Help & Advice15th November 2015

Deaf Unity’s National Lottery Funded, 'Motivating and Inspiring Young Deaf Learner's Project'

Addressing the academic needs of Deaf students, a mentoring programme is being developed

by Alasdair Grant

Deaf Unity has been awarded £9,000 of National Lottery to fund their Motivating and Inspiring Young Deaf Learners Project. The project will link Deaf Learners with Deaf Mentors who have experienced higher and further education themselves. The project will run a series of mentoring training days in Bristol, Birmingham, and London. Further details can be found on our website at (

The project will train 20 Deaf Alumni and Graduates from Higher and Further Education Institutions throughout the UK to mentor and inspire other deaf learners to pursue learning success. Over the next coming months, Deaf Unity will be engaging with a range of Further and Higher Education providers to run a series of deaf-led mentoring training days in 2016.

The project responds to the needs of addressing UCAS figures which show that whilst student numbers including disabled student numbers have risen in the past 6 years, the opposite is true for deaf people in Further and Higher Education. Likewise, the Learning Skills Improvement Service report (2011), ‘British Sign Language and Improving Services for d/Deaf learners’, had found that d/Deaf learners experience:

(a) lack of confidence;
(b) lack of insight and belief in their own ability and capability;
(c) lack of knowledge of their rights to an appropriate standard of support;
(d) lack of knowledge and confidence on what to do about it; and
(e) lack of achievement.

Deaf Learners

Deaf Unity’s own research projects undertaken from our national conferences ( and a funded research trip to the USA ( had found that this situation has not improved. In the USA we found a culture of encouragement and celebration of achievement that propelled Deaf learners themselves to reach out for higher learning and its meaningful employment. In the UK this is lacking.

From our seminars for prospective deaf students and through discussions with professionals it has become clear that there were concerns over the following general areas:

(a) Resources – deaf students struggle to access educational resources in the classroom, careers advice and online support as everything is in English. This results in a lack of understanding and on over-reliance on support staff to bridge the gap.
(b) Lack of understanding over the needs of the deaf students and how best to support them both inside and outside of the classroom.
(c) A feeling of despondency and a lack of motivation on behalf of deaf students to move forwards to achieve their goals.

We have established the Deaf Learner's Resource Hub to bring all of the existing resources under one roof. Our long-term aim is to have everything made available in British Sign Language (BSL) and other sign languages as demanded.

Our conference in 2013 found that amongst the Deaf learners who attended, 83.9% said there were no effective role models at college or university. Without role models and seeing what other high achievers deaf people are doing, it can be challenging for our young deaf generation to look to the future. To address this problem, Deaf Unity is making plans for its Deaf Role Models programme. Research undertaken by the National Deaf Children’s Society and the University of Manchester ( on page 91 – emphasised the importance of peers in contributing to personal/emotional support instead of regarding support as something that was provided by staff/professionals to learners.

Our latest project aims to fall within the Deaf Alumni, Deaf Learners and Role Model programmes. This project aims to link Deaf Learners with other experienced Deaf Learners who would be trained in mentoring skills to mentor, support and share their experiences with young Deaf learners. At present, Deaf Unity are seeking experienced mentoring trainers, potential mentors and mentees across the further and Higher Education sector to participate in this innovative project. Please contact for further details and to express your interest in taking part.

The proposed training days are expected to cover the following topics:

10:00: Introductions to the day.
10:15: Mentoring and Coaching (what is it)
11:15 -11:30: Mid morning break
11:30: Study skills for Deaf students in higher education.
12:30 Lunch Break
13:30: Challenges in Further and Higher Education for Deaf Students – afternoon workshop
14:30 to 14:45 Mid afternoon break
15:00 to 16:00: Developing good practice for mentoring deaf students in higher education.
16:00: Closing sessions of the day

We look forward to hearing from a range of different people to participate in this exciting and innovative project. 

Deaf Learners

Article by Alasdair Grant

posted in Community / Help & Advice

15th November 2015