There’s a worrying domino effect impacting deaf young people’s education – it must be stopped | Liam O’Dell

As MPs debate deaf children’s services in Parliament later today, it’s time to introduce more equality into our education system and address this problem at its core.

A series of continuous barriers in education are preventing deaf young people from achieving their full potential. Without the right support, these issues can only worsen as the individual progresses through the system.

The National Deaf Children’s Society has done some incredible work in establishing the issues present throughout a deaf young person’s journey through the education system. Their research has revealed that councils in England are planning £4 million worth of cuts to services for disabled children and young people; that just nine per cent of deaf young people attended a Russell Group university in the 2015/16 academic year (compared to 17% of all students) and now, that over half of deaf students in England in 2017 failed to achieve more than one A-Level before reading 19 years of age. The exact figure, 58.8%, is the highest rate since 2012, The Independent reports.

All of this points to a wider domino effect at play in our education system which sets deaf young people down a path where they are unable to achieve the results of which they are capable. The cuts to deaf services mean that deaf pupils are not as supported by Teachers of the Deaf and other professionals as they should be.

As such, these individuals fail to receive full access to an education in the classroom, which could explain why we’re currently seeing a rise in the number of deaf young people failing to achieve more than one A-Level. This then impacts their chances of entering Russell Group universities. It shouldn’t be allowed to snowball like this.

While all this unfolds, the Government is making slow progress on introducing a GCSE in British Sign Language (BSL) – a qualification which would not only help to break down communication barriers between deaf pupils, their peers and their tutors, but also greatly improve their access to education.

Education is as much about support networks as it is learning. These cuts should not only be stopped, but more work must be done to establish connections between parents, students and teachers.

Having on individual who can understand a child’s needs in an educational environment can help a lot with navigating through education. At present, the cuts to deaf services are so significant that while I received support from a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator, not every deaf child is so lucky.

With so many barriers facing deaf children in education, it can feel isolating and confusing. Transitions between school can only exacerbate the obstacles if strong communication networks are established. We must not only challenge the damaging cuts proposed, but work to improve connections so deaf children are supported as much as possible.

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Disconnected

This little corner of the Internet has been gathering dust over the past few months. Sure, there’s been theatre and music reviews which have kept things moving forward, but the previous schedule I used to have on The Life of a Thinker is pretty much non-existent.

As I write this, I wonder if my lack of posting falls under the wider creative block I’ve experienced since leaving university. I’ve been able to produce more journalistic articles now that I’ve finished (today saw me hand in my keys to my flat – I am now completely finished bar my graduation in September), but returning to blog posts and structures which existed prior to my third year of university feels weird and alien to me now. Uni life has led to a break and sense of disconnect that means any chance of me picking up where I left off is minimal and slim – my memory of a regular blog schedule buried underneath all the recollections of my dissertation work, exams and more.

I think I probably need some time to think about how regularly I blog and what type of content I write about. Life updates and music reviews are the two main types of content on The Life of a Thinker and for the longest time I have considered just turning this into a music blog, but to do that would require saying goodbye to the more journalistic articles that appear on my blog from time to time.

At the moment, with music reviews and life updates taking up Fridays and Sundays on my schedule, that still leaves Mondays and Wednesdays free. One could probably be filled with more opinion pieces (which I need to get back to doing) but the other is still blank. I’ve considered more TV reviews on this blog – would that be of interest to you? Let me know.

I apologise that this probably isn’t the most substantial blog post or explanation as to where I’ve been or what comes next, but I hope that with time, my ideas for what happens next to my corner of the internet will become clearer.

Thanks for sticking around.

A Matter of Time…

It’s been nearly two months, and staring at a blank page feels… weird.

It shouldn’t be. The fear of the blank page has kind of faded away as I write essay after essay after essay and then a 10,000 word dissertation on top. Yet, I imagine that the feeling of disconnect has come around as a result of my rather lengthy absence from blogging, with the last post being published on 13 April. Sorry about that.

Photo: Pixabay.

Although, on the topic of dissertations, I now face a particular dilemma when it comes to my writing. Three years of academic coursework has programmed my brain somewhat into writing – and reading – non-fiction. It’s either factual journalism, or a detailed essay. The former (if it’s broadcast journalism), allows for some creativity, but for the most part, it’s quotations, analysis and formulaic structures. Big academic subjects have drawn me to books on post-truth, politics and media law. Whilst they have all been fascinating, I fear that getting back into reading and writing fiction will take a very long time indeed.

Yesterday night saw me meet up with fellow writers (both of fiction and non-fiction) and I remember explaining to them that the creative spark – the one where a random character or story idea just pops into your head – has just… gone.

At the end of the evening, I reached this conclusion that this balance between being able to write both journalistic articles and works of fiction would be struck at some point in the future. It would just be a matter of time – and time is something I have a lot of at the moment.

After all, I’ve pretty much finished university now. I mean, I have one shorthand exam towards the end of June (which is external and not to do with coursework) followed by some work experience and then that it me finished at Lincoln until September, when I graduate in a cathedral, which is pretty cool.

Until then (and indeed afterwards), I have a period of time on my hands – ‘free time’, you could say. With no more assignments to complete or any additional commitments to honour, I’m faced with the same freedom I faced at the end of previous academic years, except this feeling is more permanent.

Now comes the job search and an empty diary to be filled with opportunities, job interviews and networking events.

I started writing this questioning whether ‘A Matter of Time’ was the right title for this piece, but now I realise that the phrase is one which I have heard a lot of recently, and it is the perfect way to describe the position in which I find myself.

At the start of my degree in Lincoln, I was told it would only be ‘a matter of time’ before I find myself at the end of my three years, ready to graduate. It’ll hopefully only be ‘a matter of time’ before my love and inspiration for writing fiction returns. It’s only ‘a matter of time’ before I get my first job after graduating…

If the next steps of my life post-education all come down to ‘a matter of time’, then I’m not waiting around.

Joining the Organ Donor Register

I had come to believe some bizarre myths about organ donation over the years – rather shamefully. From my grave being exhumed to wondering if I had to ask my parents for permission, a lot of silly little things led to me putting the idea of donating my organs to one side to forget about… Until now.

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Registration is quick and easy and can be done online.

A recent Instagram post from my good friend Vicky from VVNightingale reminded me to join the organ donor register, and as of last night, I was on the list. As a 20-year-old man (nearly 21), the issue of parental permission was no longer relevant, and any other concern I had had been dispelled by hard-hitting cartoons and, quite frankly, basic common sense.

I mention cartoons because there’s one image (which I won’t share here due to the fact it would be copyright infringement, and I can’t be bothered to find it) showing a man underground cuddling his organs, whilst a sick man waits above ground by his grave. They say ‘a picture paints a thousand words’, and the message of this cartoon was simple: why keep hold of your organs when you’re dead, and someone else could obviously benefit from them? Sure, incisions may be made to remove said organs, but I’m dead, and I don’t need to worry about looking like a ’10/10′ when I’m a rotting corpse devoid of conscious thought.

So, upon seeing Vicky’s post, I didn’t hesitate in filling out a quick and easy online form and joining the register, and would encourage you to do the same! It’s hassle-free and you could very well save a life, which is a wonderful thing indeed.

You can find out more and sign up at organdonation.nhs.uk.

A change long overdue…

The start of a new year often prompts people to seek change, but in my case – and the case for this blog, The Life of a Thinker – these are improvements I’ve considered for many months now, and finally want to put in place.

Since the early days of this site, music reviews (under the Music Monday or Musical Discovery title) have, as the former name suggests, come out on a Monday. However, with ‘New Music Friday’ becoming a thing and most artists and band releasing music in time for the weekend, my review a few days later felt a bit late. Whilst I don’t obsess over numbers, it would make much more sense if such things were timely, and so, for a while now, I’ve considered moving these posts to Friday.

Yet, such a move would affect my Friday Article pieces – my weekly opinion pieces often on politics or disability issues. Naturally, such a series with a name based on the day of the week on which they’re published can face some problems with the change. Although, upon having a look at other opinion pieces, most headlines tend to adopt the approach of ‘HeadlineAuthor Name‘ (The Guardian is a good example of this), and if I want to get my name out, then following a similar style may help with that. From now on, such pieces, complete with a new feel, will be published on Sundays – tying in with a lot with those end-of-the-week political shows you see on television.

So with music reviews on Fridays, and opinion pieces on Sunday, what about the spaces on Monday and Wednesday? At the moment, nothing particular is set in stone, but then again, Wednesdays have often been a day for me to publish something different (most often a book or theatre review) so if reviews become a regular thing for me, that may just be Wednesday’s ‘thing’. I’m still keen to have a slightly personal theme for one day of my schedule (something which was taken up by my A Thousand Words series last year), but I’m looking to try something a little more different and creative for that. We shall see what happens.

Other than that, thanks for reading the occasional blog post in 2017, and apologies for content being a bit infrequent. Whilst the start of a new university semester does offer a moment to get other tasks done, it isn’t long before the work builds up again in the run-up to the final sprint. Hopefully this will still allow me to blog nonetheless.

Either way, here’s to another busy year…

A New Adventure…

This has been an exciting one. Monday saw me visit Go Ape for a fun day out with a friend, and Wednesday saw me go to London to see a live recording of The Russell Howard Hour (more on that soon). It was also on Wednesday that I received another bit of good news.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you’d know that I went to Summer in the City last month – a UK convention dedicated to YouTube and online video. It was there that I met the team from the YouTube magazine TenEighty, and naturally, I asked about writing for them.

A few weeks later and after a fun application process, an email landed in my inbox saying that I can join the team, and I was over the moon.

I already have two articles up on the website so far, including one on disabled YouTubers having their videos demonetised, and asdfmovie creator TomSka announcing the end of his vlog series, Last Week. I look forward to writing even more articles for TenEighty in the future.


A Thousand Words: Journalism for Change

This Tuesday and Wednesday, I stepped inside Amnesty International’s Human Rights Action Centre for their Student Media Summit run in conjunction with the National Union of Students (NUS). A jam-packed two-day event, the conference aimed to inspire the next generation of young journalists to campaign for change in their work.

The Student Media Summit was a collaboration between NUS and Amnesty International.

It was something that got me thinking throughout the event. Journalists are supposed to be seen as completely impartial, dedicated to reporting straight-up facts (whether they are actually doing this at the moment is a debate for another day) without bias. How can we campaign in our articles without readers firing accusations of bias at us?

It’s a question I asked Buzzfeed’s Emily Dugan on Tuesday, where her session on Digital Reporting soon descended into a discussion on getting this balance right. It was interesting and gave me food for thought ahead of starting my journalism degree again later this month.

As I write this now, I’m considering the aims we all have when creating content and putting it out there for others to see. On YouTube, it’s about creating a community around my channel and either entertaining or educating them, or both. For this blog, it’s a mixture of the same. But, when it comes to journalism – an industry which holds so much influence thanks to our digital society and its structure – are reporters right to harness this tool to push their own agenda?

I’m not going to answer that in this post, but what all this has reminded me of is a mindset I used to have ahead of my first year of university. Frustrated with the emotion and bias of the right-wing press and having read up on the hypodermic needle theory, I approached my degree with the aim of being a completely impartial journalist once I entered the industry, devoid of all the bias and political viewpoints which the national press currently possesses.

Instead, I remember something one of my lecturers told me during a politics session, which is that whilst newspapers and the media are biased, it’s necessary for a functioning democracy and political debate. Although some people may despise it, the Mail‘s hyperbolic and hateful headlines prompt a discussion about right-wing politics and it’s important that we have those debates in society.

Now, that doesn’t mean that I won’t aim to be impartial, balanced and unbiased in my reporting (of course not, these things are essential), but media bias is something which most journalists appear to admit just… happens, and I’ve come to accept that too.

Anyway, to revert back to journalism for change, I only need to look at my work on The Limping Chicken for an example of this. A Freedom of Information request in January revealed that 200,000 people have signed up to the 999 text service, which when you compare it to the 11 million people with a hearing loss (as Paul Breckell from Action on Hearing Loss mentions in the linked article), is a small amount. As well as informing people about the service, one can hope that it encouraged a few people to sign up.

As well as new contacts and plenty of tips, the Student Media Summit left me thinking for a while about what journalists hope to achieve in their pieces. After all, in a post-truth world, reporters nowadays do more than just share facts…