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Language planning roles and responsibilities

rolesUse this section to identify different roles and responsibilities in the language planning process

BSL translationThis section will help you to consider who is involved in the different aspect of the process (leadership, management and implementation) and individual roles within this. A framework for doing this role analysis is provided and the specific role of the ToD as mediator across all those involved is discussed.

Roles and responsibilities

The individual child or young person is at the centre of language planning. Their role in the process is therefore the most important and there will be some very specific issues to consider with regards to their involvement. These include the extent of their understanding of and engagement with the process and the space given throughout the process to voice their ideas, perspectives and expectations.


Language planning also concerns the roles of those with close and direct relations with the child especially the parents, family and friends in the home environment and close community and to some extent those with close relationships with the child in the school setting. These individuals have a significant role in terms of their involvement with the language planning process; their linguistic and cultural expectations and their crucial perspective on the day to day environment and experiences of the individual.


Alongside the ToD, a number of different professionals with different specialist knowledge and skills will be involved in language planning. In particular speech and language therapists play an important role in assessing a deaf child's linguistic needs to inform the language profile and individual language plan. Deaf adults also provide a rich language and deaf cultural models to some children. The communication across this multi-disciplinary group of professionals is an essential aspect of the ToD role and for all these professionals this process will involve critical refection on practice, sharing professional expertise and the giving and receiving of training. The ToD will be able to identify what specialist advice and support is needed (e.g. speech and language therapist and educational audiologist) and how the different support roles in school (e.g. teaching assistants, deaf instructors, communication support workers, bilingual Early Years/Foundation Stage workers) can be best deployed to implement individual language plans.


For successful implementation of language planning at this level, there needs to be commitment and leadership from those who directly manage schools and service practitioners. Although Heads of services/schools and teams for deaf children may not have the direct interaction with or influence on individuals, their strategic role and support of the process is essential. This entails an understanding of the wider language context of the school/service and the implications of the language demographic for school/service planning. This information will enable managers to identify what is needed to operationalise effective language planning (such as staff training or resources) and to develop a whole school/service approach, which supports and disseminates the process. This strategic role provides an essential conduit between the day-to-day educational priorities and practices of individual schools/services and the Local Authority infrastructure.


The role of the Local Authority is crucial because even though it is more remote from the individual it exercises significant influence on the planning process. This is likely to include Health Service managers and commissioners. At this level an in-depth professional understanding of the language planning issues would not be expected. However, an overview of the language demographic and of the ensuing educational priorities will be needed to put necessary systems and structures in place (Local Authority policy and codes of practice and resources) to support implementation. The strategic aspect of this role is key to the development of a national approach through the provision of information and advice for Government.


The final layer of the ecological model concerns the norms and values of cultures and subcultures (belief systems, ideologies, and societal structure, national and international resources). At this level we are concerned with the macro infrastructure within which the child’s learning takes place. We might relate this to government ideologies and systems with regards to education and the way in which this knowledge interacts (or not) with national and international research in deaf education. At this level we would expect engagement from these different agents in the language planning issues through the development of national legislation, funding routes for training and development (for practitioners and parents) and the identification of research priorities. At this level we would also expect engagement at a more visionary level with regards to principles of equality and aspirations for an inclusive and plurilingual society.

Teacher of the deaf as mediator across the different layers on influence

The ToD is uniquely placed and skilled to connect the different individuals involved in language planning at all levels from leadership to implementation and to coordinate the language process.

ToDs engage on a daily basis in face-to-face communication with, and teaching deaf, learners. In this role there are constant decisions to be made about language use and teaching approaches to ensure a match with the learning needs of the individual, taking into account the impact of deafness and individual language competencies.

ToDs also mediate among the individual child or young person, their home environment, their learning environment and link across different learning environments to ensure appropriate and successful learning experiences. This might involve working between an inclusive and special school, connecting professionals involved in the children’s education (such as the speech and language therapist and teaching assistant or interpreter) and ensuring partnership with parents at all these levels, not forgetting the child’s voice in the decision making processes.

ToDs also mediate between the child’s home culture and life out of school and all aspects of the learning environment. In the educational context this will include the wider school community as well as the policies and practices of the setting such as the approach to inclusion, the language and communication, specific curriculum areas of focus or intervention initiatives.

Finally, ToDs have to be aware of the educational, political and cultural contexts on individual language use and development and navigate these with the learner at the centre. Operating at all these levels requires a full understanding of the language and learning issues for deaf pupils, how these issues interact with the learning environment and an engagement with the educational, political, cultural and social discourses involved. This includes an interaction with the priorities and dialogue in deaf education research and active involvement in linking these with practice.

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