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Faith’s transfer from primary to secondary

Photo: Faith's story

Most of us remember moving from the small, cosy primary school to the big impersonal secondary school. But how does a deaf pupil cope? Faith’s mum, Sallie, shares her story with us.

The primary to secondary transfer stage is one of the major sources of enquiries to our Freephone Helpline. It’s no surprise given the anxiety it creates for children (and their parents!). That’s why Faith’s story is inspirational.

"She found it hard to make new friends."

For any deaf pupil, starting secondary school is a big step: going from being a big fish in a small pond at primary school to being a small fish in the ocean. Before, you had one teacher who really knew you; now you have 10 or more. Before, your classroom may have been adapted to suit your hearing loss; now you’re moving from one room to another. Before, your deaf-aware classmates all knew you; now you rub shoulders with complete strangers.

“Faith had a really good transition from primary school to secondary school, which started at her annual review in year five. All the primary schools in the area went on a trip to an outdoors adventure centre, so she got to meet the people she was going to start school with. She also had extra visits to the secondary school, which helped her to feel comfortable there.

Despite this, when Faith first started secondary school last September, she found it hard to make new friends. The school organised a sign language club for pupils and deaf awareness training for staff and pupils. This really helped and she’s now enjoying school, has friends there, works well in classes and joins in clubs and activities. I found that good communication with the secondary school has really helped. She is looking forward to her brother Daniel starting in September.

Faith is well supported at school; she has 16 hours a week with two teaching assistants, a weekly visit from her Teacher of the Deaf and visits from a speech therapist.

"We can all help to make the world a better place for deaf children."

We encourage Faith to invite children for tea or a sleepover regularly to help her strengthen her friendships. She enjoys Girl Guides and other after-school activities and these really help with her social skills.

My husband, Drew, is deaf, but we had never thought that Faith would be so we were still very shocked when we found out. However, as I had speech therapy experience and knew some sign language, and Drew is deaf himself, we thought that she was born into our family because we knew about deafness.

I think we can all help to make the world a better place for deaf children by making the public more deaf aware. Sign language classes and basic deaf awareness skills make a big difference if they are taught to young children. I work as a teaching assistant supporting deaf children at a mainstream school where I also run sign language clubs for children and parents and a signed choir for children. We perform at school and local charity events. I am in a signing choir myself called Dee Sign and we sign to songs to raise money for deaf people and to raise awareness of deafness.

I am so proud of my daughter and how she copes with her deafness. Faith’s deafness has had a bonding effect on our family – we all help and support each other and in return Faith is a loving, happy little girl.”