Pre-school to primary school
"Never put up with second best" (parent of pre-school child)
Most nurseries and primary schools should have joint 'transition planning' arrangements, so that the move to P1 is as smooth as possible for all children. For example, the North Ayrshire nurseries usually keep a 'Record of Achievement' (which children often call their 'special book' or 'folder'), which is passed on to the new primary a few months before the child starts school. Parents are asked to add their comments to the record before it passes on.
Your child may also have an Individualised Education Programme (IEP See Appendix I), which covers additional support related the their hearing loss. You should be fully involved with planning, and all the records are available for you to look at.
You know your child best and you are the main people making the choice about primary school. So you need to be sure that you've thought through all the options. Ideally you will start the process in the January before they start school at the latest.
There are three main types of provision for deaf children:
- Mainstream primary schools with specialist teaching support from a visiting Teacher of the Deaf;
- Mainstream primary schools with a specialist unit for deaf children attached (in Ayrshire there is one example of this: Towerlands Primary School in North Ayrshire);
- Schools for deaf children (eg; St Vincent's in Glasgow).
Parents who have been through this educational process advise that you visit as many different types of provision as you can. The initial option offered is usually to place your child in the local mainstream school (see Appendix I). If you feel that their needs cannot adequately be met there, including language and communication, you can investigate other options.
"Explore both sides of the picture" (parent of primary school pupil)
"Don't be afraid to ask questions" (parent of primary school pupil)
Both Ayrshire Hearing Impairment Service and West of Scotland Deaf Children's Society can put you in touch with parents (and, sometimes, past pupils) who are willing to share their experiences of different types of placement. For some, the benefits of attending the local school with access/support services outweigh the benefits of attending more specialist provision with other deaf pupils. For some others it is the other way round.
Here are some other tips from parents to keep in mind when checking out the mainstream-based school options:
Find out the details of what specialist teaching support is being offered (see Appendix 4).
- How will your child follow what is happening in class, and how will they make their contribution to discussions and question/answer sessions?
- Who will check this is happening?
- Will there be some lessons where they will not have support?
- If your child uses BSL, what level of BSL do teaching support staff have?
- If your child uses amplification, how 'acoustically friendly' are the classrooms?
- Check size of classes - the smaller the better.
- Check whether the class teacher is aware of how to fully include your child.
- Check whether all staff (from headteacher to janitor) will have 'awareness training'.
- Try to get an idea of the attitude of the mainstream staff towards having a deaf child in the school.
- Find out if there is a 'buddy system' in the school.
- Find out if there are any other deaf children in the class - or other classes - and how they are included. These social aspects are very important
Again, until your child has actually started school, you won't know how it will work for them. Of course, all children have their ups and downs when going to school, but keep a check on how their learning is going and how happy they are socially.
"Sometimes you don't know whether it's right for them until the child is actually in the situation. You've, sort of, got to be in it and then realise 'this is right' or 'this is wrong'." Parent of primary school pupil
Who can help?
As with the move to nursery, the PRESCAT meet to look at all the options available, so that all the key professionals involved can help you make the choice of placement. The meeting usually takes place early in the year your child starts school, if not before. NB If you decide on Towerlands Primary in North Ayrshire, where there is a unit for deaf children, there is a separate admissions panel. See Appendix 2 for contact details.
Ayrshire Hearing Impairment Service
A Teacher of the Deaf from the Ayrshire HI Service will be directly involved to support you through the process. They are able to:
- Attend and report to review meetings before and after the move - for example, they provide a report and a 'pupil profile' of your child for the PRESCAT meeting;
- Keep a regular link with a key person in the new school.
Whichever placement is chosen, the Teacher of the Deaf can also:
- Attend induction days to assess access / support requirements;
- Offer training to staff at the school so that they understand the implications of your child's hearing loss and how to include him or her;
- Work in collaboration with other key people and agencies (eg; Speech and Language Therapists).
Appendix 4 shows the ways in which deaf children access what's going on in a school classroom and how they are able to make their own contribution. The table shows that 'support workers' sometimes provide services in mainstream schools. In early primary, Teachers of the Deaf will monitor progress and provide various support strategies such as:
- monitoring your child's hearing levels and acoustic environments;
- monitoring their use of hearing aids in liaison with the Cochlear Implant Team / Audiology Department;
- teaching and planning cooperatively with class teachers / school staff/ other agencies;
- producing differentiated teaching materials for your child;
- identifying and assessing health and safety issues;
- identifying and assessing health and safety issues;
- encouraging your child to keep in touch with other deaf children;
- enabling all other pupils and staff to become 'deaf aware'.
West of Scotland Deaf Children's Society (WSDCS)
Staff can share their knowledge and support you through the process of choosing a school. They can also put you in touch with other parents, which can be very helpful.
"It's an advantage if you do know other people's experience."
Parent of primary school pupil
Further reading (see Further reading)
A Parent's guide to special educational needs
Achievements of Deaf Pupils in Scotland website
Deaf-friendly nurseries and pre-schools
Helping your deaf child to learn
My school in Scotland
NDCS website - section on Choosing Schools - although it applies to England and Wales, you may find the comprehensive checklist helpful.
Scotland: Deaf-friendly schools. A guide for headteachers, staff and school boards