I recently blogged about some new research from the University of Manchester on deaf young people in further education. The report made for depressing reading. But it wasn’t all negative and the report made a number of recommendations for improvements that should be made.
For example, it identified 8 factors which were found to be helpful in making sure a deaf young person moving from school to college at age 16 can make a good start. These were:
- Start the transition process early (ideally in Year 9 onwards).
- Ensure that the individual deaf young person is at the centre of the process. Their preferences, strengths, needs and ideas should frame the discussion, not how much money is available or what usually happens.
- Make sure the deaf young person understands fully what transition means and helping them to see they have choices and their opinion matters.
- Prioritise the deaf young person’s communication support needs in any discussions and meetings. What would help them fully to take part?
- Work with the young person to build their skills and knowledge so they have everything they need to take part as fully as they can in any decisions. This might include, for example, building their confidence to ‘speak up’ in meetings, learning how to weigh up advantages and disadvantages in order to make a decision, or identifying what is most important to them and then working towards that goal.
- Provide opportunities to learn through experience so all possible options (FE college, apprenticeships, sixth form etc.) feel real, not abstract. This is a better basis for a young person to start to consider options in practice, not just options in theory.
- Pay due attention to the full range of options for deaf young people on leaving school rather than just seeing FE as the usual option and everything else an exception.
- Remain open minded to a range of course options for deaf young people. We came across examples of some professionals, and also some parents, ruling out some potential career choices ‘because deaf people did not do that’. Equally we found that deaf young people were commonly directed towards some courses because these were seen as ‘suitable’ or the best chance of gaining a qualification. Both of these points of view potentially lead to a reduced range of possibilities for deaf young people.
By making these improvements, schools, colleges and local authorities can help ensure that deaf young people attend a college that’s right for them and, once they get there, get the support that they need to do well.
NDCS is currently updating our resources to make sure that the research findings are reflected in our advice to colleges and education professionals. In the meantime, for more information about the research, you can read the full report and an executive summary at www.ndcs.org.uk/research. A BSL summary is also available online on the University of Manchester website