This week marks Deaf Awareness Week and this year's theme is 'Deaf Inclusivity.' As a charity that’s passionate about reducing barriers to education and making it accessible for all, this awareness campaign really resonates with us. In this article, we share our key principles for creating an inclusive space for tuition, a story from one of our ex-tutors, James, on working with a Deaf* young person, and share some useful resources from specialist D/deaf organisations.

Our key principles to creating an inclusive space for tuition

Inclusivity is a vital part of our mission to transform lives through tutoring. We make our tutoring sessions inclusive spaces for every one of our tutees, not just a few. We do this by only working in small groups of 1:1 or 1:3 maximum. This allows our tutors to build unique and strong relationships with each individual tutee, and tailor their respective learning pathways to their specific needs. We give out tutors the tools to do this confidently with high-quality training and ongoing support. Our training programme, led by our Quality Team, discusses how to plan, and deliver, high-quality tuition tailored to the needs of a diverse small group of individuals.

At Tutor Trust, we’ve created a Diversity & Inclusion working group that meets monthly to discuss how to make our spaces even more inclusive to meet the needs of individuals from all different backgrounds, and to reduce barriers for accessing education.

Working with a Deaf young person

James, one of our ex-tutors and now our Recruitment & Training Coordinator for Tutor Trust, spent last academic year tutoring in various secondary schools across Greater Manchester. One of his tuition groups was a small group with a Deaf young person.

We asked James to talk about his experiences of delivering tuition to this group and what he learnt as a result.

“Before starting any tutoring assignment with Tutor Trust, we always have an introductory meeting with the school to gain an insight into the needs of the pupils who we will be working with. This helps to begin to tailor their learning from the very start. I was told before starting this assignment that one of my tutees was Deaf and that they would also be working with a designated British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter.

“At first, I thought that this was a daunting challenge, as I had never worked with D/deaf pupils in tuition before, however, I understood the barriers to education that they had and continue to face, so I was keen to rise to the challenge and make a difference to this young person.

“In my first session with any group, I allocated a good amount of time to get to know my tutees: their personalities, their learning style, their hobbies and interests, and their current challenges in the subject that we were learning.

“At first, working with this young person was more challenging than previous groups as I faced some barriers in communication from not knowing any BSL. And although they had an interpreter present, I knew that my usual approach was not effective enough to meet the needs of this pupil, so I decided to reflect on my delivery of tuition to enable them to better access their learning.

“Being a reflective practitioner is really important to us at Tutor Trust. Throughout training, we’re encouraged to identify and reflect on good practices in the planning and delivery of tutoring sessions. Having such discussions with the Training Team and other training tutors made me well-prepared for planning my first tutoring assignment and helped me to incorporate differentiation in my lesson planning.

“Reflecting on my approach with the Deaf young person I was working with, I decided I would dedicate an hour a week to learning some BSL. I found an online course which did not cost a lot, and this helped me to learn the alphabet, and some basic phrases that I could use to start a basic conversation. As I was working with them on their Maths, I also incorporated a BSL vocabulary list into my lesson planning, so I could communicate more effectively. I found that the tutee appreciated that I could communicate, at least on a basic level, to them directly and, as a result, they engaged more in the learning and warmed to me.

“As the sessions continued, I saw that the tutee made gradual progress with their learning, and I am happy and grateful that I could be a part of that. Overall, the experience emphasised the importance of tailoring your approach to meet everyone's individual needs, because one size does not fit all. Additionally, I learnt a lot about D/deaf cultures and experiences in education which has sparked my interest and has brought me closer to the goal of making education accessible for all”.

Useful resources and organisations

Last week the BSL Act 2022 received Royal Assent, meaning that it is now an Act of Parliament. With such, BSL is now an officially recognised language of England, Scotland, and Wales. As a result, we hope that education for these communities will become more accessible, meaning that more young people will be able to achieve their potential.

If you would like to read more on Deaf Awareness Week, BSL, and some of the amazing work done by specialist organisations, we’ve devised a small reading list below, which is not exhaustive but will be a start for your reading:

We’ll also be sharing some of our favourite resources across our social media channels (@TheTutorTrust) throughout the week, so keep your eyes peeled!

*The word ‘Deaf’ (capitalised) is used throughout this article to describe an individual who has been deaf all their life. There are different contexts in which you can use the word ‘deaf’ with a capital or lower case ‘d’. You can read more about this here.