University of Edinburgh

Scottish Sensory Centre: 10 Years On

New Premises

The SSC has always had good accommodation in Moray House and, following the merger with the University of Edinburgh, we have beautiful, customised accommodation which was opened by Sam Galbraith, Minister for Children and Education in 1999. We share this accommodation with the CALL Centre which provides additional benefits for visitors who can immediately access both Centres’ resources.

The SSC has continued over the years to receive its main funding, in the form of core funding plus additional funding for innovative projects and research, from the Scottish Executive Education Department. Over the years other organisations, such as the Royal National Institute for the Blind and the Viscount Nuffield Auxiliary Fund and recently the Scottish Executive NHS have provided funding for specific projects.

Developments in Staffing Services

Over the years the centre staffing has greatly increased in range of skills and therefore the types of service which can be offered. The only area where staffing has been decreased is in that of academic staff input. There are two reasons for this: decrease in number of staff members for sensory impairment in Moray House and the cost of senior academic staff. Our current team exemplifies the multi-disciplinary approach which is so important for team work in areas of disability and special needs.

The Centre had inherited books which were uncatalogued and soon the formation of a proper library with a dedicated member of staff became a priority.

There was a Visual Impairment database which had developed along with the SEND database at SCET, but no similar one for deaf education. Funding for both a library and for a Deaf Education Database was obtained from a variety of sources including SED. Both databases are now combined in the Sensory Information Service (SIS) database. The Database Development Officer has experience in providing databases in accessible formats since 1988.

In recent years SSC has obtained funding for two new projects: VI Scotland and the Achievements of Deaf Pupils in Scotland which are having a major impact on the information available about and for visually impaired and deaf young people.

Contribution to Scottish Education through current services offered by SSC

With such a varied and talented staff the services are of a high quality and a uniqueness both in the individual services themselves and in their combination.

All of the following services are underpinned by the work of the Supervisor/Administrator and Secretary/Receptionist.

Advice and Briefing

SSC staff have wide experience of preparing briefing papers and giving oral presentations to a range of organisations and groups. These have included:

  • Responses to Scottish Executive Consultation Documents.
  • Reports and presentations to the Scottish Qualifications Authority.
  • Report and presentation to the Cross-Party Scottish Parliamentary Group on Deafness.
  • Evidence to the Cross-Party Scottish Parliamentary Group on Visual Impairment.
  • Reports to voluntary groups, such as the Royal National Institute of the Blind and the British Deaf Association.
  • Report to the Scottish Executive Working Group on British Sign Language.
Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and Training

This is currently high on the educational agenda with the implementation of the McCrone Report. Provision of Training for Chartered Teachers (CT) status with the proposed structure similar to that of the existing modular masters structure, will no doubt be bid for by HE and other agencies. The SSC’s role will be to offer a range of relevant professional development courses and to support those studies as it does for those teachers currently undertaking the Diplomas in Deaf Education and Visual Impairment with an efficient postal library service and a range of topic bibliographies.

When more details of the CT scheme are available we will plan how SSC can be a direct contributor to the training.

Courses, Seminars, Workshops and Conferences

SSC courses, seminars and workshops provide for those who are new to the field of sensory impairment or for those who are already qualified, ongoing professional development of an innovatory or consolidatory nature.

Over the past decade the teaching of mobility and allied disciplines have been given special attention with the Centre developing eight masters level modules which were subsequently validated by Heriot Watt University. Part of the process of developing these modules involved the running of two day-release courses each one lasting for two years. The total number of people completing the courses was six of whom four were teachers and two were social workers with the blind. Of those who were successful in completing the course, four still teach mobility either full-time or as part of their total teaching commitment and two have retired.

The Centre’s Braille Competency Course has been much in demand over the past 10 years. Development of course materials and updating of the rules has been ongoing. 220 people have registered over this time; some of whom completed as part of their Masters Diploma. 129 people have successfully completed the course including 16 from Botswana. For Session 2001-02 the course is full with 24 participants enrolled at present and the probability of more to come from those doing their modules and from the waiting list. In addition there are 23 people from previous years who have not yet completed but continue to work on. Future developments include work to make the course available on CD-ROM and validation through the University’s Life Long Learning Scheme.

Lilli Nielsen presenting a course

Lilli Nielsen presenting a course in 2001

The SSC offers a wide range of courses linked to inclusion, barriers to inclusion, equality issues, rights and means of access for deaf and/or visually impaired individuals, especially in relation to children and young people. These courses are developed by SSC staff, but may also involve other experts from within the University of Edinburgh or from outside the University. The SSC has close links with a range of voluntary organisations, education departments, etc, in Scotland and further afield. Specialists from abroad as well as other parts of the UK often contribute to the courses. The SSC is keen to involve those who have a sensory impairment themselves or who see themselves as part of a minority Deaf culture within these courses, both as presenters and participants. The SSC has wide experience of enabling participation, for example through the use of BSL/English interpreters, large print handouts, Braille materials, loop systems, etc. A hint of the range of courses can be given by the following list from current and recent programmes of courses:

  • Special Education & Disability Act and Sensory Impairment Education.
  • Equality of Access for Pupils from Minority Ethnic Communities.
  • Exploiting Information Technology in the Education of Pupils with Sensory Impairment.
  • Braille Competency Course.
  • A Review of Deaf Pupils’ Experiences at Mainstream Schools.
  • Understanding, Assessing and Teaching Children and Young People with Multiple Disability and Visual Impairment.
  • Tuning into British Sign Language.
  • Effective Collaborative Working amongst Schools and Specialist Services.

Courses can be tailored to suit the needs of individuals and groups. The SSC has put on such courses for local authorities, voluntary organisations, parents groups, etc.