From education to employment

Former school pupil helps to break communication barriers

A former student at a Newcastle school has returned to her roots to help break down communication barriers thanks to a free training initiative.

Debbie Jervis, who is a profoundly Deaf native BSL user, has returned to Northern Counties School where she was once a student, to deliver British Sign Language training to staff.

Northern Counties School in Jesmond, supports Deaf children as part of the Percy Hedley Foundation. They also support children and adults with complex disabilities, including cerebral palsy and speech and language disorders.

Now, in a move to upskill staff at Percy Hedley Foundation and with the help of Go>Grow, a free skills and enterprise programme offered to businesses and individuals across the North East, the organisation has been able to access a British Sign Language course for staff. This will see them gain a level 1 Certificate in BSL (British Sign Language).

Eleven staff from children’s residential services and adult day services have undertaken the training, which has been delivered through a mix of PowerPoints, visual aids and group activities. The training will help staff improve the way they communicate with the children and adults who are Deaf.

Marie Watts, director of adult and residential services at Percy Hedley, said: “It’s fantastic that we’ve been able to welcome Debbie back to teach others such a valuable skill. The course hasn’t been easy, but it’s boosted staff confidence and significantly improved their communication skills.

“We are very grateful to have been able to access the free training for our staff. It will help us to be better equipped in supporting individuals who aren’t able to communicate through speech.”

Debbie Jervis added: “As a Deaf person, in everyday life it can be incredibly difficult to communicate with people who are hearing, as they do not possess the language skills. Learning British Sign Language will help the staff break down barriers and help the children and adults that use their services get the most from their time at Northern Counties School.”

The Go>Grow scheme was created after Gateshead College secured £15m funding from the European Social Fund. Designed to help North East businesses and individuals upskill, it has already helped more than 10,000 businesses across the North East.

Ivan Jepson, director of business development at Gateshead College, said: “It’s always great to see the success stories that have come from the Go>Grow scheme. It’s a good feeling knowing that the initiative is helping to make businesses stronger, but also helping individuals to sharpen their skills as well.”

Go>Grow has the backing of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and the North-East England Chamber of Commerce.

Experts in the Go>Grow team will work to develop training that meets the individual needs of businesses, or offer those who wouldn’t ordinarily undertake training programmes, the opportunity to access bespoke packages specific to their needs.

A tailor-made programme is then developed and delivered at any of the Go>Grow training provider sites, or within the premises of individual businesses.

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