University of Edinburgh

Newsletter 29 Spring 2010


We are delighted to say that this issue contains several articles which we hope you will find illuminating, interesting and useful. 

Our colleague from Visual Impairment Scotland, Dr David Feeney, has been often described as going off to 'the forest'. We were all a bit in the dark as to what he was actually doing out there until he handed in an excellent article on Outdoor activities for visually impaired youngsters - see the section in the middle of this newsletter. The pictures on this page are examples of the type of outdoor pursuits David is engaged in with young visually impaired people from The Royal Blind School, Edinburgh

The pilot of the SSC Pathway to Competence came to an end last year and 'graduate', Carrie Mannion reveals what it was like to successfully complete it. The first post-pilot course has a cohort of 4 teachers of visual impairment and 6 teachers of the deaf.

Also, in this issue there is news from Deaf Achievements Scotland and David McArthur from Carlogie Primary talks about an exciting project they held with Deaf mime artist, Ramesh Meyyappan.


Deaf Achievement Scotland (DAS)

DAS logo

Continuing the Achievements of Deaf Pupils in Scotland (ADPS) Research

Dr Martha Whiteman started work on a two-year project funded by the Nuffield Foundation in February 2010. Martha brings a wealth of experience about running longitudinal research projects and analysing quantitative data.

Honorary Professor of Deaf Education at Moray House School of Education, Marc Marschark, attended the first reference group meeting on 15th February as the project launched. Representatives from *NDCS, BATOD, the Heads of Services forum, SCoD, the Scottish Deaf Association and NHS Audiology have been invited to participate in the reference group.

The work of the first six months of the project will include gaining ethical approval, devising ways of contacting school-leavers, drafting questionnaires for schools and ex-pupils, exploration of the existing database and setting up a DAS website to link to the previous Achievement of Deaf Pupils in Scotland site.

The project team consists of Dr Martha Whiteman, Professor Marc Marschark, Rachel O'Neill.

The previous ADPS project divided deaf pupils into Group A and Group B. Group A were the pupils who were visited by teachers of deaf children at least twice a year. It is these Group A pupils we are interested in tracing. The ones who are still at school will now be aged 9-17 and we will ask their teachers to fill in further updates on their achievements. There will also be many who have left school in the 18-27 age group. The research team is devising new ways to make contact with them including the use of social networking sites, posters in Audiology clinics and Deaf Centres. The previous research asked teachers to fill in the questionnaires, but for these school-leavers we will now be asking the young people to take part in their own right. We are planning a questionnaire for these young people which will be available online in both BSL and English as well as in paper form.

The DAS project will continue to update Scottish teachers of deaf children regularly through the SSC newsletter and website.

Dr Martha Whiteman, G.04 Simon Laurie House, Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, EH8 8AQ.
Tel: 0131 651 6650

*: NDCS: National Deaf Children's Society, BATOD: British Association of Teachers of the Deaf, SCoD: Scottish Council on Deafness.


Resource Library Update

New Resources

low vision toolkit

Low vision toolkit by Nathan Davies for RNIB Cymru is for teachers and professionals to ensure that children with low vision understand all aspects of their visual impairment and how strategies and equipment help them to make the most of their sight. There are 7 modules: Eye conditions; Colour/Contrast/Lighting; magnification; Low tech LVAs; LVAs for near vision; LVAs for distance vision; high tech LVAs and computer technology. The modules outline to the teacher the aims and objectives of each module, describe activities to reinforce learning and provide resource sheets.



Tactus is a European award for tactile illustrated books and the organisation helps to publish these innovative designs. We purchased two more of these: Heart of stone by Mauro L Evangelista - a story for all ages in the form of a fable with tactile graphics and Braille text and won the 2007 Tactus award (Open category), and Rozmanitosti (Wonderland) by Kristyna Adámková which contains freeform tactile graphics aimed at boosting the imagination with some Braille text, this won the 2006 Tactus award (Open category).  NB: Neither of these books are suitable for very young children.


Safe: Personal Safety Skills for Deaf Children is a new package with a DVD-ROM and a practice guide from the NDCS and NSPCC aimed at helping professionals to teach personal safety skills to deaf children. The pack is divided into 10 topics covering feelings, relationships, diversity, bullying, growing up, avoiding accidents and assessing risks indoors and outside, road safety, safe use of technology and recognising abuse. The DVD-ROM contains video material for use with groups and illustrations and resources for viewing and/or printing.

oxford reading tree

We have had BSL video versions of the Oxford reading tree stories for many years and we recently acquired the DVD versions. We have all of the stories which have been translated by Chase which includes a selection from Stage 1 (Grey series) to Stage 5 (Orange series). The DVDs are conveniently packaged as one DVD per series.

Please get in touch if you would like more information about these resources or would like to borrow them or any of our library materials.
Sheila Mackenzie, Resource Library Manager
Tel: 0131 651 6069


Visually Stunning! Mime at Carlogie

mime at carlogie
Carlogie Primary School in Carnoustie recently enjoyed visits from the internationally renowned Deaf performer, Ramesh Meyyappan, and the musician, Onur Orkut.  Ramesh and Onur developed their work with the children over a period of three weeks using a range of physical and visual styles, ensuring accessibility to both deaf and hearing participants and audiences.

Deaf and hearing children from Primary 4 and 7 and their teachers collaborated with Ramesh and Onur to create a performance based on the story of 'The Selfish Giant' by Oscar Wilde. They used choreographed movement, mime and sound effects instead of dialogue. Ramesh and Onur started the process with input workshops and then allowed the children to take the story forward themselves with help from their teachers.  Ramesh and Onur returned to the school 6 times over the three-week block to fine-tune the process. This enabled the children to take ownership of their own learning. Being inspired by the original story, they were encouraged to express and communicate their own ideas, using movement, expression and sound. The pupils successfully used gesture, body movements and facial expressions to engage others in their performance.  This helped everyone to realise that communication can be effected without voice and that small gestures can have a significant communication impact. Pupils who were dealing with sound effects had to interpret and respond to the mime or movement of others.

mime at carlogie

Stage One: The story was shared with the children using sign, voice and mime.
Stage Two: The children interpreted the story in their own way by story-boarding.
Stage Three: The children looked at characters and events in the story and matched movement and sound.
Stage Four: They worked separately in three classes on various parts of the story to create a sequence of events.
Stage Five: They practised, rehearsed and refined their group contributions.
Stage Six: They came together to produce a successful performance in the school hall to which other classes, parents and guests were invited.

Some of the evaluations from the children included: "Had a great time. Loved it!" "Exciting! Liked performing in front of others". Some of the children have even chosen stories for their next performance!

The final performance raised 110 for Tayside Deaf Children's Society.

Ramesh himself says that his workshops focus on developing a visual language within a narrative. He uses visual elements, including movement, sign, mime and ensemble work. He says that Carlogie Primary School showed a very open-minded attitude to such an approach and has given him, as a deaf visual arts practitioner, an opportunity to work with both deaf and hearing students.

More information can be found at his web site:

Carlogie Primary School would like to thank Ramesh and Onur for such a worthwhile experience and all their hard work.

Jill McPherson, Alison Ripley, Diane Welsh, Kim Blackmore, David McArthur, Pauline Meikleham and the children of Primary 4 and 7 at Carlogie Primary School, Carnoustie.


News: 2009 Christmas Card Competition Results

We had a great response to our Christmas card competition and it was very difficult to choose from the great artwork we received. We hope the children enjoyed painting the pictures as much as we did in receiving them. See below for the winners of the three categories, and the overall winner from the 12-18 age group. 

Simone and Mairi received tokens of their choice and a framed copy of their entry, and Stephen also received tokens of his choice and some of his cards for his own use. The other entrants were sent copies of their artwork on self-adhesive labels to pop on to parcels or cards. (All original artwork was returned.)

Age 3-7: Simone Kane, Windsor Park School

simon kane

Age 8-11: Mairi Brown, Braehead Primary School

mairi brown

Age 12-18: Stephen Clegg, Royal Blind School (overall winner)

stephen clegg


My Journey to Qualification

In October 2007 the Scottish Sensory Centre (SSC) and The Royal Blind School, Edinburgh embarked on a project to develop a Pathway to Competence CPD course for Teachers of Children and Young People who are Deaf or Visually Impaired. This was an innovative development which began in direct response to the Scottish Government Guidelines on Appropriate Qualification for those involved in teaching sensory impaired learners. By the launch in October 2008, the City of Edinburgh Council had also made a significant contribution to the development of the course. 

The final Pathway enhances the Scottish standard for full registration. As a Depute Headteacher (DHT) at The Royal Blind School I was not once, not twice but three times about to start the University's post-graduate 'VI Diploma': on each occasion changes at senior management level kept me in school. I became the obvious candidate to pilot the CPD opportunity. It was an interesting and, at times, challenging journey. I was fortunate that I had been working with Janis Sugden to deliver part of the assessment module to VI Diploma students.  I had also completed my Grade 2 Braille several sessions earlier. The challenge was to complete the pilot in a shorter period of time than normal so any hiccoughs could be addressed and the course be ready for potential candidates the following session. I attended the launch at SSC. The task looked daunting given the timescale we had agreed to!

I was appointed a very experienced qualified teacher of the visually impaired (QTVI), Elizabeth McCann as my mentor and Janis was at the end of the telephone or email when we needed advice. The course is designed so that all teachers, promoted or unpromoted, can focus on a competence at a time, gather the necessary evidence and enhance their professional development.

The evaluation framework for the competences is well structured and offers the opportunity for candidates to focus on one competence at a time, to tackle an area where they feel skills need enhancement, to have their knowledge and understanding of Visual Impairment reinforced and so on.

From the launch I set myself not only to re-read books, articles and research but to find an easy route to access materials from the University's impressive collection. Being an Edinburgh University graduate, Janis and I had thought this would be straightforward. We had some difficulties but progress was made. We also decided that, for the future, a professional reading list would be a tremendous support. 

The collection of evidence for the portfolio is quite rightly a rigorous exercise. The time required to gather appropriate, relevant evidence for the portfolio is substantial but for teachers undertaking this exciting route, it is manageable. Janis and my mentor were very supportive, being able to not only cast a critical eye over my portfolio-in-progress but keep me from being too self-critical. I was delighted when I realised that some evidence could be used for more than one competence. The evidence must be accompanied by a clear and concise commentary. Without doubt this was the most time-consuming component but so worthwhile.

The most enjoyable experience was the opportunity to go on short placements to observe practice in a range of different settings where children and young people with visual impairment were being taught. I had the good fortune to visit a range of schools and observe practitioners and hear their self-evaluation of their teaching and support and engage in stimulating dialogue.

The third component is observational visits. Janis came, as the 'suitably qualified person', and claimed she was more nervous! With so many visitors including HMIe and students to The Royal Blind School, I am used to other practitioners being in class. These visits went exceptionally well and Janis and the pupils enjoyed her visits.

Finally, there is a written assignment which must demonstrate the role and responsibilities of the teacher of the visually impaired within the teacher's own context. The main challenge here was sticking to 2,000 words. It was, however, an excellent opportunity to reflect on my role and its responsibilities and consider how to develop that role within The Royal Blind School.

It was a challenging and exciting journey and I would commend this route to appropriate teachers.
Carrie Mannion, DHT, The Royal Blind School, January 2010


Lilli Nielsen School

lilli nielsen school

Marianna Buultjens, the first Co-ordinator of the Scottish Sensory Centre (SSC) has been in touch with the SSC recently with the following news.

In September 2009 a special school in Kiel, Germany changed its name to 'Lilli-Nielsen-School' (Lilli-Nielsen-Schule im Bildungszentrum Mettenhof-Kiel) to honour our great friend Lilli Nielsen, as they follow her Active Learning Approach.

Principles of Active Learning
Active learning is a holistic system of learning that emphasises the need for the child to be active rather then passive. Lilli observed how children learn by their interactions with their environment and through this developed a series of learning environments, such as the Little Room, the Resonance Board and the HOPSA dress which make the most of interactive opportunities for children who have multiple disabilities and visual impairments.

Links with Scotland
This school wants to be put in touch with any school in Scotland which also follows the Active Learning Approach. If you would like your school to get involved, please email Lilli directly:


Help Needed/Given

Help Needed: Three-Dimensional Maps

3 dimensional map

3 dimensional map

These images show my three-dimensional map of the world. I have many ideas for the map and am seeking patents for these, but the main use would be as an educational aid for geography students with visual impairment. 

If a student with a visual impairment could use this product and have an appreciation of the topography of the planet, then my aim will have been achieved. 

I have some ideas as to how the product could be mass-produced, but really need professional advice and ultimately need to discuss how the product would be distributed. If any readers can help me progress the idea forward, I'd genuinely like to hear from you.

Craig Colahan

  • Email:
  • ---

    Help Needed: Braille and Braillers

    The Makele Blind School in Ethiopia are looking for some spare Perkins Braillers and unwanted books in Braille. They would really benefit from any help whatsoever. If you have any spare equipment, please contact

  • Ian Draper:
  • For more information about the school go to:
  • Information courtesy of the SENIT email list at BECTA:

  • ---

    Help Needed: Stories in the Air

    stories in the air

    I am researching the potential benefits, including educational and emotional, of storytelling using British Sign Language (BSL). As part of this I am studying Stories in the Air's development over the last 12 years and the direction it may now take. I would, therefore, love to hear from anyone (parents, teachers, support workers, etc) who has used any of the Stories in the Air products with deaf children.

    To refresh your memory, they have a website outlining their work and products:

  • I would like to know what you thought about them. What did you feel were their strengths and weaknesses, in what contexts they were used, and what were the child's responses. Please contact me if you would like to help.
    Ella Leith
    Tel: 07891 284 981

  • Email:
  • ---

    Enquire Helpline:

    Leaving school or changing school? Enquire helpline can advise
    Children should get the support they need to get the best out of their education, and support is often needed when leaving school or changing school. Enquire, the independent Scottish advice service for Additional Support for Learning, has produced two guides for young people: Getting ready to leave school and Going to secondary school? These guides, and more, are available from Enquire’s website for young people:

  • All publications for young people are provided in multiple formats:

  • BSL:
  • Audio transcriptions:
  • Large print: (accessible Word document with 18 point minimum font size):
  • Enquire is also funded by the Scottish Government to help parents, carers and professionals understand what the Additional Support for Learning Act means for them. Contact the helpline on

    Telephone: 0845 123 2303 or

  • for advice or print versions of publications.

  • back to index


Graduate Diploma/Certificate: Specialist Qualification in Habilitation and Disabilities of Sight (Children and Young People)

Nina Wild, Children and Young People's Specialist Service, Glasgow, contacted the Scottish Sensory Centre (SSC) last year, on behalf of Dr Kathy Spowart and members of the Mobility and Independent Living Skills Training sub-group for Children's VI Services, Greater Glasgow and Clyde, to explore working in partnership to present a course leading to appropriately qualified child mobility and independent living skills specialists. Coincidentally, I had been in touch with Dr Karl Wall and Dr Olga Miller, Institute of Education, University of London, who had been working on a new course, the Graduate Diploma/Certificate: Specialist Qualification in Habilitation and Disabilities of Sight (Children and Young People) as a result of the Mobility 21 Project.

After many months of meetings, telephone calls and lengthy emails, the SSC, in collaboration with the Institute of Education, University of London, The Royal Blind School, Edinburgh, the RNIB and Greater Glasgow and Clyde sub-group for Children's VI Services, received permission to run the Graduate Diploma (for Habilitation Specialists) and Graduate Certificate (for Habilitation Assistants) programmes in Edinburgh. Irrespective of where the course is delivered it remains the same in content, coverage and duration and is matched against the new Habilitation Standards. Course delivery in Edinburgh will use focused blocks of face-to-face teaching rather than a one-day-a-week delivery approach, as has been piloted for the London programme. Practical skills will be taught and supervised locally.

We hope to offer 20 places for the courses in September 2010. If you would like further information please contact the SSC or, in the meantime, look at the Institute of Education website for information on the London courses.


SSC Course Evaluations

As part of continuing professional development such as Chartered Teacher schemes, Masters programmes, etc, the SSC is aware that participants sometimes include extended evaluations of training they have received as evidence of their continuing professional development. As these extended evaluations might include some of our courses, showing exactly where the knowledge and training has been applied, we would be very keen to receive a copy of any of these evaluations. Such information would be invaluable to the SSC for developing training programmes and keeping them as relevant as possible. The SSC makes every effort it can to respond to participant feedback, but, with the knowledge that participants have to complete many such forms and feedback reports, we try to keep our own questionnaires brief. Therefore, if you have already done evaluatory work of SSC Courses for other purposes we would be delighted to add a copy of that (with identifiable references removed) as another dimension to our evaluation process.

Please contact the SSC if you have any queries or wish to forward your extended evaluation.


SSC Courses: 2009-2010

1 Braille Competency Course (Distance Learning Mode): SQA accredited, Grade 1 (3 month course) - applications accepted at any time, Grade 2 (18 month course) - applications accepted between April to September

16 Adapting Curriculum Materials for VI Pupils in Mainstream Classes: Useful Strategies and Techniques that You Can Use (Wednesday 12th May)
17 Improving the Listening Environment for Deaf Children in Educational Settings (Thursday 13th May)
18 Multiple Disabilities and Visual Impairment: Supporting Children and Young People (Thursday 27th May)
19 Making Sense of Partnership: Professionals and Parents Supporting VI Children and Young People (Thursday 10th June)
20 BSL Immersion Weekend (Friday-Sunday 11th-13th June)

SSC Courses: 2010-2011
Promoting independent living and learning skills.
Numeracy in the curriculum.
Curriculum for Excellence.
Deaf Teenagers: social and emotional issues.
Supporting children with cochlear implants who are making slow progress.
Sharpening counselling skills.
Early Years: launch of Early Years pack for Scotland.
BSL Immersion Weekend.
Parental engagement.
Learning to Listen: an auditory verbal approach.

VI Education
Braille Competency Course, Grade 1 and Grade 2.
Literacy and Communication: requirements for Braille users being taught within an active learning environment.
Deafblind: creating a successful environment for deafblind learners.
Sensory Rooms: stimulation of vision for children with additional difficulties.
Visual Impairment and common causes.
Working with children who have additional impairments.
Visual Impairment and cerebral palsy.
Teaching PE to visually impaired children.
Adapting materials: a practical workshop addressing adaptations required to teach maths/science.

Pathway to Competence for Teachers of Children and Young People who are Deaf or
Visually Impaired
Modifying Language for Deaf and Deafblind People
Developmental Journal Training

The SSC is a national centre funded by the Scottish Government (Support for Learning)

Newsletter Contributions:
Contributions to the Scottish Sensory Centre Newsletter will be gratefully received. Next issue will be in Autumn 2010 so contributions should be in by mid August 2010.

This Newsletter is available, on request, in alternative formats