf monolingual schools.
  5. “Always calculate”
  6. Timely UK and UN legislation and charters.

UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, religious or Linguistic Minorities (Article 2.1) 18 December 1992.

“Persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities (hereinafter referred to as persons belonging to minorities) have the right to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, and to use their own language, in private and in public, freely and without interference or any form of discrimination.”

Percentage Mental health in mainstream

  • Hindley, Hill, McGuigan & Kitson (1993, Springfield Hospital, London) 61% of deaf children in mainstream units have mental health problems (over 2 times the rate found in hearing children).
  • A Walker (1988, unpublished, University of Bristol) dissertation on social and psychological effects of mainstream education – 54% had counselling.
  • D G Mason (1997, University of York, Canada) interviews and literature review of Northern America “lonely wolf life in a hearing world”.

Best Value Review Toolkit

Setting Benchmarks

  1. Audit Commission and the Local Government Association guidelines on Best Value, (including efficiency, effectiveness and economy)
  2. User knowledge - professional and personal
  3. Sign bilingual provision in UK and Scandinavia
  4. Investigations of mainstream and deaf schools in UK and Scandinavia
  5. Literature review - international
  6. Legislation - International regulation and UK legislation
  7. Performance standards - testing and developing
  8. Challenge event - Deaf young ex-mainstreamers tested the Review
  9. Report - Dissemination of information, training, etc.

DEX Performance Standards

  1. All deaf children to access Sign/English bilingualism service provision. UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989; Children Act 1989, UNESCO Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action 1994; Human Rights Act 1998.
  2. All deaf children to access a significant deaf peer group and Deaf culture. UN convention on the Rights of the Child 1989; UNESCO Salamanca Statement 1994; Human Rights Act 1998.
  3. All deaf children to have the same education as hearing peers and access to hearing children and staff. Education Act 1996; Special Educational Needs & Disability Act 2001; Human Rights Act 1998; UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  4. All deaf children to have a positive Deaf identity. UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989.
  5. Deaf children to have access to leisure, recreation and cultural activities in education. UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989.
  6. Deaf children to be protected from abuse of rights. UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989; Human Rights Act 1998; Children Act 1989.
  7. Establishment and sustainability of a Sign bilingual education for all deaf children. Local Government Act 1999.

Investigating Deaf Children

  1. 120 British deaf children were asked to be interviewed.
    62 respondents from hearing families; 52 in mainstream - 42 resourced - 10 in individual placements (4 Welsh deaf children); 10 interviewed in special schools in UK; Deafness range - profound to moderate; Interviews, classroom and break-time observations (34 schools).
  2. Scandinavian deaf children - Deaf schools only
    Deafness range - indeterminate; Classroom and break-time observations.

Further investigations

  • 30 British hearing children - friends of associates of deaf children in resourced schools or individually placed in provider schools;
  • 120 families approached, approx 55 parents involved;
  • 75 staff members in UK, Sweden and Norway;
  • 25 deaf mainstreamed schools - one oral unit and 1 SLD school - 17 sign bilingual resourced - 2 using Total Communication - 6 with individually placed deaf children;
  • 9 deaf schools - including 6 in Sweden and Norway;
  • Welsh Language Board, Norwegian Support System, MHI, DfES.

Some BVR statistics

  • 68% have other deaf children in their mainstream school
  • 55% deaf children do not like their mainstream school
  • 66% deaf children do not feel they can go to their teacher if the don’t understand
  • 48% parents were happy with provision
  • 48% made the decision to send their deaf child to current placement

What children said

Deaf children:

  • “I am happy because other deaf children are there signing and I am confident with hearing children.”
  • “Because it is hard work I am always fighting with people and the teachers are not good enough.”
  • “Teachers sign differently, for example use the sign for toilet instead of water.”
  • “Sometimes it’s difficult to say I don’t understand.”

Hearing children:

  • “Exciting, mostly because learning signing.”
  • “I like talking to them, sometimes they are left out but if other deaf children are there I feel comfortable.”
  • “It doesn’t really make a difference because they are still a child at school.”

Benefits of bilingualism

Research shows bilinguals:

  • Are freer from the limits of one single language
  • Have an in-depth knowledge of two languages and cultures
  • Have a greater breadth of understanding
  • Have more empathy as good communicators
  • Are problem solvers and flexible thinkers
  • Can learn more languages more easily
  • Have better employment and social opportunities.

DEX’s Framework for Action

  1. Deaf Education Support Service
  2. Regional Centres
  3. New entrants’ training
  4. Staff training
  5. Research
  6. Social venues
  7. Deaf children
  8. Family courses
  9. Sign bilingual practice
  10. Languages and cultures
  11. Value for money
  12. Sustainability.


Deaf children’s rights and choices

  • Parents whose deaf children attend sign bilingual and TC resourced schools highly satisfied.
  • Where there were 2 deaf children in a family in different placements, the parents favoured the resourced sign bilingual school.
  • Sweden and Norway’s Parental Intervention programmes include all levels of hearing loss.
  • Orëbro, Sweden - Hoh children attending sign bilingual provision.


Linguistic human rights

Mother tongue redefinition for all levels of deafness

Education law reform on statute

Establishing best value and sustainability.

DEX Deaf Ex-Mainstreamers Group, Evans Business Centre, Monckton road, Wakefield WF2 7AS
Telephone: 01924 888106
Textphone: 01924 888114/5
Fax: 01924 888105.