Getting the right advice


Martin McLean, Education and Training Policy Advisor (Post-14), National Deaf Children’s Society

When I was a boy what I wanted to be when I was older changed regularly – I wanted to be a teacher, then a weather man and then a journalist and then it was a solicitor. As I grew older and had to seriously consider my options at GCSE followed by A-levels, the doubts crept in – would these jobs be suitable for me? Would the communication barrier be too great? ‘Focus on what you are good at’ I was told and I settled on the biological sciences in the end, following in my parents’ footsteps. Working in laboratory should be ok for a deaf person – there will be opportunities there, I thought to myself.

I was right – there were opportunities. After graduating in Genetics, I worked in a lab for a few months but I soon realised that this type of work was not for me. It was not because I was deaf – I know a few deaf scientists and they love their work. I just felt I had not followed my passions and had settled for the safe option.

It was in 1995 that I took my GCSEs and it was only in that year that disability discrimination laws were introduced. Access to Work, a Government scheme which can cover the costs of communication support in employment, was launched at the same time. I did not know anything about Access to Work or about my rights in employment until much later but I wish I had. I might then have had the courage to follow my passions. This is why I believe good careers advice does matter. Sadly, our research tells us too many young people are not getting this.

Last week, the Government launched a careers strategy which aims to make sure young people receive better careers advice in schools and colleges in England. Refreshingly, for a Government policy document, the needs of young people with disabilities were considered at several points within the strategy. The highlights in relation to deaf young people are:

  • Schools and colleges will be expected to use the Gatsby Benchmarks to improve careers provision. One these benchmarks is ‘addressing the needs of each pupil’ – particularly important for deaf young people.
  • Every school or college will have a Careers Leader who will be expected to prioritise careers support for ‘disadvantaged’ young people including young people with disabilities.
  • 20 Careers Hubs will be set up across England that will be focused on groups of young people ‘most in need of targeted support.’
  • The Careers and Enterprise Company and the Gatsby Foundation will work together to set out good practice in supporting young people with disabilities.

The strategy has the potential to make a difference. Unfortunately, it is not backed by much in the way of extra funding which may limit the ability of the new Careers Hubs and Careers Leaders to reach out to significant numbers of young people. Still, it is better than nothing.

The Careers Strategy only applies to England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own careers policies and we know there are issues in those countries too. Wherever, you live we expect deaf young people to be getting tailored advice.

If you live or work with deaf young people, you too can play your part. Our website has videos aimed at young people thinking about their futures that you can signpost to. We are also looking at how we can further develop our resources around careers so watch this space! If you have any views about what we could produce – let us know in the comment boxes below.

PS – I did leave the laboratory by the way. 15 years, several roles and two more university degrees later, here I am as an Education and Training Policy Advisor for the National Deaf Children’s Society, a job I much enjoy!

Crossing the Divide


Martin McLean, Education and Training Policy Advisor (Post-14), National Deaf Children’s Society

Further education (FE) is getting a lot of attention at the moment and rightly so. The UK has major skills shortages in many sectors and Brexit may mean we are less likely to be able to rely on EU immigration to plug the skills gap. The Education Secretary, Justine Greening, as I type this blog, has just made a speech where she talked about creating ‘an army of skilled young people for British business’. To address skills shortages the Government is creating 15 technical routes and new T-level qualifications in England. Wales is also on the verge of significant post-16 education reform.

FE colleges will play a major role in delivering the new qualifications and with FE colleges being the destination for the majority of deaf young people at 16, investment in the new technical routes will be no bad thing if they lead to clearer pathways to employment.

Recently, a small piece of research was carried out for us by a group of civil servants and corporate sector employees on the transition deaf young people make from FE into employment and the support they receive to do this in FE. We asked them to look at this issue because there is so little data out there on the outcomes of deaf young people who attend FE colleges – are they finding jobs after leaving college and how well prepared are they for entering the job market? We suspected that the support available to them to find work might be quite poor. Sadly, the research confirmed that this is probably the case. The main findings of the group’s research were:

  • 59% of parents of deaf young people stated their child’s college did not help them find any work experience or placement opportunities
  • 39% of parents stated their child had not received any careers support or guidance at college
  • Young people who had received college-supported work experience were more likely to have gone onto employment or further study

Some parents reported negative experiences with their child making the transition to work:

“It was disappointing that on his first visit to the Job Centre, in an effort to find employment, they put him on ESA (Employment Support Allowance) without the necessity to attend support sessions. In other words, he was written off as being unemployable”

“We didn’t know what help was available. Recruitment companies didn’t seem to be interested in helping my daughter get a job and I put this down to her being deaf.”

This type of experiences provide a strong case for deaf young people having access to tailored careers advice at school and college. It is not just about access to careers advice that their hearing course-mates receive. Do young people know that they can benefit from Access to Work? Do they understand their rights under the Equality Act? Are they aware of the organisations that might be able to provide further support when they leave education? We believe schools and colleges have a role in making sure deaf young people receive this type of information.

deaf young person looking for work

It is expected that work experience will be a compulsory part of a T-level – this is welcome and we need to make sure deaf young people receive the support they need on these placements.

FE and skills reform has cross-party support and I believe that better investment in FE will benefit many deaf young people. However, before they embark on any technical routes, we need to fight for deaf young people to have better access to decent careers advice so that they can make properly informed decisions about the career opportunities available to them and understand support that is available in the workplace.

I’m deaf myself and remember leaving education to find work being very daunting. I am sure it is the same many deaf young people finishing education today. Through working together with the FE and skills sector NDCS hopes to make the divide between education and work a lot narrower.

General Election 2017. Deaf young people matter.


Martin McLean, Education and Training Policy Advisor (Post-14), National Deaf Children’s Society

Less than half of young people aged 18-24 are expected to vote on June 8th. Personally, I think this is a tragedy as it means that politicians may be less focused on trying to win young people over because this will not be the key to winning elections. It can be argued that policies on housing, benefits or higher education, for example, might be different if more young people voted.

We at the National Deaf Children’s Society want to make sure that the needs of young people are high on the agenda. We have some key asks for each of the parties to help ensure deaf young people have bright futures. For this year’s general election they are:

    1. Ensure deaf young people receive access to specialist careers advice. Imagine as a deaf young person thinking about what you want to do in the future but you did not know you had rights under the Equality Act or that there was funding for communication support and technology in the workplace (Access to Work). Sadly, this is the reality for many deaf young people and we believe it influences their subject choices at school and college. We want all deaf young people to have access to specialist careers advice so that they are better informed to make choices about their futures.
    2.  Revamp the Access to Work employment support scheme. As a user of the Access to Work I can say I probably could not do my job without it – it pays for the communication support I need to access meetings and training. However, when applying for the first time you will need to very clear about what support and how much of it you need. We don’t believe the application process is friendly for young people and would like to see specialist advice from dedicated champions when they apply for the first time, as well as support that it is flexible and tailored to their needs.
    3. Make it easier for deaf young people to complete apprenticeships. The main political parties are keen on apprenticeships. So are we. High-quality apprenticeships can be a good way of ensuring deaf young people gain vital work experience alongside achieving qualifications. We believe the funding system for additional support on apprenticeships is currently unsatisfactory and needs to be improved and simplified.

Help us put the needs of deaf young people on the agenda by asking the parliamentary candidates for your area what they would do on the above issues if elected to parliament. Also, if you know any deaf young people over 18, encourage them to register to vote- they do matter!

5 articles the Campaigns Team has been reading this week

Jonathan Barnes - NDCS, articles we’ve been reading this week

Jonathan Barnes, Campaigns Assistant

Every week we’ll be compiling a short list of articles that we’ve noticed in the news and want to share with you. Some of them will be about campaigning and others will be about changes to policy, or relevant policy areas, which may be of interest.

1)   The Beckhams learn sign language, Orange News

Victoria Beckham and her husband David are learning sign language with their children so they can communicate with a deaf friend. The stars and their three boys, Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz, have all been receiving tuition – but Victoria admits their youngest son has been using the regular sessions to learn a number of cheeky expressions.

2)  Shock over plan to cut free NHS hearing aids: Thousands could be denied device under cost-cutting plans, Victoria Fletcher, Daily Mail

Thousands of people who struggle to hear properly could be denied NHS hearing aids under ‘shocking’ cost-cutting plans being considered by health bosses. Under the new proposals, those classed as ‘hard-of-hearing’ would have to wait until they had ‘severe’ hearing loss to qualify for the devices.

3)   ‘Disconnect’ in parents’ careers advice and jobs market, Pippa Stevens, BBC News

There is a “disturbing disconnect” between parents’ traditional careers advice to their children and the needs of the jobs market, research says. One in 10 of 2,000 parents said they would “actively discourage” their kids from digital jobs such as coding.

4)   How my son benefited from accessing his education with skilled sign language support, Limping Chicken

Anonymous post from a parent talking about the importance of the correct support for deaf children in the classroom. It does, however, mention the NDCS Stolen Futures campaign, so definitely worth a read!

5)   10 things teachers want to say to parents, but can’t, The Guardian

An anonymous teacher writes about what he/she would say to parents if he/she could. Fairly self-explanatory.

Have you seen any articles this week that you liked? Post the link to them in the comments section below and we’ll check them out!

Deaf young people – three years of policy and campaigning  

NDCS - Ralph Hartley: Supporting calls to improve careers advice

Ralph Hartley, Post-16 Education Policy Advisor

I’ve been working for nearly three years at NDCS focussing on making sure deaf young people get the best possible education and training when they leave school. This post looks back on some of the things we’ve been working on.

England – The Raising of the Participation Age

From next year young people have to stay in education or training until their 18th birthday. Some deaf young people need longer to access the opportunities available, so making sure they stay on at least until 18 will benefit them. The government also wants education to focus on skills in English and Maths and access to work experience. We want to make sure this benefits deaf young people too and we will be working to update our guidance on supporting them in Further Education (FE), take a look at the current document here.

England – The Children and Families Act

The Children and Families Act was passed this summer and there are some positive changes to the way the law works for young people. The new Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) will apply in FE Colleges, which is different from the current system. Lots of deaf young people go to FE colleges so this is a good opportunity to make sure they get the right support like an interpreter, a note-taker or a Teacher of the Deaf.

NDCS is working with the government to ensure the SEN Code of Practice, reflects these changes to the law properly. We are also producing guidance with the National Sensory Impairment Partnership (NatSIP) to help local authorities with the changes.

Take a look at our FAQ on SEN reform for more information.

Wales – SEN Reform

Welsh government proposals also involve giving a stronger legal backing for some young people to get the support they need in FE. Legislation will not be introduced until 2016. NDCS will be making sure that the changes help deaf young people achieve their potential throughout Wales. In particular, NDCS will be making sure that recent changes to the way that colleges are funded are monitored properly.

Scotland – Close the Gap

NDCS commissioned research from the University of Edinburgh on deaf young people’s post 16 experiences. The research shows that deaf young people in Scotland are regularly falling behind at school and college and missing out on opportunities to go to university and get a job. NDCS used the research to create the Close the Gap report which contains 5 recommendations for the Scottish government. It also contains recommendations for local authorities to provide better support for deaf young people – like using our The Template for Success.

Across the UK – Careers Advice

Across all four countries, NDCS is concerned about the access that deaf young people have to good information, advice and guidance to help them make decisions about their future.

We have worked with the Scottish careers service (Skills Development Scotland) on the Template for Success but we are also trying to make sure the information we provide ourselves is as useful as possible to deaf young people and their parents. Take a look at the Leaving School section of our website. Deaf young people will find the sections on Work and Careers, University and College and Apprenticeships on the Buzz really interesting too.

We’ll continue to work with national careers services across the four countries to make sure they support deaf young people properly and we’ll also be producing guidance through NatSIP to help schools, colleges and local authorities.

In my three years at NDCS I’ve worked in these areas and many more, including trying to improve Access to Work, Disabled Student’s Allowances, education funding in England and access for deaf young people to the examinations system. There will be challenges ahead, but I know the NDCS Policy and Campaigns team will continue to work as hard as possible to make sure deaf young people can achieve their hopes and ambitions for the future.

NDCS is supporting calls to improve careers advice

NDCS - Ralph Hartley: Supporting calls to improve careers advice

Ralph Hartley, Post-16 Education Policy Advisor

Everyone agrees that young people need proper careers advice. The job market is increasingly complex and it is more and more difficult for young people to see how to get from where they are, to where they want to be.

Deaf children and young people are in particular need of good quality advice and support. Many deaf children suffer from low aspirations, or find it difficult to access opportunities to find out about the world of work because of communication barriers or a lack of support. It’s my job as the Post-16 Policy Adviser at NDCS to look at ways we can improve these sorts of things. One way is to try and influence government policy in this area.

Unfortunately though, the policies this Government have chosen have made it less likely that deaf young people will access good quality support. This is why we are supporting the Association of Colleges’ (AoC) Careers Guidance: Guaranteed campaign.

How can you help?

You can support the campaign and the deaf children and young people who rely on good quality careers advice and guidance by signing the AoC’s petition.

The campaign focuses on four key areas, making a recommendation in each:

  • Access: Colleges, Jobcentre Plus and local authorities should work together to ensure there is one careers ‘hub’ in each area, which is clearly signposted to all as a place where advice is available about careers options.
  • Accountability: Ofsted should inspect and report on all careers guidance in schools and Colleges, ensuring staff who deliver careers advice are properly qualified. Such institutions should only be graded good or outstanding if they have good or outstanding careers advice and guidance.
  • Informed choice: All school and college websites should link clearly to the National Careers Service website.
  • Investment: The Department for Education should match the annual funding provided to the National Careers Service by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. This would help make sure it meets the needs of young people.

NDCS is also working on its own and with others to make sure that the additional support that deaf young people might require is delivered by the people that provide careers advice.

Find out more

You can also read more about careers advice and jobs on our website

And there is information specifically for young people here