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Exhibition Catalogue

Hidden Histories: Deaf Education in the Seventies

Hidden Histories: Deaf Education – implemented by the University of Sussex Centre for Community Engagement. The exhibition and this catalogue are products of the European Lifelong Learning project titled HIDD – Hidden Histories: Intercultural Dialogue and Learning. Project Management: John D Walker

Contents 4 Preface 5 Brief Introduction 7 History of Deaf Schools 8 Oralism and hearing Aids 9 The Three Schools 11 Reginald Phillips Research Unit 13 Dr William ‘Bill’ Watts 15 The Base of a Spiral 16 A new approach 17 St Thomas School for the deaf 17 Hamilton Lodge School for the deaf 19 Ovingdean Hall School for the partially deaf 20 A view of their school 5 Looking Back 2

26 Discipline 27 Being the rebel 35 Revealing Histories 36 The Oral Failure 36 The Challengers 38 The signed systems 40 The Warnock report and mainstream education 43 Quotes from Dr Watts 44 A forgotten history 45 Acknowledgements


Preface A major challenge facing people in Europe is how we understand and experience life in communities that are both plural and diverse. In its Memorandum on Lifelong Learning of 2000, the European Commission cited the need to ‘learn to live positively with cultural, ethnic and linguistic diversity’ as one of the two joint aims of lifelong learning across Europe. These issues percolate down to the community and individual level in important ways, and have a profound impact on the ways in which we all experience economic and social inclusion. This EU project has used a community and life history approach to work with socially excluded people to explore and capture their ‘hidden histories’ and to provide the opportunity, through exhibitions and websites, to share their stories with the wider communities of Europe. People are excluded or ‘hidden’ for a number of different reasons including their geographic isolation, their language, and their cultural experiences.


Partners in this project are based in Austria, Finland, Ireland and the UK, and the communities we have worked with are Deaf communities, migrant communities and rural communities. Although this catalogue relates to the exhibition you are viewing, please visit our website at to find out more about the project, but also to view material from the other exhibitions and ebooks, to view photos and to hear and see other people’s stories. We hope that by viewing both the exhibition that accompanies this catalogue, and our website, that you will have a greater understanding of the lives of different people in all our communities.

Pam Coare Project Principal Investigator.

Hidden Histories: Understanding the Seventies A Brief Introduction

This section will explore what happened before the 1970s and understand how deaf children were educated

1970s When we think about the 1970s, some important events come to mind: the push for equality between men and women; the energy crisis and the three day working week; the first test tube baby and the availability of the contraceptive pill; the change from imperial to decimal currency; and flower power and the Beatles. The 1970s was a decade of change. Feminism changed how we talked about people and how they relate with each other. Rather than seeing all issues from the eyes of a man, we started to explore how the same issues can be viewed by a woman. There was a rise in ‘helping professions’, such as a counsellor or social worker, after the Seventies. Society realised they had a responsibility to enable people to improve their lives.

So what happened before? In the 1960s, the old systems persist and people were starting to rebel. People no longer wanted an archaic system, where it was assumed men would always be in the dominant position. It was a time when women were steered towards jobs in typing and clerical work, whereas men had a greater choice of careers. In the Second World War, when the men were fighting on the front lines, it was the women and people with disabilities who were running the factories, which gave the soldiers their weapons and vehicles they needed to fight the battles. For 5 years, women and disabled people had work and held senior positions. When the war was over



the factory. When his workmates returned, he lost his position; “when the war ended, I asked the manager if I could still be foreman, but he said I could not because I was deaf.” Herbert, and his deaf wife Muriel, became welfare workers for the Deaf community and were popular figures in Sussex: “they were very gentle people, very approachable”, said Mary Wilson. “They supported my parents a lot when I was growing up.” Deaf people were discriminated regularly and, like women, they also rebelled against the assumed norm. They wanted to have a role in society too.

and the soldiers returned from the front line, the women and disabled were made redundant or demoted, to give jobs to the men who came home. It was their children, who saw this injustice and took a stand.

And deaf people? This situation also affect deaf people too, such as Herbert Blunden (1905-1999), a deaf man. During the war, he worked in a piano factory but most of this peers were conscripted into the army; he was the only one left. He was promptly promoted to foreman and took charge of

History of Deaf Schools Deaf Schools Before the 1970s, most deaf children went to a residential school for deaf children. By the 1960s, deaf schools had already existed for 200 years. Deaf children were sponsored to attend a school, and the sponsorship may have come from family or a wealthy benefactor. The conditions in these schools were not great and children were poorly fed. But the children also developed a language, which started in the streets, and became, what we know of today as, sign language. The first school for the deaf was set up in 1760 in Edinburgh, called Braidwood School. It is commonly thought that they used a mixture of reading/writing, lipreading and sign language to teach deaf children. At the time, it was an industrial secret and was not revealed until Thomas Braidwood, the founder, was at his deathbed.

When sign language was banned In 1889, the Royal Commission for the Blind and Deaf & Dumb committed an inquiry into the use of the ‘pure oral method’ in deaf education. The questions were often biased towards speech, a method spearheaded by Dr. Alexander Graham Bell (who also patented the telephone). They saw the lack of speech training for deaf children was detrimental to deaf children’s development, when, in fact, children did well through using sign language and reading/ writing English. Speaking English had greater precedence over sign language or reading/writing English. Educators wanted to achieve the Holy Grail of deaf education, to give deaf children speech. In the 1921, the Newbolt Report said, “Every teacher is a teacher of English because every teacher is a teacher in English, and the whole of the Times Table is therefore available for the teaching of English. Speech training must be undertaken from the outset and should be continued all through the period of schooling.” (Chapter X, pp.348) In 1921, sign language went underground and was removed from most educational institutions. Deaf teachers were removed from their posts and were replaced by teachers who spoke to deaf children, instead of signing.


Schools in Brighton This exhibition focuses on three schools: St Thomas in Basingstoke: Hamilton Lodge School in Brighton and Ovingdean Hall in Sussex. All three schools opened after the Second World War, when a huge building programme was launched in 1944. All three schools did not use sign language in education, they used the ‘pure oral method’. It is a combination of speech therapy, auditory verbal exercises and use of amplification technology, such as hearing aids.


Oralism and Hearing Aids

successful to provide all children with hearing aids by 1952.

Oral Education

The hearing aids were rudimentary and included one aid per ear, both held in a bra-like strap. The expensive wires had to be replaced, which often annoyed the deaf children’s teachers.

In 1921, the Newbolt Report decreed that English would be the only language taught in education and any subject is also a lesson in English. Also, English would be taught phonetically; a more scientific approach to learning English. This forced teachers, who were deaf, to resign from their positions and the pure oral method started to take hold. In 1944, the Education Act encouraged a new build of schools for partial hearing children. They used the pure oral method, using invasive speech therapy and threats to get the child to speak. Many of these schools opened, including Mary Hare Grammar School in Newbury, Burwood Park, Tewin Water, Ovingdean Hall and Hamilton Lodge schools.

Hearing Aids In 1948, National Institute for the Deaf (now known as Action on Hearing Loss) campaigned for the provision of free hearing aids on the National Health Service. It was

The sounds produced by the aid was often distorted and included background noises; it was difficult to distinguish between the sound and the noise. In the classroom, a semicircle of tables would hold a pair of headphones with a microphone for the teacher to speak into. The headphones would heat during the course of an hour and the children would leave with red hot ears.

Sir George Godber, Chief Medical Officer “Sir George Godber, Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health stated with all his weight of authority that ‘inadequate provision for the deaf is the most striking shortcoming of the national health service and that neither medically nor through the administration have we given as much support as we should have done, to the non-medical scientists who might have helped to produce progress.” (Briggs, 1975) While it was assumed that money was invested in medical cures for deafness, it was realised, in the 1970s, that no real plans for medical intervention existed. Briggs

explored the need to identify an alternative resource to supporting deaf children, such as Teachers of the Deaf, Speech Therapists and Audiologists.

The Three Schools St Thomas The building of St Thomas School for the Deaf is on Darlington Road, Basingstoke. The building was originally built in 1874 and it was called the Winchester Diocesan Home for Friendless and Fallen Women. The home was for “penitent women who had no other means of recovering the character they have lost before God and society”. In reality, the home catered for women who were either pregnant out of wedlock or had fallen foul with the law. The Home became a School for the Deaf in 1951 but the earliest records for this educational institution is 1953 (Hampshire Record Office). The school was closed on the 31st August 1985, due to the threat of demolition.

The school preferred the oral methods of education but there are discrepancies whether they followed the regime


strictly, or not. Some teachers preferred to allow the children to express themselves by whatever means, while others were more strict. The site is now a nursing home.

Ovingdean Hall Ovingdean Hall School for the Partial Hearing was established after the 1944 Education Act, which created a number of schools for children who could benefit from hearing aids. The school originally came from the Brighton Institute for the Deaf and Dumb, situated on Edward Street in Brighton. It closed during the war and the partial hearing children were housed on a farm in Wivelsfield; the children who used sign language were moved to Margate School for the Deaf in Kent.


In 1947, this disused mansion was updated to inhabit a new school. Over the years, there were new additions to the school including extra classrooms and accommodation. The focus of the school was to teach through listening and speaking but there was little focus on academic achievements; in the 1970s, only CSEs were offered (equivalent to achieving a grade C in a GCSE, as the top grade). The school was sports orientated and the grounds gave ample opportunity to practice different sports. Ovingdean Hall school closed in 2010, after an attempt to merge with Hamilton Lodge school. A film was created with the children just before the school closed, to record their last thoughts.

Hamilton Lodge Hamilton Lodge School is situated in Walpole Road and is made up of a series of house which have been occupied over the years. The aim of the school was to teach deaf children within the community houses of Brighton and Hove, opposed to a secluded location. Hamilton Lodge started as a school that used the oral methods of education but over the years, they changed from sign supported english to child centred communication. In those years, the children who attend were often children who arrived with little language or access to British Sign Language. Hamilton Lodge was attended established in 1945 by Margaret McNabb Taylor, who was a skilled teacher of the

deaf. In her years as a teacher, she recruited a wide range of teaching support staff to assist her work (National Archives). But as the school grew, Taylor was advised, in a school inspection, to start recruiting more teachers of the deaf to work along side her. In the 1970s, Hamilton Lodge School start to professionalise its teaching provision, which continued after Taylor’s retirement. Hamilton Lodge School is still a vibrant school today and sports a range of buildings on Walpole Road, including an FE college.

Reginald Phillips Research Unit Reginald M. Phillips of Brighton Mr Phillips was an owner of a company that built specialist properties in return for a higher rent. Companies agreed to rent a property off the plan, which were specially designed to house their technology and logistical requirements. Over the years, Phillips acquired substantial wealth. But he was also a man who was desperate for recognition. Although he was honoured by the Queen and received a honorary degree from University of Sussex, he wanted to


be the first Lord of Brighton. For this very reason, he titled himself as ‘Reginald M. Phillips of Brighton’. At University of Sussex, he shared three interests and sponsored them. He was an avid philatelic and donated his entire stamp collection, including the precious black penny stamp. University of Sussex opened a philatelic help desk in the Library. He also supported the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), which spearheaded science and technology research regardless of changes in political leadership; especially when scientific progress lasted beyond the natural life of governments. Lastly, he supported the Phillips Deaf Unit, as it was called, which focussed on educational research. He gave a total, in today’s value, £1 million.

Educational Development Building Professor Norman McKenzie led the Centre for Educational Development at University of Sussex. At the time when Phillips was interested to donate, he showed interest in the work with deaf children. The Education Development Building was the home of educational research, methods and TV/Media. At the time, Open University was in its infancy and there was interest to expand education to the territorial channels. For many years (and still today), Open University taught subjects on BBC2 documentaries - this idea was conceived in the University of Sussex.


Phillips was also acquainted with Dr. William ‘Bill’ Watts, a teacher of the deaf from East Sussex. Bill was appointed as the Assistant Director for the new unit and led much of the research development there. He employed the resources the Centre of Educational Development had to offer. He made a film and supported the development of educational research and research on deaf and hard of hearing people. The Educational Development Building is now called the Silverstone Building.

The launch in 1972 The Phillips Deaf Unit began in 1968, but it was not until 1972 when the unit was officially launched. A plaque was revealed in 1972, which included the face of Reginald Phillips and the following words: “A generous benefaction from his Foundation provided the

Reginald M. Phillips Laboratory and Research Unit in this building to develop new educational techniques for deaf and other handicapped children. This plaque records the appreciation of the University of Sussex for this gift from a distinguished Brighton resident and philanthropist.”.

Dr. William ‘Bill’ Watts A teacher of the Deaf William John Watts, who was better known as Bill, was a Teacher of the Deaf in East Sussex for many years. He had a great passion for deaf children. In fact, he was described as someone who always gave time for deaf children, and had very little patience for anything else. He was a Methodist and regularly attended a local church in Kemp Town. Watts was the assitant deputy director of the Phillips Deaf Unit and developed the work programme through the life of the centre. As a significant member of the Unit, Watts demanded a curricula change within deaf education. He contributed a number of published works on the subject of deaf education. His PhD can be found in

the University of Sussex’s library; Watts had ideas about deaf education that are surprising for his time. It was Watts who found Reginald M. Phillips of Brighton to fund a new research unit at University of Sussex. Phillips was involved in the National College of Teachers of the Deaf (pre-requisite to BATOD) and served as their Patron. Watts wrote in a memo to the Vice Chairman, Prof. Asa Briggs, to ascertain that it was he who found Phillips and introduced him to the university.

A Different Attitude Dr. Bill Watts had a different take on education of deaf children, than his peers. His peers expressed an ‘belief’ in the oral methods of education, which ‘far superseded other methods’. But there was little evidence to support their claims. The PhDs of his colleagues began with a expression of their author’s belief systems, rather than relying on fact and scientific enquiry. Alternatively, Dr. Watts was more of a realist. He wanted to understand which approach to education would most benefit the child in order to release their intelligence and cognitive development. If one educational system was not effective, then another educational system must be considered; belief didn’t come into it.


One contributor expressed an admiration for Dr. Watts who was locked in an argument with a Physician, who labelled a deaf child as ‘incapable’. He knew that the oral methods would not befit the needs of the child, who was profoundly deaf, and recommended the child was introduced to a school that used a manual form of communication (sign language). Today, he is grateful for his ferocity which gave him the best start in life.

A PhD Towards the end of the unit’s life, Bill Watts completed his PhD. He developed tests,adapted from the Montessori Method (explained at the end of this section), to assess a deaf child’s level of intelligence. In those days, intelligence was associated with speech and the articulation of English. Watts wanted to assess intelligence, in deaf children, without relying on communication. Watts developed several tests and explored the level of intelligence between deaf children with language, deaf children without language and hearing children. In his findings, he said: “The development of deaf children’s cognitive abilities is remarkably unaffected by their lack of verbal language.”


He found the levels of intelligence in all three categories to be very similar. Deafness was not a condition that affected intelligence and the perception of low intelligence in a deaf child was not a direct consequence to the lack of verbal skills. This research raises questions on whether oral education was able to meet the needs of the child’s cognitive development. Towards the end of his career, he was a Trustee of Cued Speech UK. His publications include: Watts, W. (1979) The Influence of Language on the Development of Quantitative, Spatial and Social Thinking in Deaf Children. American Annals of the Deaf (Vol. 124, pp. 46 - 56). Watts, W. (1979) Deaf Children and Some Emotional Aspects of Learning. Volta Review (Vol. 81:7, pp. 491 500)

The Base of a Spiral (1972) An 11 minute documentary produced by the research unit on innovative teaching practise.

The Phillips Deaf Unit and Educational Technology The Reginald Phillips Research Unit was based in the Centre for Educational Technology. The centre researched into the use of video technology adapted for teaching. It was a practice that became commonly accepted in the 1970s when Open University started televising their lectures on BBC 2. The idea was conceived at University of Sussex and the Vice Chancellor of the university, Asa Briggs, later became the Chancellor of Open University (1979 - 1994). The Education Development building (now Silverstone), at University of Sussex, also housed a television studio, which was originally built for research purposes. The studio is now used for the Media Studies course at this university.

The film The Base of a Spiral was created in 1972, by Michael Harvey. Very little could be found about the director but it is assumed that Michael was associated with the Centre for Educational Technology. In this film, the contents were influenced by Bill Watts and Marie Affleck. The credits

state that all three schools: Ovingdean Hall, Hamilton Lodge and St Thomas were included in the film. But it seems only Ovingdean and Hamilton Lodge were shown. The script in this film described the aims and purposes of the Phillips Deaf Unit, and what they wanted to achieve. This film raises questions on whether the child should fit within the ‘educational regime’ or whether the education should alter to meet the needs of the child. This statement was ahead of its time. For the purposes of this research, this film was extracted from an old camera in the British Film Institution, at the request of the researchers in this project. The researchers have tried their best to identify all the children in the film and gain permission to show it in public; only some have been identified.


A New Approach The unit employed innovative approaches to deaf education. The Reginald Phillips Research Unit wanted to challenge the methods of education used in schools for deaf children. Watts had his own research interests, which were emphasised on two theories in particular:

Piaget Stages of Cognitive Development The Piaget Stages of Cognitive Development challenges the notion that all children should be educated in the same manner. Piaget recognised that a children passes through different stages of development and their approach to learning changes with it. If the child’s abilities to learn changes, then the tools to educate the children should change over the years too. A child in entry years would need to use their imagination through stories and play, where as a young person in the later school years would require more humanistic approach to education (where the young person is responsible for their own learning). There were questions whether deaf education did indeed change or alter their approaches to meet the needs of the child, opposed


to serving an educational regime or a philosophy (such as oralism).

The Montessori Method The Montessori Method wanted to identify the root to learning new concepts. Commonly, education used words that represent complex ideas but there was little support for the teacher on how to teach pupils how to grasp them. This method used ‘learning through play’, where the action of seeing, using, playing and re-calling can introduce ideas before the language is found. Items that help to facilitate educational games were brought into the classroom, such as a sandbox and a water trough. Children playing with sand and water introduced the idea that the properties of sand is similar to that of water, because they both flow out of a jug or push a water wheel. The child can still play with these ‘toys’ and be introduced to scientific concepts.

Living in Schools St Thomas School for the Deaf, Basingstoke Transcript for ‘Lulu at St Thomas’:

of moving into this school when I left the ‘mixed’ environment to a school for only profoundly deaf children. We all received more individual attention than when we were in a PHU. I stayed at St Thomas for a period of 4 years. For each year, I had a different teacher, all with their own ways of teaching and how they influenced me as a person and how we got on together. They all had their own idiosyncrasies.

Hamilton Lodge School for the Deaf,Brighton Memories from Robert Transcript for Travel to School

KB - So, which dates were you are St Thomas? LF - I started St Thomas in 1979. Just before I started at this school, I lived in Scotland when I was only a baby. My family moved to Hampshire and my first school was in a Partial Hearing Unit in a mainstream school. I didn’t like this school because they were forcing me lipread with their mouths covered. I was disturbed by this experience and I remember not liking how I was treated. I was then moved to St Thomas. I enjoyed the experience

Ok, I was a day tripping and travelled to and from the school from Monday to Friday. Most of the time, I travelled in an ambulance but on occasion, I travelled with a friends in their parent’s car. My transport later changed to a taxi and this continued for 13 years, until I started college.



Transcript for ‘Robert, in the classroom’:

Transcript for ‘Robert’s daily routine’:

PL - Can you remember what the school was like as well as the layout of the school?

RC - Every morning, I would arrive at about half past eight and by quarter to nine, we would start prayers. Everyone would convene in the gym for the assembly. It was the same routine every day and it would never change. The prayers would last 15 minutes and we would then move to the classrooms.

RC - When I was small, the school looked like … I remember blackboards with rolling screens. There was the alphabet all around the top corners of the room, and each letter was represented by an animal of the zoo. Years later, the class remained except for the letters at the top of the room. I remember piles of books or papers and I remember having an old fashion desk for each person; the top could lift up and I could put things inside the desk. There were writing implements and materials inside. PL - Were the desks arranged in rows or in a semi-circle? RB - They were in a semi-circles. There were headphones in the middle of the desks, which were all connected to a central microphone, which the teacher used to teach us. The layout was to help us to see each other, which we couldn’t do, if we had sat in rows.

Ovingdean Hall School for the Partial Hearing, East Sussex Memories from Chris

Transcript for ‘Chris describing Ovingdean’:

CW - I remember massive fields with a big victorian house in the middle. The grounds were looked after by a farmer, the school actually employed a farmer to run the site; a man, who was called ‘Holland’. He had a typical farmer look, a rough beard, with a hat and boots, and a gun resting on his arm. He also had a dog by his side. It was great. It was

horrible in the winter when it would get dark early and we were trapped in the boy’s room, which was like a common room and a basic one at that. At home, I was surrounded with nice things but at school it was pretty basic. The long summer’s days were great and Ovingdean was a great place to be. It was all very nice. Great facilities, for playing tennis, swimming, football, the playground. It was good. Transcript for ‘Chris going home’:

CW - Every Tuesday, we had to write a letter to our Mum and Dad. Mrs. Whittiker would come over, she was actually in the video [the Base of a Spiral] towards the end, she would approach us to ask if whether we were going home on Friday. Each of us would reply whether it was a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. When she turned to me, I didn’t know how to answer [because it was my first time]. I had yet to talk to Mum and Dad about what was happening at the weekend. I automatically said ‘yes, I am going home’. On the Friday, those of us who were going home all waited outside for our parents to come and pick us up, or the coach to go home, or the bus for the train station. I stood there waiting as the numbers started to dwindle, until I was the last one left. A teacher came over to ask if I was sure my parents were coming to pick me, and I said I was sure. She went off

to check and came back to say they were not coming to pick me up this week. She said something about when my parents would be picking me up but I missed what she said. I thought she said next Friday, which brought me to tears. I got over that pretty quickly. The next Tuesday, I was asked the same question of whether I would be going home on Friday, and I again said ‘yes’. And on the Friday, the same thing happened again. So, it was not that week either and I was told for sure that they would come the following Friday. Because of the previous two hiccups, I was unsure if they were truly coming to pick me up. I had my luggage all prepared and walked down to the front door, and Mum was there. I was in shock and in a complete flood of tears and very happy to go home.



A View Of Their School

School Peers

smell from the kitchen was shocking.

Transcript for ‘Robert’s progress through school’:

Transcript for ‘Chris, sweet shop’:

I use to eat that food before I was a day boarder, but that is the way it goes.

PL - Is it your feeling that children today have a better education than that time?

CW - On Monday, after school, we regularly have a sweet shop. We would all line up to buy our sweets, we had to pay for them but they were extremely cheap. The sweets we bought were placed into a box and given back to the House Mother, who locked the boxes away.

Describing the school

RC - Well, I am not entirely sure. I remember, when I was young, it wasn’t hard work at school. We were together signing to each other, using toys to learn. It wasn’t until I was 6 years old when I first experienced ‘homework’. We had exercises to learn verbs, for example, or maths exercises. It wasn’t hard at that age, the exercises were easy and they were used progressively until I was 8 or 9 years old. The lessons became harder and subject specific, such as maths, geography, English, and so on. There were times I didn’t understand but we persevered. We kept improving year by year until we reached our exams at the age of 15 or 16 years old.

The friends they had

The next day, if we wanted some sweets, the House Mother would allow us to take some from our boxes and decide when we have taken too much, and the remaining sweets were locked away again. The sweets were severely rationed but then again, I left the school with good teeth. Transcript for ‘Chris, food’:

CW - When my Mum and Dad moved to Brighton, I became a day boarder. At home, I had access to all the luxuries that home could afford. But when I arrived at school in the mornings, I saw my friends leave the dining room after breakfast - the smell that wafted from the dining room was of grease and fat - it was from the fried breakfast. The

JW - You didn’t like the food there? CW - It was awful, really awful. At one time, a group of us decided we wanted to protest against the quality of food and we had a ringleader who wanted to approach the chef. In our request to the teachers, the chef refused to negotiate with even them. So, we were prepared to be forthright and tell the chef what we think of his food. Funnily enough, we pulled out at the last minute. If you met the chef, you would have thought twice about standing up to him, he had a gruff appearance and a handlebar moustache. He had an annoyed look but in reality he was a very nice man on a personal level; but

you wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of him. So, we chickened out in the end. So, we carried on eating bad food. It is the same on Sunday, when Mum and Dad would drop us off at the school for the week. We travelled from London to Brighton, it was a long journey. But at dinner time, I would have tea and not supper. I only had an orange juice with a slice of cake. We were absolutely starving through the evening, until the morning, when we eat that breakfast to make up for it. In general, the food was just plain awful! Transcript for ‘Lulu, a birthday with a Deaf family’:

LF - There was one occasion which made a huge impact for me. I was invited by a school friend to a birthday party. I was really excited to go. The friend’s family were all deaf, including two sisters and the parents were deaf too. My parents took me to the friend’s house with the aim to drop me off. When we arrived, my parents had difficulty to understand the friend’s parents - I of course had no problem to understand them because they were using sign language. The two sets of parents tried to communicate with each other but they weren’t getting anywhere. I remember sitting down wondering what’s wrong with them; why can’t they understand each other? By the look of it, something wasn’t right between them and I could feel it.


Then a next door neighbour arrived and she helped to translate the conversation between the parents. My first thought was ‘why did this person arrive and why was she needed?’ It never occurred to me then but retrospectively I now know she was interpreting between English and BSL. My friend’s parents were trying to explain that their son was ill and it wasn’t possible for me to stay overnight. The actual plan originally was for me to stay over and then travel to school with the friend, but he was simply too ill to go to school. After their discussion, it was agreed that my parents would go out for a while and I could play with my friend’s sisters. My friend was simply too ill to do anything and was chucking up. So, the younger sister was looking after me and we had a good time. I enjoyed it so much because there were no communication problems in this home. Compared to life at home, I had hearing friends but the relationships were of a different substance and the level of communication was different. When my Mother came to pick me up, I really didn’t want to go - I was particularly upset about leaving. They gave me


a slice of cake to take home, to send me on my way. But I remember sitting in the car, on the way back - I remember feeling something has changed for me; it felt like a turning point that there was something else for me out there. I became aware of the difference between people who can sign and people who can’t, from the age of eight years old.

Deaf Siblings, Hearing Families Living between two worlds Transcript for ‘Lisa, life at home’:

LW - My sister, while we were growing up, and I always played parallel games. Whatever she did, I did the same. But there was a point when I was 9, 10 or 11 years old, when the family started nattering away with each other.

WD - Were you talking with them? LW - No I didn’t. WD - Your sister did? LW - Yes. Before we use to play together with dolls, pushing the pram - things like that. That was push aside for ‘talking together’. When I sought for attention, I was told to wait, while they carried on talking with each other. I just felt isolated. At one point, we were sitting round together for a ‘sing a long’. I watched them singing away, while I didn’t have a clue what they were on about. They went round one by one until it was my turn to sing. I looked to my sister for help, and she said, “yes you can do it, you know the song, London’s Burning. Try that one.” So, I tried to sing London’s Burning and I had no clue what I sounded like.

Relationships How People got on Transcript for ‘Lulu jumps in a different cab’:

LF - When I was young, I was, sort of, not entirely happy with my parents way of life and I had a friend who had deaf parents. And she invited me to come along and stay with her overnight. We arranged it between us and I must have been only seven years old at the time. I eagerly agreed to tag along with her. When the taxis arrived pick

up the children to go home, for the day boarders ... my friend lived in Winchester, which was only half an hour from Basingstoke... KB - Not far. LF - Yes, not far. My friends beckoned me to follow

her into her cab and just when I was about to climb in, the chaperone (not the taxi driver), and she was awful winging and grumpy; she pulled my hand off the cab door handle and yanked it back. She said, “no, don’t, come with me” and I threw a strop and refused - I wanted to go with her. It became a battle of wills between my stubbornness and the chaperone yanking me back. The chaperone kept repeating, “your Mother, your Mother”. I tried desperately to convincingly lie that my Mother had agreed to this already and the argument continued; until I gave in. I really wanted to go with my friend to meet her


deaf family. I wanted to experience what it was like to live in a family where everyone was the same: all deaf.


What the children did Transcript for ‘Lulu’s first night in Ovingdean’:

LF - When I arrived at the school ... were my parents with me or did I arrive by coach?... I think my Mother and Father dropped me off at the school. I was the only one. KB - How old were you at the time? LF - I was 13 years old. There were another four pupils who were new that year, which made five of us in a single year. Two of them moved to Ovingdean because their school had closed down; it was called Nutfield Piory. KB - I don’t know it. LF - Well the school was in Redhill and it closed down, some of their pupils moved over to Ovingdean. So, we... KB - Four other children and you... LF - The other four knew each other well and I was the new one in the group. I was very quiet and reserved. The others were behaving cocky - well, they were teenagers!


down, but the first night I burst into tears. I was in a different bed and sharing with other pupils, I didn’t know. We were all of different ages in the bedroom, in fact two of us were in the same year but the other four were in the year below. We had to share a bedroom with the younger pupils because the other rooms for our age group were all full. I wasn’t comfortable to share a room with other children or with children from a different year. I wasn’t used to it because I was a day tripper before. So, I cried through the first night and I gently got used to it. But it wasn’t long before I loved the school because my group of friends just got on. I just got on with my new group of friend. KB - You changed your mind quickly. LF - There were 21 of us in my year alone, which was a huge

number of deaf peers for me. We all split into sub groups and socialised with people we felt most comfortable with: people with the same ideas or similar humour. We had different groups - one group liked flirting with the boys, the others who were a bit naughty and cheeky, the prim and propers. My group, of five of us, became very close and we were very happy throughout the school years. One of the most positive aspects of the school was the range of social activities. The House Mother would come over and ask what we would like to do and she would make a plan for us; she would decide if something can take place this week or the following week. We could go bowling or go to the Brighton Pier ... or hire a video. There were loads of activities: Scouts, youth club, and loads more. We were kept very busy nearly every day. We were never bored. We were always had something planned, which was different from the boredom we faced at home.

Looking Back Teaching and Learning

How the children were taught and whether they learnt? Transcript for ‘Robert’s favourite teacher and bird feeder’:

KB - Very normal!

PL - Do you have any memories of the teachers you admired and the teachers you loathed?

LF - They led us around the school until we got settled

RC - Well, I’m not sure. Although, I did say I am not sure,

perhaps the best is Mr. Sheppard. He was a new teacher who arrived sometime after I started in the school. He started teaching at HLS in 1983 and he also supported me through college - he was a great help in those days. He always had a good sense of humour. Before him, there was another teacher I liked, who was Mr Merrifield, who had a beard and was a long standing teacher in our school - I liked his teaching and he was genuinely a nice man. He was better than Mr. Burges (spell?), who had a beard and was also a nice man; he taught the Arts.He used to teach us how to make bird feeders, I love the way he taught me. He was a nice person. PL - You liked his class? RC - Yes.


PL - Who made the bird feeder? RC - It was Mr Burges who taught us to make the feeder. PL - How was it made? RC - It was made from roasted seeds and nuts, which were packed into a coconut shell. The shell is threaded with a piece of string and hung upside down, under neath a tree. The bird would hang onto the shell and peck away at the seeds underneath. Transcript for ‘Chris, relaxed lessons’:

CW - The school had a similar routine everyday. For me, I am not sure if it is much different to that of a hearing school. Everything was spoken or written. We never did any homework. JW - No homework at all? CW - No, none. A lot of the time, we would ask the teacher questions about a topic we wanted to have. But it distracted us from


the purpose of the lesson. We would just end up talking to each other about some subject. When time was up, we were off - it didn’t seem to matter if we covered certain topics or not. It was nice to have a conversation but it was not about the subject we were supposed to learn. But the whole period I was there, I don’t remember receiving any homework at all.

Discipline How children were punished in the seventies and what they were punished for? Transcript for ‘Lulu, punished for signing’:

LF - When I was in my second year, it was led by a teacher who was particularly horrible to us. When we signed to each other and we were caught, we got told off. It really took me for six. I thought I was allowed to sign. Perhaps, it was allowed in the earlier years but it was a sudden switch to being punished for signing. You know the small paper bag, often used to contain sweets. It was used to wrap up our hands; they were tied together, as well. We were sent to the corner with our

hands tied together and covered by this small paper bag. I remember feeling shocked and I was only 7 or 8 years old at the time. I stood there with my hands tied without any understanding of why. No one attempted to explain to me and I was left clueless. Transcript for ‘Robert, punishments and misunderstandings’:

RC - That is what it was like in those days. If I was in a fight or argument, I would be called in to see the Head Teacher, Mr. Jensen, for being naughty. He would tell me off sternly and ask me to bend down. I was told to lower my trousers and he brought out the cane and hit me on the buttocks. PL - Actually on bare skin? RC - You don’t see anything like this today but then, you could be caned on your hand as well.. PL And you remember that? RC - Yes, … on my hand or buttocks. It would leave a red mark on my hand.

But then my Mother was told what happened and she threw a fit. She called up the school, no mobile phones or minicoms in those days; she used the proper dial up telephone. She had words with the Head Teacher and she came back asking why I was naughty. ‘Why I was fighting with other children’. I told her to mind her own business as I had a reason to fight. The other [hearing] children were using strange signs that I didn’t understand, they were not using the sign language I used at school, and they were taking the mick. Really, we just couldn’t understand each other and it caused this situation.

Being the Rebel

When the children stood up for themselves or tested the boundaries Transcript for ‘Chris behind the bushes’:

CW - In most winters, we would stay indoors most of the time. We weren’t really allowed to go out, we were told to stay downstairs in the common room. We would either play cards, listen to records, watch the TV or do a bit of drawing. There were not very many activities [in the winter months]. But when we were older, we were allowed to go out for walks. We were free to sign out and walk to other places like Brighton [which is 3 miles from the school], but we had to be of a certain age to do that.



At my time, when I was boarding, I was too young to be allowed out and we were pretty much trapped in the school. But in the Summer and Spring, there was more to do outside.

KB - I am talking about St Thomas.

There was a copse outside, a circle of bushes and trees, and there was a lot of ‘hiding’ going on there. We would find the odd peck there, it was very innocent. But the problem was that the Head Master’s office was directly opposite the copse and he could see everything that was going on from his window.

LF - I would get told off for signing at Ovingdean. I remember one occasion when four of us walked to a fallen log on the grounds. We were just nattering away, as we always did, using a school sign. The Head Master walked towards us but we didn’t pay him much attention and carried on giggling away. We never thought we were using sign language but we weren’t using the correct grammar of sign language; we were just mouthing supported by some pointing and signs.

So, the next morning in assembly, the Head Master said, “I want to see Christopher Wyer, this boy, that boy, .. in my office, please.” And we were on our way to the Head Master’s office for telling off. We learnt to be a bit be wiser next time and hide a little better, where the Head Master can’t see!

LF - Yes, I was allowed. KB - Were you NEVER allowed to sign at Ovingdean?

When the Head Master reached us, he said, “if you carry on signing, you will have to go to Hamilton Lodge school.” Do you know the school? It is the other deaf school in Brighton. We were reticent to say anything more for fear of being moved out. We would often share the same bus with children from Hamilton Lodge to get home for the weekend. Both schools were on the bus and we were sworn enemies. We looked down on their signing and put on the fact we were oral. It was the attitude we had when we were 14 or 15 years old. We were ‘better off’ being oral, while they were more ‘common’ for signing. The attitudes we had were awful. We gave in to his demands and reluctantly spoke to the teachers and continued singing in hiding. Ovingdean was more strict about signing, compared to St Thomas, which was rather weak.

In It Together

When the children looked to each other for help. Transcript for ‘Chris’ thoughts on the benefits of oralism?’:

Transcript for ‘Lulu, threats of being sent to Hamilton Lodge’:

KB - You were allowed to sign a bit at the play time.. LF - Not really.

JW - I am trying to understand the fact that you went to a ‘non-Deaf’ school, you went to a school for the partial hearing in fact, but you said you didn’t achieve academically. What was the benefit of this type of education for you?

CW - The benefits for me was a greater awareness of the hearing world and being able to ‘cope’. But the down side is ... we struggle more because of the lack of access [to the hearing world]. Because at that time, there were no captions on the TV, no minicoms to make telephone calls, no interpreters - the access in those days were non-existent. That is what I have noticed in comparison to other deaf people who went to other schools. At times, we have compared the differences between different schools and the way we have been educated; it was very different. I was asked whether I could sign and I have said, “oh, definitely not.” But when I was asked why, I had to go back to what I was told at school. “You can talk, make the most of it. What’s the point of signing if you can talk?” That was the attitude in those days. JW - None of the children in your school actually signed?



Looking Back

CW - It wasn’t allowed ... well, they could sign but it was very hidden. If the teachers saw us signing ... which wasn’t the BSL we know of, it was a school sign that we used and created amongst ourselves. If we had access to the Deaf world outside of the school, we would have brought it back to the school - we would have incorporate the ‘proper’ BSL into our signing. But we didn’t because we had no access to the Deaf world. We lived in a segregated, hearing orientated environment.

In relfection, what the children thought of their education compared to where they are today Transcript for ‘Robert’s reflections on signing’:

JW - So what would happen if you were caught signing? CW - Bed early? Well, it would have been a severe telling off. On occasion, children have been told to go to bed early. Or facing into a wall with your hands behind your back. It wasn’t brutal, but they made the point, that we shouldn’t be signing, “you can talk”. That’s how it was.

School Signs

The signs they created Transcript for ‘Lulu and school signs’:

KB – Did the schools have its own signs? Did St Thomas and Ovingdean have special signs? LF – Yes, we had our own signs at Ovingdean. KB – Can you give me an example? LF - RUB-ON-SHOULDER (blump blump). That one means

‘I like you’. TAP-TAP-TAP, which is similar. St Thomas had BEAK-OPEN, which meant ‘I don’t like you’. Ovingdean had a silly sayings like when someone was asking where the toilet is, I might reply with DON’T-AAAAAASSK-ME (sign extended from the nose). Or STUBBORN (extra ferocity) when we were annoyed. When we tried to wind someone up, we would sign OPEN 5-ON-CHIN. The House Mother was G-HANDSHAPE (side to side by shoulder). KB – What’s behind that one? LF – Don’t know. Perhaps the House Mother was maternal and would waddle about with her hands in the air. The same sign meant ‘mother’ too, the mother we had at home.

RC - A friend of mine, who is deaf, has two children. Both of the children, luckily for him, are both deaf. I realised that both of the children went to Hamilton Lodge, my old school. But looking at them today, they are both extremely fluent [in BSL] because they had access to the language earlier in the lives. I wonder about why I had learnt the language so late in my formative years. The teachers today are obviously better than they were in the past. I wasn’t taught enough sign language for me to use as a language.

My friend’s children were fluent at the age of 4 or 5 years old and I didn’t have enough language at that age. Comparatively, children today have a better access to a language, a sign language, compared to my time.

Moving on

where the children are today? Transcript for ‘Lulu, about moving on.’:

LF - I was in Ovingdean for 3 years at secondary school level and then I moved up to their FE years for an extra year; a total of 4 years. I went to Lewes College once a week. I was grateful to have gone to college with my peers from school and we stayed together as a group amongst many hearing students. I couldn’t have done this on my own. I would have lost my confidence and panicked. It would have been scary if that was the case. When I finished my time at Ovingdean, I went back home and thought about what to do next. I refused the option to go to a mainstream college, it was too much for me to bear. I much preferred Doncaster College, I knew they had sign language there. My mother refused sternly, the level of qualifications expected from their students was too low. She wanted me to go to Mary Hare, which I followed through. I wasn’t happy there at all because it was so different from Ovingdean.



in Upper Drive. I was there for two years to study my O Levels, but I failed them all. I remember the Head Master telling me if it was worthwhile for me to stay on: “You failed, move on!” I replied that I actually wanted to stay on, which I did and I just about managed to pass.

How Our Education Affected Us?

The impact of their education on their lives today. Transcript for ‘Chris, Ovingdean was a holiday camp’:

CW - For me, retrospectively, Ovingdean Hall was a holiday

JW - So, after that, did you go to work?

Ovingdean was more laid back, easy going and more sociable whereas Mary Hare was more judgemental, aloof and more cultured (through reading); the two experiences jarred with each other. When I was 18, I finally went to Derby College and that was where my signing skills improved exponentially. When I could learn using sign language, I achieve so much more. My English improved and my general knowledge was wider. In comparison, my earlier educational years were a waste. And they were a waste because of oralism. Transcript for ‘Chris, about moving on.’:

JW - After Ovingdean, where did you go next? CW - I went to a sixth form college called Cardinal Newman

CW - When I left, I got a job as an apprentice mechanic, in engineering, for a firm in West Grinstead. I got a 3 year contract with them. Sorry, it was a 3 year apprenticeship to do engineering. It was good and I went to college for one day per week at the same time for the full three years. Unfortunately, I had to give up the post because I started to develop dermatitis, it was a reaction to the oil I was working with. It went everywhere and I had to go to hospital to get it looked at. In the end, I was told that I was allergic to the stuff I was working with: “it won’t improve unless you leave your job.” So I left. Luckily, my friend’s father had a company called Ringway and he offered me a job to work on the London motorways for one year to keep me busy.

the oral approach and adopted that way of life - as some might say, they have become ‘brainwashed’. They were the pupils that ‘passed’ oralism, whereas I had ‘failed’. I know neither of us truly ‘passed or failed’ oralism. But if you look at this from another perspective, I have embarked on an incredible journey of discovery, absorbing both languages, BSL and English; and my confidence grew with time. In a way, I have become an odd one out compared to my peers. They have remained the same as they were, when they left school. It is an isolated, mundane existence.

home. I believe we were well looked after and we were kept together as a family but we were not looked after academically. We were not prepared for the future. Even the thought of a ‘career’ didn’t even enter the equation. They taught us about how to ‘cope’ in the hearing world, about survival. In theory, once you have achieved that, it is up to you to chose an academic path when you have left school. Transcript for ‘Lulu’s reflections about her time at school’:

LF - I feel that my peers, compared to where I am today, have not achieved their potential. They have followed

There are a few others in each year, who have achieved much by following the journey their to further education, such as Derby College. But there are many other so-called ‘successes’ who are having a hard time with their written English. They may be able to use their voice and be understood, but their language skills are fairly poor. They are not confident with their language and it restricts them. Maybe a few of them did achieve in their own way but I found my way to access the world using sign language.



Revealing Histories

Dr.Watts research on intelligence

The Oral Failure

With the changes in the Seventies, did education, for deaf children, improve? And what happened next? Did deaf children finally get the education they needed?

Dr. Bill Watts wanted to assess the level of intelligence in deaf children without relying on language to measure it. He identified three groups: deaf who children do not use English (or rather they use BSL), children who are oral and use English, and hearing children. He used the practical games created for the Montessori Method, where intelligence can be assessed without the need to use language. The tasks involved using letters, numbers and weights. He identified that all three groups demonstrated an equal level of intelligence, although deaf children who used sign language fared slightly better.

A topic of concern in the late 1970s: what to do with the ‘oral failures’?

Language and Intelligence

Dr. Watts’ research on deaf children’s level of intelligence and whether it was intrinsically linked to language capabilities.

What they said then? It was common belief in the 1970s that deaf children were incapable of natural acquisition of languages and the lack of English impairs the child’s intelligence. In reality, there was little research in this field in the context of deaf children and their educational experiences. Oral education was the preferred approach in the UK, as pursued in the 1889 Royal Commission on the Blind and Deaf & Dumb - it was assumed that sign language impairs intelligence, lung function and mental health. Today, we know this is not true.

The findings revealed an important fact: intelligence does not form as a product of language, intelligence is in fact independent of language. Also, the presence of language helps to bring the innate intelligence to the fore - it was more important that deaf children have a language regardless of which language it may be, ie. either English or BSL. As BSL is a more accessible language for deaf children, they will develop better, cognitively, than children brought up orally. This PhD was published in 1976.

Mentions of the term, ‘oral failure’. After 30 post war years of using the pure oral methods of education, it was evident that not all children fared well under the educational regime. The children were still using signs to express themselves regardless of the rules and the punishments distilled when they were broken. Not all children bought into the ideas of oralism. The term, ‘oral failure’, expressed a concern that a philosophical and somewhat utopian ideal was actually

causing harm; some children did not leave school with the education they needed in order to function as an adult in either the Deaf or hearing worlds. There were attempts to blame the children or the parents for these failures, but schools and teachers simply could not avoid one particular issue: it was harmful to teach children under one educational regime and it was the educational institution’s responsibility to explore other options for a particular child. Especially, when deaf children’s intelligence were no different from hearing children.

The Challengers The academics who spoke out against the assumed success of oral methods of education and challenged the myths.

Mary Brennan (19442005), Moray House, Edinburgh. There were questions whether deaf children could naturally acquire a language from their parents. The evidence suggested at the time that deafness caused the late development of language, in a sense that language acquisition was impaired.


In 1977, Mary Brennan, researched into deaf families who were all deaf; she explored the language they used and how language was passed from parents to child. It was found that these families used a common language, BSL. Also, the language was naturally acquired in a family environment, parents would teach their children their signs in the same way that hearing families would pass down English. Mary’s work challenged the common perspective that deaf children could not naturally acquire language, deaf children can acquire any language they have access to; such as a visual/manual language like BSL. English as an oral/aural language was hard for deaf children to access because they can not hear. We now know that a deaf child in a hearing family could experience delayed progress development because they are unable to access the interactions in the family, which is essential to language and cognitive development (Theory of Mind).

Reuben Conrad, Oxford University, research on deaf education. Conrad published two areas of research which challenged the status quo of the pure oral methods of education. In 1977, Conrad discovered that deaf children’s lipreading skills, after 12 years of training in oral schools, fared no better than their hearing peers. Conrad also assessed deaf children’s reading skills and


checked if they were at the appropriate level according to their age. He discovered that, statistically, deaf children left school with a reading age of 8 3/4, which falls far below the typical reading age of 15 to 18 for hearing children. The emphasis on logocentric methods of education (emphasis on oral language rather than written language), has not resulted with the improvements they were hoping to achieve. We now know that deaf people had better English in the past, when fingerspelling was commonly used and sign language was used as a means to introduce the written language to deaf children. The pre-requisite to Ovingdean Hall, the Brighton Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb, frequently used this approach (interview 1887) but it was later dropped after the Newbolt Report (1921), when the phonetic instruction of English was introduced. Still today, deaf children’s reading ability still falls far short of their hearing peers. It is suspected that the reading age has increased to a level similar to a 12 years old. As a majority of deaf children attend a mainstream school with additional support, recent research indicates that secondary education is the time when deaf children fall short of the expected levels. Conrad published a book, ‘The Deaf School Child’, which encapsulates these ideas.

NUD The National Union of the Deaf was founded in Wimbledon on March 13th, 1976, and it began with a meetings of shared ideas and hopes/fears. Its aims was “To Restore the Rights of the Deaf” and started as a pressure group; usually focussed on issues of sign language and deaf engagement in decisions that effect deaf people.

They set up a campaign to spread Total Communication and were very active in promoting signing in school. They leafleted conferences and gatherings of teachers and were highly critical of what has gone on before. “By the use of the oral-only system, you are killing and impoverishing the deaf world. This does not mean that the younger deaf are joining the hearing worlds. No; it means that they come to us emotionally and socially retarded, offering older deaf no new ideas nor even the ability to accept responsibility. The greatest disadvantage of the oral system is that it creates in our language, the ‘Dummification Process’.” (Ladd, 1976, 2nd letter to Teachers)

The Signed Systems The response to ‘oral failures’: the introduction of signed systems.

What are signed systems? Signed Systems are manual communication used for the purpose to teach English. The signed system is often used with spoken English or with lipreading, and the manual representation of English exist to aid learning and comprehension of English. Examples of signed systems include: Paget Gorman (a visual representation of English where its grammar



exists in the signs), Signed Exact English (every word has a corresponding sign in SEE), MaKaTon (borrowing of BSL signs and presented in a frozen format and used with spoken English - principally used for children with learning disabilities), Cued Speech (each phoneme has a corresponding handshape and the cuer would speak and cue at the same time), and Sign Supported English (a pidgin between BSL and English, which is respectful and disrespectful to the grammar structures of English and BSL).

More on signed systems from Frances Elton

There is evidence that schools changed the mode of communication from the pure oral method to a signed system. Elmsfield School, in Bristol, suddenly switched to Cued Speech in 1977. It was reported that the children and teachers struggled with the change. In the case of this exhibition, only Hamilton Lodge School adopted Signed Exact English at a much later stage. The systems was established by Miss Moore. The current Head Teacher, Mr. Sheppard, was around when this change took place.

Teachers [in the 1970s] wanted to find a way to teach English and resorted to creating an artificial system to help them to do this. Such as, Sign Support English (which was used by many), where signs followed the English word order. There was Signed English, which, like SSE, helped the learner to access English. There was also Paget Gorman - there was nothing to say that one system was better than another. Cued Speech helped to facilitate speech. MaKaTon was really suitable for people with learning difficulties. And there was Total Communication, which was used in those time and has changed since.

Transcript for ‘Francis Elton on Signed Systems’:

BSL is the natural language of the Deaf community. We have no idea when sign language was first formed because video is only a recent invention and it was impossible to record sign language otherwise. There is a record of the Great Fire of London, in 1666, when deaf people were alerted of the fire in sign language. As well as, a school in the 17th century, where there was an explosion of British Sign Language.

There were several artificial systems used in school and the teachers evaluated which system was the best to used in their educational institution. Most gave emphasis to acquiring speech, which is why Cued Speech was popular. It was impossible for a lipreader to see inside the mouth

and it helps to make sounds visible. Alternatively, Paget Gorman aimed to give children better structure of English and use it more fluently. Signed English helped the children to learn English and become aware of grammatical rules, such as post fixes (-ed, -s). MaKaTon was not created for the purpose of education, it was actually used for people with learning disabilities or people who have brain injury. MaKaTon actually borrows signs from BSL and uses them to make spoken communication easier; for children who have Down Syndrome or similar. It has been mistakenly used as an alternative to BSL. Most teachers of the time used Sign Supported English to work with children who already have BSL. There were pressures to help these children learn English and they thought to teach English through SSE and then give the child a choice. While SSE gave children more access to English, it needs to be reminded that BSL has a different grammar to that of English (or SSE for that matter). When these children left school, many resorted to using BSL. If they didn’t, it is more likely they became more isolated. Rarely and in one case, a fluent BSL users was actually exposed to a full range of signed systems and still has fluent BSL today; she is a teacher of BSL. But it has affected other children, who have found it difficult to communicate with other Deaf people; the MaKaTon they use at school is not what every other deaf person use

outside of school. As a consequence, these individuals have become more isolated in society. There is a question of whether it was a wise move to introduce signed systems, because the people to ultimately benefitted from signed systems were hearing people, it didn’t really benefit deaf people themselves. Within the Deaf community, it was particularly disruptive. But there were a lucky few who got through ok.


The Warnock Report and Mainstream Education In 1978, Baroness Mary Warnock published a report on the educational needs of disabled people in the UK. The report raised the issue of providing an education to all disabled children, which supported their educational needs. It gave an opportunity for disabled children to access mainstream education, if they could. In an interview, Lady Warnock defended the principles of the report: “I remember meeting a disabled child who learnt about choice. It is a choice of whether a radio should be kept close by or further away, or a choice of menu. It might not be the National Curriculum, but this is the education these children required.” Unfortunately, the implementation of the Warnock report took place during a recession, the person who made the assessment of educational needs was the same person who held the local government budget. Therefore, the decisions were often economic rather than meeting the educational needs of the child. Lady Warnock protested against the implementation of the report at a later date.


The Next 30 Years: An intentional exclusion of special education. The 30 years of battles between the local education authority and the parents: a legacy.

Department of Education and Sciences, statement to supply and training teachers of the deaf (January 24, 1977: National Archives) “Dear Dr. Watson I am very sorry that you have not had an earlier reply to your letter of 28 October in which you invited my comments on the future employment prospects of teachers of the deaf, especially as even now I cannot tell you anything very helpful. This not because of unwillingness to do so; there are a number of factors affecting the situation which make predictions which are likely to prove accurate extremely difficult. “Two such factors are the falling school populations and improvements over recent years in medical services which will mean reduction in the number of hearing impaired children needing some form of special education. Now we have the recent legislation (clause 10 of the 1976 Education Act) which provides that handicapped pupils

are to be educated in county and voluntary (i.e. “ordinary” schools) in preference to special schools unless this would be impracticable, against the educational interests of the children (both handicapped and non-handicapped) or involve unreasonable public expenditure. Although the new clause does not come into effect until a day to be appointed by the Secretary of State, it is clearly relevant both to future provision for hearing impaired children in special schools and to the training needs of teachers of handicapped children in ordinary schools. “Alongside these uncertainties, there are current economic constraints which you mentioned as likely to affect expansion of services. We do not, for example, know what effect the need for economy locally will in the short-term have on peripatetic services which have been building up quite steadily over the years and would doubtless have continued to do so. In 1975, a quarter of the qualified teachers of the deaf were employed in this field which is a significant proportion.

You mentioned also the Diploma of the National College of Teachers of the Deaf which is, as you will know, to be replaced by a similar course run by the new British Association of Teachers of the Deaf from 1976. We are still awaiting course details for approval but, meanwhile, the Examination Board of BATOD has agreed that the number of candidates should be restricted to ensure efficient examination. I cannot say more than that at present but I appreciate your concern about the effect in the current situation of a build up of in-service training on the employment of new entrants and newly qualified teachers from the one year full-time course. “Because of my delay in replying, you may already have settled your student intake for 1977-78. If not, I can only suggest you concentrate on students who are clearly well qualified, looking even more critically than usual at the borderline cases. It might also be advisable to discourage those who are not prepared to be mobile unless they have a post to return to. “I am very sorry that I cannot be more helpful and that I seem to have dwelt on the problems rather than offer constructive guidance. We are looking afresh at the training provision in the light of recent developments but that does not help in your immediate difficulty. Yours sincerely, Miss M S Hardwick.”


A shift from educational to economic decisions In the process to establish a mainstream education provision, deaf children were statemented to detail what services they required. At the time of the Warnock Report, it was hoped that the statement would reflect the educational needs of the child, but the person, from the local education authority, who assessed the child’s needs was also the budget holder. The statement of educational needs included the decisions made by the local authority, which severely affected the child’s progress through education. Parents, and their children, were persuaded to consider cheaper options and refrain from considering expensive options, such as specialist, residential education. During the live of a child’s education, the parent would attend a tribunal hearing as many as 30 times. This trend persisted for the next 30 years. This ongoing pressure created a response from the National Deaf Children’s Society, which established an ‘informed choice’ policy, as an attempt to return the ‘ability to choose’ back to the parents.


Quotes from Dr.Watts

“... the development of deaf children’s cognitive abilities is remarkably unaffected by their lack of verbal language.”

A Forgotten History

What Dr. Watts thought about deaf education

“It seems that the deficient performance of the deaf on some intellectual tasks can be more experiential than by linguistic deficiency.”

A hidden history that needs to be remembered.

Quotes from Dr. Bill Watts

“their main social life is with other deaf people.”

Watts acknowledged that deaf children have normal cognitive abilities, and even suggested that the academic failure of deaf children should fall upon the shoulders of their educators and the teaching methods used, rather than on the children themselves. Even more surprisingly for his time, Watts refers to Deaf people’s social lives, and their preferred interaction with other Deaf, suggesting that those who are integrated into their ‘sub-community’ as well as mainstream society are more likely to be successful (also known as bilingual education).

“In recent years, there has been a great deal of talk about integration of the deaf by educationalist.”

Similarly, Watts’ thesis references a number of researchers and academics, who found evidence to show that deaf children had normal cognitive abilities. This, of course, was a breakthrough, in comparison to the time where deaf children were viewed as inferior to hearing children.

“For too long, the teaching of deaf children has been considered to be essentially language teaching and not enough concern has been shown in the development of thinking.”

“Probably the most successful deaf people are those who are both integrated into the total community and into their own sub-community.” “Lack of academic success be due, not to the fault of the deaf themselves, but to our failure to stimulate them intellectually during their school years.” “Even without the help of verbal language or words, the deaf child does carry on a significantly useful form of mental activity.” “Teachers often become so concerned with the difficulty of teaching language to deaf children that they lose sign of the fact that it is extremely difficult for them to learn [spoken] language.”

“Teachers know the academic achievement of their pupils that there are a disproportionate number of intellectually normal, yet functionally illiterate deaf young people leaving our schools.” (quoted from Bates, 1972) “We could well do with discontinuing the term ‘oral failure’. Those children with impaired hearing whose linguistic development falls short of their potential intellectual ability because of their inability to lip-read could better be described as being unsuited for the continuation of the oral methods.”

How education changed? The 1970s was a period of change. People became politicised and there was an increase in expectations on how people should be treated in society; away from the white, male, heterosexual, able-bodied dogma. Social mobility and equality were the prevalent forces for change; no whether it was gender, race or disability equality. People were more sensitive to differences and the right to be different. People sought for change but they didn’t want to ‘get rid of the old and bring in the new’, they wanted to adjust what they already had and make it better. Academically, there were considerable achievements in clarity about how deaf children learn, acquire language and develop cognitively, but the results went against the grain. It didn’t support a uniform approach to deaf education, which became the overriding philosophy since 1889 (theoretically) and 1921 (in practice); the evidence supported the need for change and the inclusion of sign language, or manualism, in education. But there were very little resources and the country was in poor economic times. Some economic decisions were made: the promotion of mainstream education as a means to restrict the cost of specialist education; identifying


an alternative to the pure oral methods, which included helped the “oral failures”, such as signed systems; and the improvement of the current cohort of teachers of the deaf and moving them into peripatetic work. Deaf children didn’t see or observe any changes in their educational experience. The academic research was bypassed for a more economic solution, mainstream education, which was more of the same. The next 30 years caused more frustration for children and their parents, when budgetary decisions outweighed the educational needs of the child - which was far removed from the original intentions of the Warnock Report. Dr. Bill Watts was an unknown hero, amongst many, who challenged the assumption that oralism was a be all and end all solution for deaf education. He promoted a child centred approach to education, where the choice of teaching methods met the needs of the child. He wanted to return the responsibility for teaching and learning back to the teacher and refrain from asserting blame on the child or their parents. After all: “Deaf children are the mirrors of the teacher who teaches them.” (Base of a Spiral, Marie Affleck, 1972)


Acknowledgements Thanks to the following people who have made significant contribution to this project: Narrators: Robert Clements, Lisa Warnock, Lady Mary Warnock, Louise ‘Lulu’ Friedli, Christopher Wyer. Interviewers: Wendy Daunt, Karen Brown, Pauline Latchem, Natalie McGarvie. Research student: Francesca Paul Technical support: Jerry Laurence and Community Sites Principle Investigator: John Walker Thanks are also given to contributors to the exhibition: The family of Dr. Watts, University of Sussex Special Collection, East Sussex Record Office, National Archives, Hampshire Record Office, Hamilton Lodge School, Ovingdean Hall School Trustees, Veronica Armstrong, Ovingdean Hall and Hamilton Lodge Schools reunion associations, Remark!, BSL Broadcasting Trust.


Exhibition and Catalogue Layout and Printing One Digital, Brighton Catalogue Design Ulrich Reiterer

European added value Pam Coare, Linda Morrice, John Walker (Centre for Community Engagement, University of Sussex – John Bosco Conama, Lorraine Leeson (both Centre for Deaf Studies, Trinity College, Dublin – Max Mayrhofer (inspire – www. Anna-Kaarina Morsky-Lindquist, Kennet Lindquist (NOEMA CMI – Joanne Holt (EU Funds for HE –

Deaf Education in the Seventies  

A catalogue of the Hidden Histories exhibition titled 'Deaf Education in the Seventies, which is hosted at the Sussex Deaf History website.

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