University of Edinburgh

SSC Newsletter Spring 2008


Welcome to another SSC Newsletter! Once more we have a packed issue full of news from the SSC and further afield. Of particular note in this issue is the launch of the British Sign Language (BSL) Science Signs Glossary, the Acoustics Toolkit launch and the Early Years Developmental Journal for Babies and Children with visual impairment, one of the 13 courses we have run since our last newsletter.

During this period the SSC team has seen a number of staff changes and we notice that many of your areas have been affected by staff and location changes as well. We would be grateful to hear about any changes, not only for our records but we could help to communicate this news through our Newsletter and Website.

With John Ravenscroft's departure, we welcome the appointment of Dr Jennifer Skillen as Manager of VI Scotland. Jennifer, an Orthoptist from Fife, has spent the last year or so working alongside John in VI Scotland and contributing to several of our medical as well as interagency focused visual impairment courses. VI Scotland is also supporting a new project on Arts for visually impaired people which will be run by David Feeney.

The post of Co-ordinator of the SSC will be advertised shortly and we hope to have a new colleague in post in the new session.

On 28th January the SSC and the Heads of Services forum were pleased to host the launch of the National Deaf Children's Society's (NDCS) Acoustics Toolkit. The Acoustics Toolkit is designed to enable schools to identify problems in the school's listening environment and develop measures which will improve speech intelligibility for all pupils and teachers. This will benefit all children as well as ensuring that deaf children do not face unnecessary barriers to learning and are fully supported and included in school life. The free toolkit is available to download from

and hard copies are available to order from the NDCS Freephone helpline on 0808 800 8880.


Visual Impairment and the Arts

I have recently arrived in Edinburgh to try to put together some research projects, which explore different aspects of the experience of visual impairment. In the past I have explored (dis)continuities between imaginative artistic renderings of the aesthetic experiences of visually impaired characters and the lived experiences of visually impaired people. Also, I have some experience in the provision of access and learning for visually impaired people within the museums and galleries sector.

Currently working with VI Scotland, I am attempting to conduct some research into the following areas:

1. Compiling an extensive accessible archive of imaginative portrayals of the experience of visual impairment. I intend to assemble an accessible library of books, audio-described films and raised paintings, aimed at a variety of age groups, which feature visually impaired characters. I also intend to record a series of interviews with visually impaired people who have been exposed to these portrayals in which participants are encouraged to expand on their thoughts on whether the renderings in question are positive or negative, and on the ways in which they relate to their lived experience. I am on the lookout for VI teachers who might be willing to let their pupils listen to extracts from audio books and watch audio-described films.

2. This project has been prompted by previously undertaken research which suggested that many visually impaired people tend to have a more heightened sense of the aesthetic components of their environment when in their natural surroundings rather than in an art institution in which displayed artefacts must be appreciated and appraised from afar. In collaboration with groups of visually impaired people, outdoor heritage organisations, museums and galleries, installation artists, I intend to encourage participants to identify components of their engagement in nature and their exposure to the elements which they find particularly fulfilling, and to attempt to simulate variations of these components within a museum/gallery environment.

Both projects are aimed at exploring the visually impaired perspective on the validity of the widely held contention that disability tends to be received more affirmatively within the arts than in society, and to engage visually impaired participants in a variety of environments. The visually impaired perspective on the extent of the applicability of the social model of disability within the arts is also something I wish to document. The ultimate aim is to develop resources to enable the facilitation of creative workshops for visually impaired people. I am eager to talk to people with complementary interests from a variety of disciplines.

David Feeney, VI Scotland


Notes from Down Under

John at Sydney Harbour bridge

I was going to start my notes with "G'Day" but just how much of a cliché would that be. Similarly just how much of a cliché is it to say the weather is fantastic in Australia. I am sure that in other parts of the country it is, but in Sydney, I have only seen the sun 6 out of the 30 days I have been here. Boy, it has rained and when it rains you quite often get hail stones and these are literally the size of golf balls which ripple the metal on your car, so you have to move you and your car indoors ASAP. The worse part is you get no sympathy from the locals who say, "it's great, not seen the rain for months, long may it continue". I am sure I was promised sunshine in my contract!

Then there are the spiders. Being a Geordie not many things scare me, however the spiders over here are something out of a 1950s B-movie. They are outrageous. In my first week, I was looking at a house to rent and as I was putting my son into the back of the car, this giant monster of a spider, jumped, yes jumped, into the car and onto the back seat where Euan was to sit. It was the size of a dinner plate. It was massive. Both Euan and I let out this scream that could be heard for miles ... birds flew out of trees, dogs barked but yet this spider just sat there looking at us. After running round the car a few times, I finally picked up the courage to get a large stick and poke it out. Which, after several (not very manly) attempts, I succeeded. Or at least I thought I had. A few days later, my wife got into the car to drive somewhere and she let out this scream; the spider had not left the car after all but was now sitting on the dashboard. I had to get one of the secretaries from work to come down to the car and with a 'small' bit of paper to shoo it out. As Bowie said, "Spiders from Mars!"

But apart from the rain and the giant spiders, all is going well. The Renwick Centre is just like the SSC only bigger and has much more of a research focus, which is great - more on work in following issues, though New South Wales is having the same debates about competences and standards for teachers of the deaf and of children who have a vision impairment as Scotland is.

Until next time.
John Ravenscroft
The Renwick Centre


Early Support Framework for Scotland: Deaf Children

The SSC plans to adapt the English Early Support materials to a Scottish context for deaf children. This will run in a similar way to the curriculum support group on early years set up last year by Janis Sugden with teachers of visually impaired children.

There is considerable variation across Scotland about who is involved with early support in the 0-3 age group and how the early support teams work. This working group will collaborate with educational audiologists, community paediatricians, speech and language therapists and organisations such as Queen Margaret University and the National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS) to propose some Scottish guidelines. We can learn from the considerable body of work in England as the Early Support training has been evaluated. The aims of this group will be to:

1. review the DfES (Department for Education and Skills) materials and gather views of parents, teachers of deaf children, speech and language therapists, community paediatricians, audiologists and anyone else involved with early years work, eg, NDCS;
2. rewrite parts to fit into the Scottish institutional framework;
3. rewrite parts to appeal to parents more and to suit ToDs better;
4. liaise with Queen Margaret University, NHS Scotland and NDCS to plan a possible Scottish qualification in early years with SSC/Moray House;
5. plan additional materials and training to support teachers who are using the pack;
6. decide on the format of the Scottish pack.

In order to involve teachers of deaf children from across Scotland we will have meetings where some people attend via video conferencing. If any staff who would like to join this group, please email Rachel O'Neill. The first meeting of the group will be in May.

It is important that we nurture an approach in Scotland which empowers parents to make choices and which supports the decisions they make as their deaf children grow up. The NDCS has started a UK-wide campaign to close the gap in educational attainment for deaf children. A large part of this campaign is geared to improving services to deaf children and their families in the early years so that deaf children have age equivalent language levels, in either BSL or English, by the time they start school. 

If you would like to join the Early Support Group, please get in touch. Meetings will be held every half term and the group will use an SSC bulletin board to keep in touch.

For more information about the NDCS Closing the Gap campaign:

Rachel O'Neill
Scottish Sensory Centre (SSC)
Lecturer in Deaf Education


Learning Support and Communication Support

Training Development Group
Over 2008-09 SSC will be investigating training for classroom assistants working with deaf children. A new development group will recommend pathways for training for people who support deaf children using speech and for those who support using sign. Some will of course be able to become qualified in both areas. We are hoping this will lead to the registration of monolingual and bilingual support staff working in schools and colleges so that employers will be able to understand better the considerable training that is needed in this field.

We seek a cross-section of representatives for this development group: an employer, a deaf student representative, a representative from notetakers' and interpreters' organisations, a representative from a Learning Support Assistant (LSA) or Communication Support Worker (CSW), a teacher of deaf children and College Disability Officer. 

If you would like to be considered for membership of this development group, please get in touch with Rachel O'Neill.


Websites to watch

Deaf Parenting UK (DPUK)

This website is aimed at Deaf parents or parents to be. This group of parents has previously not had much support or information that is accessible to them. DPUK runs training workshops for groups of Deaf parents throughout the UK.


CHANGE is an organisation that specialises in making information accessible to people with learning difficulties and disabilities. They produce a number of very useful CD-ROMs with pictures that can also be useful in deaf education. They also produce booklets about life skills issues written in simple English with good illustrations, for example, planning a baby, depression, stop - no more abuse.

They provide appropriate artwork that helps to make your information more accessible - have a look at their sample illustrations:


Education of the Blind in the Third Millennium - Prospects and Challenges

An International Seminar on the Education of the Blind was held in the Jaroslav Jezek School in Prague in November 2007 to celebrate its 200th anniversary. Delegates from across Europe and further afield were invited to contribute. Scotland was represented by staff from the Royal Blind School and a team from Edinburgh University: Alison Closs, Honorary Research Fellow, Marianna Buultjens, who retired from the Scottish Sensory Centre (SSC) in 2003 and Janis Sugden, SSC.

Alison Closs visited Czechoslovakia on a British Council scholarship in the winter of 1981 to explore her own area of expertise, the education of children with cognitive learning difficulties. Fortuitously, she was given a programme that included visits to schools for children with visual impairments. Alison returned many times to Jaroslav Jezek sharing her knowledge with the staff. However, fearing a lack of specialist knowledge in visual impairment she introduced Jan Hajek, who is now the director of the school, to Marianna Buultjens. In 1992, Jan arrived in Scotland on a two-week visit as a guest of the SSC. During this time he met many of our VI colleagues as he travelled with peripatetic staff, visited mainstream schools and was made very welcome in the Royal Blind School.

Collaboration between Edinburgh University and the Jaroslav Jezek continued throughout the 1990s. Jiri Kapr from the Czech Ministry of Education travelled with groups taking both a discursive and interpreting role. The Czech Ministry of Education had a number of issues in which it shared interests with the then Scottish Executive. In December 2004, Dr Mike Gibson, accompanied by representatives from Moray House and City of Edinburgh Council, held open discussions in Jaroslav Jezek School.

Jan asked Alison to host a visit to Scotland in Autumn 2005 for himself and three key members of the Jaroslav Jezek staff team (Emilie Pruchova, Nastia Pachova and Sarka Frickova). Marianna and I planned visits for the group who were accompanied by Jiri Kapr. They were delighted by the warm welcome they received during visits they made to visual impairment establishments in Scotland including Uddingston Grammar, the Royal Blind School, the RNIB’s Employment and Learning Centre and especially the mother and toddler group that they visited in Falkirk.

At the seminar in November 2007, Marianna and I both delivered formal presentations about the prospects and challenges that relate to interdisciplinary/interagency work in Scotland today. Marianna spoke about Children’s Services in Tayside (CVISTA) while I spoke about Visual Impairment Support Services for Children in the Community (VISSCC). Both follow similar models of collaborative working that aims to support visually impaired children, including those with cerebral visual impairment helping to ensure that these children receive the best possible provision to address their additional support needs.  They offer an approach that can be adapted for local circumstances, cultures and countries.

In turn, we were privileged to learn about many of the challenges that face educators of the visually impaired from many countries including Hungary, Iceland, Germany, Boston, USA and, of course the Czech Republic.

Janis Sugden
Teaching Fellow in Education Support, VI
Scottish Sensory Centre


Resource Library Update

The database software we are using for the catalogue and the articles database has changed and you will see a difference on our website when you log in to search them. Help files will be available to guide you through the changes. I hope you find it more user-friendly.

If anyone has trouble using this database please let us know. We are aware that some Councils are unable to access some or all of our websites; we believe this is due to a tightening of security. Those affected should talk to their IT department as it should be a simple matter of adding our website to the list of "allowed" websites.

Sheila Mackenzie
Resource Library Manager
Telephone: 0131 651 6069


Science Signs Glossary Project Launch

On Friday, 18th January teachers and deaf children from across Scotland descended on Moray House to see the result of the Scottish Sensory Centre's one-year project, funded by the Scottish Government (Support for Learning Division), to collect and define science terminology in British Sign Language: BSL Science Signs Glossary.

Marc Marschark, the new honorary professor of Deaf Education at Moray House from New York, opened the event with a speech about a deaf scientist who attended the first school for the deaf in Edinburgh in the 18th Century. At the age of 18, Goodricke put forward the reason for eclipsing binary stars - the star Algol which Goodricke studied is actually made up of two stars in close orbit around each other. Marc compared the two stars to the deaf and hearing communities, and said we both need each other to improve deaf education of the next generation of deaf children.

Pupils (and adults) enjoyed the live science experiments that included making elephant toothpaste (hydrogen peroxide breaking down into water and oxygen in an exothermic reaction) and a demonstration of the properties of custard which make it both a solid and a liquid. Dr Audrey Cameron led the experiments, ably assisted by the BSL linguist, Gary Quinn; St Vincent's teacher, Gerry Hughes, and Senior Teacher, Derek Rodger, from Oak Lodge School.

The event was rounded off by a panel of deaf scientists, who had worked on the project, answering questions from the audience about the process they had gone through to find and agree the signs.

Process of finding or agreeing signs
In some cases it was quick to find a sign, because one or several were already in existence amongst the experts in the group. NOCTURNAL and TENSION were examples of these collected signs. Another group of signs was created by the team, using information about the concept and following the principles of the BSL productive lexicon. ENZYME and EXOTHERMIC are examples of signs like this. There was considerable debate in the group about some signs. For example, the term INVERTEBRATE was discussed and a sign agreed, but some members of the group tried this out with a wider group of BSL users and suggested an alternative sign which was then agreed by the group.

Some scientific concepts are particularly hard for all children to understand. The project is pleased with the signs devised for DENSITY, WEIGHT and MASS as we feel they reflect the concepts well. Perhaps they might be useful for hearing children too!

Definitions in BSL first
Once the signs were agreed, the definitions were produced in BSL. The teams used information from textbooks and their own experience to produce the definitions. We had to refilm some definitions to make them more accurate; this is similar to the long process involved in making an English dictionary when the definitions often take a long time to devise. Finally, members of the project team translated the definitions into English. We are not totally happy with our definitions and plan to extend or refilm some of them.

How new signs become formalised
In general the project team was pleased with the outcome and hope that the glossary will be useful for teachers, deaf children, parents and communication support workers. We don’t yet know how the signs will be used or if they will be taken up by BSL users. Some signs which look complex now, for example MICRO-ORGANISM, may become formalised and simpler if they are used widely. This process of simplification often happens in signed languages as new vocabulary comes into the language from the productive lexicon and then becomes part of the standard lexicon.

Future work
The project team would like to continue with the work. Although over 250 signs have been collected or created, there are not yet 250 definitions on the site and many more scientific terms are needed to achieve Standard Grade Science. The project team is now in the process of evaluating the work with teachers and deaf pupils. If you or your students would like to be interviewed as part of the evaluation, please contact Rachel O'Neill. We will also be sending out questionnaires, and, if you receive one, we would be very pleased if you would complete and return them to help us improve the site.

Press interest
The launch of the glossary project received considerable interest from the press. Both The Times and The Herald carried pieces on the project and we think See Hear will be doing an item soon.

Links to press coverage:

The website can be viewed on the SSC site at:


Early Years Curriculum Group (VI)

developmental journal

Developmental Journal
The Early Support Developmental Journal for Babies and Children with Visual Impairment is designed for families with a young child with visual impairment and for the professionals who work with them. It enables parents to track their child’s development, helping them to record and celebrate progress through the early years and supports partnership working between families and professionals by providing a shared basis for discussion. The pack was produced by Naomi Dale and Alison Salt from London's Wolfson Institute.

The Scottish Sensory Centre (SSC) received funding in 2007 from the Scottish Government to produce guidelines to adapt the Journal for users in Scotland and encourage the use of it in Scotland. Naomi and Alison were invited to the SSC to present a course on the Journal and on 7th December 2007, a very successful day was held when 41 participants were introduced to the publication. The presenters looked at the theory behind it, explained why it was developed and suggested practical ways to use it. Naomi and Alison stipulated that teachers and professionals who plan to use the Journal with families, should have at least minimal training on its basic principles before they receive a copy. The SSC has a number of journals available for free to those who receive this training. For more details on the Journal see:

Further Training Opportunities
Lorna Hall has many years' experience working with visually impaired young children and babies and has agreed to attend further, in-depth training which will enable her to deliver in-service training on how to use the Journal to a variety of professionals and carers. Lorna has recently retired from teaching but is still a stalwart member of the Early Years Curriculum Support Group.  You can see her in action on our website:

If you are interested in being trained on this topic please contact the SSC.

What's Happening?
The Early Years Curriculum Support Group would love to know what's happening in your area. In early education, it is particularly useful to share innovative practices and ideas, even if perhaps you don't consider what you do as innovative! Perhaps you have discovered or created a particularly good resource. Please contact Janis Sugden with details of what you have all been doing with your early years classes.

Janis Sugden
Teaching Fellow in Education Support, VI
Scottish Sensory Centre


Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters

SASLI was the first organisation for interpreters to start in the UK. Founded in 1981, it has continued to promote training and registration of interpreters. I attended SASLI's 25th anniversary conference on 5th and 6th October 2007 in Edinburgh. 

Professor Graham Turner's presentation raised some interesting issues about the interpreting process. In the past sign language interpreters have been seen as standing outside the situation, of being almost invisible. However, Graham sees the interpreter as one of at least three participants working with the deaf and hearing person. Interpreters should consider the choices they are making in how they interpret so they can justify why they chose to use a particular method. They shouldn't work on autopilot, but are all jointly responsible for successfully negotiating communication. He suggested that interpreters should clarify with other stakeholders more about what the interpreting process actually is.  It should be possible for deaf consumers to be able to feedback their comments as a matter of course, for example via SMS messaging.

Christopher Stone and Robert Adams gave an interesting paper about deaf translators from within the Deaf Community. Drawing on research Robert had done in the Australian Deaf Community, they looked at the role of certain deaf people who acted as translators for other deaf members of the community. They called these people 'ghost writers' – bilingual deaf people who give their services freely and unofficially to the Deaf community, or perhaps swapped skills with other members. For example, these community members might write letters for other people or translate official documents.  The research also found that deaf people who had good speech or lipreading were acting as informal interpreters at, for example, doctors' appointments. They suggested that hearing interpreters could learn important lessons about how to approach interpreting from these informal Deaf Community interpreters.

Carolyn Nabarro, a regular See Hear presenter, discussed the way interpreters are trained. She suggested that the amount trainees learn about Deaf culture is now rather restricted compared to the past. When Deaf Studies courses started at Bristol university in the early 1980s there were many natural opportunities throughout the day for deaf and hearing people to socialise together, and so for hearing people to learn about Deaf Culture. When the course became a degree, fewer deaf people came to the university and interpreters often learnt from video clips rather than from interacting with deaf people.  She saw an important role for hearing people who are encultured into the Deaf Community as interpreter trainers.

Clark Denmark reinforced some of what Carolyn said. He trained as an Interpreter himself with SASLI in the early 1990s and often interprets between signed languages, for example between ASL and BSL. The role for the deaf Interpreter is still far from clear. In some cases hearing Interpreters do not have enough cultural or linguistic knowledge to be able to interpret effectively for clients who perhaps have minimal language skills. He suggested that deaf people often see Interpreters as people who transmit values from the majority hearing community, rather than maintaining a deaf perspective. Often deaf people preferred to use friends from within the Deaf Community as interpreters or translators. The important consideration when evaluating the skills of an interpreter from a Deaf Community viewpoint is first having a positive attitude, then having good language skills and finally having culturally appropriate behaviour.

Later in the conference Clark went into more detail about ways in which deaf people can be Deaf Interpreters. For example, in situations where there is a hearing speaker and a Palantypist, the Deaf Interpreter reads from the Palantype and interprets for a deaf client. A hearing Interpreter could be co-working with the Deaf Interpreter and voicing over from the deaf client. This voice-over would be typed by the Palantypist and so the Deaf Interpreter could monitor the output of the hearing colleague. Clark proposed this as a model of bilingual bicultural co-working in a deaf/hearing team. This method means that both interpreters would be using their stronger language for productive skills. Spoken language interpreters often work only into their stronger language, which is usually their first language. He suggested this deaf /hearing collaboration could work well in further or higher education settings.

There was a strong focus at the 25th Anniversary SASLI conference on the importance of the role of the deaf translator and interpreter, perhaps because of the leadership of Helga McGilp. The conference raised the issue for me about careers advice – if we are working with deaf bilingual pupils do we raise this as a possible career? Some deaf people are now able to study BSL at degree level and then joining an interpreter training course and working in new ways, for example doing on screen interpreting in television.

Rachel O'Neill
Lecturer in Deaf Education

At a SASLI meeting on 23rd February, 2008, there was a vote to amend its membership categories.  Notetakers, Communication Support Workers (CSW), Deaf Blind Interpreters and Guide Communicators will be eligible to join SASLI as Supporters which is an expansion of the Co-opted category from April 2008. People who are CSWs or Teachers of the Deaf (ToD who use British Sign Language (BSL) and are possibly interested in the future to become interpreters can now become Supporters of SASLI and so keep in touch with the organisation.


SSC CPD Courses 2008-2009

The topics for the 2008-09 SSC CPD programme on deaf education are being drawn up now by Eileen Burns and Rachel O'Neill. Janis Sugden leads the CPD team for visual impairment education in collaboration with field professionals, from a variety of disciplines, eg, teaching, peripatetic services, health professionals, etc. Invaluable support is provided by Mary Lee and her colleagues at the Royal Blind School in this regard, as well as from services in Edinburgh, Fife, Clackmannan and, basically, from all over Scotland. Suggestions from course participants and heads of services, etc have been taken into the course planning mix. Your suggestions are always welcome so don’t hesitate to send them in to us and we’ll do our best to accommodate your ideas. As in the training year almost concluded, we will run some of the courses by different means, eg, online, on an outreach basis, by video conferencing, etc. In the meantime, see below for the courses for coming year and note it is hoped that a full brochure of seminars and workshops will be with schools and services in May 2008.

Visual Impairment Education

  • Braille Competency, Grade 1 and Grade 2 [Distance Learning]
  • VI Specialist Technology: Using technology to access the curriculum
  • Communication and Play for children with MDVI: [2-day course] (Mary Lee)
  • Developing Children's Visual skills: Movement & Learning (Brendan O'Hara)
  • Focus on Maths/Science: Tactile Diagrams
  • Visual Perception Skills
  • Teaching Braille to pupils in mainstream classrooms
  • What do we mean by Visual Impairment? [For non-specialist teachers and support workers to raise awareness - can be offered on outreach basis]
  • Common causes of vision loss and children
  • Visual impairment due to damage of the brain
  • Focus on Early Years [Series of courses inc Early Mobility, Pre Braille Skills and Play]

Deaf Education

  • Electronic Notetaking [week long input then placement hours]
  • Post Level 2 British Sign Language (BSL) courses x 2 [Initially 15 weeks]
  • Practical ICT skills for working with deaf pupils: video work, putting videos on CD, adding subtitles, using Moviemaker or iMovie
  • Empowering and supporting parents of deaf children
  • Early Years Support for deaf children [working with advanced practitioners from Scotland]
  • Do deaf children think differently? (Professor Marc Marschark)
  • Productive Skills in BSL test [1-2 days]
  • Dual sensory impaired children and deaf children with multiple disabilities
  • Online language modification course [as 2007-08]: January 09 start
  • Ear Foundation courses x 2
  • Writing development workshop looking at deaf pupils' writing [using profiling tool introduced by Connie Mayer in 2007]
  • Citizenship and a Curriculum for Excellence – how can we get deaf pupils involved and relate citizenship to deaf pupils?
  • Acoustics [using the NDCS Acoustic toolkit]


Interview with Dr Audrey Cameron

Can you tell us about how you came to be a Chemistry teacher?
I gained my PhD in polymer chemistry at Strathclyde University in 1996 and continued there as a research fellow on a project funded by ICI Paints for 3 years. When that project was completed, I went to Durham University for another industrial project funded by GlaxoSmithKline.

Having been repeatedly told that as a Deaf person I would be unable to become a lecturer, I decided to make a career change. I had always wanted to teach deaf children so I went off to the University of Edinburgh to train as a teacher of Chemistry. During the one-year course I gained teaching experience in several schools where there were deaf pupils. From August 2005 to June 2006 I worked as a probationary teacher at Preston Lodge High School, and August 2006 to June 2007 at Eyemouth High School. I am now on maternity leave.

How did you become involved with the Science signs project?
When I was at Moray House, I was in regular contact with SSC and later I was asked by Rachel O'Neill to join the [BSL Glossary project] team.

What was the most interesting aspect of your work on the project?
Developing the signs with the other team members was the most interesting aspect of the work. The discussions were heated and fun! It is a good challenge for us all in trying to develop a suitable sign that is visual for us all to understand the scientific term.

Do you think the signs will be used in Scottish deaf education?
I have been aware for some time that something has to be done to help deaf students to better understand scientific terms and for this reason I was very eager to be involved with this project. I strongly believe this BSL glossary will be very important to deaf people and the signs will be used not only in Scottish deaf education but in other countries too. The signs we created are very visual and this will make it easier for learners to grasp the scientific concepts very quickly.

What are you planning to do next?
I would like to see BSL being used much more extensively in deaf education and it would give me a lot of satisfaction to contribute to the work of using BSL and visual media to make classroom lessons more meaningful to deaf children. Before this can happen, the government has to be persuaded to invest in this form of learning. There is a big task to be performed in getting political support and winning the argument about further investment. I also hope to work in a school with deaf children.

How is it that you can make Chemistry such fun?
Chemistry has often been regarded as a boring subject but I love demonstrating using lots of visual materials that it can be an exciting subject with direct relevance to everyday life.

The Scottish Sensory Centre would like to thank Audrey very much for her contribution to the BSL Glossary Project which was invaluable.


Count Us In - Achieving Success for Deaf Pupils

count us in cover

In November 2007 a new Scottish self-evaluation document was published entitled - Count Us In: Achieving Success for Deaf Pupils. The production of the document was a joint venture by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education (HMIe) and the National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS).

Although there already exists in Scotland a self-evaluation document with a deaf education focus, Quality Assurance in Education Authority Peripatetic Sensory Services, the new document is designed to have the deaf child at the centre with their overall educational experience being evaluated.

This publication is one of the first specialist self-evaluation documents to adopt the Journey to Excellence type format. The document is divided into two parts: Part 1, The quality of education for deaf pupils, is in the form of a report informed by a series of visits to a variety of educational setting, to evaluate the quality of education being experienced by deaf pupils. Key messages about what is necessary to achieve success for deaf pupils are summarised after each section of the report.

Part 2 is the self-evaluation part of the document, Planning for excellence for deaf Pupils. It provides "sign posts to excellence" which should be used to plan your journey to improve the overall educational experience of the deaf pupils you serve. The sign posts are organised around key Dimensions of Excellence from Part 2 of How Good is Our School? The Journey to Excellence. The key dimensions are:

Dimension 1: Engaging young people in the highest quality learning activities.
Dimension 2: Focuses on outcomes and maximises success for all learners.
Dimension 6: Working together with parents to improve learning.

This document provides a strong focus and guidance to professionals working with deaf pupils to allow them to provide a personalised educational experience for each Scottish deaf pupil. The aim is that professionals will set out on a journey of improvement which will increasingly allow deaf pupils to benefit from high expectations; improving attainment; a positive whole school experience; highly qualified staff and full linguistic access to an appropriate curriculum, with a range of real communication choices to meet the individual needs of each pupil. 

The Scottish Sensory Centre are planning a day in the summer term to allow participants to benefit from an explanation and demonstration of how the document can be used, from key personnel involved in its production, plus some practical examples of how it has already been used by Services.

Eileen Burns
CPD Deaf Education Organiser
Scottish Sensory Centre


BSL Immersion Weekend (residential), 13th-15th June, 2008, Pollock Halls of Residence, University of Edinburgh

"the quality of [deaf pupils’] experience and their progress were limited by the lack of communicators and teachers with suitably high levels of BSL competence to provide effective access to the curriculum."    (HMIE 2007)
Count us in - Achieving Success for Deaf Pupils

One of the most direct ways of improving the educational experience for deaf pupils who use BSL is to improve the BSL skills of their teachers. Many teachers of deaf pupils in Scotland have achieved CACDP level 2 in BSL, however trying to find a BSL class above this level is probably the greatest barrier to further improving BSL skills.

With this in mind, the Scottish Sensory Centre have decided to be proactive and provide an opportunity for teachers or others who have level 2 type skills or above to benefit from a weekend immersed in BSL.

Deaf BSL users who are experienced BSL tutors will lead the weekend. There will be a number of activities planned, all of a social nature. For example, a Deaf heritage tour of Edinburgh, a visit to the Museum of Childhood and shopping! These activities will also provide opportunities to gain knowledge of BSL in areas linked to the school curriculum. There will be a host of other activities throughout the weekend, which have been designed to be enjoyable and also provide opportunities to practise and improve BSL skills.

The Deaf BSL tutors include John Hay from Wolverhampton University and Ronnie and Beth Harte of Deaf Perspectives, a Glasgow based BSL tuition company.

The weekend's activities will run from 7pm on the Friday evening until 11am on the Sunday morning and will take place in Pollock Halls of residence, which are attached to Edinburgh University. The price of £200 includes all accommodation and most meals.

This weekend is a must for anyone who feels that their signing skills could be improved.

Eileen Burns
CPD Deaf Education Organiser
Scottish Sensory Centre


After BSL Level II, what next?

The Scottish Sensory Centre (SSC) has secured funding from the Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters (SASLI) to run two free 15-week taster courses for people who have Level 2 BSL and who wish to continue to improve their BSL skills. This two-hour a week course could be a bridge to a Level 3 BSL course and it is hoped these courses will run on an outreach basis in various locations in Scotland. The Deaf tutors on this course will be drawn from a new pool of advanced BSL tutors who have recently graduated from a course run by Heriot Watt University. This course, called TOTS (Training of Trainers), ran from 2005-07 and offered the Deaf tutors in-depth training on BSL linguistics and language teaching methods.

These two courses are open to Teachers of Deaf Children and Communication Support Workers (CSW) or Learning Support Assistants who already hold a BSL qualification at CACDP* level 2 (or equivalent) and will run at a time and venue to suit participants. The course syllabus will be produced to suit the needs of teachers and people working in education. For example, 'subject vocabulary', the sort BSL teachers and CSWs need to give explanations, ask questions and understand BSL used by Deaf pupils and Deaf parents.

The SSC will consider running a BSL Level 3 course if the bridging courses are successful. It is likely that we will choose the CACDP non-NVQ route to give plenty of teaching input to help students reach the Level 3.

Please contact the Rachel O'Neill for more details.

*Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People

Rachel O'Neill
Lecturer in Deaf Education
Scottish Sensory Centre
Telelephone: 0131 651 642