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Achievement and opportunities for deaf students

Researchers: Professor Marc Marschark | Dr Rowena Arshad ...

Project overview

The project examined the achievements of deaf pupils in the UK, focusing on Scotland, in order to make use of a longitudinal database with detailed information on every deaf pupil between the years 2000 and 2005. Researchers followed the progress of pupils on the database in several different ways, including a close collaboration with teachers of deaf children and by sending questionnaires to those former pupils who had recently left school.

Main findings
  • Because children with only mild hearing have better speech skills than profoundly deaf students, serious learning issues can be overlooked.
  • Students with mild and moderate deafness received only 1.6 and 2.6 hours of support each week respectively, compared with 17.2 hours for profoundly deaf students.
  • Pupils with any degree of deafness were below the average academic score for the general population (173), particularly in examinations for English.
  • The difference in scores between pupils aged 16 with mild deafness (144) and profound deafness (128) was minimal.
  • The majority of 16-28 year-olds preferred to use English speech to communicate (75 per cent), while only 15 per cent preferred to communicate with British Sign Language, and nine per cent with English-based signing. This was potentially due to the lack of availability of sign language in mainstream schools, where the majority (85 per cent) of deaf pupils are educated.
  • Teachers did not always inform parents about their child’s poor literacy skills and neither did they always have high expectations for deaf pupils, researchers found. Schools were also uncertain when engaging with parents from poorer backgrounds.


  • Professor Marc Marschark
    University of Edinburgh
  • Dr Rowena Arshad
    University of Edinburgh
  • Rachel O'Neill
    University of Edinburgh

  • Director, Education
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

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