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How to take part in consultations on BSL Local Plans in Scotland

Advice and guidance on how to tell your local authority what you want them to do to tackle barriers faced by deaf children and young people who use or want to use British Sign Language (BSL).

Campaigning for education: Teachers of the Deaf

Teachers of the Deaf are specialist teachers who do crucial work alongside deaf learners and their families, helping them to overcome the barriers they face in the critical early years and in education.

The issue

What we're campaigning for

We’re working to close the gap in educational attainment for deaf young people in Scotland, and increase numbers of specialist Teachers of the Deaf.

We want local authorities across Scotland to commit to returning the number of fully qualified Teachers of the Deaf they employ to 2011 levels over the next 10 years. 

Find out why we're calling for more ToD in Scotland.

Radio aids

Radio aid technology transmits a person’s voice directly to a deaf child’s hearing aids or cochlear implants. This makes a big difference for many deaf children and can help them to develop language before they start school.

The issue

Despite the benefits of radio aids, 67% of local authorities in Scotland do not provide them for use within the home, for deaf children aged 0 to 4 (CRIDE - PDF).

During the pandemic:

  • Assistive devices were under-utilised, due in part to a lack of
    awareness of the different features of the devices, and lack of training.
  • Families did not receive seamless and continuous support when
    there were issues with their devices.
  • Online learning provided many challenges to deaf learners and subtitles were not
    routinely available.
  • There was a reduction in the amount of Teacher of the Deaf support for families
    during the lockdown period.
  • The cost of equipment remains expensive. There is little competition in the market, and a single dominant manufacturer.

Findings shared from recent research that we commissioned from the University of Edinburgh.

Not all councils in Scotland provide radio aid technology for pre-school age deaf children to use at home with their families. We think they should.

Still struggling to get a radio aid?

Please get in touch with us at [email protected].


Consortium for Research into Deaf Education (CRIDE) Scotland

Every year, CRIDE carries out a UK-wide survey on deaf education provision and reports back. In Scotland, CRIDE surveys have helped create a national picture of the provision of deaf education by collecting information about:

  • deaf learners
  • the workforce supporting deaf learners
  • the types of provision for deaf learners in different local authorities.

The information from these surveys has been useful in forming our responses to national consultations, in helping local authorities plan delivery of their services effectively, and in supporting specialist services to develop and share best practice.

Scotland reference group members

A reference group has been set up to steer the work of CRIDE in Scotland. The members have worked to improve how the CRIDE survey fits within the Scottish education context, while ensuring the data collected can still be compared with the rest of the UK.

Rachel O'Neill

Rachel O’Neill is a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, where she is Programme Director for the Inclusive Education MSc and teaches and organises the deaf education pathway. She worked in Greater Manchester as a teacher with deaf children and college students for 25 years, before moving to Edinburgh in 2006. Her research interests include the achievement of deaf pupils in large data sets, bilingual approaches, and teaching literacy more effectively to deaf learners.

Teresa Quail

CPD Co-ordinator for Deaf Education, University of Edinburgh and BATOD Scotland

Fiona Smith

Fiona Smith is Coordinator of Ayrshire Hearing Impairment Service and Chair of BATOD Scotland.

Sheila Lundberg

Highland Deaf Education Service

Karen McKain

Sensory Support Service Manager, Aberdeenshire

Eileen Burns

Former Headteacher, Hamilton School for the Deaf

Lois Drake

Policy and Campaigns, National Deaf Children's Society

ChangeMakers in Scotland

Our ChangeMakers in Scotland are a group of deaf young people aged 11 to 18. They ensure that the voices of deaf young people are heard in policy making in Scotland by campaigning on issues important to them.

Part of becoming a ChangeMaker is building self-confidence and learning new skills to act as deaf role models.

What the ChangeMakers do

The group meets regularly to learn about their own rights, how decisions are made in the Scottish Parliament, and how campaigning influences decision makers.

They make sure deaf young people’s voices are heard by:

  • attending meetings with MSPs and policy makers
  • attending Party Conferences
  • being involved in key decisions on topics and findings that could affect deaf young people.

Recent activity

In Scotland, the ChangeMakers have been involved in making the Five Sisters Zoo more accessible to British Sign Language (BSL) users.

The ChangeMakers attended the SNP Autumn Conference, and hosted a fringe event to discuss the barriers deaf young people face in education.5 Changemakers next to Humza Yousaf (at time of photo Education minister for Scotland)

We attended the Scottish Labour Party conference where we hosted a fringe event to discuss the long audiology waiting times deaf children in Scotland are currently facing.

Getting It Right From The Start: Improving early years support for deaf children 

We know that with the right support from the very start, deaf children can achieve as much as their hearing peers. Support in the early years is vital for deaf children and their families to help them overcome the barriers they face at this critical time.

Our campaign report, Getting It Right From the Start: improving early years support for deaf children in Scotland, outlines the key issues for deaf children and their families in the early years.

Getting It Right From The Start report: British Sign Language version

A six part British Sign Language version of the report:

Key messages from our campaign report

Our report, outlines the key issues for deaf children and their families in the early years. In summary:

  • Early years is a crucial time in any child’s development, and for deaf children there are a number of barriers which can delay development.
  • Developing age appropriate language is challenging for deaf children due to the communication barriers they experience. This has an impact on attainment and life outcomes.

There has been good progress in Scotland, particularly around the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015 and implementation of Getting It Right For Every Child. However, there is still work to be done. We recommend:

  • continued investment into specialist services
  • Scottish Government endorsed early years guidance for deaf children
  • improved local accountability and monitoring of deaf children’s outcomes
  • improved data collection
  • a strong commitment to early years within the next Scottish Government’s British Sign Language National Plan.

Campaigning for mental health in Scotland

Growing up deaf in a hearing world is hard. The frustrations and barriers deaf children and young people experience can put them at greater risk of experiencing mental ill health.

Evidence tells us that even though deaf children are more likely to experience mental health problems than their hearing peers, they face more barriers in accessing the support they need.

The issue

In Scotland, there are no specialist mental health services for deaf children. These services are well established in other parts of the UK. We think this is wrong, and every deaf child should be able to access the support they need, when they need it.

What we're campaigning for

We’re campaigning for fully accessible, specialist mental health services to be set up for deaf young people in Scotland.

We’re also raising awareness of the need to promote positive emotional health and wellbeing amongst deaf children and the professionals who work with them.

Campaign update

We are campaigning to set up a nationally funded Deaf Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (DCAMHS) and we have been working with national and local partners to develop this.

Will you join us?

Email [email protected] if you want to share your experience or get involved.

Also follow our National Deaf Children's Society Scotland Facebook and Twitter accounts, so you can stay up to date with our activities.