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April 6, 2004

Deaf pupils suffer sign of the times

From: The Scotsman, UK - Apr 5, 2004

THE head of Scotland's deaf school has revealed that pupils are losing out because teachers can not communicate fluently in sign language.

Janet Allan, principal of Donaldson's College in Edinburgh, claims the problem is so bad it is like pupils being taught by someone who cannot speak English.

In an education report to the General Assembly, she compares the situation for deaf children in mainstream schools to one where hearing children are taught by teachers with a low level of Standard Grade English.

She has been backed by experts who say resources to train teachers to sign fluently are lacking.

Ms Allan wrote: "In many units across Scotland, the most fluent British Sign Language users have BSLI, which is approximately the level of Foundation at Standard Grade English. It is unacceptable that a deaf child be educated by people who have only a basic knowledge of British Sign Language."

Dr Mary Brennan, reader in deaf studies at the University of Edinburgh, said the problems stem from a lack of tutors to train teachers who work with deaf children in both specialist and mainstream schools.

A Scottish Executive spokeswoman said: "Ministers recognise mainstream schools may not be suitable for all pupils with special educational needs. We expect education authorities to take decisions to ensure pupils are properly supported."