Students create awareness of looming cuts

STUDENTS from Weston College are working to create awareness of the importance of vital Government funds which could be cut.

Nationally, funding for education services for deaf children will be reduced in 2011/12, but the extent and depth of these cuts for North Somerset is not yet known.

The National Deaf Children’s Society is now encouraging people to tell their stories to raise awareness of how important help and early intervention is for people with hearing problems.

Jenny Nottage, aged 36, and Lucy Brewer, aged 23, both have hearing difficulties and have battled on through education to get where they are today.

Despite leaving school with a sense of failure, both woman say higher education has been an inspiration and has helped them.

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They now want to tell people of their plight in a bid to get more support and raise awareness about the looming cuts.

A suspected virus caused Lucy’s deafness when she was just four years old.

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Lucy, who is aiming to become a crime scene investigator or pathologist thanks to her studies at the college, said: “Because I was aged four I missed basic skills, so I wasn’t confident to speak up and say I didn’t understand.

“I didn’t have many friends and was bullied a lot. I used to be poked, laughed at, called names and left out.

“There was no interpreter when I took my GCSEs and after school I got very depressed.

“I’m waiting to be matched with a hearing dog which should help break down barriers and be a gentler, instant way of explaining I’m deaf.”

According to the National Deaf Children’s Society, the Government’s Department for Education’s plans for special education needs reforms is set to see 28 local authorities cutting budgets for deaf children and a further 24 at high risk of cuts.

The society says Somerset County Council will lose two frontline posts in the education service for deaf children in 2011/12.

It also said that North Somerset’s support service is commissioned from Bristol City Council, which is currently undergoing a review of its education services for deaf children on how to make ‘best use of resources’.

College principal Dr Paul Phillips said: “In the current climate of Government cuts in further and higher education, we share the concerns of other colleges, that the opportunities for potential, current and future deaf and hard of hearing students will be seriously affected if financial restrictions are to continue.”

Jenny Nottage, who has five children and two step-children, aged from five to 18, was born with profound deafness in her right ear and loss in her left equating to about 70 per cent hearing impaired.

This was only discovered when she was five years old and although she is an expert lip-reader on a one-to-one basis, in a crowd or classroom situation it is trickier.

Jenny said: “Senior school was dreadful with no help. I kept asking people to repeat things but they would get frustrated and so would I.

“Once my youngest went to school I started the access course at Weston College and thanks to the amazing support here I’m going to study a business management degree at UWE.

“My kids are really proud of me and look forward to me graduating.”

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