University of Edinburgh

Moving Through

Primary school to secondary school

The move from primary to secondary can be quite a jump for all pupils - exciting but a bit daunting. For deaf pupils, the same mixture of feelings applies, but it can be more extreme, particularly when moving from a small mainstream primary to a large mainstream secondary.

Suddenly the number of subjects, room changes, teachers and other pupils increases dramatically. A deaf pupil may be been able to follow and contribute to lessons in primary where they knew the teacher and other pupils as well, but be worried about doing so in such a different environment.

So what can you do to help make the process as smooth as possible - to tip the balance away from 'daunting' towards 'exciting'?

You will have advice from a range of professionals, which will help you form your own opinion. but, again, you need to ensure that you have really thought through the various options and, of course, your child will now be old enough to be more involved in the choice.

"Listen to your child!" Parent of secondary school pupil

As with primary schooling, there are three main types of provision for deaf pupils:

  • Mainstream secondary schools, with access support from a visiting Teacher of the Deaf;
  • Mainstream secondary schools with a specialist unit for deaf children attached (in Ayrshire, there is one example of this: Grange Academy in East Ayrshire);
  • Schools for deaf children (eg; St Vincent's School in Glasgow, Donaldson's College in Edinburgh and Mary Hare School in Berkshire).

In North Ayrshire the formal planning process begins when your child is in P6. Parents who have been through this process suggest that there is no substitute for visiting the different options available - and exploring the pros and cons. As with the primary situation, the initial option offered is usually the local mainstream school, unless you make a case otherwise. Some parents find that at this stage it is another opportunity to explore language and communication choices. Other parents stress that it is important for you to have the confidence to make your views known.

"Don't give up." Parent of secondary school pupil

You and your child will get support from a Teacher of the Deaf, who will help you make your decision. They will also help your child to produce a booklet about themselves and their needs, to share with people at the new school. You may also find it helpful to contact West of Scotland Deaf Children's Society. See 'who can help' below for details of both. Both Ayrshire HI Service and the WSDCS can arrange for you to meet other parents and pupils / former pupils whose experiences you may find helpful.

The booklet and CD-ROM 'My school in Scotland' (see Further reading) show that pupils vary as to their views on types of placement. In their sample of 42 deaf pupils, 43% said they preferred mainstream schools (with or without a unit), 17% said they preferred deaf schools and 40% didn't mind.

Parents and ex-pupils say that giving pupils the chance to keep in touch with other deaf children is really important, no matter what placement you choose. Ayrshire Hearing Impairment Service arrange events for pupils who are in mainstream schools across the three regions, and the WSDCS and NDCS hold a range of activities and events, both locally and nationally.

"My child got really excited when he met another deaf child for the first time - he realised that "I'm not alone with this"." Parent of primary school pupil

Here are some other tips from parents to keep in mind when checking out mainstream secondary schools (some of the points are the same as for the primary situation).

Support provision

Find out the details of what support is being offered (see Appendix 4 and who can help?)

For example:

  • 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 the support staff have?
  • Will the support staff be the same people as in primary school?
  • If your child uses amplification, how 'acoustically friendly' are the classrooms?
  • Who will keep an overall check on how your child is getting on with their school work?
  • What will they do if your child is struggling?

Attitudes / awareness of mainstream staff

  • Find out whether the school has experience of having deaf pupils.
  • Check whether the teachers are all aware of how to fully include your child. If not, how will they get training?
  • Try to get an idea of the attitude of the mainstream staff towards having a deaf child in the school

Social aspects

  • Find out if there are any other deaf children in the class - or other classes - and how they are included
  • Find out how many friends from primary school will be there.
  • Check how the school will keep an eye on how well your child is mixing with other pupils.


  • Check size of classes - the smaller the better.
  • Know your rights (see Appendix I)

Parents and deaf ex-pupils report that moving to secondary school is a time when pupils can become more sensitive about their identity as a deaf or hearing impaired pupil. Young people will vary in how they see themselves, as the book and CD-ROM 'My school in Scotland' show (see Further reading).

"If people ask me if I'm deaf - I say yes, and I'm not embarrassed because it is what I am. I was born deaf and you should be proud of who you are"

"I see myself as hearing but I do know that I am deaf. I cover it up with my good speech but some people do find out later."
Secondary pupils, quoted in 'My school in Scotland' (p22)

It is important that your child is confident in who they are and what they can do - rather than see themselves in terms of what they can't do. See Section 4 about the relevance of identity issues to preparing for the future.

Who can help? (see Appendix II for contact details)

Ayrshire Hearing Impairment Service

A Teacher of the Deaf from the Ayrshire Hearing Impairment Service will support your child through the process of moving from primary to secondary. They can provide the same services as they provide for the move from preschool to primary. I addition, they will:

  • help your child to produce a booklet about themselves and their needs to share with the people in the new school;
  • encourage your child to take more responsibility in decisions about their learning experience, including their support arrangements.

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.

They also run family weekends where deaf children of similar ages can get to know each other - and parents can share experiences.

Further reading (see Further reading)

A Parent's guide to special educational needs

A Young Person's guide to special educational needs

Achievements of Deaf Pupils in Scotland website

Deaf-friendly teaching

Going to secondary school

Have your say

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