School of Education

Language diversity and plurality in deaf education

Language Planning: Introduction

How to use the guidance

BSL translationThis guidance provides strategies for developing language planning in schools and services which respond to deaf children’s increasingly rich and diverse use of sign and spoken languages in an increasingly multilingual United Kingdom.

The approach taken to language planning in this document acknowledges of the complex set of influences on learning and development and the importance of early language acquisition through exposure to rich language role models.

This is conceptualised using an ecological approach which considers individuals and their environment and how these interconnect. This is a helpful framework for envisaging the influences on language development and use and for planning effective interventions [1].

A note about terminology

BSL translationIn this document, the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) definition of the term deaf is used here to refer to all levels of hearing loss, including unilateral deafness and temporary deafness such as glue ear.

The term Language Planning for the purposes of this document describes an approach to identifying and describing individual language repertoires and learning needs in the contexts of home, school and other settings. This usage is distinct from language planning in the context of international language cultivation, preservation and policy development.

Introduction

BSL translationThis language planning guidance aims to support practitioners to develop planning and teaching approaches which respond to deaf children’s increasingly diverse use of sign and spoken languages. Underpinning this resource is a recognition that deaf children’s increasingly dynamic use of sign and spoken languages necessitates a re-conceptualisation of what it means to be deaf and bilingual and that language planning needs to take account of deaf children’s mixed and blended use of sign and spoken languages in their everyday lives.

The guidance provides an approach to identifying and describing individual language repertoires and learning needs and as such, provides a tool for supporting children’s individual language use and experiences in the contexts of home and school. The materials guide the development of individual asset-focused language profiles to be used in conjunction with the assessment tools and protocols to develop individual language plans.

BSL translationThe ecological approach taken to this guidance ensures that the complexity of individual language and communication practices are captured along with the external influences of different home/school environments and learning contexts.

The context for this language planning work is a review of sign bilingual policy and practice undertaken by the Sign Bilingual Consortium in response to specific questions in the research. This review identified current priorities for bilingual education in the light of the changing educational landscape and learning contexts for deaf children and a need to reconsider how we describe languages approaches in deaf education. A discussion paper arising from this work will be presented at the International Congress on the Education of the Deaf (ICED) in Athens July 2015.

The resulting guidance document includes several examples from multilingual contexts for learning to help practitioners to develop tools and approaches which accurately describe individual spoken, sign and bimodal linguistic repertoires. However, the principles and strategies for language planning presented here are relevant for any deaf child in any setting.

The inclusive nature of this document is reflected in the writing and consultation process which involved school and service managers, teachers, communication support workers, deaf and bilingual support staff, teaching assistants, speech and language therapists and educational audiologists from a range of educational settings. As such, this guidance will serve as useful support material for initial and professional training and a resource for continuing professional development particularly with regards to contributing base-line information about progress for Ofsted inspections.

The overall aim of language planning is to enable practitioners to accurately document and support deaf children’s increasingly dynamic use of spoken and sign language. This overarching aim implies a number of goals:

  • to provide an approach to describing deaf children’s repertoire of sign and spoken language skills which takes account of the full ecology of a child’s life;
  • to inform the provision of nuanced and appropriately balanced language support for individuals;
  • to provide a critical overview of tools and protocols for assessing and monitoring deaf children’s sign and spoken language development;
  • to establish successful strategies for partnership working in the language planning process;
  • to develop formative and relevant language plans for individuals which are continually developed and reviewed.

Each section of the guidance maps onto each of the above goals which are supported by practical materials and examples.


1. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The Ecology of Human Development: Experiments by Nature and Design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
2. Knoors, H., & Marschark, M. (2012). Language planning for the 21st century: Revisiting bilingual language policy for deaf children. JDSDE, 17(3), 291-305.

BSL translationThe toolkit comprises the introduction and six sections which support the different phases of language planning. The suggested route through the language planning process is flexible as there will be different entry points depending on the school/service or individual approach.

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The process of language planning is also iterative as each phase contributes new information. For each phase examples, practical guidance, materials and proformas are provided in the supplementary Appendices.

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