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New school resources

We describe important changes for education and schools in the UK. We review new school guides for visually impaired and deaf parents and look at the new Disability Equality Duty, which is also summarised. We also introduce Kidz Aware, an innovative programme for schools, which focuses on disability equality awareness.

This spring, DPPI launched a set of new school guides focusing on deaf and visually impaired parents, as the final part of the sensory impairment project funded by The Big Lottery.

School issues for visually impaired parents and education professionals is a series of three guides: Choosing and applying for schools, Supporting children at school and Education resources and contacts. Available in large print, Braille, DAISY CD and audio CD, they have been written by a visually impaired parent.

Working with deaf parents: a guide for education professionals is aimed at helping teachers and support staff in education to work effectively with deaf parents and their children. Available in large print or standard print, it is deaf-led and has been endorsed by Deaf Parenting UK.

Both new resources are parent-led and have been developed with the input of a wide range of professionals. It is envisaged that the resources will be used by professionals working with visually impaired and deaf parents and by the parents themselves.

The guides are free to visually impaired and deaf parents. Available from DPPI.

School issues for visually impaired parents and education professionals

A parent's review

Reading the guides as a visually impaired parent, I realise how much easier life would have been if they had been published nine years ago. The nights I have spent lying awake and thinking through a maze of opinions, ideas and worries. Having a reference guide in the format I preferred would have enabled me to find and read through the information at the time when I needed it.

The guides provided me with new pieces of information. No longer will I ponder about SENCOs - they are special educational needs co-ordinators!

In an easy to read way, the guides outline what a visually impaired parent's rights are in relation to access to information, and mobility around school premises. However, this information is complemented by practical tips on issues such as dealing with homework as a visually impaired parent.

I liked the tone of the guides which was focused on suggestions you might make to schools, or agencies which may be able to help - a problem solving approach. This seems an honest representation of how things really are. We have had a number of changes in the law relating to disability, but as a parent you are still likely to have to ask or suggest, rather than expect that information in a way you can read it is going to just happen. The ideas about how you might get involved in your child's school are another positive pointer for a new parent.

Top marks to DPPI for producing these guides.

Lynne Hester, visually impaired parent, Cambridge, UK

A professional's review

This is a welcome publication for professionals involved with delivering services for children, particularly those involved with children's education.

School is often a source of anxiety for parents, particularly those of young children and young people about to begin secondary school. Choosing and applying for schools gives a comprehensive introduction to the education system, including a description of the National Curriculum, different types of schools and Special Educational Needs.

Where this series is invaluable is in the information that it provides for professionals in Supporting children at school, particularly the section describing school accessibility. I am experienced in working with children with special educational needs and this guide challenged me to think again about the needs of a visually impaired parent.

I would particularly recommend this series of guides to professionals delivering services to children, especially Supporting children at school. This is a must-have for all schools currently developing their Disability Equality Scheme.

Yvonne Wade, Chair of governors and educational psychologist, London, UK

Working with deaf parents: a guide for educational professionals

A parent's review

It is a fantastic booklet and long awaited! From my experience as a deaf mum to a hearing son attending a hearing school with no awareness or connection with deaf people, it was quite hard work - not knowing that I could ask for communication support for meetings or especially assemblies, which went over my head! There should be more awareness, for deaf parents especially, that they can request support.

The booklet gives a very clear guide to what basic information schools need to develop good practices and build good relationships, as they would with every parent regardless of their ethnicity, race or disability.

Now both my boys are in a mainstream school with a deaf school in the same building because my younger son is deaf and a wheelchair user. This school is easy for me to access, for example, assemblies are always intepreted for deaf children by the communication support worker from the deaf school. Also for big events like Christmas or harvest, the whole school learnt to sign one song and signed silently at assembly, which was lovely. The whole school has basic deaf awareness and teaches basic signs, as all schools should. The school provides a lunch time BSL club. Brilliant!

The booklet is highly recommended and it gives lovely clear and enjoyable reading. It also gives various contact details to seek further help. All schools and education services should receive the booklet as well as bring awareness to parents to know their rights and to request their access and communication needs.

Charlotte Moulton-Thomas, deaf parent, London, UK

A professional's review

About four months ago I was visited in school by prospective parents and their two children, aged nine. Both parents were profoundly deaf, could lip read and used British Sign Language. Their son was also deaf but had two hearing aids and could speak quite well, while his twin sister was hearing. Fortunately, they brought a BSL interpreter with them. Having no experience of such a situation, I had to think fast and decided that I would look at the parents while we were talking and then watch the interpreter as she signed and translated their replies. Apart from that I had very little idea of how I could best support them if they chose my school. I would need a great deal of help and guidance.

Had I been in possession of this DPPI guide, I should have been far better prepared. This excellent booklet is packed full of vital information and references for busy SENCOs.

Everything we could possibly need is readily available. There is information on: how to raise deaf awareness within a school; how to communicate effectively with deaf parents at meetings; how to ensure they are kept fully informed about events and activities which involve their children; how to communicate via RNID Typetalk or use of a textphone

(I knew nothing of such systems before reading this guide); how to enable parents to take part in school trips or participate in organisations such as the Parent-Teacher Association. This helpful guide should be required reading for all schools, for hearing advisory teachers and especially for SENCOs. I shall certainly recommend it to everyone I know.

Janice Wray Secondary SENCO, Hertfordshire, UK

First published DPPI Journal, Issue 58: Summer 2007

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