University of Edinburgh

Scottish Sensory Centre: 10 Years On


This year we celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the setting up of the Scottish Sensory Centre (SSC). In 1991 the idea of combining services to deaf education and visual impairment education under the title ‘sensory’ was new and not universally welcomed. Today many of the peripatetic services throughout Scotland and the rest of the UK are ‘Sensory Services’.

We have found strength and a lot to share in the combining of our staff and resources and look forward to the next 10 years of service to education for children and young people with sensory impairment in Scotland.

Scottish Sensory Centre Aims and Objectives

The Centre’s client group consists of all who are involved professionally or personally with the education of children or young people with sensory impairment and the children and young people themselves. The Centre’s objectives are to promote and disseminate effective practices and innovation in the education of children and young people 0-18 years, with a range of sensory impairments by:

  • liaising with local authorities, schools, voluntary and statutory agencies, parents and other individuals;
  • supporting the National Forum for Heads of Schools and Sensory Services;
  • identifying topics for research and seeking funding to carry it out;
  • initiating, planning and undertaking new programmes of staff development and training;
  • running short courses for parents, children and young people with sensory impairment;
  • collaborating in the development and application of technology and administering and developing a collection of materials;
  • providing information on all aspects of education and services for children and young people with sensory impairment through databases and websites;
  • maintaining and developing a lending library service;
  • representing the education of children and young people with sensory impairment on Scottish, UK and international committees and working groups.

Origins of SSC

In the 1980s the then Scottish Education Department (SED) funded Colleges of Education not just for the courses they delivered on campus but also for staff development work in schools. Since Moray House was the only college to provide training for teachers of the deaf and teachers of the visually impaired, members of staff were funded to contribute to staff development throughout Scotland. The Scottish Centre for the Education of the Deaf (SCED) and the Visual Impairment Centre (VIC) had developed as resource bases with academic staffing provided from SED central funding. Resources and secretarial support were funded by voluntary organisations or other fund-raising. When in 1990-91 the central funding was being withdrawn, the two centres’ existence was threatened. The SED valued the work that was being undertaken by both centres and after discussion with Moray House management and centres’ staff, an agreement was reached to core fund agreed services.

SSC launch

1991 Launch of the SSC showing Professor Gordon Kirk, Principal of Moray House; Lord James Doulas-Hamilton, Scottish Minister for Education and Marianna Buultjens, Centre Coordinator

The original aims and objectives, which have changed very little over the years, were developed from the aims of the two centres. They recognise that children with sensory impairment are few in number but need an intensive input of services and energy from both family and professionals alike. Funding was on an annual basis with an annual proposal being submitted in January of each year and an annual report at the end of the year’s programme.

During the first few years, great emphasis was put on team building within the centre. An ethos of hard work, openness, sharing and rejoicing together has been characteristic of the centre team since those first years. Care has been taken to ensure that the interests of those involved with the education of deaf children, children with visual impairment and children with dual sensory/multisensory impairment have been given due attention through information, literature or project development.

© Scottish Sensory Centre November 2001