Scottish Election 2016: what do the main parties offer deaf children and their families?


Katie Rafferty, Policy & Campaigns Manager, Scotland , National Deaf Children’s Society

With less than a week to go until voting takes place on 5 May, we read the five main political parties’ manifestos, and looked at what they offer in relation to education support. What promises will impact on deaf children and their families? Here we provide a brief education round-up.

How will each party ensure every child gets the support they need to reach their full potential at school?

Most of the parties have a strong focus on closing the education attainment gap in the next term of Scottish Parliament. Below we have set out how each party plans to improve education.

Scottish Conservatives Party

  • Commit to additional funding to follow individual pupils with Additional Support Needs (ASN).
  • They also commit to reversing the Named Person legislation and instead setting up a Crisis Family Fund to support vulnerable children.

Scottish Green Party

  • Commit to reducing class sizes as well as protecting ASN teacher posts in recognition of their role in closing the attainment gap for children from different backgrounds.
  • They are against further testing with a focus instead on teacher/pupil ratios.

Scottish Labour Party

  • Will establish a Fair Start Fund, funded through the re-introduction of the 50p tax rate for those earning over £150,000.
  • This fund will go towards closing the attainment gap as well as generally making sure vulnerable children get the support they need.

Scottish Liberal Democrats

  • Will introduce a 1p increase in income tax to reverse cuts in education and provide greater support.
  • They also propose the introduction of a pupil premium which would attach funding to individual pupils.

Scottish National Party

  • Commit to maintaining teacher numbers and allocating funds directly to Head teachers to allow them to invest resources in ways they consider will have the biggest impact on attainment.
  • They will implement the new National Improvement Framework which they hope will drive up standards for all and help close the attainment gap for pupils from the most and least affluent backgrounds.
  • The SNP is the only party to include a specific commitment to delivering Family Sign Language courses, to help hearing parents communicate with their deaf child.

So far over 2500 emails have been sent to local candidates reminding them about the needs of deaf children. Take action today by contacting your future MSPs and help us reach every candidate in Scotland.

Email your candidates


Scottish Parliament Election 2016

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Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Manager, Scotland

With the right support deaf children have the same chance to succeed as their hearing peers. Yet too many deaf children still face barriers that prevent them from reaching their full potential.

The Scottish Parliament election on Thursday 5 May 2016 is an opportunity to tell your candidates how they can help address these barriers in the future.

Make change happen today by asking your future MSPs to protect and strengthen services for deaf children, and tell them about the amazing things deaf children can do when they get the right support.

Email your candidates

There are other ways you can support our election campaign:

  1. Make some noise! Help us spread the word by telling others to email their candidates too. Why not post about the campaign on Facebook or Twitter using the share buttons? #VoteForDeafChildren
  1. Ask your candidates directly what they will do to support deaf children! Pop along to any election hustings near you and hand over our election briefing.  NDCS are also hosting a hustings for deaf young people on 23 April in Glasgow – do you know any young people who’d like to come?
  1. Don’t forget to vote! The big day is Thursday 5 May 2016.

Keep an eye out for some more blogs coming your way soon about the 2016 Scottish Parliament Election.

Email your candidates

Deaf young people to shape the future of BSL in Scotland

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

A new Youth National Advisory Group (YNAG) is being set up in Scotland following the successful passage of the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act in October 2015.

The group will be made up of deaf young people who have BSL as their first or preferred language and who are passionate about the future of the language in Scotland.

NDCS, working in partnership with Deaf Action, will help organise and deliver the YNAG. It will offer young people a unique chance to develop new skills and have their views about BSL heard.

The YNAG will explore the issues that matter most to young people and together they will vote for two “champions” to represent the views of deaf young people on the main National Advisory Group. This means that young people will have an equal opportunity to advise Scottish Government and public bodies alongside parents, adults and Deafblind people.

To get involved in the group come along to the Information Day being held at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh on 20 February between 10am and 3pm. Email to register a place. The event is free to attend and travel expenses will be paid.

Watch the FAQ video in BSL below:

YNAG pic

Join Scotland’s first British Sign Language National Advisory Group

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

After years of campaigning, the passage of the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act (2015) in September 2015 was a landmark moment in Deaf history in Scotland. As a result of the Act the Scottish Government and public bodies like the NHS are now required to develop British Sign Language (BSL) plans which outline how they will promote and raise awareness of the language.

The Act also requires a National Advisory Group (NAG) to be set up to represent the views of people with BSL as their first or preferred language. The NAG will have the important job of advising the Scottish Government and public bodies on what should be in their plans.

Here’s the top 6 things to know:

  1. Two spaces are reserved on the NAG for families of deaf child who have BSL as their first or preferred language, one of these spaces is for a hearing parent or carer;
  1. Two spaces are also reserved on the NAG for deaf young people aged 10 to 17 (or up to 20 if they have experience of care). However young people will follow a separate application process because a Youth NAG is also going to be set up. Information about this will launch in January;
  1. You do not need to have formal experience of advisory groups to get involved in the NAG, your life experience and ability to represent the views of others in similar circumstances to your own is what counts;
  1. You can submit your application in BSL or English. NDCS (or any other Deaf Sector Partnership organisation) can help you with your application, get in touch with with any questions;
  1. You can find the application and information pack on the Deaf Sector Partnership website – with full BSL versions. There is also lots of information on Facebook, search for the ‘British Sign Language (Scotland) Act (2015)’ group to join the discussion;
  1. The deadline for applications to the main NAG is 28 January 2016.

Getting to know GIRFEC in BSL

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Assistant, Scotland

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Assistant, Scotland

Getting It Right For Every Child (aka GIRFEC) is the Scottish Government’s approach to making Scotland the best place to grow up for all children and young people. But what does this mean?

To help explain, the ALLIANCE have created five new films on GIRFEC and what this means for children and young people in Scotland. What’s more, the videos are aimed at being as accessible to as many people as possible and are in British Sign Language.

We attended the launch event for the films on 4 November along with other third sector organisations, children, parents and professionals. Speaking at the event was the Minister for Children and Young People, Aileen Campbell MSP, who highlighted that “the Scottish Government is committed to equality for disabled and deaf children in Scotland.”

It is hoped the films will raise awareness and understanding of GIRFEC for children and young people and their families/carers who use BSL. This is especially important because GIRFEC is due to become law in August 2016 through the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.

All of the films are available on the Alliance website here, or directly from YouTube here.

To find out more contact:

New legislation marks historic moment for deaf community in Scotland

Heather Gray

Heather Gray, National Deaf Children’s Society Director (Scotland & Northern Ireland)

What does the newly passed British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill mean for deaf children and their families? Heather Gray, Director for NDCS Scotland and Northern Ireland blogged for Third Force News last week and shared her views…

The Scottish Parliament is to be congratulated on voting to pass the British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill into law last week on Thursday 17 September 2015.

The passage of the Bill marks an historic moment for the entire deaf community across Scotland, many of whom have British Sign Language (BSL) as their first or preferred language.

By ensuring public authorities promote and raise awareness of BSL, the Bill –  the first of its kind in the UK – will help to embed the language more fully into Scottish society and culture.  And the provision for BSL users to be consulted on the development of public bodies’ BSL plans should stimulate real debate about how best to meet their needs.

The National Deaf Children’s Society hopes this ground-breaking legislation will become a foundation for the promotion of the language in Scotland long into the future. We strongly believe that if fully implemented the Bill will ultimately help create more choices and opportunities for deaf children and young people and help them achieve their full potential.

There are as many as 3850 deaf children and young people in Scotland. While there is a lack of national data about their language preferences, a survey of local authorities suggests around 15% use sign language in some way.

There can be real challenges in meeting the unique needs these deaf children and young people who use British Sign Language. With only around 80 qualified interpreters across Scotland and a lack of a robust qualifications framework, consistent access to high quality communication support can be challenging.

The Scottish Government is to be commended for its acknowledgement of these challenges in its support for the Bill and its investment in online translation service Contact Scotland. The challenge is now for them to set out an ambitious National Plan that will drive progress for deaf children and their families.

Deaf young people and their families have told us what they think should be in the National BSL Plan, including:

  • Closing the education attainment gap for deaf learners, as highlighted in the recent Inquiry undertaken by the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee;
  • Establishing and regulating a qualifications framework for communication support in education;
  • Establishing BSL as an accredited school qualification within the modern languages curriculum, via the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework;
  • Improving the availability of early years support, so that deaf children have the best start in life.  This includes improving the availability of family Sign Language courses, which help hearing parents communicate with their deaf child.

Achieving real inclusion for the deaf community will take time, investment and strong national and local leadership. However, the BSL Bill is a welcome significant step forward in this journey. It provides us with an enabling framework that could ultimately lead to more effective service provision, better opportunities, and improved life chances for deaf children and young people across Scotland.


Date set for final vote on the British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Assistant, Scotland

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Assistant, Scotland

We are excited to announce that the Stage 3 debate and final vote by MSPs on whether to pass the Bill is due to take place in the Scottish Parliament on 17 September. With the Bill on course to become law, here we provide a quick overview.

The Bill aims to raise awareness of BSL and improve access to services for those using the language. It does this by requiring the Scottish Government and other local bodies to publish and implement their own plans on how they will promote the use of the language. It can therefore be considered as an enabling framework to public authorities for the promotion of BSL within their services. The Bill does not outline specific provision authorities must provide. It does, however, set out principles which listed authorities must have regard to. These principles will be contained in the National Plan.

It is our recommendation that the National Plan has a strong focus on child-centred provision and early-intervention, to ensure deaf children are given the best start in life and are supported to reach their full potential. In particular, we recommend that the National Plan addresses:

  1. Closing the education attainment gap experienced by deaf learners;
  2. Minimum levels of qualification in BSL for education practitioners; to ensure deaf learners are supported by Communication Support Workers who are able to accurately interpret what the teacher is saying;
  3. BSL becoming an accredited school qualification and having the same status as other languages;
  4. Improving the availability of Family Sign Language and other family support;
  5. Ensuring aspirations of the Bill are appropriately resourced.

NDCS welcomes the Bill and believes that it could act as a critical step in strengthening the position of the language in Scotland. If passed, the Bill has the potential to support more deaf children and their families to access their right to the support they need.

Action: Does your MSP support the Bill? Email your MSPs and ask them to vote in favour of passing the Bill.

For more information contact: