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Council makes first appointment of deaf Teaching Assistant to support deaf student

WHEN Teaching Assistant Emma Day works 1:1 with pupil Evelyn Smoothy at Ysgol Clydau she knows exactly how it feels to learn as a deaf young person in Pembrokeshire.

Emma, 21, is deaf herself, and her recruitment to the post is believed to be the first appointment of its type in a mainstream school in Wales.

As a former pupil, Emma was known to the teachers of the deaf in Pembrokeshire and encouraged to apply for the position at Ysgol Clydau by the Sensory Support Service.

Emma has previously volunteered in schools in Pembrokeshire and was awarded ‘Student of the Year’ at Pembrokeshire College for 2020-21.  

Emma said: “It’s amazing. I thought as a deaf person it would be really difficult for me to get a job. 

“I can now pass on all my experience as a deaf learner and hope Evelyn will be able to achieve even more than I have in the future.”

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Emma accesses her employment through the Access to Work Scheme, a scheme that offers additional support to individuals with disability needs.

British Sign Language interpreters work with Emma to translate spoken language into BSL, and vice versa, to enable Emma to support Evelyn and to access all other aspects of her role within the school. 

Deafness can wrongly be seen as a barrier to employment.  Some employers may struggle to understand how a deaf employee can do their job if they can’t communicate effectively and access information in the workplace.

However, this appointment aims to enhance the working and learning lives of adults and pupils at the school, including of course, Evelyn.

Emma’s appointment marks a change in Wales and will provide just what her pupil needs; a Learning Support Assistant who not only understands how a deaf pupil learns but who is also able to give her access to the curriculum through native BSL. 

Catherine Davies, Specialist Advisory Teacher of the Deaf, said: “Emma as a deaf young lady will provide a positive role model for her pupil and will allow the school to witness inclusion at its best. 

“Who knows, maybe a third language – that of BSL – will find its way onto the curriculum at Ysgol Clydau in the not-so-distant future.”

Annette Thomas, Sensory and EAL Team lead, added: “This is exciting. Emma will be an asset to the school and this is a real step forward in the support of our deaf pupils here in Pembrokeshire.”

Pictured with Emma Day (left) are Suzanne Pearton-Scale, (British Sign Language (BSL) registered interpreter) Catherine Davies, Annette Thomas, Sion Jones (Headteacher) and pupil Evelyn Smoothy.

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